|2/5/2021 12:01:00 PM|
North Branch outplays Morris-Benson but still suffers first loss
Morris/Benson 7, North Branch 5
If someone told you the Viking boys’ hockey team fired 27 shots on net in the third period against the Morris/Benson Storm – and outshot the Storm 60-27 for the game – you would probably think the Vikings won by a comfortable margin.
Storm goalie Brady Backman stood on his head in the third period, stopping 26 of those 27 third-period shots to shut down the prolific Viking offense and allow the Storm to enjoy the long bus ride home after beating the Vikings 7-5. “Their goalie was a stud,” said Viking head coach Jacob Mars. “He’s probably the best goalie we have faced so far this season.” The game was played Saturday, January 30 at Chisago Lakes Arena.
Morris/Benson scored two breakaway goals two minutes into the first period to go up 2-0. The goals were officially three seconds apart, which is almost impossible. In reality, the clock operator forgot to start the clock right away on the faceoff after the first goal. The goals were actually about eight seconds of game time apart, which is still very quick. With the Vikings on a power play midway through the period, Joey Kerchner sent a pass from the left circle to a wide open Tucker Sachs in the right circle. Sachs skated in and fired a shot past Backman to puck the Vikings within one. Lawton Garin also picked up an assist on the play. Less than a minute later, Loghan Croal picked up a loose puck in the Storm zone, skated to the low slot and fired it home to tie the game at 2-2.
The Vikings gave up an own goal with five-and-a-half minutes to go in the period. A Viking player chased the puck into the Viking zone, but gave up the puck near the back boards to avoid getting hit. A Storm player picked up the puck behind the net and passed it to a teammate sitting just outside the crease on the right side of the net, a few feet out from the goal line. The Morris/Benson player shot the puck and it was headed harmlessly past the left post, but it ricocheted off of a Viking defender and into the net to give the Storm the lead. 30 seconds later, Sachs scored again, assisted again by Kerchner and Garin, to tie the game 3-3.
The Storm re-took the lead with a goal just over a minute into the second period. Midway through the period, a puck slowly slid into the Viking zone with a Storm player chasing it and no Vikings in sight. Viking goalie Luke Opdahl tried to beat Storm player to the puck and stumbled, but still won the race and knocked the puck away. With just over six minutes left in the period, Garin tipped in a shot by Isaiah Scarborough from the center point to tie the game 4-4. Zak Lindahl also assisted on the play. But the tie was short-lived, as the Storm answered just a minute late to re-take the lead – for good. They scored again before the end of the period to make it 6-4 after two.
With the score still 6-4, the Vikings pulled Opdahl with 2:22 left in the game. It paid off as Jordan Axberg scored from the low slot with 1:51 remaining, assisted by Alex Langevin and Sachs, to pull within one goal of the Storm. The Vikings continued to put on a ton of pressure. But with 51 seconds remaining, a Morris/Benson player picked up a loose puck in front of his own net and fired it the length of the ice, splitting the uprights into the empty net to seal the 7-5 win for the Storm.
“Our play in the third period showed that our conditioning has paid off,” said Mars. We were able to pound almost 30 shots on net and Morris had only five shots. They were clearly tired. But we have to flip the switch on in the first period instead of the third period in order to have success.”
The Vikings (3-1-0) will head to Pine City tonight to try to tame the Dragons starting at 7 p.m. Tomorrow night, they will host the Monticello Magic at Chisago Lakes Arena at 7 p.m.