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Raptors fall one goal short of state berth

Raptors juniors Jacob Conklin and Bodie Sheehan harass Mahtomedi sophomore Matt Schwartz in the Section 4 final on Tuesday night at Mounds View. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)1 / 3
Senior Kilian Wilson sits on the field moments after the Raptors 9-8 loss to Mahtomedi in the Section 4 final on June 3 at Mounds View High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)2 / 3
The East Ridge boys lacrosse team stands on the field following its 9-8 loss to Mahtomedi in the Section 4 final on June 3 at Mounds View High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick) 3 / 3

Mahtomedi sophomore Jared Johnson pulled back his stick and ripped a shot on net with just 30 seconds left on the clock.

The ball pinged off of the right pipe and ricocheted into the net for the game-winning goal as Mahtomedi beat East Ridge 9-8 in the Section 4 final on Tuesday night at Mounds View.

Had the shot hit the pipe one inch farther to the right it likely would have bounced away and the game would have went to overtime. One inch -- that’s what ended East Ridge’s season.

“We didn’t give up until the last second,” Raptors coach Aime Caines said. “[Mahtomedi’s] a good team down there, and we had our opportunity to win. … We were one goal away.”

It looked like a golden opportunity early on. Junior Grant Edwards found the back of the net in the first quarter to cap a 4-0 run for East Ridge (13-3) to start the game.

“We had lots of energy and we executed,” Canes said. “We had them back on their heels. I don’t think they knew what to expect from us.”

But Mahtomedi adjusted and closed the gap to 5-3 by the end of the half.

And after a third quarter that featured just one goal, the fourth was filled with fireworks.

East Ridge scored two-straight to start the quarter, the second from senior Kilian Wilson, to expand the lead to 7-4 and the Raptors looked to be state bound.

That changed quickly, as Mahtomedi scored four goals in a three-minute, 10 second span against what had been a stingy East Ridge defense to jump in front for the first time all night.

“When it settled down a little bit, they controlled play and they started to win a couple of the faceoffs,” Canes said. “It took us out of our game and it became a back-and-forth game. We went on a run and they went on a run.”

East Ridge’s season was momentarily revived with just more than three minutes to play when junior Jacob Wetterstrom stole the ball and scored, but it ended for good with Johnson’s score two minutes later.

The loss left many East Ridge players stunned, with some unable to pick themselves off of the ground after what Canes called “a great game.”

“Our guys gave everything they had, they just came up a little short,” Canes said. “I know the guys on this team can taste this and I guarantee they don’t like it.”

Canes gathered his players into a huddle after the presentation of the sectional medals and trophies and told them to remember the way they were feeling, because advancing to state is something the Raptors hope to do in the near future.

This year’s East Ridge squad won 13 games, finished tied for second in the Suburban East and earned the No. 1 seed in the sectional -- astounding success for a program in just its fifth year of existence.

“We went from a team that was squeaking into sections to the No. 1 seed. that was one goal away from going to state in one year,” Canes said. “It’s a huge stride. Throughout the five years of the program, we take strides every year.”

And with the Raptors losing just four seniors from this year’s squad, Canes expects his team to take at least one more stride forward next season.

“The future is definitely bright for us,” he said. “We had a five-year plan to go to state and we’re right there. So next year, that’s our goal.”