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Lau factor boosts Bengals

02/11/2012, 11:19pm CST
By Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

Blaine sophomore scores winner in final minute to cap comeback against Andover


Blaine sophomore Joey Lau, right, tangles with Andover senior Jake Harmon. Photo by Helen Nelson

Forced to rely on a platoon of sophomores, Blaine has had some growing to do this season.
 
In more ways than one.
 
“Small and weak” is how forward Joey Lau described the Bengals’ early season deficiencies.
 
“But we’ve been doing better, our young guys are doing better,” Lau said.
 
To hear Lau talk, you would think he was a 6-foot-5 senior prone to bodychecking opposing players through the Plexiglass.
 
Wrong. Lau, a sophomore, is one of those “young guys” the Bengals have been relying on. As for “small,” well, Lau is listed on the roster at 5-6, 140 pounds. 
 
“And my dad is about 5-9, 5-10, so there’s not a lot to look forward to,” said Lau, who scored twice in the third period as the Bengals rallied to be Andover 5-4 on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Fogerty Arena in Blaine.
 
On the contrary, there appears to be no ceiling on Lau’s future. Pack a few inches and 20 pounds of muscle on his frame, and who knows where the ultra-quick Lau will be in a few years.
 
“Joe Lau, his skills are just unreal,” Blaine coach Dave Aus said. “I keep saying in two years, when he is a senior, he will be a Mr. Hockey candidate.”

Joey Lau scored twice in a three-goal third period for Blaine. Photo by Helen Nelson

Lau flashed some MVP form on Saturday, slamming home a shot on a power play during the opening minute of the third period then scoring the winner in the final minute.
 
A gifted stickhandler with unmatched quickness, Lau also has a nose for the net. On the game winner, he was stationed just outside the crease the right of the goal when the puck popped free.
 
“I just got rebound,” Lau said. “There was no way I could miss it. I just put it in a wide open net.”
 
Lau said he and fellow sophomore Tyler Cline, who stands 5-6 and weighs 155 pounds, have been linemates since they were Pee Wees. They have recently been joined by Coon Rapids transfer Joe Awaijane, and the line was buzzing in the Huskies’ zone all night.
 
“They are playing with so much more confidence now,” Blaine senior goaltender Nick Malvin said about Cline and Lau, who rank second and third on the Bengals in scoring. “They are flying. They are starting to feed off each other. 
 
“They know what the other one is going to do, and it is helping us out big here at the end of the season.”
 
Just a week ago Blaine was coming off a 9-1 thumping against top-ranked Duluth East. That loss was the fourth in five games for the Bengals (15-8-0).
 
Now, with Saturday’s win over the Huskies, Blaine has won three straight. The Bengals started their week with a 5-2 road win over No. 7-ranked Moorhead. Blaine also beat Anoka 4-1 on Thursday.
 
“I usually get this feeling every year but I’ve been in a panic because usually I get it earlier,” said Aus, who has guided the Bengals to the state tournament for each of the past six years. “On the ride home from Moorhead I got that same kind of anticipation to get going (into the playoffs).”

Andover searching for knockout blow


Andover sophomore Chase Perry made 43 saves in the Huskies' 5-4 loss to Blaine. Photo by Helen Nelson

One of the surprise teams in the state this season, Andover, even with all of its success, has had trouble finishing off top-tier opponents.
 
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Andover coach Mark Manney said after the Huskies (15-6-2) blew a two-goal lead in the third period in a 5-4 loss to Blaine. “We had a three-goal lead on Centennial and we gave it away, we had a two-goal lead on Maple Grove late and we gave it away, we had a two-goal lead the other night on Centennial again and we gave it away.”
 
Blaine’s Joey Lau scored in the opening minute of the third period, and the Bengals dominated play the rest of the way, outshooting the Huskies 23-6.
 
“Were we waiting for something bad to happen to us?” Manney said. “I was looking for signs of that, and I think the answer to that is no.”
 
Andover has just five seniors listed on its roster, and one of them, forward Kyle Gausman, was injured and played just one shift in the third period. Manney said the resulting lineup shuffling might have had more to do with the Huskies’ third-period struggles than nerves.
Defensive breakdowns were a problem, too.
 
“Our weakness, the thing that has bit us all year, is our inability to cover guys in front,” Manney said, referring to Lau’s game-winning goal with 34.3 seconds left. “They exploited it again tonight. Lau is standing there, and he’s a sniper, he’s standing there at the edge of the (crease) all by himself.”

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap


Joey Lau

Sophomore forward Joey Lau scored his second goal of the night with 34.3 seconds remaining to lift Blaine past visiting Andover 5-4 in a Northwest Suburban Conference matchup on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Fogerty Arena in Blaine.
 
Lau ignited a three-goal Blaine outburst in the third when he scored a power-play goal just 49 seconds into the period.
 
Sophomore Tyler Cline, Lau’s longtime linemate, scored with 11:26 left in the third as the Bengals (15-8-0) dominated play in the period. They fired 23 shots on standout Andover sophomore goaltender Chase Perry in the third. Perry faced 48 shots in all.
 
Lau scored he winner into an empty net after a goalmouth scramble left Perry out of position when the puck popped on Lau’s stick.
 
Andover (15-6-2) was in control during the first two periods, leading 2-1 after the first and 4-2 after the second.
 
Junior Calvin Rak scored twice and added an assist for the Huskies, who are having a breakout season and were looking for a rare victory over the rival Bengals and solo possession of second place in the conference. The teams entered the night tied for second in the league standings behind Maple Grove.
 
Blaine goaltender Nick Malvin made 26 saves and faced just six shots in the final period.

1. Joey Lau, Blaine
A sophomore who weighs in at about 140 pounds, Lau’s game is more about quickness and puck savvy than brute force. Lau scored twice in the third period, including the winner in he final minute, as to highlight a stirring Bengals comeback.

Wherever Lau goes, Cline can’t be far behind. These two mighty mites have been linemates for years, and they play a similar style that relies on speed more than muscle. Cline scored a goal and added an assist.
 
A junior who epitomizes the term “power forward,” Rak also has a set of quick hands to go with his big frame. Rak scored twice and hand numerous other scoring chances while routinely crashing the net. Rak leads the Huskies in goals with 22 and points with 40.

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Micah Miller leaps to the fans after scoring the game winner.

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Moorhead's Jack Stetz (21) throws his arms up as he and his teammates celebrated the win. ] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com

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