1/9/2014 1:41:00 PM Tough holiday break doesn't dampen 'Cats spirits Despite an 0-3 holiday tournament showing in ND, the Wildcat boys hockey team is on the right path -- one that may lead them to the Xcel Energy Center
by CHUCK FITZER
STADSTAD TOURNAMENT For the holiday break, the Wildcat boys’ hockey team headed to Grand Forks, North Dakota to play in the Jason Stadstad Classic at Purpur Arena. Wildcat head coach Paul Gibson said “All three games were highly paced and all three opponents were top North Dakota teams.” Wildcat assistant coach Chris Phelps played on one of the state championship teams at Grand Forks Central. Grand Forks Central has won 25 state championships in North Dakota.
Grand Forks Central 4, Chisago Lakes 2 The Wildcats kept it close most of the way, but couldn’t overcome a hat trick by Grand Forks Central’s Ryan Griggs and lost to Central 4-2 in the opening round of the Stadstad Tourney on Thursday, December 26. With the Wildcats trailing 2-0 midway through the second period, Brandon Gillespie scored to get the Wildcats on the board and cut the Central lead to one goal. Trevor Lushanko and Ryan Chambers picked up assists on the play. Central stretched its lead back to two goals a minute into the third period. Chambers scored an unassisted goal at 5:07 of the period to again cut the Central lead to one. But Griggs scored his third goal of the game a few minutes later and this time, the Wildcats didn’t answer. Central outshot the Wildcats 23-21 for the game.
Wildcat head coach Paul Gibson said, “This game could have gone either way. The shots were even as well as the scoring opportunities. The difference was two costly mistakes on our part. Their second goal was scored by an uncovered man in the slot, and their third goal was scored by a player splitting our defense for a breakaway.”
Fargo Davies 4, Chisago Lakes 0 On Friday, December 27, the Wildcats managed just 18 shots against 29 shots for Fargo Davies and were shut out 4-0. The game was scoreless after one period, but Davies scored twice in each of the last two periods to salt this one away. Wildcat head coach Paul Gibson said “This was clearly the best team we have faced this year. Their speed, size, and exceptional positional play had us shut down from the start.”
Bismarck Century 4, Chisago Lakes 0 In the final game of the tournament, played on Saturday, December 28, the Wildcats were shut out by Bismarck Century. Once again, the score was 4-0. Century outshot the Wildcats 43-21 for the game. Wildcat goaltender Jake DuBose stopped 39 of the 43 shots he faced in the loss. Wildcat head coach Paul Gibson said “Going into this round robin point system tournament, we asked to play the best teams. I don't think any of us really knew what to expect the competition level to be, and this could have contributed to our lack of motivation throughout the weekend. A combination of other factors certainly didn't help our chances. We had a few starters just getting back from illnesses and we had a few more with fevers over the three day tournament. And playing two games within an eighteen hour span certainly took its' toll on the players by the third game. All excuses aside, we simply did not play with the drive necessary to prevail in games against tough competition. As always, we will take the positives from this experience. One thing is for certain: this team always puts in the physical effort.”
REGULAR SEASON Chisago Lakes 7, Henry Sibley 1 After losing three games in the holiday tournament, the Wildcats quickly got back to their winning ways. Blake Lizotte scored a hat trick to lead the Wildcats to a 7-1 thrashing of Henry Sibley last Thursday, January 2 at West St. Paul Arena. Brandon Gillespie had a goal and three assists. The Lushanko brothers had three points apiece: Trevor scored one goal and had two assists and Landon had three assists. Ryan Chambers and Hunter Koesters scored the other two goals for the Wildcats, and CJ Haskins and Billy Knaak each picked up an assist. The Wildcats took control of the game in the first period, scoring three goals on just eight shots. After scoring once in the second period, they added three more goals in the third period. Lizotte scored one goal in each period. The Wildcats outshot Sibley 34-23 for the game. Jake DuBose picked up the win in the nets for the Wildcats, stopping 23 of the 24 shots he faced.
Buffalo 3, Chisago Lakes 2 (O.T.) Playing against Buffalo at Buffalo Civic Center last Saturday, January 4, it looked like the Wildcats were on their way to their second conference win of the season when they led the Bison 2-0 after two periods. But the Bison scored twice in a two minute span in the third to tie things up and then scored just 13 seconds into overtime to stun the Wildcats 3-2. The Wildcats opened the scoring late in the first period. The Bison took a penalty with 90 seconds left in the period. The Wildcats won the ensuing faceoff and held the puck in the zone for the next minute, generating several good scoring opportunities. Ryan Chambers picked up a loose puck and pushed it to Trevor Lushanko along the right boards. Lushanko moved to an open spot on the right side of the right circle and fired a pass to a wide open Billy Knaak standing at the left edge of the slot. As the goalie slid left, Knaak ripped a one-timer into the lower left corner of the net to put the Wildcats up 1-0 with 33 seconds left in the first period.
Nic Bartz didn’t get credit for an assist on the Wildcats’ second goal, but it was his hard work that made it possible. With 9:30 left in the second period, Bartz blocked a clearing attempt near the left side of the blue line and fired the puck behind the net as he went off on a line change. Blake Lizotte picked up the puck along the right boards deep in the zone, passed it to Landon Lushanko in the corner and headed for the net. Lushanko passed it back to Lizotte in the lower right circle and Lizotte one-timed it through the five hole to put the Wildcats up 2-0. In overtime, the Wildcats took the opening faceoff into the Bison end. The Bison broke out two on two from their own blue line. Gunnar Goodmanson carried the puck into the Wildcat zone, split the defense at the Wildcat blue line and fired it into the upper right corner of the net at point blank range to end the game just like that.
The Wildcats, who dropped to 9-6 with the four losses over break, host section opponent Legacy Christian Academy this Saturday, January 11 at noon at Chisago Lakes arena. The Wildcats are already 3-0 against the section, including a convincing 5-2 victory over Spring Lake Park, their toughest challenger in Section 5A. A victory over Legacy Christian would just be another notch for the Wildcats in their march towards the postseason.