Sometimes in hockey, the best defense is a good offense.
Minnesota Red defenseman Jordan Gross, a junior from of Maple Grove, certainly took that adage to heart in Minnesota Red’s 5-1 victory over Minnesota White in a Saturday, Nov. 5, semifinal in the Bauer National Invitational Tournament at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope.
He played the part of both distributor and goal scorer assisting on the first three Minnesota Red goals before scoring the fourth to cement the victory.
“I feel like I just try to be offensive minded but play defense too,” Gross said of his performance. “Just play my game.”
With 15:44 left to go in the second period, Gross proved that his offense did in fact match his defense. On a rebound off a backhand by teammate Jake Guentzel of Hill-Murray, the puck bounced out to Gross. With opposing goaltender Michael Bitzer of Moorhead sliding across the crease, Gross leaned on one knee and whipped the puck to the back of the net to put Minnesota Red up 4-1.
Since it was so early in the second period, the goal dashed the comeback hopes of Minnesota White. When asked about Gross’s offensive performance, Minnesota Red coach Sean Toomey wasn’t surprised.
“That’s just natural for him,” Toomey said. “That’s the role he plays, that’s the player he is. I think no matter where he goes he’s going to be an offensive contributor.”
As a defenseman, Gross was near the top of his high school team Maple Grove in scoring last year with 30 points. He dished out 22 assists and lit the lamp eight times, averaging just over a point per game.
Maple Grove is hoping for a repeat performance this season from Gross, who is hoping to push the Crimson to the state tournament after losing a heartbreaking 4-3 game against arch rival Blaine in the 5AA section finals. The winning goal was scored by Minnesota Red teammate and recent University of Minnesota commit Michael Brodzinksi.
Although they play for rival teams during the high school season, there is no bad blood between the Minnesota Red defensemen.
“We’re actually really good buddies,” Gross said. “It’s fun playing with him, we both kind of play the same styles.”
Maple Grove will be returning a number of key players, including another Minnesota Red player and offensive juggernaut in forward Dylan Steman. When asked what his role on the team would be this year, Gross replied that it would be very similar to the one he plays for Minnesota Red.
“I like moving up the puck and making the first pass and then joining the rush,” Gross said. “Being an offensive defenseman, but being a shutdown D, too.
Gross has committed to play at Notre Dame, a program that is stockpiling Minnesota talent such as Mario Lucia of Wayzata, Anders Lee and Steven Fogartyof Edina.
Coach Toomey thought that Gross would be a great addition to the Irish when he does eventually step on campus.
“Poise, confidence, and some extremely good hockey sense,” Toomey said of what Gross will bring. “His presence out there and his angles and keeping people away from the net, a lot of those little things are a difference maker for him and obviously Notre Dame recognized that.”
Gross is positive South Bend was the right choice.
“The campus was awesome, the coaching staff, the new rink they got,” Gross said. “I felt like it was the whole package.”
--Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff
Scoring five unanswered goals, Minnesota Red coasted past Minnesota White in the semifinal round of the Bauer National Invitational Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 5, at New Hope Ice Arena.
Powering the Minnesota Red offense was Maple Grove's Jordan Gross who notched four points (one goal, three assists). Justin Kloos of Lakeville South scored Minnesota Red's only other goal -- coming unassisted on the power play.
Minnetonka's Max Coatta scored the lone goal for Minnesota White early in the first period assisted by Edina's Ben Walker and Matt Nelson.
With a total of 84 shots on goal in the Minnesota matchup, it took a stellar effort by both goaltenders to keep the game moderately close.
Minnesota White's Michael Bitzer of Moorhead made 41 saves with 21 of those stops coming in the third period.
Grand Forks Red River senior netminder Bryan Nies had 37 saves to collect his second win of the tournament in as many games for Minnesota Red while posting a .942 save percentage.
With the victory, Minnesota Red advances to the championship game of the Bauer National Invitation Tournament and will face the winner of the Shattuck-St. Mary's/Norway U-18 semifinal game at New Hope Ice Arena on Sunday, Nov. 6, at 12 p.m.
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff
1. Jordan Gross, Minnesota Red
The senior defenseman from Maple Grove was an offensive machine scoring one goal and providing three assists during a streak of five unanswered goals by Minnesota Red. Coupled with his lockdown defensive play, Gross was a force at both ends of the ice.
2. Bryan Nies, Minnesota Red
After allowing a goal at the 6:38 mark of the first period, Nies was perfect between the pipes while making 37 saves for Minnesota Red. The Grand Forks Red River senior goaltender's effort kept Minnesota White from gaining any momentum.
3. Michael Bitzer, Minnesota White
The Moorhead senior allowed five goals but was a standout while faing a barrage of shots -- 46 total to be exact, with 22 coming in the third period alone. Bitzer made several point blank saves especially when his team surrendered six power-play opportunities to Minnesota Red.
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff