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March 21, 2019

2/28/2019 2:48:00 PM
North Branch and Chisago Lakes to square off in section title game on February 28 with the winner headed to state

North Branch 5, Mora/Milaca 1
Playmaker Cody Croal had three assists and five different players scored goals as the second-seeded Viking boys’ hockey team beat the seventh-seeded Mora/Milaca Mustangs 5-1 in a Section 5A quarterfinal matchup last Thursday, February 21 at Chisago Lakes Arena.  The win sent the Vikings to a semifinal matchup at home against the third-seeded Princeton Tigers last Saturday.  The loss ended the season for the Mustangs.

Joey Kirchner scored at 2:48 of the first period, assisted by Dawson Johnson, to give the Vikings the early lead.  Just four minutes later, they doubled their lead to 2-0 on a power play goal by Justin Sachs, with Croal picking up the assist.  Mora scored on a quirky play just one minute later.  There was a faceoff in the circle to the left of the Viking net.  The linesman dropped the puck and both centers missed it as they moved out of the circle, so the puck sat right on the faceoff dot.  Mora’s Gavin Orr skated in and took a whack at it, sending it past Viking goalie Jake Turek and into the net to cut the Viking lead to 2-1.

The Vikings controlled the game from start to finish.  Later in the first period and early in the second period, they got a couple of pucks to the Mustang crease, but couldn’t quite put it away.  A Viking player also whiffed on a breakaway shot that looked like a sure goal.  So, the Vikings had some bad luck and still led 2-1.  And with Turek playing well in the net, the Vikings effectively put the game out of reach with a couple of goals late in the second period.  Jake Richards scored a power play goal with three minutes to go in the period, assisted by Tucker Sachs and Croal.  And just over a minute later, Tucker Sachs scored to make it 4-1.  Justin Sachs and Croal picked up the assists.  Justin Sachs added a goal with 1.5 seconds left in the third period, assisted by Croal, to make the final score 5-1.  The Vikings outshot the Mustangs 42-26 for the game and Turek saved 25 of the 26 shots he faced.

North Branch 3, Princeton 1
Joey Kirchner scored twice in the first period on nearly identical plays, both times assisted by Tucker Sachs, and goalie Jake Turek played another great game in the nets as the Vikings beat the third-seeded Princeton Tigers in the Section 5A semifinals 3-1 to advance to tonight’s section championship game against the fourth-seeded Chisago Lakes Wildcats.  The game was played at Chisago Lakes Arena last Saturday evening.

With just under three minutes to go in the first period, Sachs and Kirchner came in to the Princeton zone on a 2-on-1.  Sachs passed the puck over to Kirchner, who made a great move and finished by putting the puck in the net to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead.  With 30 seconds left in the period, the two players again came into the Tiger zone on a 2-on-1 and the play finished exactly the same way – with a goal by Kirchner.  Viking head coach Matt Cottingham said “Joey and Tucker are really stepping it up, especially for sophomores.  Both of those plays showed great speed, precision passing and a great finish.”

The Vikings did not add to their lead in the second period, but it didn’t bother Cunningham.  He said “We had a ton of scoring chances in the second period and really started to outplay Princeton.  I can’t think of any time we were worried they were going to score.  We were aggressive, used our physical presence and did not turn the puck over.  We did everything but score in that period.”

The Vikings finally added to their lead at 1:24 of the third period.  With a good forecheck keeping the puck in the Princeton zone, Justin Sachs passed the puck out of the corner to Jake Richards near the top of the circle.  Richards fired a shot and Cody Croal banged home the rebound to stretch the Viking lead to 3-0.  “That third period goal gave us a huge momentum boost.” Said Cunningham.  “The way Jake was playing in the net and the way we were defending but still being aggressive, I was thinking that the third goal clinched it.  I felt really comfortable with that lead.”  The Tigers scored three minutes later, but the Vikings clamped down and rode out the rest of the period for the big win.

Princeton actually outshot the Vikings 36-32 for the game, but Turek stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced.
Hockey Hullaballoo
The championship game against the Wildcats is tonight at Elk River Arena at 7 pm.

