Mike McLaughlin’s impact on Monday’s game against Stagg went beyond the St. Laurence senior’s pretty first-half goal.
When the Vikings went down a man in the second half, McLaughlin’s mere presence made it hard for the Chargers to take advantage.
“We were a man up, but McLaughlin’s like two guys out there,” Stagg coach Mike Kealy said. “So it was pretty much even. We were man-marking him and giving help on him. He’s definitely one of the best players I’ve seen this year.”
With the game tied when Luke Burdelik was given a red card for picking up his second yellow with 27:57 to go, St. Laurence was able to hold on to salvage a 1-1 tie against the Chargers in Palos Hills.
It was a strong result for a Vikings squad that won just five games last season and lost its first two this year, but has gone 3-0-2 since.
“The biggest thing we talked about in summer ball and practice was work rate,” said first-year St. Laurence coach Matt Prunckle, a former All-State player at Brother Rice. “That wasn’t so good our first couple games, but it’s coming around. Unfortunately this was the second time we’ve shot ourselves in the foot with a red card, so we’ve got to stop doing that.”
Sami Kizlaitis provided the equalizer for Stagg (3-3-2) with 34:32 to go, receiving a long pass from John Zajac, getting past a defender and flicking a shot over the head of St. Laurence goalie Alex Verta.
“I’ve got to give all my teammates props,” Kizlaitis said. “It wasn’t just me. It was all them.
“We came out in the second half and just tried to communicate more and play as a team.”
Each team had one good chance at stealing a win late. McLaughlin fought off two defenders to get a shot off with 6:25 left, but couldn’t get much on it and it was saved by Erick Estrada (5 saves).
Off a deep throw with just under three minutes left, Zajac ripped a laser of a shot that Verta made a leaping save on.
Verta had four saves in his varsity debut.
McLaughin’s goal, with 4:14 left in the first half, was of the highlight-reel variety. The forward collected the ball in the corner, beat a defender and – with Estrada charging at him – flicked it over Estrada’s head and in.
“This year has been a big step up for us so far,” McLaughlin said. “Getting a tie or a win against a team like Stagg is always huge.”