December 30, 2010 at 9:17 a.m.

North Branch hockey continues to put up arcade-like scores

North Branch hockey continues to put up arcade-like scores
North Branch hockey continues to put up arcade-like scores

North Branch 7, Legacy Christian Academy 4

A four-goal outburst in the second period, including two shorthanded goals in the first 1:10 of the period, gave the Vikings a 5-1 lead on their way to a 7-4 win over conference foe Legacy Christian Academy Tuesday, December 14 at Chisago Lakes Arena. The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Vikings and was their first Two Rivers Conference win of the season. Seven different Vikings scored goals in the game and eight Vikings picked up assists.

Tony Ceroll scored just over a minute into the first period to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead. Tied 1-1 going into the second period, the Vikings wasted no time taking the lead despite being a man short. Michael SantaBrigida, assisted by Ceroll, scored just 14 seconds into the period to give the Vikings a 2-1 lead. Trent Klatt scored on the same penalty kill just under a minute later, assisted by Tommy Toohey and Tanner Danks, to give the Vikings a two-goal lead. Toohey scored just over two-and-a-half minutes later, assisted by Klatt and Ceroll. Later in the period, the Vikings took a 5-1 lead on a power play goal by Danks, assisted by Chace Johnson and Nic Miller. Legacy Christian scored late in the period to cut the Viking lead to three.

The Viking goal parade continued in the third period. Johnson, assisted by Nick Walker, and Ryan Mohar, assisted by Calvin Miska, both scored in the first six minutes of the period to stretch the Viking lead to 7-2. Two goals by Legacy Christian made the final score North Branch 7, Legacy Christian 4.

Viking head coach Randy Gendreau praised his "white" line for scoring three of the seven Viking goals on the evening. He said "Our white line consists of three members of the high school soccer team who earned their way to the soccer section finals two years in a row. Trent Klatt and Tony Ceroll played soccer with Michael SantaBrigida for years, along with several other hockey team members.

SantaBrigida talked both players out of retirement after both Tony and Trent decided to skip the 2009-10 season and concentrate on training for the 2010 high school soccer season. They were the best line on the ice. The similarities are striking between soccer and hockey both with and without the puck."

The goals by Ceroll and Johnson were their first varsity goals. Goalie Hunter Miska stopped 32 of the 36 shots he faced to pick up the win.

Burnett (WI) 5, North Branch 4

Lodge Center Ice Arena in Siren, Wisconsin looked more like a shooting gallery than an ice arena on Saturday, December 18 at the Vikings took on the Burnett Blizzard and nearly 100 shots were fired at the two goalies. The Blizzard outshot the Vikings 56-43 and withstood a late Vikings charge to send the Vikings (2-6) down to a 5-4 defeat.

The first period started with up and down action. Both goalies were outstanding. The Blizzard found the net late in the period on a power play to take a 1-0 lead. The Blizzard (8-0) scored another power play goal six minutes into the second period to take a two-goal lead. Then the Viking power play went to work.

At the 11:03 mark of the period, Calvin Miska took a nice feed from Michael SantaBrigida and blasted a missile from the point to pull the Vikings within one. Zach Shepherd also picked up an assist on the play. Just three minutes later, SantaBrigida took a feed from Miska and ripped it home to tie the game at 2-2. All four of the game's goals to this point were power play goals. The Blizzard scored an even strength goal off of a faceoff just 40 seconds later to retake the lead. Viking head coach Randy Gendreau said "Scoring late in the period, especially on a face off, really hurt us this time and gave the momentum back to Burnett. That's not the way to finish off a period of great hockey we displayed against this talented group of veteran hockey players. But the feeling in the locker room after the second period was that 'we can do this' and a fired up Vikings team hit the ice for the third period."

Burnett scored two goals in a two-minute span early in the period to increase their lead to three. But the Vikings never quit. At the 7:03 mark, Miska again found the net with a hard shot, assisted by SantaBrigida, to cut the Blizzard lead to two. Two minutes later, SantaBrigida scored on a power play, assisted by Tommy Toohey, and the Vikings were within one with over seven minutes left in the game.

Both teams had numerous scoring opportunities during those final few minutes. The Vikings pulled goalie Hunter Miska with just over a minute left in the game. From that point on, the puck never left the Burnett end of the ice. The Vikings hammered the Blizzard net with point blank shots on net but could not finish. With three seconds left in the game, senior forward Tanner Danks tried to bury a bounding puck to tie the game and came up just short with the puck bouncing just under his stick.

"Burnett is the best team in our conference," said Gendreau, "and we took them to the wall. Our improvement since the beginning of the season is remarkable. We have worked very hard in getting our inexperienced group of varsity players to the level to compete against the Two Rivers Conference best teams and we are very, very close to where I feel we can be."

Hunter Miska stopped 51 of the 56 shots he faced in the loss.


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