The Magic boys lacrosse team found itself on the losing end of two consecutive one-goal games to start the season.
That was enough of that.
Last Thursday, Monti reversed course, coming from behind in the second-half to earn a thrilling 8-7 road win against Hill-Murray.
“It was huge for us, especially coming from behind to win,” said Magic coach Erik Hanson. “It was nice to kind of turn the tables.”
Monti, which had led late in the two previous losses, trailed early against the Pioneers. Hill-Murray held the Magic to just one first half goal, jumping out to a 6-1 lead.
Hanson said that Monti seemed to have a bit of an awakening at the halftime intermission.
“The kids just realized, ‘hey, we can’t win this as individuals, we have to win this as a team,’” he said.
Hill-Murray had entered the contest focused on packing in the defense and taking away Monti’s attackers, including star player Casey Chiodo. That left room for the midfielders to jump into the attack, something that they started doing in the second half.
“Once our middies got on track and started taking some shots, it just really opened up our offense,” said Hanson.
Goal by goal, the Magic started their comeback. By the mid-point of the fourth quarter, Monti had scored seven unanswered goals and opened up an 8-6 lead. Things would get dicey late, however. Monti took a penalty with two minutes to go, and Hill-Murray took advantage, scoring with 30 seconds left to cut the lead to one. The Pioneers would win the ensuing faceoff, but they were not able to get a good look on goal in the final seconds, and the Magic hung on for the first victory of the season.
It was a rewarding win for Hanson, not just because it was the first of the year, but because of how many people it took to make happen.
Monti had five different goal-scorers in the game, led by three from Jacob Johnson. Riley McAlpine added two, while Chiodo, Reece Jacobson, and Jared Pearson all scored one. Chiodo led the team with three assists and six ground balls in the game.
The Magic also got contributions from two goaltenders in the game. Owen Sandberg got the start and made 10 saves in the first half. Calvin Dahlheimer came on in the second half for his first varsity appearance in net and stopped 11 shots, allowing just the one Pioneers goal.
Hanson said the decision was made before the game to give each goaltender one half, as they wanted to give Dahlheimer a shot at the varsity level. They were certainly happy with the results.
“It was good to see that he could step up,” said Hanson. “That was big for him – we were very impressed.”
The coach was equally impressed with how the whole team worked together, both on the attack and on limiting Hill-Murray’s chances in the second half.
“We finally started coming together,” he said. “As a team, this was the best we’ve played.”
The balanced scoring was certainly proof of that. Monti at times relies on Chiodo, the University of Minnesota commit, to put the ball in the net, but Hanson said having a number of threats will certainly make them a more dangerous bunch.
“That just opens up our offense so much more,” he said. “It’s really tough if you have six guys that are dangerous.”
Plus, Hanson knows, other people scoring will open up more opportunities for Chiodo, who Hanson said played “a great team game” in Thursday’s win.
Two days prior, Monti lost a 14-13 heart-breaker to Buffalo.
The Magic led 8-6 at the half, and 13-12 with just a few minutes remaining, but the Bison scored the final two goals to pull out the conference victory.
Chiodo led Monti with seven goals in the contest, while Johnson added three. Gabe Severson led the team with seven ground balls. Sandberg made 10 saves in the loss.
“I thought we did very well,” said Hanson, about the Bison contest. “We were leading the whole game.”
The coach admitted that it can be discouraging to lose after leading for 3.5 quarters, but he pointed out that the win over Hill Murray two days later erased that.
“That’s what made this [Hill-Murray] win so important for the kids,” said Hanson.
Hanson said that Monti, which has been involved in three nail-biters thus far, expects continued improvement as they head into the meat of their schedule.
“As long as we play for the team, we’ll be very tough,” he said.
Tuesday night, Monti came from behind once more to knock off St. Cloud Tech and move to 2-2 on the season. More information on that game can be found in next week’s paper. The Magic are scheduled to be back in action tonight, Thursday, when they host Sartell at 6 p.m. at Monticello High School. Monti will also be home Saturday, for a 12:30 p.m. contest against Providence Academy.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]