Rangers net first playoff win since 2007
After advancing past the first round of Section 7AA playoffs for the first time in five years, the Forest Lake soccer boys’ season finished with a 5-1 loss to Blaine on Saturday.
The Rangers advanced to face Blaine after a thrilling 3-2 win in overtime against the Andover Huskies on the road last Thursday. In that matchup Andover struck early, scoring within the first few minutes. But Forest Lake senior Matt Eiden scored with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, despite a constant double-team effort by the Huskies that continued throughout the game.
“Andover is definitely a physical team, but also very skilled. We knew going in that they would try to body-up on Matt and that’s just what they did,” head coach Matt Koehn said.
Andover came out hot again in the second half with a quick score to make it 2-1, and again Forest Lake answered. With just five minutes to go in the game, scored off junior Paul Litecky off a Ranger corner kick.
“You know, Paul was just in the right place at the right time,” Koehn said. “That goal really sparked our guys and got the team going.”
The Huskies took advantage of Forest Lake’s defensive anchor, senior Dan Mollett, leaving the game due to injury. Andover had two clean shots on net within the final two minutes of regulation, but Ranger goalie Keenan Patterson made two stellar saves to send the nail-biter into overtime. Patterson recently came back from a concussion to reclaim a starting spot in net.
“It was real nice to have him back,” Koehn said. “Keenan came out and shut them down, so it was definitely nice to have him back in there, patrolling.”
After five minutes of overtime, senior Austin Rizzo fought his way through the defensive line and delivered an assist to senior Matt Keith for the 3-2 sudden-death victory.
Going into Saturday, Blaine had claimed the second spot in the Northwest Suburban Conference final standings with a record of 13-3-1.
“We knew we had our work cut out for us,” Koehn said. “Blaine is a good team and they have some extremely strong players and a lot of depth on their bench,”
The Rangers held the No. 8-ranked team to two goals in the first half while scoring one of their own by Rizzo with five minutes left.
But Forest Lake struggled to replace Mollett, and the Bengals went on a rapid-fire scoring session in the first few minutes of the second half. Patterson fought pressure from the Blaine forwards for the majority of the game and Blaine slipped through the Ranger defense with some tough shots on goal, according to Koehn. Senior Nick Ladwig, also recently recovered from a concussion, relieved Patterson late in the second half to close the game.
The boys’ record concluded at 6-10-2 with conference wins over Hastings and Park, along with a tie against White Bear Lake.
Although his team made mistakes against Blaine, Koehn said this year’s squad, which is graduating nine seniors, has been a positive difference from Forest Lake teams in the past.
“In the program as a whole, there’s a lot more skill. We were a deeper team than in the past,” Koehn said. “We really started to understand the game.”