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February 27, 2020

1/2/2020 3:39:00 PM
Vikings get two wins at Little Falls

Little Falls Holiday Tournament
The Viking boys’ hockey team won their first two games of the Little Falls Holiday Tournament, beating Willmar 5-1 and triumphing over West Fargo Sheyenne (ND) 7-2.  In the third game of the round robin format, the Vikings lost to Little Falls – ranked eighth in the state – 6-1.  The Vikings 2-1-0 record gave them a second-place finish.  The tournament was held December 26-28 at Exchange Arena in Little Falls.

North Branch 5, Willmar 1
It took the Vikings a while to get on the scoreboard against the Willmar Cardinals last Thursday, but they broke open a close game with four third period goals on their way to a 5-1 win over Cardinals.  “We hit five or six posts in the first period,” said Viking head coach Matt Cottingham.  “And when we weren’t hitting posts, we were shooting it right into the goalie.  That can be frustrating for a team, but our guys stayed patient.  We finally started shooting where the goalie wasn’t in the third period.”

 Cody Croal scored five minutes into the second period, assisted by Joey Kerchner and Matt Dekanick, to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead.  By the end of the period, the Vikings were outshooting Willmar 30-10.  Kerchner scored just over five minutes into the third period, assisted by Croal, to double the lead to 2-0.  Tuckers Sachs scored at almost exactly the ten-minute mark to give the Vikings some more insurance.  Loghan Croal got the assist. And Kerchner put the game out of reach with a goal at 11:38 of the third period, assisted by Dekanick.  Willmar scored with just over a minute remaining to spoil the shutout.  Dekanick scored with 25 seconds left, with Croal getting the lone assist, to make the final score 5-1.

North Branch 7, West Fargo Sheyenne (N.D.) 2
The Vikings trailed the Sheyenne Mustangs 2-1 late in the first period.  But Cody Croal scored with 90 seconds left in the period to tie the game at 2-2.  The Vikings went on to score five more goals over the next two periods, routing the Mustangs 7-2.  The Vikings outshot Sheyenne 38-31 for the game.

 A flurry of goals in the first period gave the Mustangs a one goal lead.  Sheyenne got on the board at 9:08 with an unassisted goal.  The Vikings responded at 10:01 with a goal by Tucker Sachs, assisted by Dawson Johnson and Ben Huth, to tie the game at 1-1.  But the Mustangs scored just 16 seconds later to re-take the lead until Croal’s goal tied it late in the period, with assists going to Matt Dekanick and Jordan Axberg.

 The Vikings started to pour it on midway through the second period.  Kerchner and Johnson scored two minutes apart to make it 4-2.  Dekanick assisted on Kerchner’s goal and Kerchner and Jesse Lesmann picked up the assists on Johnson’s goal.  Tucker Sachs scored late in the period, assisted by Johnson, to give the Vikings a three -goal lead.  The Vikings scored twice early in the third period to put the game completely out of reach.  Lesmann scored four minutes into the period, assisted by Croal and Dekanick.  And just over a minute later, senior Evan Murray scored his first career goal to make the score 7-2.  Lawton Garin and Johnny Snaza picked up the assists.

 Viking head coach Matt Cottingham said “In the first period, out forwards were playing well, but the defense made some mistakes.  They figured it out in the second period, and we took control of the game.”  Viking goalie Jake Turek stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced.

Little Falls 6, North Branch 1
The Vikings’ game against tournament host Little Falls contained quite a bit of drama before the Flyers pulled away with three goals in the third period and went on to win 6-1.

Little Falls scored the game’s first goal at 15:24 of the first period.  But Joey Kerchner scored an unassisted goal with just one second left in the period to tie the game at 1-1.  The Flyers scored early in the second period to re-take the lead and it looked like the score would stay that way going into the second intermission.  But the Flyers scored with just three seconds left in the period to go up 3-1.

 The Vikings had a three on one early in the second period that looked like it would cut the Little Falls lead to one.  But the shot missed the open net and the Flyers maintained their two-goal lead.  “If we score there, the game changes,” said Viking head coach Matt Cottingham.  “It would have made our guys a little less tired.”  Little Falls then scored three more in a chippy third period, going on to win 6-1.

 The Vikings were called for five of the first six penalties in the game and eight of 14 overall.  The Vikings killed off all six power plays they faced, while the Flyers stopped all five Viking power plays.  Cottingham said “Everything we did we got called for, but it is what it is.  I’ve witnessed a lot of games.  It’s a different atmosphere the way Little Falls conducts themselves.  If one of my players ever said what some of their kids said to our guys, I would pull my kid for the rest of the game.  It was a big-time game, so we had to run our best penalty killers out there a lot in this one  So, we killed off all the penalties, but our guys were tired in even-strength play and we paid for it.”
Hockey Hullaballoo
Cody Croal has 16 goals so far this season, tied for seventh in the state.

 The Vikings (9-3-0) will welcome the Superior (Wisc.) Spartans to Chisago Lakes, tomorrow night, the Vikings will play their archrivals, the Chisago Lakes Wildcats (3-6-0), at Chisago Lakes Arena at 7 p.m.  And while the Wildcats are struggling somewhat so far this season, records tend to be thrown out the window when these rivals meet – and this year should be no exception.

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