NIWOT — There will be moments in Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss to Standley Lake in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs that Niwot coach Rob Johnson will look back at and wonder what might have been.
"It's just about finding way to win, and we kept battling and battling," Johnson said. "And then all of the sudden one little mistake and we are done for the season."
It's a bitter pill to swallow for the No.6-seeded Cougars, who had lost just once all season prior to Tuesday. Niwot finishes its season 15-2.
Eleventh-seeded Standley Lake (12-5) advances to Saturday's quarterfinals against No. 3 Battle Mountain in Edwards. The Huskies beat Valor Christian 3-2.
Niwot appeared to be in the drivers seat when they took the lead with 13 minutes to play. Senior striker Mark Ramirez was taken down in the box by Gators freshman defender Cooper Garnett and it gave Justin Barkow a chance to bag his second penalty kick of the match.
He did, but as they had done all match long, Standley Lake responded and just in time.
Working the ball to their talented forwards, Kyle Iftoti and Nick Rosser, the Gators had Niwot on its heels in search of an equalizer. It came in the 78th minute, when Ben Smith's corner went to the back post, where Rosser finished with his head.
"I told them at the half, if they are going to play three in the back, we are going to play it to our forwards early and let them take them on 1-v-1 and see what happens," Standley Lake coach Mike Day said.
Said Johnson, whose team was up 2-0 in the opening five minutes of the match: "We have an attitude that we can just sit back and let other teams do what they want and (Standley Lake) just kept battling. If we put two or three more chances away, it takes care of business, but we let them stay in."
Niwot didn't let the Gators take the momentum of the late goal to overtime and the Cougars had their chances to put the game away. The best one came when Barkow's shot, one that Standley Lake goalie Kevin Griebel thought was going wide, caromed off the far post.
Just over a minute later, against the run of play, Standley Lake's Jacob Gastelbondo went right at the heart of the Niwot defense and chipped a deft pass over the top to an overlapping Iftoti who finished into the open net.
"Our attitude, we just expect team to step down and let us beat them," said a clearly frustrated Johnson.
The match opened quickly with Barkow scoring his first penalty kick goal in the 5th minute and before anyone could stop cheering, Ramirez banged in goal No. 2. In a flurry of activity in front of the Gators goal, Ramirez nearly had one of those aforementioned chances bang off the bar above Griebel.
Standley Lake made it a one goal game midway through the first half on and own goal and equalized in the 46th on nifty give-and-go between Iftoti and Rosser.
Standley Lake 4, Niwot 3, OT
At NiwotStandley Lake (12-5) 1 2 1 — 4
Niwot (15-2) 2 1 0 — 3
Goals (assists) — Niwot: Justin Barkow (PK), 5th minute; Niwot: Mark Ramirez (unassisted), 5th; Standley Lake: own goal, 18th; Standley Lake: Nick Rosser (Kyle Iftoti), 46th; Niwot: Barkow (PK), 67th; Standley Lake: Rosser (Ben Smith), 78th; Standley Lake: Iftoti (Jacob Gastelbondo), 93rd.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Standley Lake: Kevin Griebel (92-3-6); Niwot: Shane Ryan (92-4-9).