WILLMAR — Twice this season, the Willmar girls hockey team overcame two-goal deficits to emerge with a victory.

Trailing Northern Lakes 4-2 with potentially one period left in their season, the Cardinals needed two overtimes to bump that number up to three.

Junior defender Tanna Christensen delivered a game-winner 32 seconds into double overtime, lifting Willmar to a 5-4 triumph over the Lightning in the Section 6A semifinals Tuesday from the Willmar Civic Center.

After junior forward Bailey Olson won a faceoff in the offensive zone, Christensen fired a snipe by Northern Lakes freshman goaltender Kate Stephens.

Willmar, the top-seed in the section, takes on No. 3 seed River Lakes at 7 p.m. Thursday from the Runestone Community Center in Alexandria. River Lakes beat Fergus Falls 4-2 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.

“It was fantastic,” Cards head coach Eric Setrum said. “The ladies, they kept grinding, kept working. We knew we just had to stick to our game, and they got it done.”

Receiving an assist from senior forward Mya Monson, Olson got Willmar on the board at 4:45 in the first period with a wrist shot from the slot through the five-hole of Stephens. Four minutes later, Monson pushed the lead to 2-0 after putting home a rebound from an Olson shot.

Willmar junior forward Bailey Olson makes a move in the offensive zone during Tuesday's Section 6A Semifinal against Northern Lakes from the Willmar Civic Center. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune
Willmar junior forward Bailey Olson makes a move in the offensive zone during Tuesday's Section 6A Semifinal against Northern Lakes from the Willmar Civic Center. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

For the rest of the first period and throughout the second, it was all Lightning as they scored the next four goals. Cashing in on the power play, senior winger Alyssa Kosloski put the visitors on the board late in the first period. In the second, senior center Caitlyn Gutzman netted a pair of goals and sophomore Riley Fogarty added another.

“We got back into the locker room and we talked about the things that we were struggling with in the second period,” Setrum said. “We were just anxious, we got behind and started pressing and trying to do things instead of working together. We just talked about settling down, taking a breath and going back to the things that we do best.”

Relinquishing two scores on the power play, Willmar returned the favor in the third.

With just over 11 minutes remaining, sophomore forward Nina Dawson went coast-to-coast to close the deficit to 4-3. Then, with 3:28 left in regulation, junior forward Madison Garberding tied it after getting helpers from Olson and Christensen.

Northern Lakes goaltender Kate Stephens makes multiple save with heavy traffic at the net during Tuesday's Section 6A Semifinal against Willmar from the Willmar Civic Center. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune
Northern Lakes goaltender Kate Stephens makes multiple save with heavy traffic at the net during Tuesday's Section 6A Semifinal against Willmar from the Willmar Civic Center. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Those two goals were a part of 24 shots on goal by the Cardinals in the final 15 minutes. Willmar out-shot the Lightning 64-20. Despite falling in the end, Stephens was spectacular between the pipes, finishing with 59 saves. Willmar senior goaltender Bryton Carlson improved to 12-7 this season after making 16 stops.

Section 6A Semifinal

Willmar 5,

Northern Lakes 4 (2OT)

Northern Lakes (11-15) 1 3 0 0 0 — 4
Willmar (17-8-1) 2 0 2 0 1 — 5
FIRST PERIOD – (1) W: Bailey Olson (Mya Monson), 4:45 ... (2) W: Monson (Olson), 8:46 ... (3) N: Alyssa Kosloski (Caitlyn Gutzman, Rose Aldridge), 11:09, PP
SECOND PERIOD – (4) N: Gutzman (Koslowski, Savannah Abear), 1:01, PP ... (5) N: Riley Fogarty (Koslowski), 8:51 ... (6) N: Gutzman (Megan Muller), 15:46
THIRD PERIOD – (7) W: Nina Dawson, 5:45, PP ... (8) W: Madison Garberding (Olson, Tanna Christensen), 13:32
OVERTIME – No scoring
DOUBLE OVERTIME – (9) W: Tanna Christensen, 0:32
GOALIE SAVES/SHOTS – Northern Lakes: Kate Stephens 59/64 … Willmar: Bryton Carlson 16/20

River Lakes 4,

Fergus Falls 2

River Lakes never trailed in its Section 6A semifinal at Fergus Falls.

Brooke Lemke powered the Stars (15-10-1) to an early cushion. Her first goal came 24 seconds after the puck dropped. Lemke’s second was recorded at the 2:46 mark of the second period.

After Otters freshman forward Maddie Hulter closed the deficit to 2-1 in the second, Brianna Deming scored 19 ticks later to put the visitors back ahead by two.

Sophomore Piper Andrews pulled Fergus Falls to within 3-2 1:12 into the third. But, River Lakes sealed it on a goal from Bree Griffin with 12 seconds left in regulation.

River Lakes (15-10-1) 1 2 1 — 4
Fergus Falls (11-15) 0 1 1 — 2
FIRST PERIOD – (1) R: Brooke Lemke (Tyra Johnson), 0:24
SECOND PERIOD – (2) R: Lemke (Kianna Roese), 2:46 ... (3) F: Maddie Hulter (Chloe Nelson), 11:02 ... (4) R: Brianna Deming (Bree Griffin), 11:21
THIRD PERIOD – (5) F: Piper Andrews (Nelson), 1:12 ... (6) R: Griffin (unassisted) 16:48.

GOALIE SAVES/SHOTS – Stats not available