'Wow.' That's all that could be said after Kettle Moraine's insane comeback win over Hudson in the Wisconsin Lacrosse Federation Division 1 state championship game June 11 at Carroll University in Waukesha. KM ultimately won in sudden-death overtime on Logan Kreinz's goal, 13-12, to land the first state title in program history.
Down 12-8 with 2 minutes left in the game, KM looked to be all but all but out of contention, except that the players never believed that, nor did the KM faithful. The Lasers went on a run that is arguably the most impressive in Wisconsin Lacrosse championship history. Chris Bender scored first to put the Lasers back on the board, and Logan Kreinz added another less than 30 seconds later to bring Kettle Moraine to within two goals at 12-10. An interception by Jordan Schmid and assist pass to Malloy Murphy brought the score to 12-11 with 1 minute to go, and Schmid tied the game at 12 on a long range shot with 7 seconds left in regulation.
KM goalie Sam Shaver was called into action to make multiple important saves in the sudden death overtime period before Kreinz found a hole in the Hudson defense and blasted a shot past the goalie to win the title for the title.
'I saw an opening in the defense,' Kreinz said. 'It was instinct. I've been playing lacrosse since fifth grade, and I saw the goalie, he's a righty, I saw the upper left, I think I closed my eyes, I don't really know. Next thing I know, I'm on the ground and we just won a state championship.'
'If they believed, we had a chance, and that's what we told them, and they bought in,' KM coach Michael Stefan said. 'Heart-wrenching for Hudson how it ended, but it was an unbelievable game. Both teams deserve the world. My hat is off to them, because that was phenomenal.'
Both teams were playing in their first ever appearance in the WLF Division I final. Kettle Moraine has had competitive teams make deep runs in the playoffs, but the Lasers have never broken through to the final until this season. Hudson, meanwhile, was playing in the Wisconsin playoffs for the first time after successful postseason runs in Minnesota's Division II in recent years.
'I think we might have thought that we had it,' said Hudson coach Rich Grinstead. 'This senior class, this is their third title game in four years, whether it was in Minnesota or in Wisconsin. I think we let off, and they're a heck of a team. I could sit here all night and tell you how we let the game slip away, but they deserved to win tonight and in the end, we didn't.'
It's Kettle Moraine's 10th year as a program.
'We've had some great teams; we've just never put it together,' Stefan said. 'It started last year with my first year, the kids started to buy in how they collectively are going to be more successful than individually, and that's what this team was able to capitalize on.'
The game started out just as competitively as it finished. Hudson dominated most of the first quarter, going ahead, 3-0, on goals from Cole Danielson, William Reece and Stephan Tripicchio, but the Lasers stormed right back. Kreinz drove up the side of the Hudson goal and sent an angle shot into the net to put the Lasers on the board at the 3:38 mark of the first quarter. Nick Psicihulis added a second, and Kreinz scored a third to tie the game with 12 seconds to go in the quarter.
Hudson was called for an illegal stick to start the second quarter, giving the Lasers a 3-minute power play that they used to take a 5-3 lead.
'First one we've had all year,' Grinstead said of the illegal stick. 'It's a faceoff stick, it's hot out, I have no doubt in my mind that it was a legal stick when the game started; it just wasn't when it got checked, that's just the way it goes. I think we spotted them two or three goals with that, which they earned, but it's tough to win a ballgame when you take as many penalties as we did. I don't have the count on it, but I know that we spent way too much time sitting in the box.'
Stefan added, 'That was huge for us, but they came right back and had a big run, so I don't even really think about that penalty.'
With KM leading, 7-4, near the end of the half, Hudson came close to scoring on a shot from Danielson that ricocheted off the far post with less than 2 minutes to go, but the Lasers took their lead into halftime. Hudson did make a run to start the second half, tying the game at 7-7 before ultimately making the run that put the Raiders up by four.
'When you're down by four goals with two minutes left, it's hard to be up,' Kreinz said, 'but our coaches kept us in it. They said we've worked on it, we've got two All-Americans on this team, me and Jordan Schmid, and I just think that we took it over.'
Stefan said Kreinz understood the message and took it to heart. With the championship, Kreinz now also owns family bragging rights.
'Both of my brothers are now playing Division 1 lacrosse; they were on the same team and they didn't get farther than the semi-finals,' Kreinz said. 'To just do something that my older brothers haven't done is just a surreal feeling and something that I can joke with them for the rest of my life.'
Grinstead said afterward it would be his last time coaching Hudson.
'We'll have our two assistant coaches here stepping up,' he said. 'I've been coaching for eight years and it's time to move on, but there's good things ahead, for Wisconsin lacrosse in general, too, not just us. We've had successful teams, and this was another one. This is what the state championship game should look like.'
In the semifinals, Kettle Moraine edged Verona, 11-10.
Kreinz had six goals and two assists to lead the Lasers. Caleb Hotchkiss added two goals and one assist, Schmid one goal and two assists, Malloy Murphy one goal, Chris Bender one and Psicihulis one assist.