© 2017-Brookings Register
By: Troy Maroney, The Brookings Register - Updated: 7 minutes ago
BROOKINGS – It took the top-seeded Rangers awhile to get started in Sunday’s championship game of the SDAHA Varsity Boys’ State Tournament at Larson Ice Center.
After a scoreless first period, Brookings lit the lamp twice in the second, and then, tacked on two more goals in the third for a 4-1 win over second-seeded Rushmore – capping off an undefeated SDAHA season with its second straight state championship.
“That first period – we started off slow – I think the nerves got to the guys; they were pressing a little bit that first period,” said Ranger first-year head coach JaColby Anderson. “Sometimes, when guys get into a championship game situation against a high-caliber team like Rushmore, the nerves can take over and they’re afraid of making mistakes; they’re not as aggressive.
“After that first period, we told the guys, ‘Play your game; keep it simple; work hard; just trust your teammates and do your job – everything else will take care of itself.’ And that second period, our forecheck was much better; we were much more aggressive; and that’s the reason that we scored those two goals.”
The Thunder outshot Brookings, 17-15, through two periods – 5-4 and 12-11 – but the Rangers capitalized when Matt Chapin’s goal broke the scoreless tie with 5:14 to play in the second as Cody Niklason and Brandin Heesch earned the assists.
Late in the period, the Rangers then took advantage of a power-play chance as Mason Gerstner netted the puck with 41 seconds left in the power play and 1:01 on the clock.
The third period continued to feature hard hit after hard hit as neither team backed down, but it looked as if Brookings sealed the win when Trevor Kuechenmeister’s left-handed laser from the blue line went top right shelf to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead with 5:23 left in the game, with Niklason and Chapin picking up the assists.
But Rushmore wasn’t done as Lucas Ferdinand finally managed to get the puck past Ranger goalie Dylan Geraets less than a minute later after a major scrum in front of the Brookings net.
Still up 3-1 with 4 1/2 minutes to play, the Rangers not only didn’t panic, they kept up the pressure and added an insurance goal with 3:11 left in the game that truly put the nail in the Thunder’s coffin.
Alex Nielson got a piece of a Kuechenmeister shot that didn’t allow Rushmore goalie Alex Robin a chance to stop the deflection as Chapin also was credited with an assist.
Geraets finished with 31 saves for the win in net as Rushmore held a 32-21 advantage in shots while Robin garnered 17 stops.
“Rushmore’s game plan against us was to be physical – being the third game of the tournament and trying to wear us down,” Anderson said. “Our guys did a nice job of just playing hockey and not letting that get to their heads.
“It feels great – being a head coach, I see this as more of a reward to the players because it’s a long grind; it’s a long season with a lot of planning. Hats off to my assistant coach Jesse Hanson – he worked hard as well – but I thought it’s been a fun season.”
Note: Brookings ended the season with a 20-0-1-0 record against South Dakota teams – the first time a Ranger team has finished with an undefeated SDAHA mark.