3/4/2022 12:49:00 PM Chisago Lakes battles through tough section opener against SPA
Chisago Lakes 3, St. Paul Academy 1 The third-seeded Wildcats took care of business against the sixth-seeded St. Paul Academy Spartans, beating them 3-1 in the quarterfinals of the Section 4A playoffs last Friday, February 25 at Chisago Lakes Arena. The win sent the Wildcats to last night’s semifinal matchup against the Simley Spartans at Roseville Ice Arena. Results of that game were not available in time for publication. The winner of that game will go on to play the winner of last night’s game between the top-seeded Mahtomedi Zephyrs and the fifth-seeded Two Rivers Warriors in tomorrow night’s section championship game at 7 p.m. at Roseville Ice Arena.
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard first. Nate Bluhm picked up the puck behind the Spartan net, spun to the right side and sent a pass to the middle of the slot. A charging Cam Stangl slapped it through the five-hole and the Wildcats led 1-0 at 6:08 of the first period. Nick Helland also picked up an assist on the play.
With just under three minutes to go in the first period, the Spartans came into the zone on a three-on-two that the Wildcats seemed to have defensed well. Teo Dieperink crossed the blue line in the middle, moved to the top of the left circle and slid a long shot through the five-hole of Wildcat goalie Zach Carlson to tie the game at 1-1 at 14:11. The Wildcats ramped up the pressure for the last 90 seconds of the period, but weren’t able to put one away and the score remained tied going into the first intermission.
The go-ahead goal came at 15:22 of the second period. Ryan Schmidt skated into the Spartan zone at the right point and sent a short pass to Nick Helland at the top of the left circle. Helland skated to the lower left circle and sent a shot to the front of the net. Nik Jinks tipped it in to put the Wildcats up 2-1. The Spartans took a high-sticking penalty with 40 seconds left in the period. Since a Wildcat player was injured on the play, it looked like the referees discussed whether to make it a five-minute major instead of a two-minute minor. They ultimately decided to go with the two-minute penalty. In the meantime, the injured Wildcat player got up and skated off under his own power, seemingly okay.
The Wildcats had the better of the play for most of the third period but struggled to add to their total. With about two-and-a-half minutes to go in the game, the Spartans were buzzing the Wildcat net. One of the refs blew his whistle because he lost sight of the puck, but the puck was still loose. The St. Paul Academy coaches weren’t too happy about it, but there was little they could do at that point. They pulled Johnson for an extra attacker. With exactly two minutes left in regulation, the Wildcats took a roughing penalty. For some reason, the Spartan coaches put Johnson back into the net, even though the faceoff was deep in the Wildcat zone. They ended up pulling Johnson again about 45 seconds later. With 34 seconds to go, Stangl picked up a loose puck at the red line along the left wall and sent a short pass to Helland just outside the left point. Helland spun and fired a waist-high shot that split the uprights of the empty net for a shorthanded goal to seal the 3-1 win and send the Wildcats to the section semifinal game.
The Wildcats played St. Paul Academy earlier this season and seemingly had an easier time beating the Spartans in that game. Wildcat head coach Cory Lushanko said, “We are happy with the outcome of the game regardless of the final score. It’s all about getting to the next round of the playoffs. As long as we play disciplined hockey, take care of the d-zone, work hard on the forecheck, play physical and put the puck away when we need to, we will be okay. They played us a lot harder this time around and the game wasn’t as physical as we would like it to be. We knew we would get their best shot but, as I said, we are happy with the result and thankful to get a shot at Simley.”
Lushanko previewed the Simley game on video. He said, “They are similar to us. Their top forwards really get up and down the ice. We need to be aware of where they are, play physically and keep them to the outside. I like how our forwards match up with their defense, and I think we will be able to expose them a little bit. For the most part we understand their tendencies. But you can go into any game with a game plan, and then have to rewrite the script after a bad period or even a couple of bad shifts. I like our chances.”