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The Rangers’ first Schwan Cup experience turned out to be a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. A thrilling shootout win over rival Roseville earned Forest Lake the right to play at the Xcel Energy Center, but Class A power Breck ended the fun with a 5-1 win in the finals of the Silver Division.
“The novelty is something they’ll never forget – playing at ‘The X,’” said coach Aaron Forsythe. “We still have aspirations of being back there in March.”
Despite hailing from a higher class, Forest Lake knew it had its hands full with top-ranked Breck. The Mustangs came into the championship undefeated at 9-0-0 and averaging over seven goals per game.
Breck outshot the Rangers 19-9 in the first period and broke the ice with a late powerplay goal. Still, the game seemed an even match, especially after senior CJ Franklin tied it up just 27 seconds into the second period.
The final 16:33 of the period belonged to the Mustangs, however. They scored three unanswered goals to take control. Breck’s vaunted top line of Matt Colford, Thomas Lindstrom and Grant Opperman produced its fourth goal in the game’s closing minutes.
“They’ve got a great team,” Forsythe said. “They’ll be there right up to the end in that Class A tourney…They’re big, they move the puck well and they’ve got a lot of talent.”
The Mustangs unloaded 48 shots on Ranger senior netminder Brian Levorson, outshooting Forest Lake by a 2-to-1 margin.
The Rangers will look back with much fonder memories on their dramatic semifinal game. Though it will officially go down as a 2-2 tie, the shootout was a moral victory. Roseville opened the season by storming back for a 4-3, overtime win in Forest Lake Dec. 1.
That scenario nearly played out again last Wednesday, as the Rangers led 2-0 after two periods.
“After the second period, in the locker room I told the boys I hope this story ends a little differently than the first one did,” Forsythe said.
As they did in the first matchup, the Raiders tied the game late. Austin Colvard assisted on a Tony Tilleson goal with six minutes left, then scored the equalizer with 59 seconds on the clock.
This time, the Rangers kept Roseville off the board in overtime, setting the stage for a shootout. Sophomore goalie Jesse Garcia stopped Roseville’s first attempt, and senior Lucas Kohls applied pressure by finding the net on his turn. The Raiders answered right back, but Franklin found the net to put them on the brink. Garcia saved the next attempt, sending his teammates out for a celebratory mobbing on the National Sports Center ice.
“Jesse came up huge in the shootout,” Forsythe said, adding that the team has a shootout competition for fun at every Saturday morning practice.
Franklin’s clinching goal was redemptive, as Roseville goalie Zack Larson had stopped him on several earlier breakaways.
Sophomore Brett Gravelle and junior Cody Rogala scored Forest Lake’s goals. Noah Brown, Eric Herbert and Kyle VanTassel assisted.