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Boys lacrosse: Irish win a thriller to reach state, roll over Mahtomedi in first round

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With a trip to the state tournament on the line and 20 second and counting left on the clock, Rosemount’s Carter Yepsen found another gear last Thursday night.

The senior all-stater gathered in a face-off won by his twin brother, Conner Yepsen, and raced down the middle of the field before firing the ball past Prior Lake goaltender Aaron Wiederhoeft with 13 seconds left, lifting the Irish to an 11-10 victory in the Section 3 finals at Bob Pates Stadium in Burnsville.

“(Carter Yepsen) started running past everyone and he went through two or three guys,” Rosemount coach Lance Kuehn said. “It was like he found extra energy he had been saving all game for a play like that. It came out at just the right time.”

With the thrilling win, the No. 1- ranked Irish avenged their only loss of the season to the second-ranked Lakers, extended their winning streak to 10 games and qualified for the state tournament for the first time in the program’s eight-year history.

“That was probably one of the best lacrosse games I’ve ever been a part of. It was very competitive — worth every dollar the fans paid to get in,” Kuehn said. “It was a detailed chess match back and forth. They’d throw a new look at us and we’d have to come back at them with something. The whole game was back and forth, waiting to see who would get that final goal.”

The Irish (14-1) struggled winning face-offs during portions of the game, which allowed the Lakers to get possession and control the clock. The Lakers led 2-1 after a first period where they played keep away from the high-powered Rosemount offense, but the Irish worked their way back to take a 4-3 lead into the break.

“Every time they went down it was two or three minutes off the clock,” Kuehn said. “They would get a goal and then just keep the ball out of our hands.”

It remained a one-goal game throughout the third period, but the Lakers scored last to tie the score at 8-8 heading into the final 12 minutes. The Lakers briefly took the lead in the fourth, and were on the verge of going up by two, but Rosemount goaltender Shaun Skrbec came up with the biggest of his four saves to keep it 9-8.

“It was very important, down one, that we kept it a one-goal game,” Kuehn said. “A two-goal game is huge in lacrosse. You can kill a team with a two-goal lead.”

Instead of falling into a two-goal hole, Rosemount scored three of the game’s next four goals, including Carter Yepsen’s game-winner. Defender Gabe Ames then won the ensuing face-off, and was able to run out the clock, setting off a huge celebration on the field.

“It was unbelievable the way the guys reacted. It’s been eight years since the program started, so it was great to finally get there after so many times coming up short,” Kuehn said. “To finally get it was a huge relief for us.”

The Irish finished with a 33-29 edge in shots on goal. The 11 goals was their third lowest output of the season as the offense had to adjust its approach against the Lakers’ top-notch goaltender.

“We knew we had to get in close. You couldn’t just dodge and shoot, you have to dodge, pass, pass and then shoot,” Kuehn said. “You had to wait for the back side to open, because if he could see you coming he was going to make the save.”

Carter Yepsen led the Irish with four goals. Mason Hille scored once and assisted on five goals and Conner Yepsen netted two goals and one assist. Luke VanOverbeke scored twice and Matt Johnson had a goal and an assist.

Trent Woodcock added one goal and Blake Longhenry provided one assist.

The Irish opened play at their first state tournament Tuesday in Chanhassen by beating Mahtomedi by the same 16-6 score they won by in the second game of the season. They will play fifth seed Lakeville North, which beat fourth seed Blake 11-9 Tuesday.

On the other side of the bracket, previously unbeaten and fourth-ranked Champlin Park lost 5-4 to Wayzata and second seed Eden Prairie beat White Bear Lake 8-7. 

“We’ve already played Mahtomedi and have a good scouting report on them. If Lakeville North comes out we have a good shot there as well. It all depends how the dice roll the next couple of days,” Kuehn said. “We haven’t changed our goal all season. We want to get to the next game and play our game. As long as we focus on what we do, we’ll come out on top like we have the last few games.”