Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Cougars win cat fight with Bengals

Lakeville South’s Morgan Morse leaves her Blaine foes behind on her way to a hat trick in her state tournament encore as the Cougars earned a 3-1 Class 2A quarterfinal win over the Bengals on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Tim Kolehmainen)

Morse hat trick enough for Lakeville South to nip Blaine

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SAINT PAUL – Senior forward Morgan Morse made her last appearance in the state tournament as an eighth-grader in 2011 when the Lakeville South Cougars fell short to Hill-Murray 4-3 in the state quarterfinal.

Morse single-handedly made sure that didn’t happen again four years later.

With a hat-trick performance, Morse lifted her team past the Blaine Bengals with a 3-1 Class 2A quarterfinal victory Thursday night at the Xcel Energy Center. The Cougars will face the top-seeded Minnetonka on Friday night at 8 p.m.

Lakeville South coach Natalie Darwitz, a former Eagan star who saw her fair share of state tournaments, believes the real Morgan Morse was on display Thursday night.

“I think Morgan [Morse] is one of the most underrated players in the state,” Darwitz said. “No doubt that there is a great senior class of hockey players. But I don’t think [Morse] got the credit she deserved all year.”

Blaine's Sam Auman fires a shot toward the Lakeville North net as the Cougars' Kelsey Olsen defends. (MHM Photo / Tim Kolehmainen)

Blaine’s Sam Auman fires a shot toward the Lakeville North net as the Cougars’ Kelsey Olsen defends. (MHM Photo / Tim Kolehmainen)

While she may not have been given credit all year, Morse was given credit for three goals in the first night of the state tournament. Compared to her experience at state in eighth grade, Morse’s 2015 state tournament is already off to a better start.

“This year is a lot more exciting,” Morse said. “My eighth grade year, I maybe got a few shifts here and there. But now being one of the lead players getting shift after shift, it’s much more exciting when you get to experience everything in a better view.”

Before the state tournament even started, Morse experienced what she called the biggest play of her career when she ended Lakeville South’s four-year state tournament drought with an overtime winner against cross-town rival Lakeville North in the section 1AA final.

Now set to play the battle-tested Minnetonka Skippers in Friday night’s state semifinal, the Lakeville South Cougars may very well need Morse to make another big play in order for them to play for a state championship.

And if Thursday’s hat trick performance is any indication, Morse will be more than ready to provide a spark for the Cougars.

“Getting that goal to finish [the game] off just lit a match and it just kept me rolling,” Morse said of her game-winning goal in the section final. “It’s exciting to be back and not being at home if we had lost that game.”