All Stillwater had to do was stop C.J. Franklin and Lucas Kohls. However, it didn’t and had to settle for a 3-3 tie at the St. Croix Rec Center on Jan. 29.
Franklin scored the first two goals of the game from nearly identical spots. Both his goals were with the help from Kohls, who made two beautiful feeds to Franklin right in the slot.
“Kohls fed me nicely twice,” Franklin said. “Most the times I get a chance to shoot from the slot, I think I can score and Kohls found me there.”
Franklin scored his team-leading 17th and 18th goals of the season in the first period, which gave the Rangers a 2-0 heading into the locker room after one. His first against the Ponies was a rip from the slot that beat Stillwater goalie Gordy Defiel through the five-hole.
Franklin’s second was a blast of a one-timer from the slot that was just under the crossbar where Defiel had no chance to stop.
“It’s important, because when they came to our barn, they got a goal early in the game and the game changed,” Franklin said. “We scored early and we quieted their crowd.”
After Nick Anderson cut the lead to one when he roofed a shot past Rangers goalie Paige Skoog, Kohls scored a power play goal on a breakaway.
It was a fantastic effort by Kohls, who was being hooked from the blue line on, but was able to chip the puck by Defiel.
“He had a really good hook on me,” Kohls said. “Totally turned me around and I just tried to poke at the puck and got it through the five-hole.”
“He has scored a few goals like that,” Forest Lake coach Aaron Forsythe said. “He doesn’t look like he is fast, but is deceptive. It was just a great effort.”
The goal gave Forest Lake a 3-1 lead, but it would not last.
Stillwater delivered shots, scoring chances and constant pressure late in the middle period.
Senior Blake Dochniak was able to solve the Ponies breakaway problems against Skoog, when he buried a backhand shot.
Cody Corbett tied the game with one minute, 47 seconds left in the period, when he blasted a shot from the point, that beat Skoog low glove side.
When the final buzzer went off in overtime, despite never holding a lead in the game, a tie was a letdown for the Ponies, because all they had to do was contain two of the Rangers scoring threats in Franklin and Kohls.
“The positives is we came back from a 2-0 and 3-1 deficits,” Ponies coach Phil Housley said. “Negative is we talked about shutting down their top level players in Kohls and Franklin and we didn’t do a good job of that. Shut those guys down you are going to win the hockey game. We know that and didn’t carry out our gameplan.”
Even the Rangers know the importance of Franklin and Kohls, but are cognitive to the fact that secondary scoring will be needed down the stretch.
“When they are scoring goals, we have a chance to win,” Forsythe said. “Going forward, we like to see some diversity on the score sheet, but we know it’s important for them to keep playing well.”
Apparently, the Rangers top guys wanted to finish this one off and gave their team a chance to win.
In the closing seconds of the second while down a man, Franklin was sprung on a breakaway. A potential back-breaking goal for the Ponies after they tied the game could have been devastating.
However, Defiel stretched his left leg as far as he could and made a save on Franklin’s backhand move.
“That would have been a big momentum builder, but not everything is going to go our way,” Franklin said. “It didn’t go in, it was a nice save, we move on.”
In overtime, Kohls had a chance to put away the game on what appeared to be an empty net, but his shot clanked off the post.
The miss could have been detrimental because Zach Mertes penalized for tripping with 49 seconds left, but Stillwater was unable to generate a real threat on the power play.
“Hit it right on the corner,” Kohls said. “It was a tough angle, but I don’t know how I missed.”
In a game where Stillwater unleashed 38 shots on goal, had a majority of the scoring chances, the tie is tough to handle because of a few costly errors.
“I thought we played hard pretty much the whole game, but there were times we didn’t play well defensively,” Dochniak said. “They have two important players that are major assets to their team and we didn’t stop them.”
“We outplayed them, just had a couple breakdowns in our zone,” Anderson added. “They have good players, capitalized on their opportunities and put them home. Didn’t follow our plan to shut them down and we end up in a tie.”
It seems easy on paper to try and shut down Franklin and Kohls, but the Ponies found out it is easier said than done.
