McLean ice hockey draws in shootout against Stonebridge

Highlanders hold on against Bulldogs offensive onslaught

Senior winger Michael Wang celebrates with his teammates after scoring a late 3rd-period go-ahead goal.

On Jan. 7, McLean Ice Hockey traveled to Ashburn Ice Rink to take on the Stonebridge Bulldogs. With the stands packed with Stonebridge students, it felt like a true away game as Highlander skaters received taunts and jeers all night long.

Looking to make a statement against the higher-ranked Bulldogs, the Highlanders hoped to get off to a hot start. Although the game would later turn into a shootout, the start of the match was anything but, as both squads’ defenses held firm.

Finally, 14 minutes into the 1st period, sophomore defender Axel Lundback would break the gridlock by netting a goal to give McLean the lead.

Despite Stonebridge launching over 10 shots on goal, McLean junior goalkeeper Daniel Dille held firm and kept the score 1-0 heading into the second period.

The beginning of the second period saw both teams struggle for possession, as neither side was able to consistently mount a reliable offense.

With 11 minutes to go in the second period, a Stonebridge player sank a beautiful shot past Dille’s left side. With Stonebridge’s student section and bench erupting, it began to feel like McLean’s momentum had been completely lost.

To stay in the game, the Highlanders needed to answer fast, which is exactly what they did as junior center Luka Kymalainen snuck the puck past the Bulldogs’ goalie to take the lead once more.

Despite the score, Stonebridge’s offense was relentless, taking shot after shot, wearing down Dille and the defense.

After a series of botched McLean counterattacks, Stonebridge’s offense broke through once more, evening up the score 2-2 with just two minutes left in the period.

Heading into the third period, the pace of the game had taken a toll on the Highlanders squad, and they were noticeably exhausted.

With Stonebridge now having over 35 shots on goal, the McLean offense needed to pick up the pace and control the puck to alleviate some pressure. However, they would be unable to do so, and as time wound down, more and more holes were opening up for Stonebridge.

Momentum seemed decisively in Stonebridge’s favor, until suddenly, McLean senior winger Michael Wang capitalized on a rare 3rd period scoring opportunity to put them ahead 3-2 with just 5 minutes left in the game.

With their energy rejuvenated, all the Highlanders had to do was keep the lead, a task that proved easier said than done. With their backs against the wall and facing defeat, the Bulldogs went into an ultra-offensive game plan, focusing on counterattacks and keeping the puck on McLean’s side by any means necessary.

As time wound down, McLean simply couldn’t clear the puck. Shot after shot was launched at Dille, and despite his best efforts, Stonebridge would score the equalizing goal with around 40 seconds left in the game. Both teams would try to score in the remaining time, but to no avail as the shootout ended in a 3-3 draw.

Despite a heartbreaking last-minute conceded goal, the mood in the post-game locker room was still optimistic.

“You know what, I’m happy with [a draw],” Dille said, “I heard good things about [Stonebridge] and I thought my defense really pulled through at the end.”

Only allowing three goals on 51 shots on goal from Stonebridge, Dille played an outstanding game and is a large reason McLean was able to walk away with a draw.

“My bar is 10 shots a goal,” Dille said. “So I’m very happy.”

The Highlander hockey team will look to continue their positive momentum on Jan. 20th, when they face Broad Run at SkateQuest Ice Rink in a bout that could decide the trajectory of the rest of their season.