A 5-4 victory May 31 over Blaine in the Section 4AA championship game has the Totino-Grace boys’ lacrosse team heading to the state tournament for the second time in three seasons.
It was also the second time in three years the Eagles have ended Blaine’s season in the section championship game. In 2010 they defeated Blaine 8-4 and for the Bengals, it’s been three consecutive years of heartbreak, losing last year’s title game 11-10 to White Bear Lake.
“We were a way different team two years ago,” said Totino-Grace head coach Justin Hoban. “We had 18 seniors on the 2010 team that beat them and this year only two kids were left from that state tournament team. Blaine had lost in this game two years in a row, so that makes for a pretty hungry team.”
On the other side of the coin, Blaine head coach Josh Swart said it was disappointing to lose again in the championship game, but to get this far into the playoffs was a pleasant surprise for a young Bengals team.
“They all have been disappointing,” said Swart about the last three years of losing in the title game. “If you would have asked me before the season if we would get to this game again, I would have probably said not. So I was happy with how the guys played this year.”
In a matchup of two teams that play stingy defense, it was a fluke goal scored by Totino-Grace junior midfielder Makana Burke with 59 seconds left before halftime that tied the score 3-3.
Blaine junior goalie Brenden Nadeau misread the play and Burke fired home his second goal of the half sparking a rally that saw Totino-Grace score three unanswered goals including one just 22 seconds into the third quarter scored by junior Joe Hegedus giving the Eagles a 4-3 lead.
“We came out in the second half with the plan to attack midfield,” Hoban said. “We have been known for our defense, but our strength is our depth at midfield. We play all nine midfielders which is more than most teams play.”
Probably the biggest strength in the victory over Blaine was the play in goal from sophomore Jack Burn. Burn stopped 11 of the 15 shots fired his way, including a huge save late in the game preserving the victory.
“I thought we played a good game,” Swart said. “You have to credit their goalie. We got a lot of shots off and he made a lot of saves for them. It was a real tight, low scoring game and we just came up a goal short.”
Junior midfielder James Warner scored a late goal pulling Blaine to 5-4 with a minute to play in the game. With seconds remaining, it was then when Burn made the game-saving save with Blaine pressing for the tying goal.