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Boys hockey: Zephyrs hand Titans a loss
After gaining a 2-0 lead over the Mahtomedi Zephyrs, the Tartan Titans boys hockey team squandered several scoring chances. Meanwhile, Mahtomedi scored five unanswered tallies - the last on an open net - and posted a 5-2 triumph.
“It was a case of missed opportunities,” said Tartan co-head coach Steve Romanchuk after the Friday, Jan. 10, game. “(The Zephyrs) are a good team. They’re well coached, and they played us tough.”
The coach then showed an iPad picture of a Tartan player missing a shot at a wide-open Mahtomedi goal.
“It turned out that we just couldn’t put the puck in the net tonight,” Romanchuk continued. “When you can’t do that, you don’t win hockey games. I thought we played and competed well for two and a half periods. We need to put things together for a full 51 minutes.”
From the Mahtomedi perspective, head coach Jeff Poeschl stated, “I thought our goalie played well, especially in the third period. We kind of had ‘jump’ in our skates in the third period.
“I wasn’t too happy up until that point. We played kind of relaxed and somewhat nonchalant up to that point. I said a few things, and we had more jump in our feet in the final period,” Poeschl explained.
Tartan came out fast
The Titans opened the scoring in the first session when good forechecking coughed up the puck in the Mahtomedi zone. Nate McDonald sent the puck over to Zach Ledman who moved the puck into the circle to the left of the Zephyr net. From there he sent a superb pass to a charging Brady O’Sullivan, who scored at 4:02.
A minute and a half later, a Mahtomedi winger moved past the Tartan defense and went in alone on goal. His effort went for naught as Tartan goalie Gabe Splichal made a save at the right post.
The teams continued to have their efforts thwarted through the remainder of the first period, and Tartan led 1-0 at the first intermission.
Less than a minute into the second session, the Titans moved their advantage to two goals when good pressure again paid off.
From behind the Mahtomedi net, Ledman took the puck to the left doorstep and stuffed the puck past Zephyrs goalie Tyler Adams at 39 seconds into the period.
Mahtomedi responded with some good forechecking that paid off when Mike Kneale picked off a clearing pass and relayed it to Kellen Campbell in the left circle who sent a shot off the pads of Splichal. The rebound was taken by Jack Becker and stuffed inside the post on the short left side at 4:26.
The Titans skated off a penalty and then saw another effort go for naught when a breakaway and quick shot was saved by Adams.
The teams then skated to the second intermission with Tartan clinging to the 2-1 margin.
The third period opened and after the Titans’ Connor O’Sullivan was stopped on a pointblank blast, the Zephyrs countered with a rush into the Tartan zone.
From a scrum in front, Becker fired a shot past Splichal to the back twines.
There was a long discussion by the referees and finally they signaled the goal counted at just 40 seconds into the period.
With the score now 2-2, the Zephyrs played like the wind was at their backs. Just inside the blue line, Jack Gunderson wound up and let fly a laser shot that found its way through a crowd to the back twines for what turned out to be the game-winner at 11:25.
Just under a minute later, the scoreboard changed once more in Mahtomedi’s favor. From the deep slot, Campbell, a junior winger, buried a blast in the back mesh for the 4-2 tally at 12:19.
The score remained unchanged with Mahtomedi holding off the determined Tartan skaters - the Titans outshot the Zephyrs in the third period 15-7 and in the game 27-25 - until late in the third period.
The Titans pulled their goalie in favor of a sixth attacker. The ploy backfired when at 16:40 Campbell gained control and fired the puck into the empty net for the 5-2 final.
Tartan will be on the road at South St. Paul Thursday, Jan. 16, and then at Polar Arena to face North High Thursday, Jan. 23.
The Zephyrs also take to the road to face North Jan. 16. The games begin at 7:30 p.m.
Wally Wakefield can be reached at email@example.com.