Bengals move past Anoka in semis to set up Crimson rematch

by Jason Olson
Sports Editor

Blaine searched for a way to hand Anoka a third defeat this season and it came in the form of a 6-3 boys’ hockey victory in the Section 5AA semifinals.

The No. 2 seeded Bengals kept hopes of winning a seventh straight section crown alive and will face top-seed Maple Grove for the third consecutive season in the section final this evening (Friday, March 2).

Blaine’s Dylan Lambert skates past Anoka’s Connor Iverson during the Feb. 9 game in Anoka. Photos by Bill Jones

Blaine won both previous meetings of the season against Anoka, 2-1 at Fogerty Arena Dec. 20 and 4-1 at Anoka Ice Arena Feb. 9.

The Bengals Dylan Lambert scored 15 seconds into the third period of the Dec. 20 game on the power play in what was the game winner. Anoka goalie Robbie Goor made 34 saves in the loss.

The rematch wasn’t as close. Blaine scored three times in the second period as the teams combined for 66 shots on net.

Reaching the semifinals was an accomplishment for the Tornadoes, who were bounced in the quarterfinals the last three seasons. They lost the section final to Cloquet four years ago and to Blaine during the 2007-08 season.

Tuesday’s semifinal began with Blaine challenging the Anoka defense and carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission after Tyler Cline scored at 12:58 with assists from Joe Awaijane and Joey Lau.

Blaine outshot the Tornadoes 13-4 in the first period, but Anoka came back over the final two periods and won the shots battle 35-31, including a 14-7 margin in the final period.

Anoka’s Cole Grinde tied the game 1:09 into the second period to breathe new life into the Tornadoes. Anders Skaalerud moved the puck back to Ben Sjodin, who set up Grinde for the tying goal.

Anoka pressured Blaine goalie Nick Malvin to make some key saves as the Tornadoes peppered the senior netminder by an 11-1 margin during the opening six minutes of the period.

But Blaine switched its offense into another gear when Michael Brodzinski scored the first of two goals on the power play five minutes after Anoka tied it up, then Jesse Norling made it 3-1 for Blaine 63 second after Brodzinski’s goal and another goal by Norling 1:27 later stretched the lead to 4-1 for the Bengals by the 9:17 mark of the second period.

Anoka Coach Todd Manthey said his team didn’t fold, despite being down three goals with 17 minutes left to play.

“Down 4-1 after two, our kids could’ve easily rolled over and died, but they played desperate hockey and got us back into the game,” he said. “The kids came back and battled and played very well, but just came up short.”

Once again, Anoka emerged from the dressing room ready to go, scoring twice in a span of 1:04 to make it 4-3 with 6:29 elapsed off the clock in the third period.

“That’s been our M.O. all year – they kept battling and get a bounce here or there and we would’ve been closer or in overtime,” Manthey said.

Dylan Adler scored at the 5:25 mark with help from Andrew Herlofsky and Connor Iverson to make it 4-2, then Tyler Hong made it 4-3 with his goal at 6:29 with help from Adler and Kyle Thorpe.

But Blaine calmed any fears of not reaching the section finals with two empty net goals 26 seconds apart in the final minute of the game.

Goor, Anoka’s sophomore netminder, posted 25 saves in the loss, but Manthey expects big things in the future from Anoka’s No. 1 goalie.

He finished the season with a 7-10-0 mark, a 3.24 goals against average during the regular season and stopped 53 of 58 shots he faced in two section games.

Goor had 33 or more saves six times this season and posted two shutouts. His season high 41 saves came in a 4-2 loss to Maple Grove which was followed by a highlight-reel effort in a 4-2 win over Elk River in late January.

“Robbie just came in and performed so well Lane {Kocovsky) couldn’t get his job back,” Manthey said.

The team rode Goor’s success to the end, despite losing its final five regular season games in a row.