Lightning strikes for state, but not for victory

Northern Lakes Lightning goalie Jeremiah Smythe (center) stops a shot on goal during the Minnesota State High School League Class A State Tournament March 30 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Gentry Academy went on to beat Northern Lakes 8-0 en route to the Class A title.

Northern Lakes Lightning fans could almost hear the Darth Vader theme as Gentry Academy came out onto the ice at the Xcel Energy Center March 30 prior to the Minnesota State High School League Class A State Hockey Quarterfinal.

The game resulted in an 8-0 victory by the Stars, who went on to win the Class A title Saturday.

Gentry was undoubtedly playing the part of the “evil empire” as they took on the “rebel force” from northern Minnesota. Two first-period goals got the Stars off to a good start and they opened things up with a four spot in the second as they held the Lightning without a goal in the game.

The speed and passing of Gentry was evident from the get-go as they moved up and down the ice at a rapid pace. They scored at 4:42 of the first as Damon Furuseth skated up the left side, tipped the puck off the sideboard, picked it up while going around the defenseman and put it past Adler Hoagland for a 1-0 lead.

That goal was a shorthanded tally while Wes Berg was in the penalty box. Furuseth scored an even strength goal at 8:43, firing a laser into the net to make it 2-0 after one period.

It would have been 3-0 without a sprawling save by Hoagland on a breakaway by Bailey McGraw. Lightning senior Caiden Kjelstrom thought the 2-0 score was a victory of sort for the locals.

“We thought if we were able to come out in the second and get a goal it would change the momentum but they kept coming and kept coming, the best team we’ve played, that’s for sure,” Kjelstrom said.

Nick Sajevic gave Gentry a 3-0 lead at :33 of the second on a two on one with Kaden Milles and after a Lightning power play failed to produce a score Milles got a goal at 5:13 for a 4-0 lead.

The Lightning had three good chances after that goal. Darby Boelter had a great chance out front, Kyle Couture had a break and Alex Timmons made a glove save – then Jake Ince came in alone and Timmons stopped his back-handed effort.

Furuseth completed his hat trick with a goal 13:22 and Connor Brown completed the scoring for the second with a goal at 15:17 and a 6-0 lead after two periods.

The third period was running time and Gentry got a goal at :39. Sajevic then got his second of the game at 15:03 to finish off the scoring for the game.

Robert Stephens had a chance on the break but shot wide and Tyler Seeling had a back-hander go up and over the net for the best two chances of the final period for the Lightning.

Coach Craig Larson got everybody in the game, including inserting goalie Jeremiah Smythe who had a number of nice saves in the final minutes.

Smythe talked about the experience.

“I’m so glad to get in the game and I will always be able to say we went to state and I got some ice time at the Xcel,” he said. “It was a great experience.”

The Stars fired 41 shots at Hoagland while the Lightning had just 17 shots on goal for the game.

“They pass very well and knew what we were doing all the time,” Hoaglund said. “They fire shots on net and they were tough to handle. They have lots of scorers.”

Larson was happy for his players.

“Our kids really had a great season,” the coach said. “We were the youngest program in the tournament and we’ve put our program together organically and not every team in the tournament can say that.

“I’m proud of that fact and what we’ve done. We’ve come a long way in eight years and we’ll be back.”

Northern Lakes            0   0   0  –  0

Gentry Academy            2   4    2  –   8

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