The tension was so thick you could cut through it with a knife…or punch through it with a fist. And that’s just what happened Thursday night between the Moose Lake Area Rebels and the North Branch Vikings. The Vikings escaped late theatrics and won the Two Lakes Conference and section 5A matchup 6-5.
The tension grew so much throughout the game that it finally erupted with just twelve second left in the game and players on the ice began throwing fists and cross checks and butt-ends into each other. Two players – Moose Lake’s Chris Gassert and North Branch’s Chace Johnson were both ejected from the game for fightin, which means they’ll be out of the next game, too.
These game disqualifications were part of a twenty one penalty bonanza that saw three total power play goals and a shorthanded goal as well. Both teams had twenty two penalty minutes along with the game disqualifications.
“It was a good set of refs.” said North Branch head coach Randy Gendreau, “They did a good job of controlling the game. We beat these guys three times last year – they wanted us. Fun game, a little rough, but this is Northern Minnesota hockey. Nobody got hurt and it was a lot of fun.”
Obviously the refs made plenty of calls, and they did do a good job of controlling the game, Anytime there was extra activity in front of the net, or elsewhere, for that matter, they made a call. But when there’s history behind these two teams the players will eventually take matters into their own hands.
“You’ve got to just keep your head and not do anything that you’ll regret” said North Branch’s Ryan Mohar, “You’ve got to stay calm and you’ve got to keep going forward.”
North Branch took a two goal lead and went to the locker room with a 2-1 advantage. Tanner Danks scored the Vikings’ first goal, which was a power play goal, and Mohar followed up with the second. Both goals came in the first seven minutes. Moose Lake’s goal was scored by Jon Evenson at the 6:45 mark. Moose Lake had the advantage in shots 9-8.
The second period saw four total goals, North Branch scored the first two goals from Mohar, a shorthanded goal, and Mike SantaBrigida who scored another power play goal. The Rebels scored the next two goals from Jake Cisar and Zach Cisar. Zach Cisar’s goal was a power play goal. Moose Lake extended its shot lead to 19-13. The score was 4-3 in favor of North Branch.
“You can’t play too much defense and sit back, you’ve got to keep putting pucks on the net” said Mohar about all of the back and forth action.
The third period saw another four total goals with both teams alternating the scoring. It made for some great back and forth action.
North Branch started the scoring at 15:24 from Calvin Miska to go up 5-3. Then less than one minute later Jake Cisar scored his second goal to make it 5-4. North Branch’s Tommy Toohey scored with just over twelve minutes remaining in the game to make it 6-4. But Moose Lake’s Tyler Cisar scored less than one minute later to make it 6-5. That would be the end of the scoring and Toohey’s goal would be the game winner.
The rest of the period, which was only ten minute worth, saw twelve total penalties. Both teams got scrappier and more agitated with each other and finally with twelve seconds left in the game a brawl erupted. North Branch was tired of the Rebels running their goalie and Moose Lake was probably mostly frustrated because Jake Cisar’s hat trick (and game tying) goal was waved off with 52 seconds left in the game for the Rebels having a man in the crease.
“It’s tough. Last year we led the state in penalties and we were 11th in scoring” said coach Gendreau about keeping his players out of the box, “I took over this team and there was no discipline. We’ve got a couple Marines recruits on this team so obviously they’re leading this team in penalties. But we’ll skate them. We don’t like the stupid, retaliatory penalties.”
Gassert and Johson were ejected and Moose Lake’s Mike Gassert and North Branch’s SantaBrigida were called for coincidental roughing penalties. And as time expired, Tyler Cisar used his elbow one last time and took out a North Branch player and was also called for that penalty.
“It’s one shift at a time, one period at a time and one game at a time for us” said coach Gendreau, “It’s a big win because we’ve been struggling. We got off to a slow start this year and we haven’t had our entire roster this whole year. We’ve had a few sophomores and two freshmen that have played up so that’s good for their experience.”
This was only North Branch’s fourth win, but both coach Gendreau and the team are happy about the progress they are making.
“Personally it was one of my best games” said Mohar, “Team-wise we did really well and our lines are finally starting to come together. We’re coming together as a team and as a family.”
1. Ryan Mohar, North Branch
Mohar scored two goals and netted an assist in the 6-5 shootout game. Mohar’s three points all came on the first three Viking goals. Mohar double his season point total which is now at six points.
2. Jake Cisar, Moose Lake Area
Cisar also scored two goals and got an assist and he was one of three Rebel players who got three points in the game. Cisar scored with 52 seconds left in the game with what would have tied the game but it was called off for Moose Lake having a man in the crease.
3. Tommy Toohey, North Branch
Toohey only had one point in the game but it was a goal and it was the game winning goal. Toohey now has 15 points on the season.