NORTHFIELD, MN— Raiders head coach Mike Luckcraft knew the Orono Spartans would give his team all they could handle on Tuesday night in terms of physicality, pressure and compete level. A rematch of the 2023 Class A state tournament quarterfinal, the Raiders would need to match the Spartans in those areas if they were going to avenge the 2-1 state tourney defeat last March. Orono’s team defense frustrated the Raiders all night long as they grabbed a tough 4-1 road victory handing Northfield their first loss.
Northfield struck first on the power play as Jake Geiger found the back of the net on a puck that popped out to the slot at 2:06 of the first period. Geiger fired a quick backhand towards the net and it found the five hole. Kam Kaiser and Cayden Monson were both credited with assists on the opening goal for the Raiders.
Just over six minutes later, Orono would answer back with great puck movement on their power play. It was Jackson Knight lighting the lamp on assists from Joey Mugaas and Cayden Effertz.
Penalties were called early and often as the refs attempted to set the tone in what proved to be a physical battle throughout. Orono played much of the first period shorthanded. When they were able to kill off a 5-minute major penalty that included two minutes of a two-man advantage for the Raiders, they killed Northfield’s hopes of revenge. Despite outshooting Orono 17-6 in the first period, the score would remain tied 1-1 heading into the second.
After eight penalties filled both sides of the scoresheet in the first, penalty kill specialists got a bit of a break in the second period. Each team was called for just one infraction and the Spartans and Raiders were both successful on the penalty kill. With 3:10 left in the period, Orono’s Joey Mugaas got some space and took advantage. He used his speed to fly up the ice, found a way to weave through the defense and sneak the puck past Northfield’s Trey Shimota in what looked like a bit of an awkward shot angle and might have bounced off Shimota’s back and into the goal. The Spartan’s controlled much of the play in the second and would take a 2-1 lead into the third period after outshooting the Raiders 11-6 in the second period.
Northfield would come out looking for the equalizer early in the third period but couldn’t get much going offensively as the Spartan defense didn’t give them any room to work. Three minutes into the third period, the Raiders were caught facing an odd-man rush. Cayden Effertz was on the receiving end of a nice saucer pass from Easton Sankey, over the Northfield defender, and buried it to give Orono a 3-1 lead.
Despite the two-goal deficit, the Raiders kept competing and were able to draw two more penalties. An intense forecheck by Will Cashin led to a skirmish in front of the Spartan’s net. It appeared that punches were thrown by Orono, but it resulted in offsetting major penalties and a minor penalty for Orono that would lead to a Raider power play.
In the face of a couple of point-blank chances from Cayden Monson, one off the pipe, the Spartan’s penalty kill was up to the task yet again as they held on to a 3-1 lead. Orono’s relentless pressure didn’t allow the Raiders to pull their goalie until there was just over a minute left in the game. The Spartan’s Henry Raiche would find a loose puck in the neutral zone and sealed the Orono victory with an empty net goal with 40 seconds left in the game. The Raiders finished with a slight edge (28-25) in shots on goal and each team tallied one power play goal on six chances.
With the loss, the Raiders move to 2-1-0 and will look to quickly regroup as they head down to Rochester on Thursday to open Big 9 conference play against Century/JM.