MAHTOMEDI — A fourth-quarter surge fell short for the Stillwater boys’ lacrosse team in a 10-8 loss at top-seeded Mahtomedi in the Section 4 semifinals on Saturday, June 3.
It was another semifinal setback for the Ponies, who have never lost in the opening round of the section tournament but has also never advanced to the finals. In what has been a good omen for its opponents, Stillwater has lost to the eventual section champion eight of the past nine years.
After upending the Ponies, Mahtomedi (15-1) went on to defeat second-seeded Tartan 13-12 in overtime on June 6 to earn its third trip to state in the past four years.
“You gotta give the proper kudos to Mahtomedi,” Ponies coach Tom Howe said. “They are a solid program and they play good in all aspects of the field. I was incredibly proud of our boys’ efforts and the way they battled.”
The fourth-seeded Ponies (10-5) were outscored 4-1 in the third quarter, but stormed back to pull within 9-8 with about five minutes remaining in the game. Marcus Darby, one of just three seniors in the starting lineup for the Ponies, scored the last two goals during than stretch as Stillwater climbed back in the game.
It was the Zephyrs, however, who scored the next goal to swing momentum back in their favor.
“We chipped away,” Howe said. “The boys battled hard and didn’t quit. It was just a hard-fought game against a good team. I’m proud of the effort and the way they battled.”
Mahtomedi, which held an advantage on the faceoffs, turned a 5-4 halftime lead into a four-goal cushion after a strong third quarter.
“At the end of the third we talked as a team and decided that we weren’t going to quit, period,” Howe said.
Timmy Lindquist and Connor Stoker each scored three goals to pace the Zephyrs, though nothing came easy against Stillwater goaltender Connor Chesnut, who finished with 17 saves.
“He played exceptionally well,” Howe said.
Mahtomedi also defeated the Ponies 8-6 in the season opener. The Zephyrs enter the state tournament with a 7-0 record this season in games decided by two goals or less.
“You progress so much over the season we have, both teams do,” Howe said. “They beat Prior Lake by a goal, Tartan by a goal and their only loss was to Benilde-St. Margaret’s, so they’ve been in close games and they have won them. They’re a good team. I don’t think I can say enough about how well our boys played against one of the top teams in the state and stayed with them. With the exception of a few things here and there, we could have won.”
Darby finished with three goals to lead the Ponies, who also received two goals apiece from Blake Evensen and Tom McGuire. Mason Green also tallied a goal for Stillwater.
Darby, DaBruzzi and Haden Bates, an All-American defender, are the only seniors in Stillwater’s starting lineup.
“I think we have a balanced team, but the seniors contribute so much just because of their maturity physically and mentally,” Howe said. “They provide that maturity and I noticed a big difference this year just because we had more seniors this year. Those senior captains and the rest of the seniors provided leadership just by their effort. They all did a fantastic job.
“You never like to see it end, but I think we progressed a lot as a team and we got mentally tougher and we grew as a group.”
Stillwater 2 2 1 3 — 8
Mahtomedi 2 3 4 1 — 10
Goals — St, Marcus Darby 3, Blake Evensen 2, Tom McGuire 2 and Mason Green; Mah, Timmy Lindquist 3, Connor Stoker 3, Lucas Honebrink 2, Joey Rohrer and Ben Putney.
Assists — St, Jack Siedow 3 and McGuire; Mah, Stoker 4, Lindquist 3, Ryan Pilla and Rohrer.
Saves — St, Connor Chesnut 17; Mah, Ian Kegley 8.
Stillwater 8, Mounds View 6
At Oak Park Heights, the Ponies jumped out to a 4-1 halftime lead and eventually built a 7-2 lead before holding off a second-half surge from Mounds View in an 8-6 section quarterfinal victory on Thursday, June 1 at Stillwater Area High School.
“We were kind of controlling the pace, but then we ran into a few penalties and turnovers and next thing you know it’s 7-5,” Ponies coach Tom Howe said. “In a playoff game where the referees are essentially letting you play, it was too many. We took too many and gave them the opportunity to get back in the game.
“It’s a game of momentum and the momentum was on their side at that point, but then they got a penalty we scored. It was definitely a nail-biter. Give Mounds View credit, they’re a very gritty team and they don’t quit and I really respect that about them.”
Ty Thureson finished with a game-high three goals for the Ponies, who also received two from Darby and one each from Tom McGuire, Pad DaBruzzi and Jack Siedow.
The Mustangs also gave Stillwater a tough game in the section quarterfinals a year ago. Mounds View led 3-1 before a late rally and eventual overtime victory for the Ponies. Stillwater topped the Mustangs 9-5 in a conference game on May 16.
“They definitely play us hard,” Howe said. “They show up and they battle.”
With Michael Kaufman out with an injury, Noah Ness handled the faceoff duties for the Ponies.
“Not having Michael in the lineup that is an area of focus for us,” Howe said. “Noah did a real nice job.”
Connor Chesnut finished with 11 saves for the Ponies, including five in the fourth quarter.
Mounds View finished the season with a 6-8 record.
Mounds View 0 1 2 3 — 6
Stillwater 2 2 3 1 — 8
Goals — St, Tyler Thureson 3, Marcus Darby 2, Tom McGuire, Pad DaBruzzi and Jack Siedow.
Assists — St, Siedow 3, Blake Evensen 2, Darby, DaBruzzi and Thureson.
Saves — St, Connor Chesnut 3-1-2-5—11.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at email@example.com