Blaine (22-5-1) won both regular season meetings against crosstown rival Centennial (16-10-2) but the No. 3 seeded Cougars upset No. 1 Blaine to win the Section 5AA title 2-1.
It took Centennial 15 seconds into the game to lead 1-0 after Connor Lovick’s pass from behind the Bengals goal found leading scorer Ryner Gorowsky in front for the one-timer.
“It’s great but a scary thing because emotions go so high but it w
as moving onto the next battle,” Centennial coach Ritch Menne said.
Gorowsky, a senior, had a hat trick in a 4-0 win against Maple Grove in the semifinal after scoring 20 goals during the regular season.
He had a stellar chance to make it a 2-0 lead with 3:39 left in the period on a breakaway but Bengals netminder Andrew Houle made the stop.
“We didn’t play bad, but we just got out scored and unfortunately that’s whats important,” Blaine coach David Aus said. “We had a lot of chances to chip the puck out and they just came back with it… they finished their chances and we didn’t.”
Blaine had many quality chance to tie the game but couldn’t solve Cougars goaltender Blake Miller who posted 38 saves on his birthday.
“He’s been a rock all season long and he stands up on big stages,” Menne said about Miller coming up huge.
“We worked as hard as we could and their goalie was hot. We had a ton of chances,” Bengals senior Nic Simpson said. “We knew it was huge game but that didn’t keep us from going into win looking for a win as a better team and tonight they were one goal better than us.”
Blaine out shot Centennial 19-4 in the first period and finished with a 39-18 edge.
Luke Notermann rifled a shot from the top of the circle that sailed just wide of the goal and Riley Tufte and scoring chances to score around the goal crease.
Notermann had an excellent backhand shot stopped by Miller and Ian Scheid narrowly missed Notermann on the back door just over 30 seconds apart, seven minutes into the second period.
Aus said the team used the early deficit as motivation to refocus attention on the task at hand.
Centennial made it 2-0 with 1:03 left in the middle period to send the Bengals into the locker room in a deep hole.
Collin Hughes ripped a shot through traffic in front of Houle for what would be the game-winner.
Looking for the comeback, one of 15 Blaine seniors on the roster, Dallas Gerads grinded out a goal just 2:45 into the final period. Gerads was near the goal crease when Brandon Notermann’s shot rested in front of Miller’s leg pads. As he’s done throughout high school, Gerads hard work led to a goal as he banged the puck between Miller’s leg pads for the goal to cut the lead.
“Dallas is always working his butt off in front and he’s got a good future ahead of him,” Simpson said.
Blaine’s Tyler Cline took a step around a defenseman before firing the puck off the right leg pad of Miller with 10:00 left in the contest.
Blaine called a time out with 1:23 left and kept the pressure in the Cougar end until the final buzzer.
Down to four seconds left, Scheid forced a stoppage after Miller made another save.
The Centennial student section serenaded Miller with Happy Birthday during the post-game celebration as players leapt onto the ice in front of the rabid student section.
Blaine was upset by Champlin Park 5-4 in the section semifinal in 2013. They came up short in the 2012 section final against top-seed Maple Grove 15-1 but the Bengals topped Maple Grove 4-3 in the 2011 final.
“Even in the third period, it was just like last year all over again,” Aus said. “ I give them credit but that’s what’s been hard about the last three years. I don’t think the best team has won., I felt like we’ve clearly been the best team and can’t get the job done.”
Simpson added that the team was still in shock, realizing 15 teammates played their final game in the Bengal sweater.
Jason Olson is at