A shootout victory
After stuffing one penalty kick in Detroit Lakes' second round playoff game, Laker junior goalie Courtney Gray figured she was done with those point-blank shots every goaltender loathes.
Boy, was she wrong.
Gray had to see five more penalty shots in Thursday's shootout against visiting No. 3 Bemidji, with the junior goalkeeper saving two, to ensure a 4-3 Laker victory to help DL advance to the Section 8-1A semifinals Tuesday.
The No. 2 Lakers (9-8-3) will host No. 4 St. Cloud Cathedral (12-7-1) Tuesday on the DL Soccer Complex fields, starting at 4 p.m.
The winner will advance to the Section 8-1A championship game, which will be played Thursday.
"The girls wanted that game and they wanted it bad," said DL head coach Dave Carter. "Courtney (Gray) has also come a long way at goaltender."
The quarterfinal game Thursday, though, was a literal up and down affair, with the wind playing a major factor in it.
Both teams had chances to put the game away in regulation, but big plays by both goalies eventually pushed it to sudden-death overtimes (two 10-minute periods) and ultimately to a five-shot shootout.
"I knew I just had to stay calm and play it like that until the last shot," Gray said.
In the shootout, with Mother Nature's light quickly fading away to dusk, the five Lumberjack and Laker shooters took position to finalize the game.
The first four shots found their marks, as DL's Anya Butzer and Emily Raboin were money on their penalty shots.
With the score tied 3-3, Bemidji missed its third shot, as the ball went right with a diving Gray ensuring its missed target.
But the score remained tied as Libby Jordan's shot was errant, drifting high over the net.
The tension thickened, as the Bemidji's Erin Booth's kick also lofted over the net, keeping the score knotted at 3-3.
Next up was DL junior midfielder Ashley Friesen.
"I wasn't trying to think of the pressure, because we've worked on penalty shots a lot in practice," Friesen said. "I usually go the same way every time and I just tried to put a strong kick on it."
Friesen's shot rang true, as Bemidji goalie Whitey Morin dove too late on the line shot.
Brianna Glynn was Bemidji's last hope, but Gray found the Lumberjack's liner coming right towards her.
The tides turned to DL, as sophomore Haley Foster put a hard liner on a free kick from outside the penalty area, which skipped under the Bemidji goalie to tie the game 1-1 with just 35 seconds remaining to halftime.
"That was huge," Carter said. "We held strong in the first half and had the wind at our back in the second half and tied 1-1."
The Lakers were called for a handball in the penalty area at the 58:00 mark in the second half, but Alexa Wang's penalty kick was wide right, hitting the pipe.
Gray made a nice play on the rebound to make the save on the series, and most likely the game as well.
Another emotional roller coaster hit the Lakers with just one minute left in the second overtime period, when Taylor Jasken knocked in a rebound shot, apparently giving the Lakers a 2-1 lead.
After the Laker bench stormed the field, an offsides call eventually eliminated the goal, thus setting the score back to 1-1.
"When we made that goal, I was yelling don't run on the field, but then I heard this is a sudden-death period," Carter said. "I said go ahead, and there were high fives all around. But then I saw the yellow flag up."
After playing through the two overtime periods, the eventual shootout was at hand.
The Lakers haven't faced St. Cloud Cathedral this season -- the team which defeated St. John's Prep in the first round and beat No. 1 seeded Minnewaska (11-2-1) in the quarterfinals.