NB hockey boys earn second win
Saturday’s home game against Moose Lake was an exciting back-and-forth battle for the North Branch boys hockey team. Fortunately for the Vikings, they were one step ahead as they pulled out a 5-4 overtime victory to record their second win of the season.
Five minutes into the matchup, senior Joey Courtright set the tone by scoring off a pass from freshman Jared Kozar, only to have Moose Lake answer four minutes later with an unassisted goal to even the score.
In the second period, the Vikings scored first again seven minutes in, when senior Brandon Timm recorded an unassisted goal. But the Rebels responded again with a last-minute goal late in the period to tie things up at two.
Following the second break, Moose Lake came out firing on all cylinders and scored just a minute-and-a-half into the third period, followed a minute later by a breakaway, short-handed goal to take a 4-2 lead.
North Branch wasn’t done, though, as junior Colton Danks and Timm assisted junior Nate Runberg in scoring seven minutes later during a scuffle in front of the Moose Lake net to keep their team in the running.
The Rebels had a chance to earn a two-goal cushion late in the game after North Branch pulled their goalie. A Moose Lake forward intercepted a North Branch pass and took off for what would have been an easy score on an open net had Courtright not sped up ice, coming up with a diving save to block the Rebel shot. The play gave the Vikings momentum, and with just 30 seconds remaining in the third period, Timm came up with an unassisted goal to send the game into sudden-death overtime.
In overtime, North Branch continued to maintain control of the puck, and seven minutes in and each team with a player in the penalty box, Courtright sealed the win with the winning score off assists by junior Connor Martineau and sophomore Brandon Waldo.
Head coach Matt Cottingham said the victory was important for his squad.
“That was a big win for us, we needed something like that to turn things around,” Cottingham said. “We’ve played a couple of tough teams and the outcome didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but the kids battled hard here.”
Senior Tyler Byrkit recorded 15 saves on the day, including two one-on-one blocks late in the third period.
The Vikings controlled the game with 41 shots on goal compared to the Rebels’ 19.
Cottingham said that earning a comeback win showed his team’s ability to rally.
“It says a great deal that they’re starting to learn,” the head coach said. “Just because you’re done two, anything can happen and that’s just what happened. They never gave up and next thing you know, a goal here and a goal there and then the game winner.”
North Branch had two losses last week prior to the Moose Lake matchup, falling 6-1 on Thursday night at Mora/Hinckley-Finlayson and 13-1 on Friday at Minnehaha Academy. The Vikings are now 2-8 overall, 2-3 in section play and 2-1 in the Mississippi Eight Conference.
Next, the Vikings host Legacy Christian at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3.