EAST MONTPELIER – The 7 seed Lake Region Rangers traveled to face off against the 2 seed U-32 Raiders in the Quarterfinals of the Division 2 playoffs Saturday afternoon. After a physical, well fought game, the Raiders eventually prevailed with a goal in the 73rd minute.
After being bounced in the first round of the playoffs last year, the Rangers were out to prove that they belong at a higher division of competition.
The game started off with a bang as U32’s Zach Elmore and Cole Cacico sliced through the Rangers’ D, with Elmore missing the target on the shot attempt.
Matt Morin, playing in what would be his final game as a Ranger, worked his way up the right sideline, 12 minutes into the contest, and his cross attempt was just off target, with Corey Whitten unable to connect in front of the goal.
Just passed the half-way point of the first half, Kyle Perry fed Tony Stuart with a through ball, allowing Stuart to get a shot off from 25 yards out, but the Raiders’ keeper Clark Stridsberg was up to the task, and turned the shot away.
Morin, Caleb Royer, Byron Burdick, and Jess Breault, had their hands full on defense throughout the contest as Elmore, Cacico, and Cam Joslyn continued to put pressure on. But, they snuffed out every Raiders chance, and turned the ball away.
With 2 minutes left to go in the first half Lake Region looked as is if they were going to get the game’s first score, as Anthony Wright’s cross connected with Whitten inside the 18, forcing Stridsberg to make a highlight reel save.
The Blue and White came out hot in the second half. A Drew Gallup pass in front of the goal, was chipped just high by Perry 3 minutes into the half. 5 minutes later Carl Oberg’s shot from 25 yards out, was unable to find its way through the Raiders defense.
Alex Beauregard came up huge for the Rangers throughout the game. But, perhaps his biggest save was 12 minutes into the 2nd half. A Raiders’ corner kick was struck perfectly in front of the Blue and White net, but Beauregard skied above the rest of the players and punched the ball away from his net, keeping the game in a deadlock.
With U-32 on the attack at the midpoint of the second, Beauregard was caught out of position allowing the Raiders to get a shot off at a wide open net, but Royer stepped in front of the shot and turned it away before it crossed the goal line.
For either team to win this game, it was going to either take a mistake or a perfect shot. And with 7 minutes to go in the contest U32 got that perfect shot. Cacicio got the ball 25 yards out and fired the shot at the Ranger’s net. The shot tailed away from Beauregard and snuck its way in upper 90 on the left hand side, putting the Raiders on top 1-0.
Lake Region would press for the last 7 minutes, getting 4 shots on the Raiders net, but they wouldn’t fall, and the Raiders would walk away with a 1-0 hard fought victory.
After the game Coach Tom Evans was disappointed with the outcome, but proud of the efforts his players gave. “I thought it was a solid, solid effort. Probably the best match we have played all season.”
“It was an unfortunate result, it was a great shot on their part, but I am pleased that my seniors went out fighting,” he would go on to add.
The Rangers finish the season with a record of 8-7-1 and will say farewell to Caleb Royer, Kyle Perry, Matt Morin, Tony Stuart, and Corey Whitten.