Wildcats lose both games in trip to state tourney
Chisago Lakes done in by a cluster of goals in both 5-2 defeats
Wildcats lose both games in trip to state tourney
Opening Round: New Prague 5, Chisago Lakes 2
New Prague broke open a close game with three goals in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the second period to take a 4-1 lead. They shut down the Wildcats after that, allowing just nine shots on goal for the entire game as they went on to beat the Wildcats in the opening round of the state tournament. It was the Wildcats’ first appearance at the state tournament since 1995 and only the second appearance in team history. The game was played last Wednesday, March 5 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Play was even in the first period and it looked like the teams were headed for a tight battle throughout. With the Wildcats on a power play, Billy Knaak scored the first goal of the game from a scrum in front of the Trojan net at 5:27. Zak Lambrecht, who had a goal and four assists in the section tournament, assisted on Knaak’s goal. At 9:04 of the period, a Trojan took a high shot from the low slot. Wildcat goalie Jake Dubose knocked it down, but New Prague’s Seth Kriha knocked in the rebound and the game was tied at 1-1. The Wildcats took a penalty just 41 seconds into the second period, and that’s when the roof started to cave in. On the ensuing faceoff in front of the Wildcat net, the puck popped out front and the Trojans’ Alex Gregor banged it into the net to take a 2-1 lead at 46 seconds of the period. New Prague’s Augie Isaacson scored with a backhand shot on a breakaway just 18 seconds later and the stunned Wildcats now trailed 3-1.
The Trojans nearly scored again ten seconds later when the Wildcat defense coughed up the puck in front of their own net, but Dubose made a nice save as a New Prague player tried to jam it in the right corner of the net, keeping the lead at two. But it wasn’t long before the Trojans added another goal. From the right corner in the Wildcat zone, Kriha made a pass into the crease. The puck hit Dubose and went out in front of the net. Dubose then saved Isaacson’s initial shot, but Gregor flicked the rebound into the open right side of the net. At 3:24, New Prague now led 4-1. New Prague worked on protecting its lead from that point on, not allowing the Wildcats to get anything going in the offensive zone. The Wildcats had just one shot on goal in the second period and three more in the third. Bryce Thompson replaced Dubose in the nets at the beginning of the third period. The Trojans scored again at 1:30 of the third period to push their lead to 5-1. With the Wildcats skating on a power play at 5:13, Brandon Gillespie ripped a shot from near the right point.
A big rebound came out front and Blake Lizotte put a low shot into the back of the net to cut the New Prague lead to 5-2. Just over two minutes later, a Trojan player was called for interference and it looked like the Wildcats, who were already two-for-two on power plays, would have another one. But Gillespie retaliated against the player who hit him and was called for roughing, negating the potential power play. After that, New Prague went back to playing defense and shut down the Wildcats the rest of the way. New Prague outshot the Wildcats 24-9 for the game. The loss knocked the Wildcats out of the championship bracket and into the consolation bracket. “We’re an attack type of team,” said Wildcat head coach Paul Gibson.
“And they figured out how to trap us.” Gibson was asked why he replaced Dubose with Thompson at the beginning of the third period. He said “I was just trying to spark the team. I didn’t feel that Jake played poorly. We had some defensive breakdowns and allowed some two-on-ones. A lot of goaltenders would have had trouble with those shots. The change had everything to do with changing momentum.” Blake Lizotte was asked about the goal he scored to cut the New Prague lead to 5-2. “It could have been a momentum changer,” he said, “but we could have used it a little earlier. It turned out to be too little, too late.”
Trevor Lushanko put the loss in perspective. He said “We worked hard the whole season and got the first seed in sections. Coming to the state tournament was a good experience.” Gibson echoed Lizotte’s comment. “We’ve got a young team,” he said, “and this experience means a lot.” Consolation Semifinals: Luverne 5, Chisago Lakes 2 Battling against Luverne in the consolation semifinals, the Wildcats were again done in by a quick flurry of goals. This time, the goals came at the beginning of the game. Luverne scored three times in the first five minutes of the game and added another goal before nine minutes had elapsed in the first period on their way to a 5-2 win over the Wildcats.
The game was played at Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus on Saturday, March 8. Luverne pounded the Wildcat net early and scored on eight of their first 12 shots. Jake Dubose replaced Bryce Thompson in the nets after the fourth goal and allowed just one goal on 17 shots over the remainder of the game, but the damage had been done. Blake Lizotte scored a power play goal at 15:22 of the first period to cut the Luverne lead to 4-1. Trevor Lushanko assisted on Lizotte’s goal. Luverne scored again midway through the second period to push the lead back to four goals. Billy Knaak scored in the third period, assisted by Lushanko and Chasse Heiskala, for the final goal of the game. The Wildcats are now a combined 0-4 in the school’s two state tournament appearances.