With three powerhouse teams in the Three Rivers League this year, West Linn coach Mark Flood knew that, after those teams had all met each other, he didn't want to be the one with two losses. After dropping a tough game to Lakeridge, the Lions entered Monday's game against Lake Oswego knowing a win would not only put them back at the top of the league standings, it would establish them as a legitimate contender for a state title.
For 12 minutes, West Linn not only looked like a contender, it looked virtually unbeatable.
In that time, the Lions took a 5-0 lead and only yielded two shots from Lake Oswego. West Linn had the ball for nearly the entire opening quarter and everything it did on both sides of the ball worked.
Spencer Smith scored the game's first goal one minute into the contest. Parker Nichol had a pair of goals while Shannon Sirvaitis and Michael Fay added one apiece in the period.
'We had a really good practice the day before and the kids came out doing what we knew they could do. They hit the open man and did a great job finishing,' coach Mark Flood said.
Unfortunately, a team like Lake Oswego is difficult to keep down for long. The Lions knew a comeback was inevitable and when the Lakers got rolling they were equally as dominant as West Linn had been earlier.
And the Lions couldn't come up with an answer to Lake Oswego's run in a 12-8 loss.
The Lakers didn't take long to get themselves back in the game after what was arguably their most lackluster quarter of the season.
Two minutes into the second quarter Lake Oswego broke through when Sean Silverstein emerged from a scrum in front of West Linn's net and scored.
That opened the floodgates for the Lakers. The visitors scored four times in 66 seconds to pull within one goal, dramatically seizing momentum and knocking the Lions back on their heels.
'For whatever reason the kids got too hyped up and instead of being aggressive on defense we started chasing,' Flood said.
West Linn responded and stopped the bleeding for the rest of the half, playing Lake Oswego evenly. Sirvaitis stopped Lake Oswego's run with a goal midway through the period and the Lakers answered two minutes later.
The Lions were determined to hold on to the lead at halftime and a pretty bounce shot by Maks Gerber gave them a two-goal advantage again.
Lake Oswego scored once more with a minute and a half to play in the second quarter but a pair of nice saves by Drew Forseth kept the Lakers from tying the game.
West Linn clung to a 7-6 lead at the break and hoped to make another charge to take back control of the game.
But it wasn't to be. The Lions won the opening face-off of the half but Lake Oswego goalie Forrest Jackson thwarted the ensuing shot.
After getting possession, the Lakers' Blake Heim scored the tying goal.
Heim took over the third quarter for Lake Oswego. He scored four goals in the stanza, including the go-ahead shot 30 seconds after he had knotted the score.
The Lakers scored five goals in the quarter and the one that Heim didn't knock in personally came after he created a turnover to set it up.
'All of Lake Oswego's goals came on really good shots. They got some rips off,' Flood said.
West Linn failed to get on the board in the third quarter and frustration began to set in as a handful of calls went against the Lions late in the period.
'The man-down opportunities really hurt us,' Flood said.
West Linn tried to mount one final rally in the fourth quarter and had possession for the first few minutes of the stanza but good Lake Oswego defense kept the Lions off the board.
'We never thought we were out of it and we still feel that, when we're healthy we can beat anyone,' Flood said.
When the Lakers got the ball back they were content to run time off the clock. Each team scored once in the quarter.
West Linn now finds itself in the less than advantageous position of third place in the league but the Lions will face Lakeridge and Lake Oswego once more before the end of the season.
West Linn has upcoming home games against Putnam, Oregon City and Riverdale before it squares off against Lakeridge again and the team is already looking forward to its rematches with the Pacers and Lakers.