FOREST LAKE — Facing two of the hottest teams out of the chute this season, the Stillwater boys’ hockey team dropped its second straight one-goal Suburban East Conference game on Thursday, falling to unbeaten Forest Lake 4-3 at the FLAAA Sports Center.
The Ponies (0-2-0 SEC, 0-2-0) fell to Hastings (3-0-0, 4-1-0) 2-1 in the season opener and were also stopped by the Rangers (1-0-0, 3-0-0) on Thursday.
“We have to just regroup and learn from this and get ready for Woodbury (on Saturday),” Stillwater coach Phil Housley said.
Stillwater jumped out to a 1-0 lead early in the first on a goal by Wyatt Stotts at 1:38 and the Ponies also started quickly in the second period to build a two-goal advantage on Chad Smith’s goal at 1:20.
The Rangers, however, answered with goals by John Suess and Trevor Thompson in the second period to tie the game and Landon Pikala scored just 23 seconds into the third period to grab a 3-2 lead.
“We allowed a goal late in the second period and in the last minute and then at the start of the third and those are cardinal sins,” Housley said. “They’re momentum changers for the other team.”
Kyle Parker added a fourth consecutive goal for the Rangers at 10:23 of the final period for a two-goal cushion.
“We just had a few lapses in our defensive game, coming back from the neutral zone and funneling back into our D zone,” Housley said. “I was pleased with our effort, we just have to clean up a few areas. On a positive note, we had more pucks to the net and there were ample opportunities to get rebounds. I think we just have to get a little hungrier in that area in front of the net, pouncing on rebounds.”
Zach Fedie cut into the deficit with an unassisted goal at 12:52, but the Ponies were unable to pull even in the final minutes.
The Ponies fired 36 shots on goal — not including four that clanged off a post — but were 0-3 on the power play for the second game in a row, including a five-minute advantage in the third period.
“Our power play has to contribute,” Housley said. “We had a five-minute major called and we didn’t get enough pucks to the net. We’ll work on those things. I think the production will come, it’s the attention and urgency and change of possession where our defensive responsibilities have to come into play. We’re cheating a little bit, trying to get that poke check free.”
Jesse Garcia finished with 33 saves for the Rangers while Colton Anderson made 25 stops for Stillwater, which received a solid effort from all four lines.
“I have no problem sending any one of those lines over the boards and I think it was evident in the second period when Forest Lake was playing mainly three lines and we were coming,” Housley said. “Our offensive zone production and our scoring chances were positive and we didn’t give up much, but the ones we gave up we didn’t pick up people. You can look at the first game we didn’t get pucks to the net, but we got pucks to the net this game. We’re thinking too offensively instead of when there’s a change of possession we have to think with a defensive mentality.
“We just have to regroup and learn from this and get ready for Woodbury (on Saturday).”
n The Stillwater JV team improved to 2-0 on the season with a 6-5 victory over the Rangers.
Stillwater 1 1 1 — 3
Forest Lake 0 2 2 — 4
First period — 1. St, Wyatt Stotts (Payton Hosch) 1:38.
Second period — 2. St, Chad Smith (Devin Cates, Tyler Fitzsimmons) 1:20; 1. FL, John Suess (Brett Gravelle) 7:18; 2. FL, Trevor Thompson (Kyle Parker, Jack Schmidt) 15:52.
Third period — 3. FL, Landon Pikala (Parker, Thompson) :23; 4. FL, Parker (unassisted) 10:23; 3. St, Zach Fedie (unassisted) 12:52.
Penalties — St, 2-4:00; FL, 3-9:00.
Saves — St (Colton Anderson) 9-9-7—25; FL (Jesse Garcia) 8-15-10—33.