12/1/2017 2:57:00 PM Moline nets back-to-back hat tricks as Vikes cruise
North Branch 8, Minnesota River 2 The Viking boys’ hockey team gobbled up the Minnesota River Bulldogs with an 8-2 win in the opening game of the Veterans’ Memorial Turkey Tournament in Inver Grove Heights on Friday, November 24. Cody Moline had a great start to the year with a hat trick and an assist, Justin Sachs had two goals and two assists and playmaker Brady Meyer added three assists. Cody Croal added a goal and two assists, Jacob Richards had a goal and an assist, Nick Jensen scored a goal and Alec Hink picked up an assist. “It was a good first game for us,” said Viking head coach Matt Cottingham. “We have four defensemen who had never seen varsity time. It was a good game to get our feet wet and get some of the nerves out of our systems. Our speed and talent were just too much for them.” The Vikings outshot the Bulldogs 43-25 for the game. Viking goalie Trevor Mellen stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced.
North Branch 4, Simley 3 One hat trick was apparently not enough for Moline. The next day, in the same tournament, in the Vikings’ very next game, Moline again scored three goals. Justin Sachs scored the game-winner with 1:39 left in the third period to give the Vikings a thrilling 4-3 win over Simley.
The game was a roller coaster ride for the Vikings. Moline scored the only goal of the first period. He and Richards skated into the Simley zone two-on-one. Moline looked to pass the puck to Richards. But he saw Richards wasn’t open, so he rifled a shot about a foot off the ice past the goalie and into the back of the net to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead. Richards and Justin Sachs picked up assists on the play. “We dominated the first period,” said Viking head coach Matt Cottingham. “We had a lot of odd man rushes. But their goalie made a lot of really good saves.”
Simley scored 16 seconds into the second period and later added two more goals in the period to go up 3-1. Cottingham said “we went away from what we normally do. We were turning pucks over at the blue line and at neutral ice. But like every good team, we didn’t give up. We just kept pressing.” With two-and-a-half minutes left in the period, Moline found a soft spot in front of the net. Cody Croal sent a pass to him from down low and Moline one-timed it into the net to pull the Vikings within one. Nick Jensen also picked up an assist on the play. Sophomore Croal now has four points in his first two varsity games.
It didn’t take long for the Vikings to tie things up in the third period. Moline took the opening faceoff, sped past the defense and ripped a shot from between the hashmarks that went top shelf over the goalie’s right shoulder to tie the game at 3-3. The goal, scored just five seconds into the period, is tied for the fastest goal to start a period in team history. The score stayed tied until late in the period, when it looked like the game might be headed to overtime. But Brady Meyer took a shot and the rebound bounced into the slot. An onrushing Sachs anticipated the rebound and banged it home to put the Vikings ahead 4-3 at the 15:21 mark. Sachs had just five points all of last year and has five points in just two games so far this year. The Vikings held off Simley for the last 1:39 to finish off an exciting come-from-behind win. The Vikings were 0-6 on the power play. They outshot Simley 39-34 for the game and goalie Trevor Mellen stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced.
The Vikings ran two forward lines for most of the game. “We do that a lot,” said Cunningham. “Our speed doesn’t slow down. The boys are in incredible shape. We do a significant amount of conditioning every day at practice.”