By Steve Gunn
But the Lakers demonstrated on Tuesday that they’re not intimidated by the Trojans.
Despite losing to East Lansing in the tournament in 2013 and 2014, and falling behind the Trojans by a goal in the second half of their regional game on Tuesday, the Lakers kept battling and tied the score, forcing the game to overtime.
After two scoreless overtime periods, the game went to a shootout, which featured five players from each team going one-on-one with the opposing goalie.
All five East Lansing players scored, compared to three Spring Lake players, allowing the Trojans to escape with a 2-1 victory and continue their quest for a third straight Division 2 state championship.
Spring Lake, the co-champion of the Lakes 8 Conference, finished the season 14-3-1.
“We played well, attacked hard, worked hard and chances went our way,” said Spring Lake Coach Jeremy Thelen. “We played fine, but then it came down to that shootout, which can go either way. It’s a soccer thing. But I’m proud of our players. They worked their tails off today and all season.”
Thelen recalled facing East Lansing in the 2013 state finals and losing pretty soundly. He thinks Tuesday’s game was further proof that the Lakers have continued to improve since then.
“A couple years ago we went to the state finals and had our eyes opened,” he said. “Since then we’ve matured. We’ve gotten bigger and mentally stronger. These guys are not afraid of anyone. We have the mentality that we will play anyone in the state.”
East Lansing Coach Nick Archer, whose team will play in Thursday’s regional finals in Cedar Springs, agreed with Thelen about the obvious progress that the Lakers have made.
“It gets tighter every year (against Spring Lake) it seems like,” he said. “They are a great team, we enjoyed the contest and it was touch and go. I rather play someone else sometimes because they are that good of a team.”
The first half was scoreless, with a lot of up and down action and more than a few shots from both teams sailing wide or over the goals. East Lansing had a 6-2 advantage in shots on goal in the first 40 minutes.
East Lansing’s Ian Carroll broke the deadlock with a goal from inside the box nearly 10 minutes into the second half.
But instead of shrinking away from a team that’s beaten them repeatedly, the Lakers turned up their offensive intensity. They tied the score with 6:27 left in regulation when Dylan Constantine found the ball around the top of the circle and kicked a high shot over the head of East Lansing goalkeeper Chris Wallace.
The rest of regulation and the two 10 minute overtime period were scoreless, due largely to several great saves by Spring Lake goalkeeper Bruce Boes.
Scoring in the shootout for East Lansing were Quinton Hay, Andreas Fuentes, Andrew Person, Zach Lane and Carroll.
Carroll’s goal in the fifth and final round sealed the victory.
Spring Lake got shootout goals from Brad Debien, Ryan Zietlow and Ben Mast.
Alec Palmer, the Lakers’ second shooter, had a great shot hit the left post of the goal, which allowed East Lansing to secure the win with its fifth shootout goal.