If the Vikings win tonight, it will be the first trip to the state tournament for the hockey team in school history.  Cottingham talked about preparing for tonight’s game.  He said “Ever since Monday last week, the kids have been laser-focused.  I haven’t seen this all year.  They turned it up to another level for playoff hockey and put themselves in a good spot.  When we went through a bit of a slide recently, we had a tendency to be on our heels to protect the lead.  I watched our loss against Chisago twice recently.  We dominated the last seven minutes of the game and still lost.  We got off to a slow start, turned the puck over at the blue line, our passing was not crisp, and we made small, crucial errors.  For the section championship game, we are officially the home team.  That means we will always have the last line change.  So, when they put their third line out there, we can put out scoring line out.  And since we were in last year’s section championship game, we have some players who are experienced in this situation.    We have been working on our power play and penalty kill.  And we have done some things to prepare for playing on Elk Rivers’ Olympic-sized ice sheet, which is bigger than we are used to playing on.  As coaches, we are trying to put our team in the best position to get a win and go to state.”

Chisago Lakes 6. Pine City 1
Thomas Overgaard had two goals and an assist to lead the fourth-seeded Wildcats to a dominating 6-1 win over the fifth-seeded Pine City Dragons in the Section 5A quarterfinals last Thursday, February 21 at Chisago Lakes Arena.  The Wildcat defense stymied the Dragon offense, allowing just one shot on goal in the first period and 11 shots for the game.  Meanwhile, the Wildcats fired 37 pucks on net.

Overgaard scored the only goal of the first period, assisted by Justin Lawry, to put the Wildcats up 1-0.  Overgaard scored again at 1:44 of the second period to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.  Tate Swanson and Logan Bjorkman picked up the assists.  Logan Mehlhorn scored an unassisted goal just over a minute later to stretch the lead to 3-0.  Right around the seven-minute mark, Alex Bachmeier scored his third goal of the season, assisted by Swanson, to make the lead 4-0.  Pine City scored later in the period and the Wildcats led 4-1 after two.

Jackson Waltman scored early in the third period to make the score 5-1.  Overgaard and Ben Johnson assisted on Waltman’s goal.  And with just under a minute to go in the game, Jake Larson scored his second goal of the season, assisted by Jonny Bodell and Bjorkman, to make the final score 6-1 and send the Wildcats off to the section semifinal game at Monticello two nights later.
Chisago Lakes 3, Monticello 2
Thomas Overgaard scored an unassisted goal early in the second period to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead over the top-seeded Monticello Magic and the Wildcats made that goal stand up, beating Monticello 3-2 to advance to tonight’s section championship game against the North Branch Vikings at Elk River Arena at 7 p.m.  The game against Monticello took place last Saturday, February 23 at Moose Sherritt Arena in Monticello
All of the scoring in the game took place an eight-minute stretch at the end of the first period and the beginning of the second period.  Jonny Bodell scored at 11:38 of the first period, assisted by Nathan Caudill and Dawson Overgaard, to put the Wildcats up 1-0.  Monticello tied it up at 13:48 and scored a power play goal with two seconds left in the period to go up 2-1.
The Wildcats answered back with a power play goal of their own by Justin Lawry just 35 seconds into the second period to tie the game at 2-2.  The lone assist went to Tate Swanson.  Thomas Overgaard scored at 2:28, unassisted, to put the Wildcats ahead for good.
The Magic put on the pressure in the third period, outshooting the Wildcats 13-6, but the Wildcats stood firm.  The Wildcats actually outshot the Magic 27-26 for the game.  Wildcat goalie Brooks Stangl was excellent in the net, stopping 24 of the 26 shots he faced – including all 13 shots in the third period.
Hockey Hullaballoo
In order to get to the state tournament for the third time in team history, the Wildcats will need Stangl to stay hot in goal.  The win over Monticello, the number one seed, should give the Wildcats a lot of confidence heading into tonight’s game.

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