State bound Orono boys hockey team. (Submitted photo)

The Orono Spartans hockey team advanced to the Minnesota State Hockey Tournament with two hard fought wins in the section semi-final and finals. The road to the state tournament wasn’t easy with Orono coming back from a third period 2-goal deficit over the Minneapolis Storm and winning in overtime against the Breck Mustangs.

In the section semifinals the Spartans faced the Minneapolis Storm at Parade Stadium. Having lost to the Storm earlier in the year the Spartans were determined to not let that happen again. The first period was evenly matched. The Storm got on the board first when they scored on a powerplay with two minutes left in the period. In the second, the Spartans tied the game when Thomas Walker and Lucas Jorgenson found Jack Suchy for the goal with eight minutes left on the clock.

The Storm answered back with four minutes left when they scored on a powerplay goal and then scored once more with two seconds left in the second to take a 3-1 lead. The third period was a totally different story. The Spartans came out with a vengeance when Suchy scored in the first minute of the period. One minute later the Spartans were on a 5-3 powerplay and scored again when Dane Korsi found the net assisted by Suchy and Jorgenson to tie the score 3-3. The momentum swing continued as Zack Simon went on to score three goals in the last eight minutes of play. The first goal coming on a powerplay, the second on a short-handed goal assisted by Korsi, and the last when Landon Wittenburg outmaneuvered the Storm finding him in front of the net. Orono scored five unanswered goals in the third period finishing the game with a 6-3 victory.

Two days later Orono faced the No. 6 seeded Breck Mustangs in the Section Final. In front of a packed house filled with Orono fans, the Spartans began the first by controlling play and scoring its only goal of the period with less than a minute left on a power play goal by Wittenburg from the point assisted by Billy Lynch and Jorgenson. The Spartans outshot the Mustangs 11-6. Orono came out strong again in the second outshooting Breck 9-3 for the period, yet they were unable to add to the lead.

The third period was full of excitement. The Mustangs got on the board six minutes into the period when the scored on a powerplay goal. The tension built over the next couple of minutes as both teams exchanged great scoring opportunities. With five minutes left in the game the Spartans found themselves with a 5-3 powerplay advantage but could not capitalize. Each team had good chances in the final minutes but strong defensive play and goaltending continued.

In the 10-minute overtime, the teams battled back and forth and with seven minutes left in the game Orono was called for a penalty. As was the case all year, the penalty kill team came up big again with Breck putting on lots of pressure but not scoring. With six minutes left in overtime and Orono still on the penalty kill, Simon outhustled the Breck defender tipping the puck loose at the blue line and getting a strong shot on goalie. Simon’s shot bounced off the goalie and Senior Captain Thomas Walker was there to put the rebound in and send the Spartans to state!

The Spartans, currently 20-7-1, have the No. 3 seed in Class A and will face Litchfield Dassel Cokato at the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday, March 7 at 1 p.m.

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