The Mustangs Cognitive Impaired (CI) program went 16-0 this season to push its winning streak to 46 games and its third straight state hockey title as it defeated St. Cloud Slapshots, 13-3, in the finals at Bloomington Jefferson High School March 17.
The Mustangs outscored the opposition 45-17 in the three games to win a state tile for the fourth time in program history since 1996.
Spring break fell the week before state, which meant no practice for the Mustangs and coach Bill Newell noticed the team was a bit sluggish in the opening round game against Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville. That sluggishness quickly faded as the Mustangs cruised to a 15-4 win.
Click one of the images below to view the slideshow. Photos by Bill Jones
Mustangs senior Tyler Kurkowski added to his legendary status by scoring six times and added four more assists in the finals to finish with 33 points over the three state games.
“Our leaders like Tyler and Zach [Theroux], they like to score, but they want to get everybody involved in the success no matter what their skill level or experience level is out there,” Newell said. “[Zach and Tyler] haven’t played whole lot this year. Statistics go out the window, they could’ve scored 100 goals each but that’s not being a good sportsman and that’s not being part of the experience for everyone.”
Kurkowski, who is in his sixth season with the program, celebrated his final state hockey tournament by dying his hair Mustangs-purple and celebrated his 18th birthday (March 16) with five goals and four assists against Burnsville in the quarterfinals.
Anoka-Hennepin controlled play in the finals and Kurkowski collected his hat trick before the end of the opening period. He finished with six goals and four assists.
Teammates Theroux and freshman Austin Fraser also had hat tricks and Theroux dished out five assists.
Junior goalie Jeff Shogren was equally as strong defending the Anoka-Hennepin goal, making 51 saves to preserve the perfect record.
The team was tested against North Suburban in the semifinal, but came out on the winning end of a 17-10 score. Newell said the message before the game was to score at least 11 goals: “Nobody was going to beat us because that’s what we’ve scored in every game the last three years; nobody can beat us.”
Kurkowski, Theroux and Fraser were named to the All-Tournament Team.
PI Mustnags bring home hardware
Anoka-Hennepin’s Physically Impaired (PI) team (8-4) recovered from a tough semifinal loss to top South Suburban 8-5 in the third place game.
“Taking home hardware at any point is a great feeling, especially for these kids,” Mustangs coach Sue Opatz said. “It just feels really good because they did work as a team.”
Mustangs junior Erik Santa played a role in each of the eight goals, scoring five times enroute to the win and a spot on the All-Tournament Team.
Corey Gieske, who joined Santa on the All-Tournament team, had two goals and three assists while Chris Walen rounded out the scoring.
Goalie Ben Schmitz turned away 18 shots and stayed poised in net over an intense final period in which the Flyers peppered the Mustangs goal.
The Mustangs and Flyers sat tied 2-2 after the first period, but a four-goal outburst in the second period helped propel the Mustangs ahead. The two sides each scored twice in the third period for the final tally.
Opatz said the key for the Mustangs was controlling the Flyers’ top three forwards. “We knew they had a really strong front three that worked well together zipping it across the court and we had to figure out how to stop [Karen Kreidler],” she said as Kreidler scored three of the Flyers’ goals and assisted on the other two. “We did it by putting Chris Whalen on her and he did a tremendous job.”
Recovering from a tough semifinal loss was key for the opening period.
“Once they figured out they could score against them, there was no stopping us,” Opatz said.
Anoka-Hennepin struggled to hit Santa in the neutral zone in the first period. “We weren’t getting the puck to him in that first period and we really needed to because he’s got a great shot.”
She also praised the way the defense played in front of Schmitz to keep the Flyers at bay.
Anoka-Hennepin, the No. 2 ranked team out of the North Division, began the tournament with 4-0 shutout over South Division’s third seed Rochester Area.
Geiske had the hat trick for the Mustangs and Walen added the fourth goal to set up a tough semifinal game against South Division’s top-seed Dakota United.
The Mustangs took a 2-0 lead into the second period on goals from Geiske and Santa and held a 4-3 advantage into the second intermission.
The Hawks scored five unanswered goals in the third period to reach the finals and send the Mustangs to the third place game.
Refocusing on the third place game was Opatz goal on Saturday afternoon.
“Letting them know that third place is an honorable place to be in and taking home the hardware was one of their big goals. They wanted to have something around their neck,” she said.