February 6, 2019 at 12:40 p.m.
Jackson Waltman scored his second goal of the game with 45.7 seconds left in the third period to give the Wildcat boys’ hockey team a 4-3 win over the Vikings last Saturday night at Chisago Lakes Arena. The game lived up to the pregame hype. The Vikings came out slow and the Wildcats built a 3-1 lead. It looked like they were going come away with the win. The Vikings came alive late in the third period and, helped out by a late power play, scored twice in a 16 second span with less than three minutes to go to tie the game at 3-3. But Waltman’s goal won it for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats opened the scoring with a power play goal at 6:28 of the first period. Waltman had the puck to the left of the goal behind the Viking net. He fired a pass to Justin Lawry near the right corner and cut to the left post. Lawry zipped the puck back to Waltman and he knocked it inside the left post to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. Six minutes later, Waltman carried the puck into the Viking zone and passed it to Thomas Overgaard. Both Viking defensemen went after Overgaard as he moved toward the net. Overgaard passed it back to Tate Swanson in the slot. Viking goalie Jake Turek came out to challenge Swanson. Swanson stepped around Turek to the right and shot the puck into the open net to put the Wildcats up by two.
The Vikings had a great scoring chance about six minutes into the second period. Ben Huth sped into the Wildcats zone with the puck, splitting the defense. It looked like Huth would have a breakaway opportunity, but Wildcat goalie Brooks Stangl came way out of the net and knocked the puck over the blue line, preserving the two-goal lead. And with two minutes left in the period, Viking Cody Croal fired a puck from his own zone to teammate Justin Sachs just outside the Wildcat blue line. Sachs went in on a breakaway. He made a nice move, but Stangl stood his ground and made a great save keep the Vikings scoreless. But with 21 seconds left in the period, Sachs picked up the puck at the right point and slid a hard wrist shot through some traffic and past Stangl into the back of the net to cut the Wildcat lead to 2-1.
Early in the third period, Vikings Cody Croal and Joey Kirchner came into the Wildcat zone two-on-one. The Wildcat defenseman shifted to cover Croal, coming down the left side. Croal slid a pass to Kirchner a few feet in front of the Wildcat net. Kirchner tried to flip it over Stangl to tie the game, but Stangl again made the save to thwart another Viking scoring attempt.
Wildcat Nate Cuadill took a penalty at 5:20 of the third period. The ensuing faceoff was to the left of Stangl. The puck came toward the left point. Wildcat Ben Johnson beat the Viking defenseman to it. He and Jonny Bodell broke free for a two-on-one. Johnson sent the puck over to Bodell at the red line. Bodell skated into the zone and, from near the top of the left circle, fired a snapshot toward the net. It went over Turek’s shoulder and into the upper right corner of the net to give the Wildcats a 3-1 lead.
With just under seven minutes left in the third period, a puck slid into the Viking zone as two Wildcats chased it. Turek came racing out of the net and knocked it away, thwarting a scoring chance that would have effectively put the game away for the Wildcats. At 13:23, the Vikings took their timeout and pulled Turek. At 14:07, Croal took a shot from the high slot. It looked like the puck bounced off of a player, hit Stangl and dropped into the net for a goal. But the referees immediately ruled a hand pass on the play and the goal was disallowed, keeping the score at 3-1 in favor of the Wildcats.
Waltman was called for an elbowing penalty at 14:21. With Turek still on the bench, this gave the Vikings a six-on-four advantage. After the ensuing faceoff, the Vikings held the puck in the Wildcat zone and sent it toward the net. There was a scramble and Viking Tucker Sachs knocked it in to cut the Wildcat lead to 3-2, just 13 seconds into the power play. It’s the first goal the Vikings have scored all season after pulling the goalie. And just 16 seconds later, Justin Sachs ripped a shot from the left point that went through some traffic, past Stangl and into the back of the net to tie the game at 3-3. The Wildcats seemed a little shell-shocked. 2:10 remained n the game and Wildcat head coach Cale Arhart called his team’s timeout. “I got on them a little,” said Arhart. “But then I cracked a smile and said ‘seniors, this is your night. This is what we live for.’ I wanted to keep the mood light and get them to go out there with some energy.”
With about 50 seconds left in the game, Bjorkman won a faceoff in the circle to the right of Turek. He slid the puck to Swanson at the right half wall. Logan Bjorkman pushed the puck back to Swanson from the right half wall. Swanson passed the puck to a wide open Waltman at the left edge of the crease and Waltman put it inside the right post for the winning goal.
All four Wildcat goals and four of the five assists came from seniors. Arhart said “This is a senior-led team and it was Senior Night. Our seniors showed up to play and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. I am very proud of all of our seniors, both on and off the ice.”
Cottingham watched his team get off to yet another slow start. He said “We didn’t give them much of a fight in the first period and found ourselves down by two goals. And for the second game in a row, we gave up goals right after the faceoff. I don’t mind giving up goals on a nice play, but I don’t like giving up goals because of a mistake on a faceoff. Give credit to the Wildcats. They came out flying and showed they wanted that game. But we didn’t quit, and we battled hard late in the game. As we look at the upcoming playoffs, there are a lot of good teams in our section. We can beat any of them or lose to any of them. It will all depend on who wants it more.”
The Vikings and Wildcats split their two games this season, with the Vikings winning the earlier one 5-3. Section seeding is not too far off, and the Wildcats and Vikings both play games on Saturday night that are important for section playoff seeding. The Vikings (13-7-2) play Section 5A and conference foe Princeton (14-7-0) Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Chisago Lakes Arena. The Vikings beat the Tigers 4-3 in early December. A Vikings win would tie them with Princeton for fourth place in the conference. Meanwhile, the Wildcats (12-10-0) play Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets in a Mississippi 8 Conference matchup at Isanti Arena at 7 p.m. On Saturday, they will head to Moose Sherritt Arena in Monticello to take on the Magic (14-6-1) at 3 p.m. Monticello is both a conference and a Section 5A opponent.
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