|3/10/2023 1:01:00 PM|
Despite Hanson's best effort, CL falls in section finals
Mahtomedi 3, Chisago Lakes 1
In the Section 4A championship game, the Wildcats went toe-to-toe with the top-seeded and fourth-ranked Mahtomedi Zephyrs. But with the game tied 1-1 past the midpoint of the third period, the Zephyrs scored two goals to beat the Wildcats 3-1 and earn a trip to this week’s state hockey tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The game was played at Aldrich Arena in Mahtomedi.
The Zephyrs put a lot of pressure on the Wildcat defense, outshooting the Wildcats 43-21 for the game. But Wildcat goalie Jack Hanson was up to the task, stopping 40 of the 43 shots he faced and keeping his team in the game
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard first, early in the first period. From his own zone, Jack Bakken skated the puck down the left side of the ice and, just past the red line, passed the puck ahead to Drake Thyen. Thyen skated to the middle of the left circle and lifted a backhand into the upper right corner of the net to put the Wildcats up 1-0. Nik Jinks also picked up an assist on the play. Just over a minute later, the Wildcats missed an easy opportunity to clear the zone and the Zephyrs took advantage of it, with Jonny Gove scoring on a tough-angled shot from the left side of the net to tie the game at 1-1. The Zephyrs dominated possession throughout the period, but the Wildcats got off some rushes and had a few nice shots.
Just over a minute into the second period, the Wildcats had a two-on-none opportunity. The player carrying the puck down the left side passed the puck across when he was about ten feet from the net, and the pass failed to connect, squandering an excellent scoring opportunity. Hanson made a nice pad save a minute or so later on a great shot to keep the game tied at 1-1. The Wildcats had a breakaway a couple of minutes later and again failed to get off a decent shot. With about five minutes to go in the second period, a Wildcat player was clearly hooked at the red line as he was trying to catch up to the puck, and the referees both just looked away. At 13:30, Hanson made a nice save, the puck popped up in the air to shoulder height, and Hanson whacked the puck out of the air and away from danger with his stick. The Wildcats did get a power play with about a minute to go in the second period, but didn’t score and the game remained tied 1-1 after two periods.
Just 24 seconds into the third period, with the Wildcats still on a power play, a Mahtomedi player split the defense as he raced across the Wildcat blue line with the puck. Bakken caught up to him from behind and grabbed on before the player could get off a shot, thwarting a great Zephyr scoring opportunity. The penalty negated the last 30 seconds or so of the Wildcat power play. The Wildcats killed off the ensuing Mahtomedi power play. At about 3:30 of the period, Bakken got around a Zephyr defenseman deep in the Mahtomedi zone, but wasn’t able to get off a good shot.
The Zephyrs broke the tie at 10:36 of the third period. They skated into the Wildcat zone two-on-one. Seth Nelson passed the puck from the right to Jonny Gove at the left edge of the net, and Gove redirected the puck past Hanson into the left side of the net to give Mahtomedi a 2-1 lead. The Wildcats took a penalty at 12:25 of the period. The Zephyrs kept the puck in the Wildcat zone for the entire power play and Charlie Drage shelved the puck into the upper right corner of the net to give the Zephyrs some breathing room at 3-1. The Zephyrs took a kneeing penalty 40 seconds later, and the Wildcats took their timeout. The Wildcats decided not to pull the goalie on the power play, and did not generate any significant scoring opportunities with a man advantage. After the power play expired, they did pull Hanson with about 20 seconds left in the game, but the Zephyrs did not allow a shot and came away with the win and the trip to the state tournament.
Wildcat head coach Cory Lushanko said, “The loss was upsetting for us, obviously, and will sit with us for a while. For those who follow social media, you could see that no one was betting on us except ourselves. We knew we had the firepower and the goaltending to pull off the upset, and we nearly got there. Even when we lost 8-2 to this team earlier in the season, we got the sense that we could give them a much better game and possibly spring the upset if we met in the playoffs. After the section semifinals, we had just a day to implement a plan for the section championship game. We put in a neutral zone trap and also instructed our guys to shoot the puck high and hard off the glass to get it out of the zone. Give credit to out players for being smart enough to execute this plan with just one day of practice.”
Lushanko praised his team’s effort and demeanor. He said “I am thankful for this group of guys. Last year, we did not have a sense of belief going into the section final. This year, we had a sense of calmness and confidence heading into the big game. It would have been the biggest upset statewide in the section tournaments if we had been able to pull it off, but we fell just short. Our goalie, Jack Hanson, has kept us in a lot of games the last couple of years, and he was really on his game throughout the playoffs this season. He shut out South St. Paul, and allowed just two goals, on a great shot and a tap-in, against Two Rivers. He played an excellent section championship game. He has been one of the better kept secrets in high school goaltending across the state this season.”