March 5, 2021 at 9:27 a.m.
The North Branch Vikings scored twice in the last minute of the second period to break a 3-3 tie and scored four more times in the third period to crush the Chisago Lakes Wildcats 9-3 last Friday, February 26 at Chisago Lakes Arena. Alex Langevin had his second hat trick this season for the Vikings, including the go-ahead goal in the second period. Joey Kerchner had five assists for the Vikings for the second game in a row. The Wildcats won the first meeting this year between the two teams, beating the Vikings 6-4 on February 16.
The teams traded goals back and forth in the first period. Wildcat Blaine Klemz scored a power play goal three minutes into the first period, assisted by Zach Walden and Nick Overgaard, to give the Wildcats the early lead. Viking Ryan Coleman scored three minutes later to tie it at 1-1. Kerchner and Lawton Garin picked up the assists. The Wildcats re-took the lead almost exactly at the ten-minute mark on a goal by Nick Helland, assisted by Thomas Sargeant and Klemz. Langevin scored a power play goal with three minutes to go in the period to tie the game at 2-2, with Kerchner getting the single assist.
Brady Verdon scored to give the Vikings their first lead of the game exactly two minutes into the second period, assisted by Connor Dahlstrom and Paul Boelk. The Vikings took a penalty at 11:55 of the period and it took the Wildcats exactly seven seconds to score. Klemz passed from the left circle to Overgaard on the right side and Overgaard passed it back to Zach Walden in the left faceoff circle. Walden ripped a shot that got past Viking goalie Luke Opdahl and into the back of the net to tie the game at 3-3. But Langevin scored a power play goal with 1:03 left in the period, assisted by Kerchner and Garin, to give the Vikings a lead they would never relinquish. It looked like the period would end with the Vikings up by one. With 13 seconds left in the period, the Wildcats won a faceoff in their own end and moved the puck up ice. Sachs intercepted it at his own blue line, weaved his way down the ice and scored with once second left in the period to put the Vikings up 5-3. The late goal proved to be a backbreaker for the Wildcats. Wildcat goalie Max Wilmer appeared to be injured and skated slowly off the ice after the period was over. He did not return to the game.
With the Vikings skating on a power play just under six minutes into the third period, Kerchner carried the puck all the way down the left side almost to the corner and sent a pass to Langevin in mid-slot. Langevin fired a shot just inside the right post to complete his hat trick and increase the Viking led to 6-3. With the Vikings skating shorthanded two minutes later, Jordan Axberg carried the puck down the left side deep into the Wildcats zone and sent a pass to Sachs on the right side. Sachs worked it to the front of the net and scored. The Vikings now led 7-3 and the game was officially becoming a blowout. Later in the period, Lawton Garin scored off of his own rebound, with Kerchner picking up the assist. And with 90 seconds left in the game, Josh Iverson scored on a power play from right in front of the Wildcat net to make it 9-3. It was Iverson’s first varsity goal and started running time. Langevin and Axberg got the assists.
Viking head coach Jacob Mars said “The boys were pretty darn happy about this win, especially considering the last few weeks we’ve had. We’ve spent a lot of time working on defensive zone play, especially backchecking. We’re trying to get it into their heads that if you play good defense, you can win more games.”
Viking goalie Luke Opdahl played his best game of the year, so far. “Did he ever,” said Mars. “I think he felt a lot more confident with our guys playing more solid defense in front of him. We were very proud of him after thais game.”
Joey Kerchner has ten assists in the last two games combined. Mars said “Joey is one heck of a player. His obvious strength is moving the puck and when he does that, he is almost unstoppable. He knows that assists are just as important as goals and that when he moves the puck well, guys around him have a better chance to score.”