|2/19/2021 11:20:00 AM|
Shootout goes Chisago Lakes' way in county battle
Chisago Lakes 6, North Branch 4
Karston Edson’s unassisted goal for Chisago Lakes at 8:56 of the third period broke a 4-4 tie, and the Wildcats went on to beat the North Branch Vikings 6-4 this past Tuesday, February 16 at Chisago Lakes Arena. The Vikings’ Tucker Sachs scored three of his team’s four goals, his second hat trick in the last three games.
The contest between the archrivals North Branch and Chisago Lakes had everything a fan could ask for – lots of action and lots of scoring – although it’s the kind of game that can sometimes make coaches’ hair turn just a bit grayer.
Sachs scored the game’s first goal seven minutes into the first period from right in front of the Wildcat net, with assists going to Loghan Croal and Christian MacMillan to give the Vikings the early lead. At 8:26, the Wildcats took the game’s first penalty. The Vikings wasted no time in making the Wildcats pay, scoring just eight seconds into the power play. The post-penalty faceoff was to the right of Wildcat goalie Max Wilmer. The Vikings won the faceoff and the puck quickly got over to a wide open Joey Kerchner in the lower left circle. Kerchner quickly ripped a shot into the upper right corner of the net to double the Vikings’ lead to 2-0. The Wildcats spent the last two minutes of the period killing off their second penalty of the game, although not without a bit of controversy. The Vikings appeared to have scored with 32.6 seconds left in the period, but the referees had blown the whistle just before the shot and waved off the goal.
At the 3:23 mark of the second period, Wildcat Ryan Schmidt took a pass from Zach Walden at the Viking blue line. He skated left, swooped down the left side to the front of the net and scored to pull the Wildcats within one. Kaleb Olson also picked up an assist on the play. Just one minute later, Nick Overgaard sent a pass from the left circle in front of the Viking net to Nate Bluhm just outside the right side of the crease. Bluhm stuffed the puck inside the right post to tie the game at 2-2. Thomas Sargeant had the second assist on Bluhm’s goal. At the midway point of the period, Jordan Axberg and Croal got the puck to Sachs in the Wildcat zone. Sachs moved the puck from the right circle to the middle of the left circle. Using a Viking player and a Wildcat defenseman as a screen, Sachs fired a shot on net. Wilmer never saw the puck as it went through him into the net, giving the Vikings a 3-2 lead. The Vikings kept up the pressure. But with 44 seconds left in the period, there was a bit of a scrum in front of the Viking net and Wildcat Nik Jinks shot the puck into the net to tie the game at 3-3. The Vikings dominated the period, outshooting the Wildcats 18-8, but the Wildcats dominated where it was most important – on the scoreboard.
The Vikings, who had been heavily penalized in their two previous games, stayed out of the penalty box for the first two periods. But third period penalties may have ultimately cost them the game. A tripping penalty at the 1:46 mark gave the Wildcats a power play. 30 seconds later, Schmidt broke the puck out of his own end, weaved his way through several Vikings defenders downs the right hand said and skated around the back of the net. Just as he got to the left side behind the net, he centered a pass to Nick Helland five feet outside the middle of the crease and Helland one-timed it through the five-hole to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 4-3. The Vikings were called for another tripping penalty just seven seconds after the goal. But they made it a very productive penalty kill. With about 50 seconds left on the power play, Sachs picked up the puck in his own end, skated all the way down the ice and scored on a breakaway to tie the game at 4-4 and complete his hat trick.
It look like the Vikings were going to go on a power play at the 7:29 mark of the period, as a Wildcat player cross-checked a Viking player in the Wildcat end. But just after the whistle blew, a Viking player retaliated with an angry cross-check of his own, and an offsetting penalty was called, negating the power play. Less than two minutes later, Edson worked hard to keep the puck deep in the left corner of the Viking zone all by himself for about 15 seconds. He finally freed up the puck near the bottom of the left circle, spun and fired at the net all in one motion. Somehow, the puck snuck inside the left post, and the Wildcats led 5-4. The Vikings took their timeout. The Wildcats had a couple of great scoring opportunities over the next few minutes, but Viking goalie Luke Opdahl did a nice job of beating one player to the puck and knocking it into the corner and made a nice save on a breakaway to keep the deficit at one. With just over two minutes to go, the Vikings had a solid scoring opportunity, but Wilmer made a great save to preserve the Wildcat lead. The Vikings pulled Opdahl with just under two minutes left in the game. The Wildcats had to sweat it out as the Vikings controlled the puck till about 25 seconds remained. Nik Jinks picked up a loose puck on the right side at the red line, spun, and split the uprights into the empty net to seal the 6-4 win.
The Vikings outshot the Wildcats 37-30 for the game. After giving up two goals early in the first period, Wilmer stopped all but two of the remaining shots he faced, giving his team a chance to win.