2/27/2020 2:56:00 PM Mehlhorn and Wilmer slam door on NB's season 'Cats upset Vikings before falling to Pine City in semis
Chisago Lakes 2, North Branch 1 Chisago Lakes Wildcat Chase Mehlhorn scored twice in the third period and Wildcat goalie Max Wilmer played what was probably the best game of his career to lead the seventh-seeded Wildcats to a 2-1 upset over the second-seeded North Branch Vikings in the quarterfinals of the Section 5A playoffs last Thursday, February 20. The win advanced the Wildcats to the section semifinal game against Pine City. The loss ended the Vikings’ bid for a second straight trip to the state tournament. The game was played in front of a packed house at Chisago Lakes Arena.
The Vikings dominated the first six or seven minutes of the game, so it looked like it was going to be a long night for the Wildcats. But play evened out after that. Alex Langevin scored the Vikings’ only goal at 11:11 of the first period, assisted by Loghan Croal and Zak Lindahl. A few seconds later, Viking Dawson Johnson took a tripping penalty. The Vikings did a good job shutting down the Wildcats on the first minute of the power play. But Viking Cody Croal took a hooking penalty with almost exactly a minute left in Johnson’s penalty. The Wildcats took advantage of the 5-on-3, pounding the Viking net with shots. But Viking goalie Jake Turek stopped everything the Wildcats threw at him and the Vikings hung on to their slim 1-0 lead.
The Vikings had the edge in play for the rest of the first period and for the entire second period. They some great scoring opportunities, but Wilmer made some nice saves. A well-executed two-on-one early in the second period gave the Vikings a chance to slide the puck into the wide open left side of the net, but they shot it wide. And near the end of the period, Matt Dekanick sent a pass from the neutral zone to a teammate streaking into the Wildcat zone for what would have been a breakaway attempt, but the perfect pass slid under the Viking player’s stick, ending a great scoring opportunity.
The door was open for the Wildcats to steal a win. And sure enough, the Wildcats tied it up at 2:22 of the third period. Tucker Bakken passed the puck from the right boards in the Viking zone to Mehlhorn standing all alone mid-slot. As Turek dropped down, Mehlhorn sent a wrist shot into the upper left corner of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
Mehlhorn scored the go-ahead goal at 7:33 of the third period. A loose puck slid over the blue line into the Viking zone at the right point. Mehlhorn ripped a laser that went over Turek’s shoulder and into the upper left corner of the net – nicking the left post just an inch under the crossbar to put the Wildcats up 2-1.
With about seven minutes to go in the game, the Vikings were buzzing around the Wildcat net. Wilmer stopped a stuff attempt and the puck popped loose out front. But a Viking player either fell or was pushed into the net and the net came loose, stopping play and giving the Wildcat defense a chance to catch their breath. Both team missed on scoring opportunities over the next few minutes. At 13:35, Viking Joey Kerchner took a penalty for interference. As Viking Tucker Sachs – who played an excellent game – hovered around the Wildcat blue line, the Wildcats just held the puck behind their net, effectively ragging the puck on their own power play. After about twenty seconds, Sachs skated forward to force the Wildcats to do something with the puck.
With about 30 seconds left in the power play, Turek made a great save and followed up by smothering the rebound to keep the score at 2-1. The Wildcats kept up the pressure, and held the puck in the zone for 30 seconds after the power play expired as precious seconds ticked off the clock. By then, just one minute remained in the game. The Vikings never possessed the puck for long enough to enable them to pull Turek. At the final horn, the Wildcats mobbed Wilmer as they all skated over to the Wildcat student section, with both the team and the students pounding the glass as the rest of the Wildcat fans celebrated in the stands. A dejected Turek, who played well, dropped to his knees and was consoled by his similarly-stunned teammates.
The Vikings outshot the Wildcats 42-25 for the game. Wilmer stopped 41 of the 42 shots he faced. After the game, Wilmer greeted his father outside the Wildcat locker room. We caught up with him and asked him if that was one of the better games he has played. Wilmer said, without a trace of cockiness in his voice, “Honestly, I think that was the best game I have ever played” And how did he come up with some of the great saves he made? He said, “I just keep battling and track that puck all the way through and I can’t do it without my teammates. They really help me out.”
Pine City 4, Chisago Lakes 3 Parker Sell of the third-seeded Pine City Dragons had a hat trick to lead his team to a 4-3 win on over the seventh-seeded Wildcats in the Section 5A semifinals Saturday, February 22 at Pine City Civic Center. The loss knocked the Wildcats out of the section playoffs, ending their season. The Dragons will play top-seeded Monticello for the Section 5A championship tonight at Fogerty Arena at 7 p.m.
Sell scored his first goal at 5:44 of the first period to give Pine City a 1-0 lead. Chase Mehlhorn, who scored both goals in the Wildcats’ opening round upset of second-seeded North Branch, answered with an unassisted goal just 20 seconds later to tie the game at 1-1. Alex Bachmeier scored with under three minutes to go in the period, assisted by Ben Jinks, to give the Wildcats 2-1 lead. But Sell responded quickly with a power play goal to tie the game at 2-2.
Sell scored a shorthanded goal to complete his hat trick in the second period and gave Pine City a 3-2 lead. Pine City scored another power play goal early in the third period to go up 4-2. With just over two minutes to go in the game, Bachmeier scored his second goal of the game, assisted by Isaac Roy, to cut the lead to 4-3. But the Dragons held off the Wildcats for the last couple of minutes to come away with the win.
The Dragons outshot the Wildcats 46-29 for the game. Wildcat goalie Max Wilmer played well for the second playoff game in a row, stopping 42 of the 46 shots he faced.