January 20, 2011 at 9:51 a.m.
In a tightly fought and penalty-riddled game, the Vikings could not find the net and lost for the first time in two years to Pine City by the final score of 3-1. The game was played at Pine City on Thursday, January 6.
Pine City got thing started in the first period with a power play goal and went to the locker room up 1-0.
The Dragons struck again early in the second period on a pretty play and beat sophomore goalie Hunter Miska to go up 1-0. With time running out in the second period, Viking Zach Fairbanks recorded the first goal of his high school career. He took a snapshot from the top of the circle and placed the puck just over the Pine City goalie's blocker side shoulder and into the net with 0.4 seconds showing on the game clock. The Vikings had to kill off several penalties in the third period, which used up valuable time needed to complete the comeback. The Dragons added an empty netter with just under a minute remaining for the final margin of victory.
St. Cloud Apollo 5, North Branch 4
Trailing 4-0 early in the second period, the Vikings mounted a furious comeback against St. Cloud Apollo and nearly tied things up early in the third period. Tommy Toohey led the way with his first career hat trick, along with an assist. But Apollo added an insurance goal later in the third period and went on to beat the Vikings 5-4 on Saturday, January 8 at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex.
The Vikings started their comeback at the 5:31 mark of the second period. Calvin Miska took a nice feed from Tommy Toohey and popped a one-timer into the back of the net to pull the Vikings within three. Two minutes later, Toohey scored on a power play. He was set up by Michael SantaBrigida. The Vikings went to the locker room down 4-2 with "a fire in their belly," according to Viking head coach Randy Gendreau.
The Viking's came out flying after the second intermission. Just 58 seconds into the third period, Toohey struck again. Using his speed and power to get to the top of the circle, he fired a laser into the net on the Apollo goalie' to cut the Apollo lead to 4-3. But just a couple of minutes later, Apollo put their fiftieth shot on goalie Hunter Miska and it found the back of the net, pushing their lead back to two goals. The Vikings buzzed the net after that, but didn't score again till Toohey scored to complete his hat trick with just four seconds left in the game. Gendreau said "We do not have a play for a faceoff at center ice with four seconds left in a period or a game, but we will try to invent one. We played very discipline hockey tonight, taking just two penalties. That could be a North Branch school record, since we normally spend close to a third of each game sitting the sin bin killing off penalties."
Minneapolis 4, North Branch 2
The Vikings and Minneapolis were tied 1-1 after two periods last Monday, January 10 at Chisago Lakes Arena. After a wild third period, Minneapolis came out on top with a 4-2 win.
In a much anticipated game against Minneapolis (a combination of Minneapolis East and Minneapolis West from the 2009-10 season) the Vikings circled this game as a benchmark as to how much they have improved this season. Minneapolis is talented and was sitting at 10-1-1 on the season and undefeated in the Two Rivers conference. "We seem to get up to play to the level of our competition," said Viking head coach Randy Gendreau. "Of the three teams we played in a five day period, Minneapolis is by far the most talented and we took them to the limit, but came up short again."
Minneapolis drew first blood just under four minutes into the first period with a power play goal. With four minutes left in the period, Viking junior defenseman Zach Fairbanks ripped a blazing snap shot from the point to tie the game on a Viking power play and the Vikings went to the break tied 1-1. Neither team scored in the second period, setting up the decisive third period.
Three minutes into the third period, Minneapolis found the net to go up 2-1. With just under five minutes left in the game, Michael SantaBrigida used his speed to bolt up the ice, blowing by three Minneapolis players. He found the five hole on what could be one of the prettiest Viking goals of the season, tying the game at 2-2.
But Minneapolis scored on a tip-in with 1:30 left in the game to break the tie. Gendreau said "Of all the goals we have given up this season, that one hurt. We again took a very good team to the wall and were now looking at a 3-2 game with just a few ticks left on the clock." The Viking's called a time out and had a plan with a faceoff deep in the Minneapolis end of the rink, pulling goalie Hunter Miska for an extra attacker.
SantaBrigida won the faceoff and fired two shots at the net. The second rebound went to the corner and a Minneapolis player fired a 130 foot shot into the open Vikings net. The Vikings lost a heart breaker 4-2 to one of the best two teams in the Two Rivers Conference.
The injury bug seems to keep biting the Vikings on a regular basis this season. Gendreau said "We have played 11 games and we have yet to have a full roster. We have now had four concussions, one broken wrist, one sprained wrist, mono, strep throat a, severely torn quad muscle and to top it off, the flu. When we are healthy we are a pretty good team and can play with anybody in our conference, no question about that."
The Vikings (3-10 overall, 1-3 conference) play tonight at Moose Lake at 7:30 p.m., host Mora at Chisago Lakes this Saturday at 6 p.m. and travel to the Schwan's Super Rink on Tuesday, January 25 to play Legacy Christian Academy at 7:30 p.m.