January 28, 2010 at 9:28 a.m.
The Wildcat boys' hockey team appeared to have tied the game with less than a minute and a half against North St. Paul. But the referees apparently didn't see Andrew Habel's shot go over the goal line, so there was no goal. The Polars held on for a controversial 4-3 win last Tuesday, January 19 at Chisago Lakes.
Things started out well for the Wildcats in this one. Brett Lizotte scored at the 7:37 mark of the first period, assisted by Kyle Hagglund, to put the Wildcats up 1-0. Less than a minute later, Ory Burggraff took a pass from Matt Petersen as he was breaking free out of the Wildcat zone. Burggraff came up the middle through the neutral zone on a breakaway. As he neared the net, lefty Burggraff pulled the puck to his backhand and lifted it into the upper right corner of the net to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
In the second period, the Wildcats' play became somewhat lethargic and the Polars stepped it up and scored two goals to tie the game. With just under four minutes left in the period, a Polar player blatantly interfered with a Wildcat player in front of the Wildcat net, but no penalty was called. Play continued as the Polars broke out of the Wildcat zone three-on-two, went the length of the ice and scored the go-ahead goal to lead 3-2 after two periods.
The Wildcats tied it at the 6:41 mark of the third period on a picture perfect play. From the Wildcat zone, Hagglund passed the puck up to Burggraff on the left hand side of the neutral zone. Burggraff and Habel came into the Polar zone two-on-one. Burggraff lasered a perfect pass past the defenseman to Habel on the right side, and Habel made no mistake as he buried it in the back of the net to tie the game at 3-3. But the tie was short-lived as the Polars re-took the lead lust over two minutes later. A Polar player ripped a slapshot toward a lot of traffic in front of the Wildcat net. Wildcat goalie Kyle Buchanan appeared to be in position to make the save, but the puck deflected off a stick out front and sailed inside the right post to put the Polars up 4-3.
This set the stage for the game's controversial ending. The Wildcats pulled the goalie with just under two minutes two go as they poured a relentless attack on the Polars. With 1:24 remaining, Habel stepped out from behind the Polar net and stuffed the puck behind the goalie. The referees blew the whistle because they lost sight of the puck, but didn't indicate they had seen a goal even though the Polar goalie appeared to pull the puck back over the goal line and under his body. Habel was tossed out of the game for arguing too vehemently with the officials and the Polars hung on for the win.
"I think the first period took a lot out of us," said Wildcat head coach Corey McKinnon. "North St. Paul is a fast hockey team, so their forwards provide a lot of pressure. We needed to get over the hump in the second period. Based on how we played, it wasn't a shock we were down 3-2 going into third period. But we tied it up on Andrew's goal and gave ourselves a chance to win. And I need to mention that Ory Burggraff had a great week. He's a good hands guy who's got a knack for putting the puck right where it needs to be, whether it's on someone's stick or in the net, and he really stood out for us."
Chisago Lakes 8, Irondale 7
The Wildcats nearly blew a five-goal lead in the third period, but hung on by the skin of their teeth for an 8-7 win over Irondale last Thursday, January 21 at Schwan's Super Rink in Blaine. Tommy Johnson had his first hat trick of the season in the Wildcat win.
The Wildcats made it look easy as they scored five goals in the first period to take a 5-1 lead. The Knights scored the only goal of the second period to cut the Wildcat lead to 5-2. The Wildcats appeared to regain control of the game when Johnson and Matt Petersen scored just over two minutes apart for a 7-2 lead at the 7:42 mark of the third period.
Just one-and-a-half minutes later, the roof started to cave in. The Wildcat forwards, defense and goaltending all seemed to go on hiatus as Irondale scored three goals in a span of one minute, twenty seven seconds to pull within two goals.
The Wildcats seemed to wake up and regain control after the Knights' three goal outburst. When Ory Burggraff scored with 2:49 left in the game to give the Wildcats an 8-5 lead, Wildcat fans, coaches and players breathed a collective sigh of relief. But it wasn't over yet. The Knights scored on a deflection off a defenseman's skate just over a minute later, and Knight forward Zach Iverson completed a hat trick with 27 seconds remaining to pull the Knights within one.
