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Marlins knocked out of tourney for second straight year

Senior Mitch Berens brings the puck down the ice against Aberdeen at the South Dakota boys’ state hockey tournament Saturday in Brookings. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

BROOKINGS — The Mitchell Marlin boys’ varsity hockey team was knocked out after the second day of the state tournament Saturday for the second straight year.

The Marlins (7-9) fell to the Aberdeen Cougars 5-3 in the consolation semifinal at the Larson Ice Center in Brookings.

Mitchell head coach John Lord said his team didn’t have the belief in its ability to win all season.

“They never had that mental attitude where they could continue to fight over and over,” he said. “Going into next year, I think that attitude will change because they’re disappointed. It’s disappointing for all of us because we felt we were the better team. I said it was mental all year because it certainly wasn’t talent.”

The Marlins gained early momentum with two goals by junior Jacob Rice within the first 7 minutes of the first period.

“It was fantastic,” Lord said about his team’s start Saturday. “They came ready to work, but there again, we’ve given up those leads and that’s kind of been the nature of the season.”

Mitchell retook the lead for a short time in the second after a goal by junior Jacob Cersosimo, before Aberdeen tied the game with a goal by Ryan Bower. Cersosimo also had an assist in the game, while junior Jordan Grosdidier had three assists for Mitchell.

The Cougars scored a late goal in the third period to give them the 4-3 advantage. Aberdeen added a fifth goal with 45 seconds left on the clock when Mitchell pulled its goalie, senior Weston Gauger, to get another skater on the ice. Bower scored the final goal.

Throughout the contest, the Marlins struggled keeping the momentum as three goals were called off by the referees. The first goal was called off because of high-sticking —meaning when the hockey stick goes above a player’s shoulders, which is illegal. The other two goals that were called off were frustrating for Lord and the Mitchell bench.

“When they score a goal, they’re excited and then the goal is called off,” Lord said. “The other two goals we felt were good goals. It’s easy for a team to get frustrated when you put the work in and it doesn’t count.”

Gauger gave up four goals on 29 shots Saturday. Aberdeen’s Nick Dalchow made 29 saves on 32 shots on goal.

Mitchell says goodbye to four seniors, including Gauger, team captain Alex Thill, Mitch Berens and Cole Carlson.

“All these guys played for our title team two years ago,” Lord said. “They developed through the years and we’re going to miss their experience.”

The Rushmore Thunder, the No. 4 seed, won the tournament after beating Sioux Falls 2 4-3 in Sunday’s championship game.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.