The Pine City boys hockey team battled through adversity on Thursday night to pick up a 3-1 playoff victory in front of a packed house at the Pine City Civic Center. The Dragons went down early and fought off several penalties but were still able to walk out with a win over the Lightning.
The first period saw both teams come out flying. It was exactly what you expected from a Section 5A quarterfinal. Both goalies were dialed in early and made some huge saves to keep the game scoreless at the end of the first period. During the intermission Grant Nicoll said, "Guys are gripping their stick a little bit, hopefully after this period break they can take a deep breath, loosen up a little bit, and if we play our hockey I think we can pop a few."
The Dragons started the second period on a penalty kill and Northern Lakes took advantage scoring just 1:28 into the second period. Shane Donovan, the Lightning leading scorer in the regular season, scored on the power play giving them a 1-0 lead. Just five minutes later Pine City would find themselves on the penalty kill once again and were on the edge of going down 2-0 early in the second period. But in a huge swing of events, Parker Sell took a shorthanded opportunity and went top shelf with the puck to tie the game back up at 1-1. That was exactly what the Dragons needed to build momentum and McCoy Leger took advantage of a rebound opportunity to give Pine City the lead three minutes later. Sell added another late in the second to extend the Dragon lead to two goals heading into the third period. In the second intermission Nicoll commented on Sell's great play: "We knew he wasn't going to be stymied the entire game, his linemates are working hard and he is a guy who has benefited on putting the puck away and going to the right spot at the right time."
After seeing four combined goals and six combined penalties in the second period, everyone in the rink was waiting with anticipation with what the third period would bring. But the third was the exact opposite with both teams staying out of the penalty box and neither team scoring. Dragon goalie Alex Laven made several huge saves to keep the Dragons lead where it was and Pine City went on to finish off their 3-1 win. Nicoll told WCMP, "Laven had a phenomenal week of practice this week, three days in a row of just pure hard work our goalie coach has been working with him and it showed."
PC 0 3 0 = 3
NL 0 1 0 = 1
Parker Sell - 2g, 0a
McCoy Leger- 1g, 0a
Luke Fabini - 0g, 1a
Dusty Bergstrom - 0g, 1a
Peyton Smetana - 0g, 1a
Alex Laven - 22 saves on 23 shots
Shane Donovan - 1g, 0a
Erik Larsen - 0g, 1a
Hunter Nybakken - 0g, 1a
Adler Hoagland - 32 saves on 35 shots
After the game the Pine City coaches, fans, and players huddled around listening to the end of the Chisago Lakes vs North Branch game that was still going on. When the final score of Wildcats winning 2-1 was announced the Civic Center erupted with applause as the Dragons learned they will get to host another playoff game. Pine City will play Chisago Lakes on Saturday night in the Section 5A semifinal at the Pine City Civic Center. The Dragons and Wildcats split games in the regular season with Pine City winning 5-1 on the road and Chisago Lakes winning 3-2 in OT in Pine City.
You can listen to Saturday's game on 106.5 FM/AM 1350 and wcmpradio.com
Photo Credit: Four Seasons Photography