By Matt Kane
DELANO — Delano was on the brink of the marquee win of the season Friday night at the Delano Area Sports Arena, where it hosted No. 5 Orono in a heated rivalry game. That win, however, never came to be, as Thomas Walker’s goal at 4:15 of overtime lifted the Spartans to a 3-2 win over the Tigers in the Wright County Conference game.
The loss left the Tigers winless in three conference games. It also evened Delano’s overall record at 6-6.
Orono moved to 7-4-1 overall and to 2-0 in the conference.
The overtime-winner from Walker completed a late comeback for Orono, which never led until the final score.
Delano looked in position for the upset victory over the rival Spartans, but, trying to hold on to a 2-1 lead, the Tigers ran out of gas and could not fend off the Orono attack late in regulation.
Jack Kubitz’s slap shot from the high slot tied the game, 2-2, with 1:19 to play in the third period.
Orono came inches from winning in regulation after Kubitz tied it up, but the best friend of Delano goalie Jackson Hjelle, his right post, kept the game tied with a dinging save on a shot by Zach Simon.
Hjelle made 29 saves in the loss. Orono goaltender Evan Babekuhl made 28 saves in the win.
Babekuhl came up huge on several Delano attacks late in the third period. Most notable was his denial of Justin Daly on a point-blank shot off a two-on-one rush.
Delano led 1-0 at the first intermission thanks to Matt Carson’s goal at 12:55 of the first period.
That Tigers’ lead didn’t last long after the Zamboni exited the ice, as Orono’s Dane Korsi swept the puck through Hjelle at 1:45 of the second period to knot it, 1-1.
Jack Paulson’s unassisted power-play goal with three seconds remaining in the second period gave the host Tigers a 2-1 lead at the second intermission.