ORLEANS – Lake Region hosted the Hazen Wildcats Saturday afternoon, as part of the festivities for the annual Homecoming Weekend. Both teams played a very physical and tough game, but neither team could find the back of the net, as the game would end in a 0-0 draw.
The conditions could not have been worse for a soccer game, high winds and rain poured down for the duration of the contest and players were slipping and sliding all over the soccer pitch, but it did not deter the Ranger Faithful, who packed in across the hilltop to cheer on the team.
The Blue and White came out fast and furious as Billy Cashin worked his way up the sideline, setting up Drew Gallup for a shot in front of the net, but he was denied by Hazen’s keeper Murphy Simmons. A few minutes later Caleb Royer touched off from 30 yards out and narrowly missed out on connecting with Shaquille Urie in front of the goal.
The Wildcats had their opportunities throughout the opening half, Adam Forant missed high and wide with his 20 yard blast and Walker McAlister was denied by LR’s keeper Alex Beauregard who made a beautiful, 1-handed diving stop to his left.
The rain went away briefly for the start of the second half, but the action stayed as furious as ever. Corey Whitten and Carl Oberg both had good opportunities to score early in the second half, but Simmons stepped up big for Hazen, as he had done all game long.
15 minutes into the 2nd half, the Rangers had one of their best chances to break into the scoring column. After the initial shot off the foot of Brian Mosher was deflected by a Hazen defender, Anthony Wright fired a shot forcing Hazen’s keeper Simmons to dive to his right and barely get a finger-tip on the shot.
A quick Wildcat’s transition however, almost spelled doom for the Rangers. McAlister and Skylar McNally crashed LR’s defensive end on a 2-1 opportunity. But, Beauregard came up big for his team once again stopping the Hazen attack.
A trip inside the 18-yard box with 20 minutes left in the game, gave the Hazen squad their best chance to take the lead in the contest, but the penalty kick was off-line and the game would remain knotted.
In a last gasp to end the game before overtime, Matt Morin, who had played flawless all day long in the defensive end, fed Tony Stuart who fired a shot into the Hazen defense. The ball bounced around and eventually ended up on the foot of Royer, who one-timed the ball and narrowly missed the goal.
80 minutes of play wasn’t enough however and the game was sent to overtime.
With each passing minute the intensity and physicality picked up. After a missed dangerous kick inside the 18-yard box early in the first overtime, the Rangers were awarded a direct kick from just outside the penalty area with two minutes to go, as a result of a Wildcat’s handball. Matt Morin drove the ball low, but missed wide left and the game would be sent to a 2nd overtime period.
5 minutes into the 2nd overtime, Drew Gallup broke in all alone on the Hazen goalie, only to be tripped by a Wildcat defenseman, but there was nothing called by the officials. This ignited the Faithful and Ranger coach Tom Evans. And with 3 minutes to go in the game, Coach Evans had seen enough. After another no-call, this time on a push in the back, he vented his frustration to the official but, the official was not having any of it and he ejected Evans from the contest. Assistant Jim Morin stepped in to finished the game for Lake Region, but it was all for naught, as the game would end in a 0-0 draw.
“It was a very even match,” Coach Evans said after the contest. “Given the field and weather conditions, I thought it was a very well-played game.” When asked about his removal from the contest, he said that it was because he had stepped on the field and approached the official.
With the tie Lake Region earns valuable points towards securing a home playoff game. They currently sit 10th in the Division 2 standings, 2 spots out of the home playoff berth with 2 games to go on the season. The Rangers record stands at 5-6-1 and they will return to the pitch on Tuesday afternoon, when they travel to Danville to face off against the Indians. The game is set to kickoff at 4:00.