EVELETH — The fourth-seeded Eveleth-Gilbert Area girls’ hockey team opened up section tournament play Tuesday, playing host to No. 5 Moose Lake Area and found themselves in a tough battle from the beginning.
The two teams would need overtime to decide a winner, with the Rebels beating the Bears 3-2, ending E-G’s season in the process.
The first period was a tale of two sides as the bigger, more physical Rebels team controlled the puck early, while the quicker Golden Bears took some time to warm up before finding their offensive chances.
It was Moose Lake Area that struck first with Rebels captain Gabby Gamst firing one past E-G goalie Rachel Woods at the 4:33 mark. She was assisted by Julia Jusczak and Sandra Ribich on the play.
The Bears yet to get their first shot on goal, their first opportunity came after a string of MLA penalties gave them a 5-on-3 advantage. E-G would soon find themselves in the box shortly after but they found the back of the net during some a period of 4-on-4 play.
Natalie Bergman etched her first playoff goal of her career, beating out Rebel goalie Mallory Hartl to knot things up at one. The goal came at 7:34 with Bergman being assisted by Anneka Lundgren and Kylie Baranzelli.
Both squads had some more opportunities as the period wore on but the score stood tied after one period.
The second period was a strong one for the Bears as the Rebels struggled to keep up with E-G’s speed.
Controlling the puck for long stretches at a time, the Golden Bears grabbed their first lead of the night on a goal from Kaitlyn Torrel. Assisted by Sydney Fitzgerald and Katie Johnson, Torrel’s goal at 8:16 looked to be a catalyst for the Bears as they outshot Moose Lake 12-8 in the second.
Things got dicey for E-G after a tripping penalty gave the Rebels a one-woman advantage, but the Bears penalty kill was up to the task. Up 2-1, it looked as if the Bears were just 17 minutes away from advancing to the 7A semifinals.
But the Rebels had other plans, sending the game to an overtime period with Ribich etching the game tying goal at 7:52 in the third. On their heels the whole third period, the momentum had shifted towards Moose Lake and the Bears had to hang on just to force overtime. They started overtime skating 5-on-4 following a Rebels penalty as time expired in the third.
The Bears had their chances in the extra period but couldn’t convert when they needed to. Moose Lake skating with all the momentum, the Rebels came away with the win as Grace Hartl etched the game-winning goal at 3:45 putting a rebound past Woods to send her team to the 7A semifinals.
After the game, Eveleth-Gilbert head coach Earl Fitzgerald told his team they have no reason to hang their heads.
“Our girls played a good game tonight,” Fitzgerald said. They fought hard. We had some opportunities but the bounces just didn’t go our way tonight and that happens.”
Heading into overtime, Fitzgerald had hopes his team would keep attacking the net, citing their success when doing so in the past.
“Normally when we take it to the net, the puck ends up in the net. We wanted to get some bounces our way and keep it out of the corners but we just couldn’t get those to go our way tonight.”
Finishing out the season amidst a pandemic, Fitzgerald believes there’s something to be said about getting through the season without any major hiccups.
“At any point in time, like what happened with Hibbing, one girl could get sick and then you’re done, season’s over. We tried to keep the girls upbeat throughout the season as things went on and we’re thankful we got to see the season through to the end.”
Graduating three seniors in Anneka Lundgren, Rachel Woods and Sydni Richards, Fitzgerald said his most experienced players gave it their all from the beginning of the season until the final horn.
“We appreciate them and everything they’ve done. It’s hard not to feel bad for them because they did work hard all season long. We won a good amount of games this year and had some success. When you add it all up, they had a pretty good year.”
For the Bears returning next year, Fitzgerald hopes they come prepared and ready to compete.
“We want them to work on their shooting in the offseason and stay positive. Next year when we come back to camp, we want them to be ready and in shape so we can pick up where we left off tonight.”
ML 1 0 1 1 -- 3
EG 1 1 0 0 -- 2
1, M, Gabby Gamst (Julia Jusczak, Sandra Ribich), 4:33; 2, E, Natalie Bergman (Anneka Lundgren, Kylie Baranzelli), 6:36.
3, E, Kaitlyn Torrel (Sydney Fitzgerald, Katie Johnson), 8:16.
4, M, Ribich (Jusczak), 7:52.
5, M, Grace Hartl, 3:45.
Penalties-Minutes: Moose Lake Area 3-6; Eveleth-Gilbert Area 5-10.
Goalie saves: Mallory Hartl, M, 4-11-4-2--21 Rachel Woods, E, 8-8-10-3--29