In the fourth and final quarterfinal contest of the 2023 Class A Girls State Hockey Tournament, it took more than regulation to decide the game between the Fergus Falls Otters and the Packers of South Saint Paul. A goal in the second overtime by the Packers gave them the win, sending the Otters into the consolation side of the bracket.
The first period saw both teams having chances to find the back of the net. Fergus had the puck behind Packers netminder Delaney Norman in the crease but could not get a stick on it. SSP outshot Fergus 9-5 over the first 17 minutes.
Once again, both sides had good opportunities in the middle frame, but both Norman and Otters goalie Ana Jyrkas were on their A game.
The third period saw the Packers getting 2-1 or rushes in their favor but Jyrkas continued to frustrate their offense, coming up with glove and blocker saves.
With the final seconds ticking off the clock in regulation, Fergus was on the power play and a shot sailed just wide of the net, sending “ooos” from both fan bases into the rafters at the Xcel Energy Center.
SSP controlled the short (eight minutes) first overtime, but Jyrkas continued to stymie the Packers.
The game remained scoreless after the first overtime period, sending it into a full 17-minute double OT.
Early in double OT, the Packers had a 2-0 breakaway, taking advantage of a line change, but Jyrkas came up with the stop.
It was at the 10:10 mark that the Packers got Sarah Wincentsen open in front of the net and she was able to put a move on Jyrkas and slide the puck in, sending the SSP student section on goal scoring side into a frenzy.
The final shot on goal for the game was 42-19, in favor of the Packers.
“Wasn’t it phenomenal to watch (talking about Jyrkas)? It was so fun to watch … she was on her game,” stated Otters coach Tim Lill. “What she did on all the odd man rushes was incredible. We haven’t given up that many shots in a game all year. It was great to see how we would perform when tested.”
Jyrkas finished with 41 saves and even received an extra congratulations from Nelson after the game was over.
“I was having the time of my life, that is why you play,” said Jyrkas. “I was excited and smiling.”
Offensively, Fergus had a hard time holding the zone and getting multiple shots in one cycle.
“We got pushed off the puck a bit, they came out a little more aggressive than we thought,” stated senior Tyra Skjeret. “We had our opportunities tonight and we just weren’t lucky.”
As far as the power play goes: “We had our chances on the power play, credit to them for killing them off … I thought we did a good job of limiting their strong play when having the man advantage,” mentioned Lill.
Lydia Johnson and Skjeret led the Otters with shots on goal, with four each.
Fergus, who fell to 22-5-1 on the season and 1-3-1 in overtime games (the lone win being the section championship), will have a quick turnaround, as they will face Albert Lea in consolation semifinal action, at noon on Feb. 23. Albert Lea fell to the No. 1 seed Warroad Warriors in quarterfinal action, 15-1.
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