The fans who made the trip to the Chisago Lakes Ice Arena Tuesday Night got their (gas) money's worth as the Section 5A Semifinal will go down as an instant classic. After a record breaking season, the Dragons came up just short falling to North Branch 4-3.
Things started off well for North Branch scoring on their first shot of the game. Just one minute into the game Brady Meyer took the puck straight to the net and the future UMD Bulldog finished top shelf over Alex Laven. Pine City would answer late in the 1st period on a George Miller power play goal.
The second period was all North Branch as the Vikings dominated the period scoring two power play goals. One by Coral and Meyer got his second goal of the night. Much like the last time these two teams faced off, North Branch's power play was too lethal for the Dragons giving up 3 of the Vikings 4 goals on the power play. After Alex Laven made a phenomenal save on Brady Meyer to end the 2nd period North Branch headed into the 2nd intermission up 3-1 and everything felt like it was going North Branch's way.
The Dragons had different plans for the rest of the game in the third period starting with Jonah Bergstrom scoring just 16 seconds into the period. The Dragons all-time leading scorer had no quit on Tuesday night working hard to make it a 3-2 game. That goal completely shifted the momentum of the game as Pine City put the pressure on for the remainder of the third. The game-tying goal game with about 5 minutes left in the game as George Miller would score his second of the night. The last five minutes went back and forth both teams putting pressure on and both goalies not giving up any advantage. Dragon goalie, Alex Laven, played the game of his life with 37 saves. Several of the saves were at point blank range sending Brady Meyer away on a couple breakaway opportunities.
With about 1:37 left to go in the game the Vikings would have a man advantage again after a controversial call on sophomore defenseman Dusty Bergstrom sent the Dragons on the penalty kill without their best defenseman. North Branch took advantage as they have done all season long and Jacob Richards buried a rebound off a Brady Meyer shot to win the game.
The North Branch Vikings improved to 22-5 on the season and advanced to the school's first ever section championship game. The Vikings will take on Monticello for a chance to go to the state tournament on Thursday at Elk River.
Pine City ends the season with a record of 21-6. The 21 wins by Pine City is the most by any Dragon hockey team ever! Dragon Hockey head coach Grant Nicoll took to Twitter last night to briefly recap the season:
"Words can not describe the feelings going on after both a game like that, and with trying to come to grips with the season coming to an end. These young men made the sacrifices we asked without blinking an eye. To the seniors.... you boys left your mark on this program. 3 conference championships, a 21 win season best in Dragon Hockey History, and the changing of a culture in hockey here. FOR THAT WE ALL THANK YOU! To the underclassmen, lead like those above you, work hard, and have fun... good things will come!