February 27, 2004 at 10:22 a.m.
Chisago Lakes 4
Duluth East 3 (OT)
At the time, Al Magnuson would’ve liked it to be a little less tense, a little more in control. Say 5-0 or 6-1? But as time went, Magnuson and the rest of the Chisago Lakes girls hockey team started to soak it in. They started to like the idea of overcoming the odds. They started to like the idea of going down to the wire. They started to like the idea of winning in overtime. After all, it was the perfect way to finish it was it not? Overcoming the odds in the end when it mattered most, earning a berth to the state tournament.
Odds of gigantic proportion. Battling sickness, the ‘Cats went into their section final game against Duluth East with only three defensemen. Battling nerves, the Wildcats were so nervous before they even got on the bus to travel to Duluth that Magnuson wasn’t sure his girls could hold it all in if you know what that means. Battling an early deficit, falling behind 2-0, then 3-1 before battling back to tie the game in the third, then win it in overtime. Battling history, up until their 4-3 win, the Wildcats had never advanced to the state tournament, now they are among the final 12 girls hockey teams in the state still playing. Fighting the odds the entire way. Yep, it was a perfect way to win it after all.
The Greyhounds started fast, or maybe it was the ‘Cats starting slow. Either way, nine minutes into the first period, Duluth East had a 2-0 lead after goals on the power play and penalty kill. After losing to East 1-0 earlier in the season, it was beginning to look like the Greyhounds had Chisago’s number.
“I think it was the nerves,” said Magnuson, referring to the Wildcats slow start. “We didn’t start moving the puck until the last few minutes of the first. We wanted our defensemen to reverse the puck and bring it up ice, but when they rotated it, they were flat-footed, they didn’t skate with the puck.”
Between the first and second period, the ‘Cats game-plan was simply to relax. They did and immediately good things started to happen. Back to their old selves in the second, Nicole Grossmann broke open the scoring four minutes into the period, pulling the Wildcats within one, 2-1. Kelly Magnuson picked up the only assist. However, eight minutes later, East answered, putting the ‘Cats down two for the second time in the game, 3-1. Still, despite the deficit, things were starting to turn around for Chisago.
“Our first goal really got the girls motivated,” remembered Magnuson. “After that, we spent six minutes down in their end but we just couldn’t get a goal. Then they got a fluke goal to go up two but the girls never really panicked. They knew they were outplaying them and they knew they could come back.”
Late in the second, the Wildcats once again pulled within one, this time on a goal by Anne Fredrickson, making the score 3-2 after two. The late period tally was just what Magnuson and company were looking for.
“The girls were really pumped up in the locker room,” mentioned Magnuson. “They knew that East was scared. The girls could feel the momentum change in the second and they were ready to go out and fly and win the game.”
It didn’t take them long, only four minutes before Rhiannon Sauter lit the lamp, tying the game 3-3. Despite controlling the game the rest of the way, defense took center stage as both teams’ goalies starred late, keeping the game tied. For Chisago, Jackie Weiden made nine of her 22 saves in the third including a game-saving stop on an East two on one. With three periods in the books, the section champ still hadn’t been decided. The game was going to overtime. Heading into the extra session, the Wildcats were convinced they were going to win, it was just a matter of when.
“We were getting our shots but we weren’t putting it in the net,” commented Magnuson. “We weren’t crashing the net and getting rebounds. I just told the girls before overtime to dump the puck and use their speed and crash the net. The girls were very attentive which is uncharacteristic for them, they normally are talking to one another and not paying attention. They were very quiet and focused.”
So focused that it took less than 30 seconds for the game-plan to work. Crashing the net, Sauter picked up the loose puck in the crease and slid it into the net, completing the comeback in dramatic fashion, giving the Wildcats a 4-3 win. It was just how they drew it up.
“Grossmann got it out of the corner and in front of the net. I think it touched Lexi’s (Medellin) stick, and Sauter was right there to put it in,” remembers Magnuson. “The puck was just bouncing around there, I was actually scared that the refs were going to blow the whistle. I saw the ref put his arm down, I didn’t even wait for the light to go on, I knew it was over.”
It was a perfect ending.
“It was. To be down 2-0, then 3-1 and come back and have the confidence to come back. In years past, we would’ve lost that game 5-1 instead of winning 4-3, it just shows how far these girls have come,” remarked Magnuson. “It was just an awesome thing, to see the girls celebrate like that. The celebration went for a long time. I would’ve probably wanted to see it 5-0, that would’ve felt better, but the way they won it was just awesome.”
But that’s not to say their work is over. Next up, the state tournament starting Thursday at Ridder Arena. Up first, Lakeville, the section 1AA champion and number nine team in state. Like they have been so many times this year already, the Wildcats will skate into the game as the underdog. Out of the eight “AA” teams to make it to state, Chisago Lakes is the only team not rated.
“I would rather have us be the underdog then have the girls go in overconfident. They know it’s not going to be a cake-walk,” said Magnuson. “I actually think we got a great draw. Anoka wouldn’t have been bad, we scrimmaged them before the season started and did well. I just hope the girls go out there, play hockey and have some fun. They (Lakeville) don’t know anything about us and we don’t know anything about them. That’s what makes the state tournament so much fun to be apart of.”
Chisago Lakes 4
Duluth East 3 (OT)
1 2 3 OT F
Duluth East 2 1 -- -- 3
Chisago Lakes 1 1 1 1 4
1) DE- #11 (#19, #18) (pp) 5:57; 2) DE- #19 (#6) (sh) 8:47.
3) CL- Grossmann (Magnuson) 4:19; 4) DE- #12 (#17, #9) 12:20; 5) CL- Fredrickson (Lukas, Rammer).
6) CL- Sauter (Grossmann) 3:51.
7) CL- Sauter (L. Medellin, Grossmann) :27.