The Forest Lake girls hockey team nearly made its goal of reaching the section finals again this season, but fell just short last week at the hand of top-seeded Andover.
The Rangers traveled to Duluth last Thursday to kick off the postseason. After falling 5-2 to the Northern Stars earlier this season, Forest Lake came out on top of their game from the start.
Forest Lake coach Ryan Sauter said the earlier matchup was a deceiving score.
“We traveled two hours, then the girls sat through a JV game and had no energy,” Sauter said. “You take us on a bad day and them and their best day, and you get the 5-2 score.”
The fifth-seeded Rangers set the record straight by starting strong just 15 seconds into Thursday’s game when senior Alexa Bremer scored off passes from sophomore Kaitlyn VanTassel and ninth-grader Maddie Kolbow to give Forest Lake an early lead.
Duluth responded six minutes later off a power-play goal to even the score at one.
Forest Lake took the lead back six minutes into the second period with a goal by junior Kayla Brust off a pass from junior Kennedy Crever, but the Northern Stars snuck back in with four minutes remaining in the same period to make it a 2-2 game.
Following a scoreless third period, Duluth had an opportunity to take the win with a minor penalty on the visiting team, but Forest Lake staved off the home team to prompt a second overtime period.
Nearly three minutes in, ninth-grader Madi Nolan clinched the win with a goal to advance the Rangers to the second round of section playoffs.
Bremer and VanTassel assisted Nolan on the game-winning play.
Sophomore goalie Kaylee Remington had 33 saves.
Forest Lake then traveled to Andover to face the No. 1 seed on Saturday.
The Rangers again took an early lead with the help of Nolan.
“Madi had just this beautiful move past the Andover goalie and put it in the top shelf,” Sauter said.
But the celebration was short-lived, as the Huskies scored with just over a minute left in the first period to tie the score at one. Within the first eight minutes of the second period, Andover scored four goals to take and keep a 5-1 lead.
Remington recorded 29 saves.
Forest Lake finished the season with a record of 7-11-0.
Sauter said his main goal going into next season is to define the identity of the Ranger team.
“We have to figure out who we are,” he said. “I told the younger girls to look at the seniors after the game. Look at their pain, see their anguish and remember, that they will be the seniors in a few years and use that as motivation to get where they want to go.”