The Chisago Lakes Wildcat girls’ hockey team is on its way to the state tournament for the fourth time in school history. On Thursday, March 18, the Wildcats beat the Breck Mustangs 3-2 to advance to the Section 5A championship game. And on Saturday, March 20, the Wildcats beat the Orono Spartans 3-2 in overtime to punch their ticket to the Xcel Energy Center. The fourth-seeded Wildcats will face the fifth-seeded Mound Westonka White Hawks tomorrow night – Friday, March 26 – at 8 p.m.
Chisago Lakes 3, Breck 2 In the Section 5A semifinal game against the fourth-seeded Breck Mustangs, Dani Brunette scored on a breakaway to break a 2-2 tie at 9:15 of the third period. The Wildcats held on for a 3-2 win over Breck, winners of the last three Class A state tournaments. Losses to the Wildcats bookended the season for the Mustangs. The Wildcats beat the Mustangs 3-2 in the season opener, ended their season by an identical score Thursday night, March 18, at Chisago Lakes Arena.
On the winning goal, Jenna Lawry won a faceoff in the right circle in the Wildcat zone. She saw Brunette starting up the ice uncovered and hit her in stride with a pass at the Wildcat blue line. Brunette skated down the right side all alone and fired a shot from the lower right circle into the upper left corner of the net to put the Wildcats up 3-2.
About four minutes into the first period, a puck banged off the right pipe on a wide-open shot from just inside the Wildcat blue line. The Wildcats carried the puck down the left hand side to the front of the net and the puck and some players slid into the right corner. The puck popped out to Grace DeVries at the right point. DeVries snapped a shot at the center of the net. Jenna Lawry tipped it past Breck goalie Sarah Peterson and the Wildcats led 1-0 at 4:24 of the first period. Four minutes later, Breck scored to tie it. Wildcat goalie Anna Hanson made a save but got knocked back into the net. A rebound shot from Breck’s Ava Lindsay from the left side hit Hanson on her left pad and ricocheted into the net tying the game at 1-1 at 8:07 of the first period.
Breck dominated the first period, outshooting the Wildcats 14-4. Hanson kept the Wildcats in the game in the first period with several nice saves, including one where she made an initial save, the puck laid in the crease and Hanson reached back to sweep it away before a Breck player could tap it into the net. The referees made it clear in the first period that they were going to let the players play, as they ignored several obvious penalties on both teams.
About six-and-a-half minutes into the second period, there was a scramble in front of the Chisago Lakes net. Lawry came away with puck started up the right side thread. From the right half wall, she threaded a perfect pass to a streaking Burgen at red line with Burgen breaking away from the Mustang defense. Burgen skated into the zone and fired from mid-slot. The puck hit the inside of the left pipe, bounced off Peterson and into the net to put the Wildcats up 2-1. But just to minutes later, a defensive breakdown left Mustang Sadie Lindsay all alone in front of the net and she scored to tie it at 2-2.
Chisago Lakes 3, Orono 2 Dani Brunette came through again in a big game, scoring on a 5-on-3 power play with 12.3 seconds left in the first overtime of the Section 5A championship game to give the Wildcats a 3-2 win over the third-seeded Orono Spartans, sending the Wildcats to the state tournament.
The end of the game was wild, to say the least. With the Wildcats skating on the power play, an Orono player broke out with the puck with 45 seconds left in overtime and skated down the left side, attempting to curl around a Wildcat defenseman. The Orono player went down and appeared to have been tripped. Anna Hanson poked the puck away and the Orono player went sliding into the boards. No penalty was called. Orono coach Sean Fish jumped up and stood on the dashers as he screamed at the referees for not calling a penalty. The referees ejected Fish, but he didn’t leave the bench area for a couple of minutes, giving the Wildcats’ tired top line a chance to rest. The bench minor that went along with the ejection gave the Wildcats a 5-on-3 advantage for the last 40 seconds of overtime. Brunette won the faceoff in the left circle and pulled the puck back to Lawry at the high point. Jenna Lawry fired a slapshot that went off the inside of the knee of an Orono player standing about five feet away, sending her to the ice and stopping play. After the trainers looked at her for a couple of minutes, the Orono player was helped off the ice. The injury was unfortunate, but it gave the Wildcats more of a chance to rest.
The Wildcats won the ensuing faceoff, but the puck sailed past the player at the left point. The Wildcats retrieved the puck and brought it back into the zone. A few seconds later, Lawry sent a pass from the right point to Dylan Grilz near the right corner. Grilz quickly sent a pass to Brunette in the mid-slot. Brunette zipped a shot inside the left post for the game winner. Grace Bickett scored a power play goal in the first period to give Orono a 1-0 lead. Ilya Ryskamp scored another power play goal at 6:27 of the second period to double the Spartan lead to 2-0. Orono appeared to be in control of the game and it looked like they would go into the third period up 2-0. But with under a minute remaining in the period, the Wildcats did a great job keeping the puck in the Spartan zone. From the right point, Dani Burgen sent a pass along the boards to Brunette behind the goal line to the left of the net. Brunette headed right, then spun, took one stride to the left and backhanded a pass to Lawry just outside the left edge of the crease. Lawry sent the puck through the five-hole to pull the Wildcats within one with 30 seconds left in the period.
Just under two minutes into the third period, the Wildcats dodged a bullet. A Wildcat defender completely whiffed on a clearing attempt just outside her own blue line and an Orono player picked up the puck for a quick breakaway. Hanson made a great save to keep the game at 2-1. Midway through the period, Lawry took the puck from deep in her own end all the way down the left side. She curled behind the Orono net and sent a pass from near the right corner to Burgen in the low slot. Burgen one-timed it into the back of the net to tie the game at 2-2 with 9:17 remaining in regulation. With 6:37 left, Hanson made the save of the game. The Spartans came into the Wildcat zone 3-on-2. The player with the puck curved toward the front of the net from the left and sent a shot that looked like it was headed for the inside of the left post. But Hanson somehow slid over and knocked it away with her pad to keep the game tied. Lawry gave Wildcat fans a bit of excitement with just under 30 seconds to go as she broke down the left side and fired a shot from the top left of the left circle. The goalie made the save and the scored stayed at 2-2 heading into overtime and setting the stage for Brunette’s game-winning goal in overtime.
Wildcat head coach Dave Burgen was proud of his team and was especially pleased with senior goalie Anna Hanson. “I told her she saved these two games for us like she had all year. Despite her success, the metro media gives her no credit. She is our unsung hero. Anna works hard in practice and is getting better every single day.”
Burgen and his team are obviously looking forward to going to the state tournament. He said “This will be the experience of a lifetime for our players. But we aren’t going just for the experience. We are planning to win. We have worked six years for this opportunity. We beat Mound-Westonka earlier this season and we are confident we can beat them again.”
Hockey Hullaballoo Senior Jenna Lawry is one of ten finalists for the Ms. Hockey award, given annually to the best girls’ hockey player in the state. The winner will be announced April 6. Lawry is also one of six players named to the All-Metro first team. Wildcat head coach Dave Burgen has been named the Section 5A Coach of the Year.
In the final Class 1A rankings prior to the playoffs, the Wildcats were ranked fourth and Mound Westonka was ranked fifth. The top five teams in the rankings are the top five seeds in the state tournament. This marks the first time in six appearances that a Wildcat hockey team, boys’ or girls’, has been seeded in the top four going in to a state tournament.
The ice was taken out of Chisago Lakes Arena the morning after the Wildcats’ win over Orono, since they were the only team left using it. The Wildcats are practicing at Forest Lake this week.