MISSOULA — Kalispell Glacier held a 2-1 advantage six minutes into overtime of the Class AA boys' soccer state final Saturday. The Wolfpack, playing the underdog role to Missoula Hellgate, were just 14 minutes away from finishing off the upset.
Just moments after Glacier's go-ahead goal though, all Hellgate broke loose.
The Knights scored twice in the next two minutes and senior Rylan Compton added an insurance goal in the second half of extra time, lifting the Knights to a 4-2 championship victory on a picturesque October afternoon at the Fort Missoula Fields.
"The next thing I know (Hellgate was) coming down and finishing one, and you get caught in the emotion of it all. The momentum really rolled and then they took advantage of another opportunity," Glacier coach Ryan Billiet said. "They're definitely the best team in the state — they earned it today."
It's Hellgate's third straight state title and fourth in program history.
Before the Knights could celebrate, however, they had to scramble.
Despite the Wolfpack playing a man down in extra time, they struck first. Glacier's Kamren Barkus let fly a long-range chip shot just across midfield that sent Hellgate goalie Justin Lane backpedaling.
Adding to the weirdness of the game's first 80 minutes, it appeared from the sidelines that Lane had made the save.
But the line judge had a better vantage point, and he ruled the Hellgate goalie had stepped back too far and "saved" the ball from inside the net. Glacier was awarded the point and a 2-1 lead in the non-sudden death overtime.
It was a perfectly placed kick.
"(Barkus) had started getting forward a little bit and servicing some balls and getting dangerous and we were fortunate to find it in the net," Glacier coach Ryan Billiet said. "(All of a sudden), and we're like, 'Jeez, we're up on this thing and a man down, this is crazy.'"
Barkus' goal, just the defenseman's second of the season, set off a three-minute scoring frenzy that saw the Wolfpack wind up on the wrong side of a 3-2 deficit.
On the kickoff, Hellgate gashed through the midfield, which was left vulnerable from a questionable red card handed out to Glacier in the 65th minute of a tied ballgame. Reigning Montana Gatorade Player of the Year Matt Baldridge — who had the Knights' only goal of the game at that point — got free in the Glacier box and shot right.
The ball beat Glacier's Logan Hill, but it couldn't get past the post.
"I was really (mad) at first, because it was a good shot, but Will (Dauenhauer) was doing his job," Baldridge said.
Unlike two previous pillar saves in the game where Hellgate came away with nothing, Dauenhauer — the Knights' senior captain — was there to clean up the rebound. He shaded right of the net and was rewarded with a wide-open goal.
His right foot knotted the score, 2-2.
"It started with Rylan who hit one off the post (earlier in the game), and I was thinking 'We gotta follow all of our shots,'" Dauenhauer said. "I just followed Matt's shot and it just came off perfectly right too me."
Baldridge gave Hellgate the lead less than a minute later on another second-chance try. In just two minutes, the Knights had turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
"I made the first save, but I just couldn't quite get back up to it in time to make the second save. ... There's no explaining that kind of pressure back there," said Glacier's Hill, who had a heroic save on a Baldridge breakaway blast seconds before the end of regulation to preserve an overtime chance. He finished with 11 stops.
"It's definitely heartbreaking to see that ball go through the net."
Hellgate had one more score in it, too, as Compton's 35-yard shot in the second 10-minute half of overtime found the back of the net with three minutes remaining.
It was the insurance goal that finally calmed an otherwise crazy championship game.
Aside from the 34 combined fouls, there was also a fair share of handballs and hollering from both sidelines. Late in the second half a confusing call seemed to catch Glacier off guard and appeared to give Hellgate a free kick from just outside the Wolfpack box.
While the boys in blue and green questioned the referee, who looked to have called a hand ball on the goalie leaving the box, the Knights hurried up and took their free kick with nobody defending. It landed in the back of the net and sent off a celebration from the home fans.
In the next instance, Glacier was lining up for a goal kick while Hellgate was still celebrating its perceived 2-1 advantage.
Ultimately it was ruled Hellgate was offsides before Glacier's goalie ever made the alleged infraction. The 1-1 stalemate stood.
In all, it was a memorable match where two teams played at the top of their game at the right time.
This championship win even stood out for Dauenhauer, and he now has three for comparison.
"It's just glorious, you know. Being in your hometown and seeing your teammate, your best friend, score a goal — the winning goal — it's just amazing," the senior, whose Knights have been in the title game each year he's been in high school, said. "Then having Rylan just a couple minutes later score on that volley, that's just icing on the cake right there."
Bozeman 3, Billings Senior 0
After an undefeated run in the regular season Billings Senior fell out of trophy contention with a 3-0 loss to Bozeman in Saturday's third-place match. The Hawks, which had tied and lost to the Broncs in the regular season, came away with the win in try No. 3 — at the state tournament, no less.
"I think that we just got better, and I think we've proved that every year that we improve through the season," Bozeman coach Hunter Terry said.
Bozeman's Zach Springer assisted on the game's first goal and he added two more scores himself in the second half to help his Hawks to the bronze trophy.
"He has a tremendous level of just being slimy, he's always got a scheme, he's super aggressive off the ball," Terry said. "He's a dangerous player, he's always looking to get behind (the defense)."
The two-score game gave Springer, a sophomore, three goals for the state tournament.
Helena 3, Billings West 1
Senior Jackson Keller sandwiched a pair of goals around a Treven Maharg score, serving as more than enough offense in the Bengals fifth-place win against the Golden Bears.
Keller, who had a team-best 14 goals in the regular season, finished with five scores for the tournament, including a hat trick on Friday.
The win gave Helena fifth place, but with no award, the game was essentially played for pride. It was the second year in a row that the Bengals survived until Saturday but left without hardware.
"I told these guys (Thursday) when we lost that there's no trophies to play for now, we're just playing for pride," Helena coach Carl Straub said. "We wanted to show our class and passion for the game."