The Lakeville North Panthers finished celebrating a dramatic 5-4 overtime win against a gutty North Wright County squad. Their attention was already square on their semifinal opponent Minnetonka. The two teams battled in last years semifinals with the Skippers and came up short in overtime.
To say the Panthers are licking their chops at the opportunity for revenge would be an understatement.
"I feel like this is our chance," said forward Megan Skelly. "Losing to them last year only gives us that much more reason to win."
Last year, the Panthers were 21 seconds away from a trip to the championship game. The Skippers pulled goaltender Sidney Rossman and Sidney Morin knocked in a rebound off a Laura Bowman shot to tie the game and send it into overtime. Panthers head coach Buck Kochevar has only lived that game one time.
"Last year hurt us," said Kochevar. "I haven't watched that tape in one year. I want to watch this years tape if we can do what we want to do and what we came here to do."
The Panthers advanced to overtime thanks to junior Christi Vetter's power play goal. Vetter found the loose puck in the slot and fired it into a yawning goal to propel the Panthers into the second round setting up a dramatic rematch.
"I saw an empty net and obviously that was the goal we needed to capitalize on to win the game," said Vetter who scored the lone goal in the game against Minnetonka last year. "It was do or die at that moment."
Playing in a tight emotional game like the Panthers just did might give them the edge heading into the semifinal match up. Regardless, their coach knows he won't need to give any big motivational speeches to get his team ready.
"They want to go back and play Minnetonka, they aren't going to back down I can guarantee you that," said Kochevar.
The rematch provides something that is rare in girls high school hockey. A little bit of bad blood. Respect, but definitely some bad blood. The mental game will be something to watch in the second semifinal tomorrow night. A team who feels they were 20 seconds away from a title game and the other who is looking to become the first program in the history of the state to three-peat as champions.