With the teams skating four-on-four because of penalties, the Knights controlled the ensuing faceoff. As they rushed up the ice with the puck, their goalie skated hard toward the bench. When he was just a stride away, the Irondale penalty expired and the penalized player skated to the Knight bench. His replacement jumped on the ice to join the last second rush. But with 9.3 seconds remaining and the Knights crossing the Wildcat blue line for a last second attack, one of the referees whistled the play dead. Apparently he thought the player coming off the bench was replacing the goalie, who was not yet at the bench, instead of the player coming out of the penalty box. All the referees could do was apologize to the Irondale coaches and have a faceoff at center ice. The Wildcats won the faceoff, and the game was over. The Wildcats dodged a bullet and hung on for a way-too-scary 8-7 win.
"I think that game took a few years off the end of my life," said Wildcat head coach Corey McKinnon. "But I see it as a double win. Number one, no matter what happened in the third period, we still hung on and won the game. Number two, we have the opportunity to learn something about staying focused without having to learn it the hard way. Hockey is a game of momentum. They got some momentum in the third period, it shifted back to us and then just as quickly shifted back to them. The fans certainly got their money's worth in this one and the Knights provided a good example of why you would never give up."
McKinnon continued: "I was impressed with our ability to put the puck in the net with Cory Lushanko injured and Andrew Habel out for a game. Tommy Johnson had great night with his hat trick, and Matt Petersen had a couple of nice goals and two assists, as well."
Matt Stamos, Ory Burggraff and Jeff Sargeant scored the other three goals for the Wildcats. Two other players had two assists apiece: Brett Lizotte and Jeff Sargeant. Four players rounded out the scoring with one assist each: Cole DuBose, Stamos, Tyler Henderson and Burggraff.
Chisago Lakes 6, Minnehaha Academy 4
Finally! A normal game. And a nice victory.
Brett Lizotte's rebound goal just over a minute into the third period broke a 4-4 tie against Minnehaha Academy. The Wildcats protected their one-goal lead for most of the period, adding an insurance goal with just over a minute remaining for a 6-4 win last Saturday, January 23 at Chisago Lakes Arena.
In addition to scoring the game winner, Lizotte opened the scoring for the Wildcats early in the first period, assisted by Coe DuBose and Andrew Habel. Minnehaha Academy scored two goals, including a shorthanded one, to take the lead. With just over two minutes left in the period, DuBose threaded a beautiful pass from deep in the Wildcat zone to Habel streaking down the ice at the red line. Habel never broke stride as he raced toward the net unimpeded, firing from point blank range and scoring to tie the game at 2-2. Just a half minute later, Tommy Johnson was cycling behind the net when defenseman Tyler Henderson came barreling down the slot. Johnson put the puck right onto Henderson's stick and he one-timed it into the net to put the Wildcats up 3-2.
The Redhawks scored on the power play to tie the game early in the second period. Kyle Hagglund scored a power play goal, assisted by Riley Doriott, to briefly give the Wildcats the lead at the eleven minute mark. But the Redhawks answered two-and-a-half minutes later and the teams went into the second intermission tied 4-4.
Lizotte's goal early in the third period gave the Wildcats all they needed. And with 1:05 remaining, Johnson came into the zone down the left hand side, swept across the front of the net and slid a backhand toward the goal line. As the goalie reached out to knock the puck away, he tripped Johnson. Johnson slid hard into the corner, the puck went into the net, and the Wildcats had a 6-4 lead. Johnson had to be helped off the ice and was limping slightly after the game.
"I'm proud of our guys for a number of reasons," said Wildcat head coach Corey McKinnon. "We had three games last week, all intense, and it was finals week at school. The guys had a lot on their plate outside of hockey and skated without Andrew for one game, but responded really well. To close out a game, you need two key elements. Keep the puck deep and keep the puck in front of you. We stopped doing that on Thursday but did a good job of it on Saturday. The guys really took care of business on Saturday with a one goal lead in third period. I'll give them an A-plus in improvement in lead protection from Thursday to Saturday.
The Vikings host conference foe Benilde-St. Margaret's this Saturday at 6 p.m. at Chisago Lakes Arena. They'll head to St. Francis for a battle with the Fighting Saints next Monday, February 1 at East Bethel.