Top-seed Blaine picked up its sixth win in a row and 22nd of the season after shutting out Anoka 3-0 in the Section 5AA semifinal game during a rare Wednesday night game for high school hockey.
The final section tournament to be played in the Warner Coliseum at the state fairgrounds has been a house of horrors over the last two seasons for the Bengals.
Blaine was bounced in the semifinals by Champlin Park last year and lost the section final to Maple Grove 15-1 in 2012.
Knowing that history, Bengals coach Dave Aus said the bench loosened up after the first goal and even more so after taking a 3-0 lead early in the third period.
Blaine posted its fourth shutout in five games and has now out scored the opposition 11-0 in two section contests. The Bengals downed Anoka in both regular season match-ups 6-1 and 6-2 and hasn’t lost to Anoka since the 2007-08 season.
“We knew we had to play them close to the vest,” Anoka coach Todd Manthey said about the strategy. “It had to be a 2-1, 3-2 game and we couldn’t get into a shoot out against them because they bottle things up so well in the middle and they did that again. But credit our guys, they left everything on the ice.”
One of nine seniors, forward Connor Niklaus stole the puck and nearly gave Anoka a 1-0 lead in the first period but Blaine netminder Andrew Houle controlled the backhanded shot.
“We played very well in that first period … and that might have turned the tide but Blaine cranked it up a notch in the second period and we couldn’t match them,” Manthey said.
A tight first period gave way to a break-out middle period in which Blaine out shot Anoka by a 13-2 margin and scored 2:18 apart in late in the period on goals by brothers Luke and Brandon Notermann.
Luke, a sophomore, scored first on a wrap-around goal at the 10:48 mark of the season period.
Brandon doubled the lead after tapping home the puck after Anoka goalie Robbie Goor made the initial save on a hard shot from Riley Tufte at 13:06.
Blaine extended the lead to 3-0 when Joey Lau made a few moves to get Goor to commit before passing the puck to a streaking Tyler Frischmon for a goal-mouth tap-in just 4:15 into the final period.
The Bengals out shot Anoka by a 33-14 edge in the game. Aus felt the win was a result of a team effort.
“I thought we were pretty good defensively tonight and we gripped the stick tight offensive early but part of it too is their goalie [Robbie Goor] made some nice saves,” Aus said as Blaine held a 9-7 shots edge in the first period but limited the Tornadoes to seven more shots over the final two periods. “After we got that first [goal] you could see the bench relax.”
Aus said the discussion leading up to the game revolved around how to beat Goor, one of the best they faced all season. He added: “We spent a lot of time talking about facing him and how we would need to move the puck to the right spot against him.”
Manthey knew Goor would continue to perform well in goal with another 30-plus saves effort.
“He gave us an opportunity to win and that’s what we needed,” Manthey said after Goor made 30 saves to give him nine games at or above that mark.
Goor finished another standout season with a 9-10-1 record, 2.81 goals against average and a .905 saves percentage.
Looking back on the senior class, Manthey said the group helped turn the program in the right direction to finish 13-13-1 overall and sixth place (9-9-0) in the feisty Northwest Suburban Conference standings.
“They’re great examples of what you can achieve working hard and being positive leaders,” Manthey said, summing up the graduating group.
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