|6/25/2021 2:25:00 PM|
Wildcats give Prior Lake a scare in first round of state
If Chisago Lakes’ section run against Anoka, Centennial and Blaine felt like David versus Goliath every game, the first round playing Prior Lake at state might as well have been billed as the mouse versus the elephant.
Chisago Lakes is in its third season of existence as a varsity boys lacrosse sport this year (Last year’s cancelled season notwithstanding).
Prior Lake, on the other hand, has won three state titles since 2016, including the last two.
Head Coach Mark Nordby knew the Wildcats were in for a very tough game. “Prior Lake is the pinnacle of high school lacrosse in Minnesota,” he said. “They've been crowned state champions the past three of the last four seasons, so we understood the magnitude of what we were up against.”
When the game started, both teams played like what was expected. Chisago Lakes was a bit timid and had trouble getting shots off despite getting faceoff specialist Carson Erickson back and controlling the possessions.
The Lakers, meanwhile, ripped off three goals on the first three shots before the game was even five minutes old.
“Even knowing that this would be a different intensity, I think we were a bit in shock at the level of speed and precision Prior Lake had right off the start,” Nordby explained. “Their defenders were relentless and really disrupted our offense. We were scrambling pretty hard to keep up.”
After Prior Lake’s third goal, Erickson — who was not feeling well and only took faceoffs and made sure CL possessed the ball before checking out — had enough.
He won the faceoff going towards Prior Lake’s defense and weaved in unchecked and rifled off a shot that went past Laker goalie Ryan Vitters.
But, Prior Lakes’ offense was just too much in the early goings, as they scored two more goals to go up 5-1. At that point, it looked like Prior Lake might boatrace Chisago Lakes.
“I was a bit worried about the direction the game was headed at that point,” Nordby said. “We took a timeout to get focused again and tried to figure out how to counter.”
The timeout seemed to get things back on track for the ‘Cats as Tucker Sachs fired a shot and scored from 12 yards out on a left-handed sweeping shot after dodging through three defenders. “Tucker was trying to get something going and he used his incredible stick skills to do it,” Nordby said after the contest.
The Lakers scored one more before the first quarter was out, going up 6-2. They potted two more goals to start the second quarter, and were all of a sudden starting to run away again at 8-2.
“We were struggling clearing the ball and getting into our offense. Typically, that's been a strong area of our game but not so against Prior Lake,” Nordby noted.
Chisago Lakes' next goal came as Austin Siefert had a great fake shot, got the defender to bite, and then sprinted past to smoke a goal into the net at 8:39 into the second quarter.
Erickson proceeded to win another faceoff — he wouldn’t lose any of the 28 he took on the game — and Chisago Lakes Senior Colin Sorensen followed Siefert’s goal after picking up a loose ball and firing to score, making it 8-4 in favor of the defending champs.
With time winding down in the second quarter, Prior Lake bided their time on offense before putting a nice goal in to go up 9-4 with 10 seconds left and potentially send CL into the halftime break demoralized.
But Erickson went berserk again, winning the faceoff and immediately sprinting down the field to rocket a shot past Vitters. The goal, which Nordby called “brilliant” took just six seconds for Erickson and trimmed the Laker lead to 9-5.
After the debacle that was the first quarter, Chisago Lakes had matched Prior Lake in the second quarter, so they knew they had a chance to plug away.
After another Erickson faceoff win to start the third quarter, Siefert picked up his second goal of the game beating the goalie on a hard left alley dodge and shot.
It was just what CL needed to keep chipping away at Prior Lake. But, much of the third quarter was a stalemate until Prior Lake netted two late goals to extend the lead back to five at 11-6.
But, CL wouldn’t relent. Sachs drew two defenders to him early in the fourth quarter and nailed a behind-the-back pass to a wide open Jake Willman, who easily beat Vitters for CL’s seventh goal.
“Tucker brings that creativity to every game,” Nordby said. “That was a sweet assist and goal by those two.”
Prior Lake continued to fend off CL, though, scoring two more to answer Willman’s goal, and that put them up by six at 13-7 with just six minutes left, painting a grim picture for the ‘Cats chances.
But, then CL got on a run. Junior Colten Bergquist beat his defender and scored what would be one of three consecutive goals by the ‘Cats.
Just 24 seconds later, Sachs scored his second goal of the game on a left handed low to high shot 10 yards out from the goal.
Momentum was swinging Chisago's way, and less than one minute later, Willman put in his second goal of the game on a man-up play after an illegal body check by Laker Parker Hill. That trimmed the lead to only three at 13-10 with almost five minutes remaining still. “The guys still believed we could win and Prior Lake seemed to be reeling,” Nordby said.
Erickson won another faceoff, so the ‘Cats had a chance to trim the lead to two goals, but a fine defensive play from Prior Lake got them the ball back, and that’s when Chisago started to stall.
The Lakers spread all of their offensive players to the corners and played catch as time started ticking down on the ‘Cats season.
Nordby added, “It was the right strategy for them. Basically they were playing keep away and our defenders had to press way out to try and get the ball back,” Nordby said. “Whenever you do that, you run the risk of wide open lanes for being scored on.”
Prior Lake took advantage of the open lanes and put three late goals in as Chisago Lakes tried to press, ending the game at 16-10 and moving the Lakers on to the next round.
“I'm so proud of these players and our coaches. We went up against a giant of a program and played hard and had them confused and back on their heels in the fourth quarter,” Nordby said. “To be within three points with five minutes to go shows Chisago Lakes lacrosse is now a force to be reckoned with in the state of Minnesota. We've had a lot of eyes opened in our Chisago Lakes community at how awesome lacrosse is to watch and for younger boys to get involved in this super exciting sport.”
Prior Lake eventually advanced to the state championship game where they fell to Benilde-St. Margaret’s. It was the third year in a row these teams played for the state title.