The Forest Lake boys’ hockey team is picking up speed as the season progresses, adding to the win column last week with a victory at home over Cretin-Derham Hall and a 4-3 win in overtime at No. 20-ranked Stillwater (Class AA).
In the win over the Ponies on Saturday, junior Weston Kilpela set up the first score of the game by forcing a Stillwater turnover two minutes into the first period. Kilpela passed to junior Brett Gravelle, who found senior Cody Rogala on an open net.
Stillwater would answer seven minutes later on a powerplay goal, and scored again to close the first period with a 2-1 lead over the Rangers.
The Ponies stretched their lead to open the second period with an unassisted goal.
After 13 minutes and five penalties (two by Forest Lake), senior Noah Brown took advantage of a 5-3 powerplay with an open shot from the blue line to bring the Rangers within one off assists again from Kilpela and Gravelle.
The third period came and went without event until Gravelle and senior Kyle Parker found senior Jack Schmidt at the point for the game-tying slapshot goal at 3-3 with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.
“It was just a result of the hard work and continuous pressure we had out there,” head coach Aaron Forsythe said. “We’d been talking all week about how when we have players at the net clogging up the goalie’s sight line, good things will happen. And that’s exactly what happened when Jack was able to find the back of the net to tie the game up.”
The score gave the Rangers the momentum they needed, including a key defensive play by junior Paul Stehr, who caught up to Stillwater on a breakaway to prevent a Pony goal just minutes into overtime.
Forest Lake continued to make plays. Six minutes into the extra session, senior Trevor Thompson made a defensive stop before handing the puck to Parker, who shot low on the Stillwater goalie. With both junior Alex Egle and Schmidt camping out at the goal, Schmidt was right in the crease for the game-winning rebound over the Ponies.
“I’m happy for Jack and at the same time it was good to see that, in the locker room afterwards, he wasn’t acting any differently than if someone else had scored the goal,” Forsythe said. “It was a good win for the kids.”
Junior Jesse Garcia recorded the win in net with 24 saves.
The Rangers were coming off of a 5-2 win at home over Cretin-Derham Hall last Thursday which featured a score of 2-2 going into the third period.
Thompson, Gravelle, Kilpela and sophomore John Suess all contributed goals (Thompson with two) in the victory over the Raiders, while Garcia played a key role with 28 saves in net.
Cretin-Derham Hall currently stands ahead of the Rangers in second in the Suburban East Conference with a record of 8-3 (10-6-1 overall).
It was also a telltale win for the Rangers as Cretin-Derham Hall defeated Forest Lake 5-2 earlier this season.
“The kids really worked hard,” Forsythe said. “Going into the third period tied up and then being able to pull away is a good sign for us. That’s what you want to see this time of year.”
The Rangers are now 10-8 overall and 5-6 in conference play.
Forest Lake’s game at Duluth East (No. 5 in Class AA) on Tuesday was postponed due to weather, but Roseville comes to town at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.