February 18, 2010 at 9:35 a.m.
Last Thursday, February 11 at Chisago Lakes Arena, senior forward Ashley Gibson and her magical hockey stick sent the Wildcat girls hockey team to the promised land - which, for this week, happens to be the cozy hamlet of Cloquet, Minnesota. Gibson's breakaway goal just over two minutes into the first overtime gave the second-seeded Wildcats a 4-3 win over seventh-seeded Silver Bay and sent the Wildcats to the Section 7A semifinals against sixth-seeded International Falls.
The Wildcats came out looking a little flat in the first period. At the 7:17 mark, Gibson's shot rebounded to the left. Following up the shot, Laura Monson put the puck into the left side of the net to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead after one period. Less than two minutes into the second period, Ashlee Ricci ripped a shot into the upper right hand corner of the net to increase the Wildcat lead to 2-0. At the 7:34 mark, Gibson carried the puck from behind the Silver Bay net up the left boards. She ran into a Silver Bay player, lost the puck and then got it back right away. As a couple of Silver Bay players watched, seemingly mesmerized, Gibson skated unimpeded to the net and shot point blank. The puck hit the goalie in the chest and dropped into the left part of the crease. Sam Lorr said "thank you very much" and stuffed it into left corner of the net for a 3-0 Wildcat lead.
The Silver Bay coach immediately called a timeout. He must have given one heck of a speech, because the Mariners sailed out of the timeout like they were on a mission. In the next five minutes, they took advantage of a power play and some defensive mistakes to score twice and cut the Wildcat lead to 3-2.
Silver Bay then scored a strange-looking goal to tie the game just over four minutes into the third period. A Mariner forward slid the puck toward the net from mid-slot. There were a couple of players from each team in front of the net. Either the puck was deflected slightly or Dobosenski was screened and never saw the puck, because it just kept sliding slowly into the net to make the score 3-3.
A Wildcat shot hit the pipe with five minutes to go, but neither team scored for the rest of the period, setting the stage for Gibson's heroics. Gibson looked like a woman on a mission as she picked up the puck in the neutral zone and skated down the right side unimpeded. She cut inside the face-off dot and fired a wrist shot toward the upper left corner of the net. The Silver Bay goalie never had a chance as the puck went over her shoulder and grazed the underside of the crossbar, hit the back of the net and sent the Wildcats to the section semifinals for the second year in a row.
"As I was carrying the puck down the ice," said Gibson, "I was determined to get a shot on goal and hope for the best. I've been working on m shot. I didn't even see the goalie. I just aimed for the upper corner and let it go."
The Wildcats didn't play their best game against a surprisingly resilient Mariner team, but they did come away with a big win. Wildcat assistant coach Mark Gibson said "I'm glad we got this type of game out of our system." "If we're going to get a lot deeper into the playoffs," said Wildcat head coach Jason Mahlen, "we're going to need to play the way we were playing late in the regular season. I was very happy with the play of the third line of Jenna Dobosenski, Allison Ives and Danielle Tossey in the third period. They seemed to not feel the pressure and provided us with a good forecheck and good zone coverage."
The Wildcats did save their best for last in this one. They completely dominated the Mariners in overtime, outshooting them 4-0 and not allowing the Mariners to control the puck at all. Wildcat assistant coach Tim Lideen said "We really took it to them and made them look tired."
Chisago Lakes 6, International Falls 2
In Tuesday's section semifinal game at Cloquet, the Wildcats dominated the sixth-seeded International Falls Broncos from start to finish, outshooting them nine to one in the first period and 40-16 for the game as they beat the Broncos 6-2. The victory sends the Wildcat to tomorrow night's 7 p.m. section final in Cloquet against top-seeded Eveleth-Gilbert. Six different Wildcats scored goals and the Wildcat kept the Broncos from having any sustained pressure in the Wildcat zone for the entire game.
Things went well for the Wildcats, starting at Chisago Lakes Arena before the bus ride to Cloquet. Just before he headed to the bus, assistant coach Mark Gibson grabbed an extra home jersey in case someone forgot one. Sure enough, when the Wildcats arrived at Cloquet, defenseman Katie Johnson found that she had packed her road jersey instead of her home jersey. So she got to play, using the number 17 jersey provided by Gibson. And the Wildcats welcomed back one of their top defensemen, Miranda Beimert, who missed several games with an injury.
Early in the second period, the Wildcat line of Marisa Peterson, Allison Borgstrom and Megan Lushanko were rewarded after they forechecked hard to keep the puck in the Bronco zone for over 30 seconds. Lushanko carried the puck from the right corner, curled around to the left and scored from the left hashmark to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. Shortly after that, Ashley Gibson caught a pass at center, skated down the middle, pulled the puck inside out to her forehand and sent a 15 foot shot past the glove of the Bronco goalie to make the score 2-0. And midway through the period, Allison Ives passed the puck from the right boards back to Beimert back at the right point. Beimert celebrated her return to action with a quick wrist shot 18 inches off the ice that was headed for the right side of the net. The goalie appeared to have a bead on it, but somehow - through a slight deflection or a late screen-the puck missed her glove and got inside the right post to increase the Wildcat lead to 3-0.
The Broncos appeared to have a chance to get back into the game when the Wildcats took a penalty in the first minute of the third period. But a one-person wrecking crew also known as Megan Lushanko put on an amazing exhibition of forechecking, keeping the puck deep in the International Falls zone for 45 seconds before she was tripped, sending a Bronco player to the box and negating a Bronco Power play that never got off the ground.
With the teams skating four-on-four, Sam Lorr took a shot from the deep slot. It looked like it went right through the goalie and into the net for the Wildcats' fourth goal. Later in the period, Gibson and Johnson got the puck out of the Wildcat zone to Laura Monson. Monson carried the puck into the Bronco zone, made a beautiful move toward the middle to split the defense and, from ten feet out, ripped a shot into the upper right corner to make it 5-0.
The Wildcats got a little sloppy late in the period, allowing two goals in the span off one minute, fifteen seconds to cut the Wildcat lead to 5-2 with 4:47 remaining. But the Wildcats quickly righted the ship and shut the Broncos down the rest of the way. The Wildcats added a somewhat wacky goal with less than a minute to play on the power play. Beimert shot from the right point. The puck hit a Bronco player's stick just a few feet in front of Beimert, and the puck popped high in the air headed toward the middle of the slot. Megan Lushanko caught the puck, dropped it at her feet, turned and slid it to Borgstrom deeper in the slot. Borgstrom quickly slipped the puck through the five-hole and into the net to make the final score Chisago Lakes 6, International Falls 2.
"The whole team played well tonight," said Wildcat head coach Jason Mahlen. "It was nice to have Miranda Beimert back. The third line again played well, keeping the Bronco forwards n check, generating a few scoring chances of their own and keeping our top two lines fresh. We kept the pressure up the whole game. If we play this well in the section final game against Eveleth this Friday, good things will happen."
Tomorrow night's 7 p.m. game against Eveleth will be broadcast on 95.9 FM, The Spirit. And to hear interviews with seniors Sam Lorr and Ashley Gibson, tune into tonight's 95.9 FM broadcast of the Chisago Lakes boys' hockey game against Irondale, also starting at 7 p.m.