Blaine completed one of its best regular seasons going 19-3-2 overall and 18-2-1 en route to the Northwest Suburban Conference championship, after finishing the regular season with a 5-1 win over conference runner-up Centennial Feb. 1.
Senior Amy Schlagel completed the hat trick just 1:21 into the third period and added an assist on Kiersten Falck’s late second period goal.
Blaine scored four times in second period in a stretch of 6:35, including 22 seconds apart for the final two goals.
The win caps an impressive stretch of games, allowing more than one goal only once since a 4-1 loss to top-ranked Minnetonka Dec. 19.
Since then the Bengals are 10-1, outscoring the opposition 56-8 with four shutouts.
So it’s no wonder that senior Katie Swanstrom said the best part of her day is, “Going to practice and seeing everybody compete at such a high level. This team is something special and I can promise you were not going down with a huge fight.”
That going-down part points to the first-round exit in sections last season.
This year’s Bengals found a mix of potent scorers, persistent defensemen and a standout first-year varsity starting goaltender in Mikayla Tilton.
Blaine’s top four scorers have also signed to play at the NCAA Division-I level next season.
Falck, who led the team with 44 points (25 assists), was named one of 10 finalists for the Ms. Hockey Award and will play for Princeton next fall.
Reflecting on the success, personal and with the team, Falck said the team is having an amazing time. “To be able to have a senior season with stats like those is just something to smile about,” she said about a 20-win regular season scoring in excess of 100 goals. “These girls are a very fun group and are the most hard-workers we have ever had. There is no reason why we shouldn’t love every second.”
Schlagel, in her second season after transferring from Coon Rapids, had 42 points and a team-high 27 goals and will play at the University of New Hampshire next fall.
Twins Sam and Katie Swanstrom both signed with Brown University. Sam had 40 points (24 assists) in the regular season and Katie added 30 points (17 assists).
Combining that veteran success with freshman standouts like Paige Beebe (28 points and 15 assists) and Emily Brown (20 points, 16 assists) is one way Blaine hopes to carry this season’s success into next season.
According to Falck, Beebe and Brown have brought a lot to the team including skill, positivity, hard work and fun. “These girls know exactly what it is to be competitors and it is exciting to know they will continue with the program for years to come,” Falck said. “Their roles have really not changed too much as we knew what they could bring us in the beginning of the season and we expected it out of them.”
Katie Swanstrom said that the freshman class has definitely left its mark on the team. “We haven’t had freshmen playing on the top two lines for a while now,” she said. “They contribute a lot to the team and make all of us better.”
Tilton went 20-3-2 with a 1.32 goals against average and a .933 saves percentage in the net.
Section 5AA has been a black hole to recent top seeds like Anoka two years ago and Blaine last season.
Schlagel realizes the work that remains to reach the state tournament. “We’re on a mission and it won’t be enough until that blue ribbon is hanging from our necks in the section final,” she said. “Now we have more experience together and because we came up short last year we just want it more.”
Falck said the team realized why they were bounced so early from sections last season, “A fear of losing,” she said. “At least that is what I thought. And knowing why can help a whole lot for the future. Now we fear no game, and go at it head on.”
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