Stillwater is hoping that it gets a rematch with White Bear Lake in the section playoffs. Photo: Bradley Cornell, Special to the Star Tribune
The Stillwater boys’ lacrosse team was off to such a good start. Then along came White Bear Lake, which delivered a firm punch to the gut.
The Suburban East Conference-leading Bears waxed Stillwater 15-3 on May 6, rudely ending the Ponies’ five-game winning streak to begin the season.
“They really took it to us,” senior captain and midfielder Jeff Peterson said. “We were pretty upset about it. We didn’t play our best game. But we had to remember it was just a regular-season game. It was a learning experience.”
The Bears have a high-powered team with some game-breaking scorers. Down just 5-3 in the first half, the Ponies couldn’t withstand an explosive third and fourth quarter from White Bear.
The loss was tough but had an upside.
“White Bear Lake really did us a favor, because I think we are playing much better lacrosse ever since,” coach Ryan Clark said. “Our student-athletes responded very well. It was a gut check, but our captains took a moment to look everyone in the eyes and clarify why we are here and what we are striving to accomplish.”
The Ponies did answer back with a thrilling 8-7 victory over Woodbury, their other top conference rival. Woodbury took a 7-6 lead with 47 seconds left in regulation. Stillwater’s Chris Rick and Peterson answered with two goals before time ran out to secure the victory and help restore team confidence.
The Ponies lost dynamic scorer Sam Mathieu, who is playing college lacrosse after graduating last year, but Sam Sagissor has replaced those goals and then some. The junior attackman scored 32 goals in eight games, third best in the state as of Tuesday. He buried eight in one game against Roseville.
“Saggisor has something special in his game,” Clark said. “On game day, we always try to get him started early. The funny thing about him is that he is much harder to stop when he is intentional about establishing a balanced attack.”
Also powering the Ponies is Petersen, “an athlete in every sense of the word,” Clark said. Chris Rick is the Ponies’ top faceoff guy. When the Ponies go on runs, it starts with him. Freshman George Uppgren ties the offensive schemes together.
Clark called Uppgren, also the third-string goalie, “the lynchpin of what we try to do offensively. When he works and makes plays, our team elevates to another level.”
Goalies, faceoff specialists, defensive midfielders and long-stick midfielders are viewed as role players by the public, according to Clark. That couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to the Ponies.
“Really our team cannot function at a high level without them,” Clark said. “They are essential in winning the possession battle, being effective in the transition game and maintaining momentum. They are the lifeblood of our lacrosse team.”
Blake Bornstein and Zach Shockency have both handled goaltending duties, with Shockency, a sophomore, playing the majority of the minutes. Senior Luke Bromback has been taking on the toughest defensive assignments. He goes head-to-head versus the top attackmen every game and he hasn’t disappointed.
“He’s a really smart and powerful student-athlete with effective stick skills,” Clark said. “I think he’s one of the top defenders in the section.”
When it comes to sections, the Ponies want revenge. The Bears taught them a lesson a couple of weeks ago. Stillwater wants to return the favor come playoff time.
“Hopefully we can see them again in sections,” Peterson said.