In the closing seconds of regulation with the game tied, Mountain Ridge Sentinels goalie Gage Gann found himself with the potential game-winning shot from Timpview scorching toward him.
All of the Sentinels supporters collectively held their breath as they saw the shot flying towards Gann.
But like he had all game long, Gann came through for his team. He saved the shot and forced an overtime period in which teammate Jackson Crawford was able to net the sudden death goal and give Mountain Ridge an 11-10 win.
The save in the closing moments of regulation typified what was an outstanding performance all game long from the Sentinels’ keeper, as Gann was tested often with Timpview dominating possession through most of the game.
Mountain Ridge head coach Trent Bangert said that Gann could best be described as “a wall.”
“He kept us in the game,” Bangert said. “I can’t even count the number of saves that he had, but considering the time of possession (that Timpview had), he was just on fire today. We look for that from him every week.”
Gann said that the plays he made all game, especially the one at the end of regulation, were all a product of instincts developed with hard practice.
“I don’t really think about it,” Gann said when asked what went through his mind as he made the tough saves. “I just work hard at practice and at home. I’ve got my little brother on the team and he shoots on me all the time outside and that has helped me develop the skills.”
Gann’s biggest challenge came from Timpview’s Charlie Freedman, who scored a game-high four goals for the Thunderbirds. Freedman finished with nine goals in Timpview’s two losses to the Sentinels this season.
“He’s just a stud athlete,” Bangert said of Freedman’s performances in the two games. “He’s one of those players that you need to know where he’s at on the field at all times. He’s scored quite a bit on us and is very tough to stop.”
From start to finish, Mountain Ridge struggled to combat the aggressive and pesky play from Timpview, which arguably played a more complete game but couldn’t keep up with the Sentinels when it mattered the most. Bangert says that the hustle that the Thunderbirds play with is what makes them such a difficult matchup for his team.
“They just flat out hustle and make those key hustle plays,” Bangert said. “If there’s a ball on the ground, they come up with it. We were sitting there on the sideline talking as coaches about how that team just hustles and how each of the players give 100% all the time.”
Timpview head coach Taylor Redd was proud of the showing his team put together against the state’s No. 2-ranked squad.
“We had a fantastic team performance. We came in wanting to be aggressive and to challenge everywhere on the field and we felt like we did that,” Redd said.
Despite the relentless showing from the Thunderbirds and a performance from the Sentinels that Bangert classified as “subpar,” he said that it was his team’s heart and talent that allowed them to make those extra plays and come out on top in the end.
“We didn’t play our game,” Bangert said, “but heart is what this team has. In the closing stage of the game and overtime we talked about how it was on us and it was going to come down to who wants it more.”
Some of the separating plays for Mountain Ridge were the game-tying goal with a 1:20 left in regulation by Colby Roberts — who finished with a hat trick on the night — and the opening faceoff won by the Sentinels in overtime after they had struggled to win faceoffs for the majority of the game.
Winning that overtime faceoff resulted in Crawford’s game-winning goal just 25 seconds later.
“Hats off to Mountain Ridge,” Redd said. “They have a heck of a team, they played hard and ultimately made a few more plays than us.”
Mountain Ridge improved to 8-1 on the season and 7-0 in region, with its only loss coming to No. 1 Corner Canyon. Bangert said that the win was huge for his team, which is essentially in its inaugural season as a lacrosse program.
“I believe in these boys, they believe in themselves and we knew we could be here,” Bangert said. “This win tonight is huge with the way RPI works and for seeding purposes in the playoffs. We had to have this one tonight. We just had to.”