The Pine City Area Dragons got back in the driver's seat of the Two Rivers Conference Tuesday night with a 4-3 victory over their rivals from Mora/Milaca. Both teams went into Tuesday's game with one loss in the conference and with Pine City dropping one to the Mustangs earlier in the year, Mora/Milaca held the advantage heading into the game.
Pine City started the game off hot picking up a goal just 2:09 into the first period. Dragon Captain, George Miller split two defenders and found the back of the net picking up his team-leading 13th goal of the season. The 1-0 lead would not last long as the star player for Mora, Gavin Orr scored on a breakaway just one minute and fifty-one seconds later. That was Orr's 29th goal of the season. Pine City received some help from their third line the rest of the period as Jimmy Lindblom scored his first varsity goal and then Peyton Smetana added his third goal of the season with just three seconds left to go in the first and the Dragons felt good heading into the first intermission up 3-1.
Typically the second period is the best period for Pine City but that was not the case on Tuesday night. The Mustangs wanted to ruin Pine City's chances at a fourth straight conference championship and they came out flying in the second period. Alex Laven stood tall in net and did exactly what he needed to do until the 4:26 mark when Jack Kritzeck scored for the Mustangs on a deflection. And that goal got the Mustangs right back into the game heading into the second intermission down just 3-2.
In between the second and the third Pine City coach Grant Nicoll reiterated the importance of getting one more goal. The Dragons have only lost one game all season when they scored 4 or more goals and they wanted to get that fourth goal to put away the game. We saw ten minutes of scoreless hockey to start the third with plenty of close chances from both sides that had the fans on the edge of their seats. It was George "Filthy" Miller who scored an improbable goal with 6:58 to go in the game to give the Dragons the game-winner and the victory. It turned out to be a more important goal than previously thought when Mora would score on the power play from Blake Radeke just one minute and 41 seconds later. Laven held off a flurry of shots late in the third period and Pine City celebrated a 4-3 victory over Mora-Milaca.
Each team has two conference games left, and while the Dragons haven't mathematically clinched the conference championship yet, they would have to lose to Becker-Big Lake and Legacy Christian Academy to not get at least a share of the conference title. The Dragons feel very good about their chances to finish up the season strong and hang their fourth-straight Two Rivers Conference Banner in the rafters at the Pine City Civic Center.
After the game Grant Nicoll said, "This game had a ton of meaning! It was a section 5A game, a Two Rivers Conference game, and IT WAS MORA. With a win, the boys made their selves ones step closer to their 4th consecutive Two Rivers Conference CHAMPIONSHIP! With a loss, they were out of contention. The seniors had a little extra incentive. With a conference championship, they would all be able to say that they never lost a conference their entire career!"
The Dragons are now 9-8-2 on the season and play Cambridge-Isanti at home on Thursday.
George Miller - 2 goals
Peyton Smetana - 1 goal, 1 assist
Jimmy Lindblom - 1 goal (HIS 1st CAREER VARSITY GOAL)
Jordan Stich - 1 assist
Luke Fabini - 1 assist
Howie Hodena - 1 assist
Tryston West - 1 assist
Parker Sell - 1 assist
Alex Laven - 21 saves on 24 shots
Photo Credit: John Olson