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ORLEANSâ€“Shaquille Urie scored arguably the prettiest goal of the season for Lake Region, heading the ball past Hazen's Murphy Simmons seven minutes into the second half to secure the Rangers' 2-1 win over the Wildcats on Wednesday afternoon.
Lake Region got off to the hot start, and if it wasn't for Simmons heroics in goal, the score would have been much more lopsided.
His first big save came against eventual goal scorer Urie.
Jeremy Dean had the ball deep in Hazen territory when he lofted a cross into the middle of the box.
Urie anticipated the move and was there for the header, but so was Simmons, and the score remained tied at 0-0.
What the Rangers did exceptionally well on Wednesday was controlling the middle of the field then transitioning the ball to the open wingers sprinting down the sides.
This tactic finally paid off with 12:11 left to play in the first half.
After repeated attempts to get the ball into the eighteen for shot, Anthony Wright succeeded, sending the ball from the far left side of the field to Billy Cashin
Cashin in turn, controlled the cross, juked the Hazen netminder to the ground and buried a low shot in the far right corner of the net.
The goal opened up the flood gates of offense.
Shot after shot peppered the Hazen net, but Simmons stood strong, keeping the nets empty for the remainder of the half.
As the first was winding down, Hazen was awarded a free kick close to the Ranger eighteen, but they could not get the ball past the wall, and it stayed 1-0 Lake Region after one.
The blue and white did not slack off as they started the second.
The offense kept coming, and subsequently cashed in Urie's second header attempt of the game.
Clint Provoncha was the architect on the the play, setting up Urie with a gorgeous feed near the six yard line.
Timing the ball perfectly Urie went up and knocked it home with 33:29 left to play in the second.
"I knew that once Clint got on the outside I could get a cross in the central if I was in the right spot and I had the ability to put it in the net," said Urie after the game.
Feeling secure with the two goal lead the Rangers started to coast a bit after the Urie goal.
"I thought we had controlled the pace of the match up until the second goal, " said Evans. "When we got up two nothing I thought we sat back and the long ball started coming into play and we were just kicking it out. That is not the style we want to play."
The Wildcats, led by their captain Walker McAllister sensed the shift in attitude and set about to the business of getting back into the game.
It would be McAllister setting up the lone Hazen goal in the twenty-first minute of the second half.
Blazing down the left side of the Ranger net, Walker sent the ball into the middle to Dimitri Vasiliadis.
Vasiliadis worked a little magic, using short dribbles and some nice cuts to weave his way through multiple Rangers until he was just about on top of LR's goalie Dennis Newland.
With about four feet in between the ball and the goal line, Dimitri left nothing to chance, blasting the ball with authority into the Ranger net.
"I wish we had come out with that kind of intensity in the first half," said Hazen coach Mike Noyes.
It was about this time that the Rangers came out of their relaxed state and got back into the game.
A more even contest commenced, with the two teams battling for control of the ball.
With six minutes left, the Wildcats really turned up the pressure, but the Ranger defense was even better.
Drew Gallup, Byron Burdick, along with Charlie Epinette and Alex Beauregard were impressive, repeatedly denying Hazen the opportunity to get to the Ranger net.
As precious time clicked off of the clock, every Wildcat run was thwarted with calm efficiency, and before too long, the horn sounded to announce the 2-1 Ranger victory.
Newland had five stops for the now 5-2 Rangers, while Simmons stopped eight for the Wildcats who drop to 2-3-1.
Next up is a trip to Oxbow on Saturday to take on the Olympians. Game time is 11:00 AM.