Dylan Lambert never got credit for what he calls the biggest goal of his life.
His stick last touched the puck before it went past Maple Grove goaltender Ryan Coyne in overtime of last season's Class 2A, Section 5 title game.
The goal went to Bengals defenseman Michael Brodzinski, but Lambert's not complaining. Bottom line: Blaine advanced to its sixth consecutive state tournament. And Lambert, a blue-collar forward, values results over recognition.
"I didn't care who got the credit," said Lambert, who finished last season with 13 goals and 29 assists. "We got the win and went to state."
Lambert, a senior captain, leads the Bengals into their first meeting this season with Northwest Suburban Conference rival Maple Grove. The teams play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Fogerty Arena in Blaine in a game that could be a preview of a matchup in the Section 5 playoffs.
Last season, the Crimson posted a 1-0-1 regular-season record against Blaine, but the Bengals won the one that mattered. With that in mind, Blaine coach Dave Aus said Thursday's game, while important, is not critical.
Lambert spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about playing Maple Grove this week, his leadership style and his ability to tip in pucks.
Question: What do you returning guys take from beating Maple Grove in the playoffs last season?
Answer: We had great leadership from our captains. We didn't have as much talent last year, but we worked hard.
Q: Now that you're a captain, what is your message to the guys?
A: I try to get them going and make sure we're working hard in practice. We need to step it up because we have more talent and we could be better than last year.
Q: How has being a linebacker in football helped you in hockey?
A: It makes you tougher. I'm not afraid to go in the corners. And it's helped me go through guys rather than around them.
Q: Coach Aus said you had a tip-in goal [last Saturday] against Champlin Park.
A: Yeah. Michael shot the puck, I got a stick on it and it went in the lower left corner.
Q: How often do you practice tipping in pucks?
A: We run the power play in practice and Michael just takes shot after shot. I'm determined to get a stick on it unless I know it's going in.
Q: With everything happening so fast, how can you tell when a puck he shoots is going to go in?
A: He only shoots high if he knows it's going to go in. So if it's knee-high or lower, I'll try to tip it. I played baseball until 10th grade, and I think that hand-eye coordination helps.
Q: Is there any danger in your role?
A: Yeah, the last three practices he's hit me in the leg and I have about a foot-long bruise on my thigh.
Q: How are you telling your guys to approach the Maple Grove game?
A: We need to work hard and get better. We need to come in on Thursday ready to play. We want to send a message by going as hard as we can go and win or lose, try to get better.
-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune staff writer