It's late, but some quick thoughts from two pretty fun games at Mariucci tonight...
Edina 3 Burnsville 2
The final score ended up looking a lot closer than I thought this game actually was. Burnsville scored the game's first goal, but once Edina tied the game at one in the first period, I never felt like Edina was in any sort of trouble from there on out. The key play of the game came late in the first period when a misplay behind the Burnsville net led to a flukey Edina goal. That allowed the Hornets to play from ahead and really control the game. Burnsville probably needed a goal like that to go in for them to have a shot at the upset. Instead, it went against them and was too much to overcome.
I mentioned in the preview that past sectional finals between these two have gone down to the wire with Burnsville staying tied or trying to hold a slight lead, before succumbing to Edina's depth. This year, Edina jumped out to a lead, and by the third period, Burnsville's top line, which did yeoman's work all night, just didn't have the gas to make a serious attempt at a comeback.
I thought Burnsville's Tyler Sheehy, who scored both goals and almost single-handedly kept his team in the game, and linemate Brock Boeser both really helped their stock tonight with great games. It was kind of a disappointing for the prospects in this year's draft. Teemu Kivihalme really struggled. Connor Hurley picked up an assist on a nice little play along the boards, and rang a shot off the post, but just doesn't dominate the way you'd expect a top draft pick to.
It would be nice to see Burnsville win one of these, if only because they've probably deserved a better fate than they've received these past couple years--their '08 loss to Edina is one of the more memorably gut-wrenching I've seen. But in the end, Edina was the much stronger team, and it's probably better for the state tournament to see the Hornets back there once again.
Wayzata 5 Benilde-St. Margaret's 2
It's amazing how quickly a game can change. Benilde came out dominating and appeared to go up 2-0, before their second goal was waved off for goal tender interference. Shortly after, Wayzata earned a power play and snuck a shot from the point through to tie the game at one apiece. It could have been a much different game if Benilde was able to run out their lead like that while controlling the early part of the game.
But as it was, Wayzata became more and more comfortable as the game progressed, and slowly took control of the game. Once they got the lead in the second period, Benilde essentially disappeared, and the Trojans cruised to a comfortable victory.
I can't say enough about how well Wayzata played. They were just about perfect defensively, shutting down a pretty dynamic offense. Goalie Aaron Dingmann got his redemption at Mariucci for 2011. And when the Trojans got opportunities offensively, they made the most of them.
For Benilde, I mentioned earlier in the year that if they had a weakness, it was on the blueline, and that came back to bite them hard tonight. Wayzata was a terrible match-up for them, because they had the speed and strength to really put pressure on Benilde's D on the forecheck, and that created a lot of turnovers. Johnny Austin was basically the only Red Knight defender they could trust out there, and he had to come off the ice sometimes. When Austin wasn't on the ice, it was basically a trainwreck for BSM.
Ultimately, tonight was a classic example of one team coming together to become something much greater than what they were individually, while the other team fell apart under pressure.
It will be very interesting to see what happens with state seeding, since Wayzata came into this as the #3 seed in the section. My personal feeling is that any team that comes out of Section 6AA is a pretty good hockey team, and is playing pretty darn good hockey at the right time of year, which makes them worthy of the top seed. That hasn't traditionally been how seedings were handled in the past, however. That was the case last year, when Benilde looked like the best team in the state coming off their section final win over Minnetonka, but didn't earn a seed because of their record earlier in the year. In any case, I would not want to run into this Wayzata team if they play like they did tonight.