Packers win in final 12 seconds

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 5, 2001

At first, the game was lost.

Monday, February 05, 2001

At first, the game was lost. The Austin girls hockey team went scoreless for the first 28 minutes of its game with Mankato East Saturday night. The Cougars, meanwhile, built a 3-0 lead.

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Scoring the next four goals, including the go-ahead goal, 4-3, at 12:34 of the third period, the Packers appeared to have won.

But 10 seconds later, Mankato East scored off the face off to tie it, 4-4. The game was in doubt and appeared headed for overtime.

With time running out, Bobee Jo Lang camped out in front of the Cougars’ goal and Rhianna Jacobs found her with the puck as Lang pushed it home with :12 left in the game to give the Packers a dramatic 5-4 victory.

The win elevated AHS’ final Big Nine Conference mark to 10-3 and 15-6 overall.

While Rhianna Jacobs was instrumental in the comeback with a hat trick, Packers’ coach Denny Bray gave a lot of the credit to Lang.

"She did all the hard work out there," Bray said of Lang digging out the puck on the boards and putting bodies on people. "We moved her to forward to get the last goal."

Bray’s words for Jacobs were a little different.

"You don’t need to do all the digging," he said. "You have to be out front."

The strategy worked with Jacobs getting the puck in the net three straight times in the third period to put the Packers up, 4-3. But getting the lead was a struggle.

In the first period, neither team mounted momentum and AHS looked flat. Mankato East came out to play in the second period and produced the goals to prove it.

Early in the period, Maggie Duff received a pass from Jessi Lotton and scored the Cougars’ – and the game’s – first goal at 5:39. At first, it appeared the referee had blown the whistle as AHS goalie Kristina Swancutt covered up the puck. But the puck did not stop and trickled under Swancutt for a goal.

Mankato East kept up its pace and got a second goal about two minutes later. With an apparent miscommunication by the Packers, Katie Nedd scored at 7:51 with an assist from Andrea Carlson.

Any doubts as to where momentum resided were wiped out a minute later. Defenseman Whitney Hentges slapped a 30-footer high past Swancutt at 8:56 for a 3-0 Cougars’ lead.

Mankato still was building up scoring opportunities but AHS was holding off their Big Nine Conference opponent.

Finally, the Cougars self-destructed and got in a two-person down situation at about the 13-minute mark of the second. A Packer penalty cut the AHS advantage to one, but that was enough.

Lang poked in the rebound from Melissa Dickhut’s shot at 13:14 and the Packers got a glimpse of daylight at 3-1.

"We told the girls the two-goal lead is the hardest one to hold," he said. "We’ve said it lots of times."

Between periods, Bray also told the team: "We’re spectators tonight. In the third period we were hockey players."

Jacobs got her first goal at 4:46 of the third when she stole the puck in the Cougars’ end and, with a nice angle, fired in the Packers’ second score.

At 9:20 of the period, Jacobs was in the right place again as Jessica Petersen’s shot came off the boards and Jacobs pushed it home on the open side. After being three goals down, AHS had tied it, 3-3.

Jacobs concluded her offense for the evening at 12:34 when she found the perfect spot to flip it over the Mankato East goalie’s stick. The Packers had their first lead, 4-3.

After scoring what appeared to be the winning goal at 12:34, the fans were just sitting back down when the Cougars scored 10 seconds later.

"That was just confusion on defense," Bray said. "The puck just laid there. There’s no excuse for that. They’re taught to skate to the puck."

No need to worry.

With Lang camped out front, Jacobs found her with the puck and AHS claimed the winning goal with 12 seconds left.

The Packers concluded the regular season and will face Northfield on Wednesday night in Sectional action at Riverside Arena. AHS was seeded No. 5 in the area and Northfield is No. 12.