Two physically gifted players were able to shatter the agenda set in place for a team that knew exactly what to do to win the game and put its title hopes on hold for at least a little while longer.
“Big confidence builder,” Franklin said. “We tied them the first time, so we know we can stick with them and they are right up there in the conference. This was definitely a big one for us.”
With the regular season end on the horizon, positioning in the Suburban East Conference (SEC) is important.
Every single point is of significant value and the Ponies may have let one slip away as they continue to chase White Bear Lake, which is undefeated in conference play this year.
“It’s hard because somebody took a point out of your own building,” Housley said. “We are still in a conference race, but we are going to have to hope for some help against White Bear Lake and they are playing really well right now.”
Stillwater is going to need some assistance in order to garner SEC championship honors.
It lost 5-1 earlier this season to the Bears and have another conference loss on top of that.
An old sports cliché is a tie is like kissing your sister, but a draw with the Rangers on Jan. 29 may have kissed away the Ponies chances at an SEC title and a better seed in the Section 4AA playoffs.
“Losing points in the conference is not something you want to do, especially this late in the season and where we are at,” Dochniak said. “We have to bank on other teams beating White Bear Lake and ourselves having to beat them, too.
“It’s still in reach, so I think that is why this tie is disappointing. It’s going to be tough to catch White Bear, so you need the points no matter what.”
On Feb. 5 at the Bears new rink, the Ponies will get a crack what possible could decide the SEC champion. If the Bears stumble, Stillwater will be right there.
“It’s going to make for a big game next Saturday,” Housley said. “If we would have won this one, it really would be interesting, but we just have to wait and see what happens.”
C.J. Franklin scored two goals while Lucas Kohls tallied one of his own and assisted on both of Franklin’s goals as Forest Lake escaped the St. Croix Rec Center with a 3-3 tie on Jan. 29.
Nick Anderson, Blake Dochniak and Cody Corbett all scored for Stillwater, which put 38 shots on goal.
Paige Skoog stopped 35 in the game and had some help from his pipes late in the game.
Gordy Defiel got the nod in goal for the Ponies and 27 saves.
Forest Lake had two two-goal leads, but had to endure a second period where Stillwater scored all three of its goals and had several breakaway chances. Only Dochniak was able to slip one by Skoog.
In overtime, Stillwater was unable to capitalize on a power play with 47 seconds left. Forest Lake did not allow the Ponies to get their power play set up where they allow their defense to unload clean shots from the point.
Forest Lakes’ top line of Franklin-Kohls-Tommy Tyson tallied seven of the eight points it had against the Ponies in what could be tough tie for the Red and
With the tie Forest Lake will take a 7-8-4 record back home to play Woodbury on Feb. 3.
Stillwater will stay at home with its 11-4-2 record on Feb. 3 to take on Park-Cottage Grove, with a big game against conference leading White Bear Lake two days later.
1. C.J. Franklin, Forest Lake
When Stillwater looked like it was going to make a road test for the Rangers difficult, Franklin calmed the building down with two first period goals. He established position in the slot on both occasions and used his powerful shot to beat Gordy Defiel twice. His second of the night and 18th of the season, was a one-timer that hit the crossbar and in. It was about as perfect as a shot anyone could have had to beat a goalie. Franklin also had a chance at a hat trick in the closing seconds in the second period, but was stopped on a great save by Defiel
2. Lucas Kohls, Forest Lake
He set up both of Franklin’s goals with beautiful passes in the slot. Kohls also scored on a workmanlike breakaway, where he was hooked, but able to get the puck to cross the line. He could have ended the game in overtime, but hit the post with just over a minute to go in the game. A nice three-point evening for the leading point producer for the Rangers this season.
3. Blake Dochniak, Stillwater
His breakaway goal solved the riddle of Rangers goalie Paige Skoog, who faced a bevy of them in the second period. A gorgeous backhand to Skoog’s stick side brought Stillwater within one goal and nearly blew the roof of the St. Croix Rec Center. Later in the second, he assisted on Cody Corbett’s tying goal.