The penalty bug bit both teams, but the Lightning managed to capitalize, earning the team its first-ever trip to the state tournament.
Tyler Seeling scored a hat trick as the No. 2 seeded Northern Lakes Lightning defeated the top-seeded Monticello Moose 6-3 to claim the Section 5-1A championship Thursday, March 25, in Monticello. This was also the Lightning's first time in a section championship game.
"Our team did everything we asked them to do," Lightning head coach Craig Larson said. "They showed up and they just worked so hard. They earned this."
Penalties played a key role early in the game, with the first three scores all coming on the power play.
Seeling started the scoring with a power-play goal late in the first period and Caiden Kjelstrom netted a power-play goal of his own just over a minute later.
After allowing a goal and scoring none in the second period, the Lightning came out firing in the final stanza, as Kyler Couture scored early in the period to regain momentum. However, Monticello answered moments later with a goal of their own, bringing the score to 3-2 in favor of the Lightning.
“They have a good team,” Larson said. “They were humming and doing some good things, so we had to make some adjustments. Our kids just had to show up and be in the right place at the right time - taking care of their jobs and not being down on themselves when they did make a mistake. They just did a heck of a job tonight.”
Seeling responded with his second goal of the game and Erik Larsen scored his first with just under four minutes left to play.
The Moose managed to score once more after pulling their goalie, but Seeling notched an empty-netter with 49 seconds left to seal the victory.
"Our coaching staff is still a little bewildered, wondering if this is real," Larson said after the section game. "When I started here eight years ago, I saw a group of Squirts that had some pretty good skaters - names like (Hunter) Nybakken, Larsen and Couture - and I said, 'If these guys stay on track and stay dedicated, they are going to be successful. This is the pinnacle of that success. This is what you train for."
Lightning goalie Adler Hoagland stopped 30 shots as Northern Lakes then prepared for their first state tournament in program history Tuesday, March 30, in St. Paul.
“This is a special time, and we have to be ready for anything,” Larson said. “We are just taking a moment. Sometimes they are pretty short moments, but we are going to take them all in … We are going to make this the best experience they have ever had in the game of hockey.”
Despite the game being on Monticello’s home ice, plenty of Lightning fans made the trip to Moose country and were “100% louder” than the home crowd, according to the coach.
“They were clearly excited for us,” Larson said. “They had a good time for sure.”
Monticello 0 1 2 -- 3
Northern Lakes 2 0 4 -- 6
First period: NL-Tyler Seeling (Hunter Nybakken, Caiden Kjelstrom) 11:22 ppg; NL-Kjelstrom 13:15 ppg
Second period: M-Gunner Sibley (Gavin Brooks, Wilson Dahlheimer) ppg 4:17
Third period: NL-Kyler Couture (Quady Bernu, Zach Ehnstrom) 2:43; M-Brooks Wilson 3:18; NL-Seeling (Couture) ppg 13:04; M-Brooks (Caden Ritter, Sibley) 15:42; NL-Seeling en
Shots on goal: NL 27, M 33
Goalies: NL-Adler Hoagland (30 saves); M-Nash Wilson (31 saves)
Overall: NL 18-3, M 12-7-1.