A tie game, even against a top-20 team, can leave some long faces for the Lakeville North boys hockey team, which has two victories since Dec. 13.
The Panthers settled for a 2-2 tie against Eastview on Tuesday.
“No one leaves happy,” Panther head coach Trent Eigner said. “We want to get back on track. When you’re competitive, even if you lose to a good team, you don’t take any solace in that.”
The Panthers took an early 2-1 lead with goals from Jack Poehling and Jack McNeely with assists from Tristen Hazlett (2) and Jack Sadek.
But some Panthers found their way to the penalty box late in the second period opening the door for Eastview. The Panthers gave Eastview 19 total minutes of power play.
Eastview entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the state. Since winning the Rochester Kiwanis Class AA tournament over the holiday break, the Lightning have won eight of nine games, including victories against Eagan, Prior Lake and Lakeville South.
The Lightning have been riding goalie Zachary Driscoll, who has had 187 saves after five games in January.
The Panthers once had a 4-1 record after a 4-3 victory against Eden Prairie, but since then the schedule has taken a turn.
Night after night the Panthers seem to be up against one of the top 20 teams in the state.
“Losing just wears on guys,” Eigner said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s overtime or a great team you’re playing. We put together a very difficult schedule. We knew what we were in for, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating for the kids.”
Playing the likes Burnsville, Bloomington Jefferson, Benilde-St. Margaret, Eagan, Prior Lake and Hill-Murray has taken its toll on the record.
Some of the losses have been close, such as falling 2-1 to Prior Lake, and 5-4 to Eagan and 3-2 to Burnsville both in overtime.
“We’ve had a lot of hard luck losses, but with a young group you have to look at the positives,” Eigner said.
The Panthers are giving nine sophomores regular ice time.
“We’re a work in progress when you have that many young guys playing,” Eigner said. “If they learn from their mistakes, you feel pretty good about their situation. We’re working toward what we want to be. We should be as healthy as we’ve been all season by next week. We know that playoffs will have opportunities for us.”
No one is doubting the resolve of the players, especially Alex Wood, who tore ligaments in his knee during the football season. He put off surgery until after the hockey season to play for the team.
“Whether’s he’s 50 percent or 100 percent, he’s going to give you 200 percent,” Eigner said. “He’s got a brace. They don’t’ make too many like that. He just didn’t want to miss his senior year.”