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Mahtomedi senior midfielder Ryan Brown, left, works past White Bear Lake's Nick Timmons. Photo by Loren Nelson

When Josh Kerner sprinted towards the opposing net unattended in the second quarter of Mahtomedi’s 7-6 win over White Bear Lake on Tuesday, March 15, one might assume that he would simply pick a spot and fire. 

Maybe even fake out the goalie with a little classic high-to-low action before shooting. 

Running through the list of norms, the sophomore attackman instead chose Option C, faking forward then wrapping his arms around and behind his back for an exceptionally deceptive shot that had White Bear Lake goaltender Doug Ptacek turning around and looking for the ball.

The crowd’s reaction may have given Ptacek a hint; it was in the net. 

“I knew no one was behind me, and I knew nobody would expect it, so I put it behind my back,” Kerner said, describing the goal after the No. 9-ranked Zephyrs’ upset victory of the previously undefeated Bears. “I saw the ball coming, and I knew what I was gonna do right away. I had it going through my head and just tried it.”

Mahtomedi sophomore Josh Kerner scored three goals in the Zephyrs' 7-6 victory over White Bear Lake. Photo by Loren Nelson

Players often are quick to credit their coaches for on-field success. This has to mean that Mahtomedi coach Brian Strauss runs drills for that type of shot every day in practice right?

“Never. Never,” Strauss said with a big smile and laugh.  “Actually, believe it or not, I recommend not doing that.”

Kerner finished with his second hat trick of the year and first since a win over St. Thomas Academy in the season opener in early April. He shouldered the offensive duties for the Zephyrs who needed his scoring to take down their north suburban foes. 

“Josh stepped up huge,” Strauss said. “He came into the game with maybe about seven or eight goals in the season but he had some nice timely shots that provided some good momentum for us. Smart shots on the clear where he could finish very well."

Since his outburst early in the year, Kerner's contributions on the scoreboard have come in short bursts. He has as many games with multiple goals as contests with one goal but also plenty of zeroes on the stat sheet. 

The Zephyr’s are 4-0 when he scores more than once. Since the Zephyrs tend to rely heavily on Mr. Lacrosse finalist Ryan Brown, nights when supporting cast members such as Kerner take the spotlight often translate to wins. 

“You have to expect that you’re gonna have a good game every day and come out and fulfill that goal,” Kerner said. “It means a ton. They were undefeated, and it’s a turf war. We came into this game knowing what we wanted to do and what we had to do and we did it”

“[Kerner] played with a lot more confidence than he has all season, and it’s starting to come together," Strauss said. 

Mr. Lacrosse Finalist Ryan Brown leads Zephyrs

Mahtomedi's Ryan Brown is one of seven finalists for the Mr. Lacrosse award. Photo by Loren Nelson

Announced as one of seven finalists for the 2012 Mr. Lacrosse award on Tuesday afternoon, senior midfielder Ryan Brown displayed his case for the award in Mahtomedi’s quality win over No. 6-ranked White Bear Lake. 

Brown scored in the second quarter to tie the game at two and also had an assist on the Zephyrs’ final goal. 

Although he didn’t blow up the scoreboard, Brown was a focal point of the Mahtomedi offense, and was tough and reliable handling the ball late in the fourth quarter.

Ryan Brown

With less than two minutes remaining, Brown controlled the ball for nearly a minute while being hacked by three White Bear Lake defenders in hot pursuit. Dipping, dodging, and spinning out of trouble, he worked the clock down to less than 10 seconds, running out the Bears’ last hopes.

“It’s adrenaline, you can’t feel it,” Brown said before pointing to his arms and laughing. “I’m feeling it now of course. I did have a mishap two games ago where I took a shot and it missed the net and it almost cost us the game, so once I got that ball I was not giving it up, no way.”

The mad dash in the fourth quarter illustrated just how closely White Bear Lake was forced to watch Brown. With defenders keyed in on the senior midfielder, there is always plenty of space to work with for the rest of the Zephyrs’ offense. 

Mahtomedi coach Brain Strauss identified this as a positive to having Brown out on the turf. 

“Obviously he draws attention every game, two or three guys a game,” Strauss said, explaining the strategy behind working with a star player. “They locked him out for a while, they put their best pole on him. When he can find guys back door who know how to feed it makes the team so much more dynamic. ”

Brown has 17 goals and 15 assists this year, an average of almost three points per game. A transplant from White Bear Lake, Brown moved to “the other side of the lake” when he was in fourth grade.

“I was actually told today by my coach, and I was just at a loss for words,” he said about being named a Mr. Lacrosse finalist. “That’s just been my dream since I started playing lacrosse and just shows that hard work pays off. I gotta keep going if I wanna win that award. 

“I’m not gonna take any personal credit, it’s all my teammates and the four coaches that are behind me, they’ve made me the player I am today,” he added before breaking out with an ear-to-ear grin. “Even though they give me no credit, no positive feedback ever, they’re the ones that make me drive that much farther forward.” 

Joy of victory

Mahtomedi goaltender Drew Huso, left, celebrates the Zephyrs' victory over White Bear Lake with defenseman Tim Kroshus. Photo by Loren Nelson

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

Josh Kerner

Josh Kerner scored a hat trick in the first half, and Mr. Lacrosse finalist Ryan Brown added two points as No. 9-ranked Mahtomedi upended No. 6-ranked and previously undefeated White Bear Lake 7-6 in a nonconference showdown on Tuesday, May 15, at Mahtomedi High School.

Kerner, a sophomore, supplied the punch for the Zephyrs early, and he scored Mahtomedi’s fifth goal to put it ahead 5-4 at the break. He also had a beautiful behind-the-back goal in the second quarter.

The first half was a wild, back-and-forth affair with plenty of action. Both teams flew around the turf, firing shots at will and racing in on fast breaks.

The second half was close to the opposite. After building a two goal lead, the Zephyrs locked into defensive mode, playing conservatively. White Bear Lake held the ball for enormous amounts of time but the Bears were unable to capitalize until a late goal from junior midfielder Nick Truen. 

Ted Ramert and Carter Pasma led White Bear Lake with two goals apiece, and Truen also finished with two points. Truen had ten shots, but only three of them were on net.

White Bear Lake star goaltender Doug Ptacek had nine saves while Mahtomedi netminder Drew Huso finished with seven.

Junior attackman Sam Koenig added two goals for the Zephyrs.  

1. Josh Kerner, Mahtomedi
Kerner only had just 10 goals entering the night, but he tacked on three more in the win. His second goal was a behind-the-back beauty, and his third goal gave the Zephyrs a one-goal edge at the half. The sophomore attackman has 15 points on the season, good for fifth on the squad.

2. Ryan Brown, Mahtomedi
The newly minted Mr. Lacrosse finalist scored a goal and added an assist in the Zephyrs’ upset. He contributed in plenty of ways besides scoring, picking up some key face-off wins and opening up space for other teammates. He leads Mahtomedi with 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists).

3. Doug Ptacek, White Bear Lake
Ptacek kept the Bears in the game with numerous big stops. He finished with nine saves on 16 shots. Ptacek is currently second in the state in save percentage, stopping .735 percent of shots.

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