Not only did the Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake Moose have to bounce back from a resounding 7-0 defeat last weekend, they also had to bounce back from giving up a goal just two and a half minutes into Tuesday night’s home opener against St. Francis.
They did just that.
And then they continued to do it all night.
Every time the Moose faced a problem, whether it be a penalty, a deficit, or even overtime, the home team had an answer.
The final one was the biggest.
With the game tied 3-3, and the Moose just seconds away from taking a tie in a game that they lead in the waning minutes of regulation, two of their seniors stepped up.
Colton Jones took the puck out of the defensive zone and pushed it up the left side. He nearly lost possession twice, but both times, he regathered.
As he neared the crease, he slid the puck across the goaltender’s face to his lineman Oliver Winsor, who was skating with him on the right.
Winsor did the rest. The senior poked the puck up and over the goalie for his second goal of the night, and a big time home win against a good conference opponent.
“Colton did all the work,” said Winsor, after the game. “It was awesome. I’ve never had an overtime goal. To win it, at home especially, there’s not a feeling like it.”
Early on, the Moose were worried it might be deja vu after getting shut out in their opening game of the season at Sartell.
M.A.M.L controlled play during the opening minutes, but it was St. Francis that generated a 2-on-1 rush and the first goal of the game just two-and-a-half minutes in.
But just thirty seconds later, the Moose answered. Drew Brockman, assisted by Spencer Nelson, put the puck in the back of the net, tying the game at 1.
“That was awesome,” said Winsor.” We’d been working, and we were outshooting them. To get it back like that really got us right back on track.”
The Moose controlled play for much of the remainder of the first period, including a dominating penalty kill midway through the period that would be an important indicator of things to come. St. Francis made a push in the final minutes of the period, but the Moose held them off, and the first period ended in a 1-1 tie, with the Moose holding an 8-6 advantage in shots on goal.
In the second period, offensive opportunities opened up for both teams. Still, throughout much of the period, the goaltenders held strong,
Then, with just over two minutes left in the period, the Saints won a faceoff in their own zone and quickly ripped a shot on net. The puck found its way to the netting, giving the visitors another lead.
Again, the Moose had an answer.
With 51 seconds left in the period, the Moose caught the Saints in a change, and generated a breakout opportunity. Trying to negate the scoring chance, the Saints took a penalty, sending M.A.M.L on the power play.
The home team took advantage rather quickly. Just 18 seconds into the power play Brooke Evans snuck the puck past the Saints’ goaltender, tying the game at two.
“They showed that grit to just keep battling,” said Coach Sheldon Weston, of his team’s ability to continually respond. “I was happy with the overall effort. We still have work to do, but we gave good effort tonight.”
The final seconds of the second period ticked off with the game locked in a 2-2 tie. Each team took 12 shots on goal during the period.
For much of the third period, it seemed the Saints had a tough time matching the energy of the Moose. The home team kept coming in waves, generating numerous chances.
Only when the Moose went on the penalty kill, their third of the game, did the Saints get some strong opportunities. But goaltender Darien Jones stood up big during the kill, stopping a handful of shots, including a few good scoring opportunities.
Eventually, with nine minutes to go in the game, the Moose got a chance to go on the power play.
It was short lived.
Just 29 seconds into the power play, the home team took a penalty of their own, negating the man advantage.
Again, the Moose would respond to adversity.
Rather than sulk over the lost advantage, the Moose went to work, controlling the offensive zone during 4-on-4 play. Eventually, the puck got wrapped around the boards, finding Winsor near the right corner. He did as he’s been taught, throwing the puck at the goalie.
“Coach says put the puck to the net, and good things happen,” said Winsor.
Coach was right. Winsor’s puck bounced off a skate and past the goaltender for a fluky, but giant, goal.
The Saints, however, weren’t finished.
As the clock ticked down to just over a minute remaining, they pulled their goaltender in favor of an extra attacker. They took advantage of that. After holding the puck in the zone for nearly a minute, they took the same approach as Winsor, throwing the puck at the net from a bad angle. Somehow, it found the back. Tied game, 21 seconds left.
As regulation ended, M.A.M.L. found themselves needing one more response.
“We were freaking out,” said Winsor. “They had all the momentum. But coach calmed us down and got us ready for overtime.”
For much of overtime, the Moose seemed to be gassed. So when the home team was forced to go on the penalty kill with just two-and-a-half minutes remaining, they seemed to be hanging on by a thread.
“I was thinking, just get out of here with a tie, man,” said Winsor.
After a two-minute penalty kill, capping a five-for-five night for the penalty kill unit, it appeared the Moose would do just that.
Then Jones and Winsor found one last push.
“They didn’t give up on each other. They just kept willing their way to get that puck to the net,” said Weston, before comparing the sight of a potential game winner to an oasis in the desert. “You see the little pond off in the desert when you’ve been walking for four days. You do anything to get that.”
Jones and Winsor did just that, capping a thrilling home win for the Moose and sending them to 1-0 in conference play and at home.
“A game like that, back and forth, that’s a great one for the fans and a nervous one for the coach,” said Weston. “But that was a big, big win for us, to start off on the right foot.”
Darien Jones made 32 saves in the victory, including all three shots he saw in overtime.
Colton Jones tallied two assists for the Moose, while Nelson, Brockman and Tyler Mros all added one.
M.A.M.L is back in action tonight, as they head to Buffalo for an important conference showdown. The puck drops at 7.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]