February 18, 2010 at 9:41 a.m.
If you blinked, you may have missed all the excitement.
Ory Burggraff and Tommy Johnson scored 19 seconds apart in the second period to lead the Wildcat boys' hockey team to a 3-1 win over St. Louis Park last Friday, February 12 at Chisago Lakes Arena. Between the two teams, the game featured just four goals, three power plays and 37 shots and lasted just over an hour-and-a-half.
The Orioles scored at the 11:45 mark of the first period to take a 1-0 lead. The Wildcats answered just over 90 seconds into the second period. Johnson and Andrew Habel moved the puck to Brett Lizotte in the right corner in the Oriole zone. In typical Lizotte fashion, he stepped out between the hashmark and dot in the right circle, pulled it to his forehand as the goalie dropped and ripped it into the upper right corner of the net to tie the game at 1-1. "Brett is really good in tight," said Wildcat head coach Corey McKinnon. "He's big, strong, has great hands and has learned to finish. He's been playing very well lately and seems to be getting faster every game. It's really been great to see him succeed. He loves the game and loves his team and good things will keep happening for him."
Burggraff scored from nearly the same spot at the 10:31 mark of the period. The puck was bouncing around in a scrum in front of the Oriole net. Burggraff picked up the puck and slammed it in the upper left corner to put the Wildcats ahead 2-1. Just seconds later, Matt Petersen got the puck to Lizotte, who skated it to the wall just inside the Oriole zone. Lizotte moved the puck to Johnson in the right circle. The right-handed Johnson caught the puck facing away from the goal, turned and quickly backhanded it toward the net. The quick shot caught the St. Louis Park goalie by surprise, and the puck darted inside the right post to increase the Wildcat lead to 3-1. The shorthanded Wildcats have struggled at times in the second period this year, but played their best in the second against the Orioles. They completely dominated play as they outshot St. Louis Park 12-2. The Wildcats kept the Orioles off the scoreboard in the third period as they picked up the win. Wildcat goalie Kyle Buchanan stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced to earn the victory.
"All around, we rebounded well after Monday night's emotional game," said McKinnon. "We did the things we needed to do well to be successful. We stayed out of the penalty box and played good team hockey. With Cole DuBose still out, we mixed up our lines a little bit. Our line of Brett Lizotte, Tommy Johnson and Andrew Habel got a lot of scoring opportunities, and all four of our defenseman did a good job of settling things down. Their goalie did a nice job keeping them in the game. Their coach told me he felt lucky that they led 1-0 after one period."
The Wildcats will finish out the regular season with a pair of home games at Chisago Lakes Arena. They'll play Irondale tonight at 7 p.m. and then take on Mora tomorrow on Senior Night, also at 7 p.m. "We want to cap off our conference season on a high note Thursday," said McKinnon. "With the exceptions of Cooper and St. Francis, we've shown improvement against every conference foe the second time we played them this season. And we look forward to a good finish to the regular season on Friday. This has been a great group of seniors. It will be hard to see them go, but we also look forward to them leading us through the playoffs. This group has been so coachable. They never quit."
Seeding for the Section 4A playoffs will take place this coming Sunday. The Wildcats will likely be seeded sixth, behind St. Thomas Academy, Mahtomedi, South St. Paul, Totino Grace and Spring Lake Park. This means the Wildcats will likely have a play-in game this Tuesday at either Wakota Arena or Fogerty Arena. Check nsconference.org or mshsl.org on Monday for the game time and location, or call the Chisago Lakes High School Activities office at 651-213-2528.
St. Thomas is ranked number one in Class A in the state, a tough hill for any team to climb. But if the Wildcats make it past their play-in game, they would likely face a team they matched up well with in the quarterfinals, such as South St. Paul or Totino Grace. If they're playing well and make it to the semifinals, you never know.