The No. 8 seeded River Lakes (Cold Spring Rocori) snapped a 4-4 tie after two periods with five goals in the third session to defeat the ninth-seeded Northern Lakes Lightning boys’ hockey team 9-5 in the Section 8AA play-in game on Saturday, Feb. 16, in Richmond.
The Lightning end the season 10-14 overall. The Stars, 11-15 overall, advanced to play No. 3 seed Moorhead on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
The Lightning assumed a 2-0 lead as Aspen Florey scored, assisted by Nick Olson and Kegan Couture, at 12:05 of the opening period, and then Nick Blanchette tallied, assisted by Kyle Narveson, at 13:22. River Lakes cut the lead in half late in the period when Stefan Tomovic tallied.
Florey notched an unassisted goal early in the second period to make it 3-1, but Jake Herges answered for the Stars just 45 seconds later. River Lakes tied it at 6:02 of the middle session on a goal by Ethan Parsons. Ben Moe scored one minute later, assisted by Blanchette and Gaven Bickford, to give the Lightning a 4-3 lead. A goal by Grant Thompson tied it for the Stars later in the period.
“I was happy with first period, and the second period was okay,” said Northern Lakes coach Shawn Chambers. “So I thought we were the better team after two periods.
River Lakes scored the first two goals of the third period before Northern Lakes’ cut the deficit to 6-5 on a goal by Olson, assisted by Florey and Alex Galligan, at 6:09 of the final period. Tomovic then netted a pair of goals in a span of 1:30 to complete his hat trick. Thompson added a final goal with 21 seconds remaining.
“We made some mistakes, and gave up two bad goals in the third period,” Chambers said. “We started getting too aggressive, and (River Lakes) scored a couple more goals.”
Winning goaltender Chris Skluzacek stopped 26 shots while losing netminder Mitch Stangel had 32 saves. Nick Bergeson had four assists for the Stars.
“It would have been nice to get a Class AA (playoff) win,” Chambers said. “We’ve been in the Class AA level in four of the past six years and have not won a playoff game.”
The Lightning have lost two Section 8AA quarterfinal games, and have lost to River Lakes in the play-in round the past two seasons.
Scoring leaders for the Lightning this season were Couture with 16 goals and 33 points; Moe had 24 goals and 38 points; Florey had 17 goals and 29 points; Bickford added 4 goals and 22 points; and Narveson had eight goals and 18 points.
Northern Lakes 2 2 1 – 5
River Lakes 1 3 5 – 9
First period: NL-Aspen Florey (Nick Olson, Kegan Couture) 12:05; NL-Nick Blanchette (Kyle Narveson) 13:22; RL-Stefan Tomovic (Grant Thompson, Reed Pfannenstein) 15:38
Second period: NL-Florey 3:12; RL-Jake Herges 3:57; RL-Ethan Parsons (Herges, Dalton Johnson) 6:02; NL-Ben Moe (Blanchette, Gaven Bickford) 7:03; RL-Thompson (Tomovic, Nick Bergeson) 10:48
Third period: NL-Herges (Evan Bayer, Johnson) 3:28; NL-Austin Stone (Joe Spaulding, Matt Kissner) 5:07; NL-Olson (Florey, Alex Galligan) 6:09; RL-Tomovic (Thompson, Bergeson) 10:04; RL-Thompson (Tomovic, Bergeson) 16:39
Shots on goal: NL 31; RL 41
Goalies: NL-Mitch Stangel (32 saves); RL-Chris Skluzacek (26 saves)
Lightning 5, Prairie Centre 3
Northern Lakes got two goals from Blanchette and closed out regular season play with a 5-3 non-conference win over the Prairie Centre North Stars on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
“We played three of our best periods of the season,” Chambers said. “We played with a lot of emotion. It was a nice win going into the playoffs.
Moe, Bickford and Jake Hyytinen also scored goals for Northern Lakes, which outshot the North Stars 42-14 with Mitch Stangel making 11 saves.
Prairie Centre 0 1 2 — 3
Northern Lakes 1 1 3 — 5
First period: NL-Nick Blanchette 12:20
Second period: PC-Cody Steward (Zack Pierskalla, Noah Schmitz) ppg 4:28; NL-Ben Moe (Gaven Bickford) ppg 11:13
Third period: NL-Bickford (Aspen Florey) 3:20; NL-Jake Hyytinen (Bickford, Kyle Narveson) 9:07; PC-Steward (Ryan Ritter) 13:44; NL-Blanchette 14:40; PC-Sam Ecker (Preston Pung) 16:36
Shots on goal: NL 42, PC 14
Goalies: NL-Mitch Stangel (11 saves); PC-Clay deters (37 saves)