North Branch's Cody Croal battles with Chisago Lakes' Justin Lawry in the Class 1A, Section 5 final Thursday in Elk River. The Vikings beat the Wildcats 3-2. Photo by Earl J. Ebensteiner, SportsEngine
North Branch’s Matt Courtright scores the first of two Vikings' third-period goals Thursday against Chisago Lakes. The Vikings won 3-2 and move on to their first state tournament appearance. Photo by Earl J. Ebensteiner, SportsEngine
Changing the culture at a program is one thing. Changing results is another. Doing both? Well, that feels pretty good.
North Branch earned its first state tournament berth by topping Chisago Lakes 3-2 Thursday in Elk River in the Class 1A, Section 5 final. It’s been a steady — and to outsiders, perhaps surprising — ascent for the Vikings over the last six seasons, and has finally paid off with a trip to the Xcel Energy Center.
In the first two meetings between North Branch and Chisago Lakes this season, the third period provided all the excitement. The Class 1A, Section 5 championship was no different.
No. 2 seed North Branch earned its first trip to the state tournament with a 3-2 win over No. 4 seed Chisago Lakes Thursday at Elk River Ice Arena. The Vikings scored two goals in the third period and held on for their first section title.
The teams exchanged goals in a span of 58 seconds in the first period. Chisago Lakes went up at the 4:40 mark on Thomas Overgaard’s first goal, but North Branch responded when Cody Croal scored at 5:38. Tied 1-1 after one period, the teams played a scoreless second.
Matt Courtright scored on a feed up ice from Croal 5 minutes, 51 seconds into the third period for a 2-1 North Branch (19-7-2) lead. Joey Kirchner intercepted a puck and sent it to Tucker Sachs up ice for a breakaway goal at the 8:29 mark.
Overgaard got Chisago Lakes within one again with his second goal of the game at the 12:35 mark, but North Branch withstood a final flurry to hold its ground.
North Branch goaltender Jake Turek made 26 saves, while Chisago Lakes’ Brooks Stangl finished with 16 saves. Chisago Lakes finishes the season 16-12.
Thomas Overgaard took Ben Huth of North Branch into the boards Thursday in the second period of the Class 1A, Section 5 final. North Branch beat Chisago Lakes 3-2. Photo by Earl J. Ebensteiner, SportsEngine
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