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March 21, 2019

3/14/2019 3:21:00 PM
NB shows they belong among Class A elite
Vikings fall to eventual state champion St. Cloud Cathedral in opening round, but bounce back for exciting consolation run

The North Branch Vikings boys’ hockey team made its first-ever appearance at the state high school hockey tournament last week.  The Vikings lost the opener to eventual Class 1A champion St. Cloud Cathedral 7-0, beat Minnesota River in the consolation semifinals 5-2 and lost 2-1 to Delano in the consolation championship game.  

This week’s Press includes a short synopsis of each game. Next week, we will summarize the Vikings’ overall season, talk more about their state tournament experience and have Viking head coach Matt Cottingham’s thoughts.
St. Cloud Cathedral 7, North Branch 0
One side of the first deck at the Xcel Energy Center was a sea of red, as seemingly the entire town of North Branch turned out to see the Vikings in their state tournament opener against the St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders last Wednesday, March 6.  The positive energy likely helped the Vikings stay with the St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders, the eventual state champions, early in the game and the Vikings trailed 1-0 after the first period.  The Crusaders turned it on in the second period; led by Nate Warner’s pure hat trick, they scored five times in the period and went on to shut out the Vikings 7-0.
Shots on goal help tell the story of this game.  The Vikings outshot the Crusaders 10-9 in the first period, but the Crusaders outshot the Vikings 24-2 in the second period and 45-15 for the game.  Junior backup goalie Braden Weyenberg made a state tournament appearance, replacing starter Jake Turek for the last six minutes of the third period and stopping two of the three shots he faced.
North Branch 5, Minnesota River 2
Five different Vikings scored goals and playmaker Cody Croal assisted on three of them, as the Vikings beat the Minnesota River Bulldogs 5-2 in a consolation semifinal game Thursday, March 7 at Mariucci Arena.  Minnesota River outshot the Vikings 38-26 for the game, but Viking goalie Jake Turek came up big, stopping 36 of the 38 shots he faced.
Justin Sachs scored a power play goal late in the first period, assisted by Croal and Tucker Sachs, to put the Vikings up 1-0.  The Bulldogs tied it up with a power play goal at 4:09 of the second period.  But the Vikings re-took the lead on a goal by Tucker Sachs just 41 seconds later, assisted by Dawson Johnson, and never looked back.  Ben Huth scored to make it 3-1 at around the 11-minute mark of the period.  Kade Koecher and Andrew Osland picked up the assists.  And just over a minute later, Joey Kerchner scored, assisted by Justin Sachs and Croal, and the Vikings led 4-1 after two periods.  Jake Richards’ goal at 1:49 of the third period squashed any thoughts of a Bulldog comeback.  Croal and Alex Langevin assisted on the Richards goal.  Minnesota River added a late power play goal to make the final score North Branch 5, Minnesota River 2.
Delano 2, North Branch 1
The Vikings had plenty of chances against the Delano Tigers in the consolation championship game at Mariucci Arena Saturday, March 9.  They didn’t convert any of their five power plays and fell 2-1 to the Tigers, giving the Vikings a sixth-place finish in state tournament action.
Delano scored the only goal of the first period to take a 1-0 lead.  They added a shorthanded goal at 9:33 of the second period to go up 2-0.  The Tigers took one of their five penalties at 12:51 of the second period and the Vikings ran a great power play, keeping the puck in the Delano zone for almost the entire two minutes.  Just after the power play expired, Joey Kerchner fired a shot from the lower left circle just inside the right post to cut the Delano lead to 2-1.
The Vikings spent over half the third period on the power play but couldn’t manage to score.  A double-minor at 3:17 of the period gave them four minutes straight, and a major boarding penalty at 12:13 gave them nearly five straight minutes with an extra man.  And when they pulled goalie Jake Turek with about 90 seconds to go, the Vikings had a 6-on-4 advantage for the rest of the game.  Despite heavy pressure, they couldn’t quite get one in the net and the game ended Delano 2, North Branch 1.

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