The latest big win of the season came Saturday evening as No. 8-ranked Blaine (4-0-1) upset No. 4 ranked and defending Class AA champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s (3-2-0) 6-5 in St. Louis Park Dec. 15.
The loss was the second in a week for Benilde after No. 2 Hill-Murray beat it 4-2 Dec. 8.
The Bengals came from behind to tie the game three times and finally took the lead with just under four minutes left in regulation.
Blaine’s Tyler Cline scored his second goal of the game on the power play at the 13:09 mark of the third period to give the visitors their first lead of the evening. He also set up Joey Lau’s tying goal just seven minutes earlier with help from Ian Scheid.
The win was a team effort for Blaine as 10 different players picked up points and six had a multiple-point game.
Blaine coach Dave Aus said the team played well, but given how early into a long season it is, he knows there is room for improvement.
“The fact that we seem to make some silly mistake at times, possibly trying to do too much with the puck,” he said. “But I was happy with the fact that we came back from two goals down twice.”
Benilde jumped to a 2-0 lead just 5:28 into the contest when reigning Mr. Hockey, Grant Besse, beat Blaine’s Bailey Ketola. Besse added another goal to make it 4-2 for the Red Knights with 30 seconds left in what was an up-and-down first period.
Benilde outshot the Bengals 11-10 in the first period and scored on four-of-11 shots.
“[Goalie] Bailey [Ketola] really struggled in the first period, although we hung him out to dry a couple times too,” Aus said. Early deficits aren’t anything new for the Bengals, who trailed Roseau (tie), Centennial and Benilde both resulting in wins.
Surrendering the tie on a shorthanded goal 54 seconds before the end of the second period was discouraging for Aus, but he felt they could expose Benilde’s defense in its own end of the rink, given Blaine’s speed and quickness.
Blaine’s Brandon Notermann continued a very strong start to the season with three points, including the Bengals’ first goal, 7:58 into the period to make it 2-1. Notermann and Nic Simpson set up teammate Tyler Frischmon to tie the game 2-2 at the 13:01 mark of the period.
Cline and Jesse Norling each scored before the 9:20 mark of the second period to tie the game for the second time, this time at 4-4. Benilde wouldn’t go down that easy as Dan Labosky scored a shorthander with 54 seconds left in the period to skate off the ice with a 5-4 lead.
Going into the third period down 5-4, Blaine didn’t back down and Aus said the lockerroom stayed calm during the intermission.
Instead, the Bengals flipped Notermann and Gerads on their line assignments to defend Besse’s line. Notermann, a junior, shares the team points lead (11) with Cline, also a junior.
Aus praised Notermann’s performance so far. “He’s been our most consistent all-around player since day one of the season,” Aus said. “He’s taken tremendous steps in his game and his off-season lifting really helped with his strength and speed.”
The core with Notermann, Cline, Alex Copa and Scheid has stablized the team early on this season. Combine that with leadership from senior captains Norling and Jack Micek and it’s no wonder the team has outscored its competition 25-13 in five games.