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Senior Christian Horn scored twice to help lead Benilde-St. Margaret's to a 5-0 victory over Robbinsdale Armstrong in the Section 6AA semifinals. Photo by Helen Nelson

It was a rough night for Grant Besse and linemates T.J. Moore and Dan Labosky.
 
Most noticable was the struggles of Besse, who clearly was off his considerable game by just a fraction.
 
The Benilde-St. Margaret’s forward, a junior who has 41 goals and ranks among the state scoring leaders with 81 points, was stuffed on a several quality scoring chances, whiffed on a shot while on a breakaway and, in the final few minutes, failed to deposit the puck in an open net after Robbinsdale Armstrong had pulled its goaltender in favor of an extra skater.
 
“They just were snakebit, as was evident with Besse hitting the crossbar on an open net,” Red Knights coach Ken Pauly said with a smile. “Which is harder to do. I told him that. I said it is harder to hit the pipe on an open net than the open net.”
 
No worries.
 
No. 3 seed Benilde-St. Margaret’s proved it is not a one-line team in beating No. 7 Robbinsdale Armstrong 5-0 in the Section 6AA semifinals on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Bloomington Ice Garden.

Benilde-St. Margaret's defenseman Jake Horton, left, applies pressure on Robbinsdale Armstrong's Kristian Evans. Photo by Helen Nelson

Senior forward Christian Horn scored twice, sophomore forward Zach Hale scored his third goal of the season and junior defenseman Patrick Graham scored his second goal of the season to help power Red Knights (21-6-0) into the Section 6AA championship game against top-seeded and No. 2 state-ranked Minnetonka at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
 
“The no-name guys stepped up tonight, and it was nice,” Graham said. “It was nice to get goals from other guys.”
 
Horn, with 61 points this season and 199 for his career, is hardly a no-namer. But he had drifted out of the spotlight in recent weeks as Besse took his goal-scoring feats to uncharted heights.
 
There was no ducking from the limelight against Armstrong. Horn grew up in the Robbinsdale area playing youth hockey with most of the Falcons (8-18-1). At one point, the large and loud Armstrong student section erupted with a “He’s a traitor” chant aimed at Horn.
 
“I know all the kids on their team,” Horn said. “It’s bittersweet, because I grew up with them. But now we get to play at Mariucci and that’s been our goal all year.”
  
Horn likes the Red Knights’ chances against any team if they can continue to get scoring from unlikely sources such as Hale and Graham.
 
“That’s what you kind of need to keep moving on and make it to (the state tournament in) St. Paul,” Horn said. “You need everyone on your team contributing. 
 
“Zack is a sophomore in his first year of varsity, and that was huge for us. That was Graham’s second goal of the year but it was probably the biggest one of his life.”
 
Graham’s goal came 6:01 into the second period on a low wrist shot from the point. Just as he fired the puck, a mass of sticks and skates and bodies in front of the goal shifted just enough for the puck to skid past the traffic jam and to the right of Robbinsdale Armstrong goaltender Michael Greenberg.
 
“The guys give me crap for shooting low,” said Graham, who averages more than 21 minutes of ice time per game, second most on the Red Knights, “but this one counts.”
 
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

Benilde-St. Margaret's players mob goaltender Justin Quale after beating Robbinsdale Armstrong to reach the Section 6AA championship game. Photo by Helen Nelson

Armstrong proves it can compete with state's best

Surprising? My goodness, yes.
 
A fluke? Hardly.
 
No. 9 seed Robbinsdale Armstrong’s follow up to its shocking Section 6AA quarterfinal victory over defending state Class 2A champion Eden Prairie, the No. 2 seed, wasn’t another smash hit.
 
But the upstart Falcons showed in their 5-0 section semifinal loss to No. 3 seed Benilde-St. Margaret’s that they have all the components required to beat most any team.
 
Armstrong, which won seven regular season games, trailed just 1-0 after the first period and 3-0 heading into the third. The Falcons had a goal disallowed late in the opening period that would have tied the score at 1.

Robbinsdale Armstrong coach Todd Weisjahn.

“The fact is, what Armstrong did against Eden Prairie was not a fluke,” Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Ken Pauly said about the Falcons’ 2-1 victory Thursday that had the state buzzing. “They have a great goalie. Those kids play hard. They are big and physical. 
 
“Truth is, if that net hadn’t been off and they wouldn’t have had that goal disallowed, it could have been a different ballgame.”
 
Armstrong senior goaltender Michael Greenberg was brilliant in beating Eden Prairie and rock solid again against the Red Knights. He repeatedly stuffed one of the state’s great goal scorers in Benilde-St. Margaret’s junior Grant Besse during his 34-save performance.
 
“Michael has played every game for us the last two years,” said Armstrong coach Todd Weisjahn, who has so much faith in Greenberg he typically doesn’t dress a backup goaltender. “He has been the reason why we can stay in games and be where we are at. We’re going to miss him tremendously next year.”
 
A huge contingent of Robbinsdale Armstrong fans almost filled one side of the Bloomington Ice Garden’s bleachers. Falcons fans were buzzing in the early stages as the teams traded scoring chances.
 
“Looking up in the stands, there were students, parents, alumni,” Weisjahn said. “I told our kids they did something on Thursday night that kind of re-energized our community and our school, and that’s something they can be real proud of.”

Robbinsdale Armstrong goaltender Michael Greenberg makes a save on a breakaway attempt by Benilde-St. Margaret's forward Grant Besse. Photo by Helen Nelson

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap


Christian Horn

Senior Christian Horn, playing against his former youth hockey teammates, scored twice to lead No. 3 seed Benilde-St. Magaret’s past No. 7 seed Robbinsdale Armstrong 5-0 in the semifinals of the Section 6AA playoffs on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Bloomington Ice Garden.
 
Robbinsdale Armstrong, which engineered the biggest upset in the the state playoffs so far on Thursday when it stunned No. 2 seed and defending state Class 2A champion Eden Prairie 2-1, proved its victory over the Eagles was no fluke by giving the No. 6 state-ranked Red Knights (21-6-0) all they could handle in the first period.
 
Benilde-St. Margaret’s sophomore Zach Hale scored the only goal of the first period with 7 minutes, 56 seconds remaining on a quick shot from the slot. 
 
Robbinsdale Armstrong (8-18-1) outshot the Red Knights 10-7 in the first period and came inches away from scoring the first goal. The Falcons’ Ben Hansen did, in fact, fire the puck in the goal with 4:18 left in the first only to have the goal disallowed because the net was off its moorings.
 
Junior defenseman Patrick Graham scored his second goal of the season on a low shot through traffic in the second period, and Horn scored the first of his two goals to put the Red Knights ahead 3-0 heading into the third.
 
Horn scored again early in the third to make it 4-0, and T.J. Moore added an empty net goal with less than 2 minutes remaining.
 
Robbinsdale Armstrong senior Michael Greenberg made 30 saves, many of them safely categorized in the spectacular variety, as he closed out his career.
 
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

Robbinsdale Armstrong senior Michael Greenberg kept the Falcons close through most of two periods with his stellar play against Benilde-St. Margaret's. Photo by Helen Nelson

1.  Christian Horn, Benilde-St. Margaret's
Consistently a threat in the offensive end, Horn scored twice and powered the Red Knights' offense.  Worth noting was the contrast between his two goals as Horn displayed his scoring ability.  The senior forward's first was a pretty one -- going off the left post and in -- and his second goal was a dirty one as Horn punched in a loose puck on the crease.

2.  Patrick Graham, Benilde-St. Margaret's
His goal in the second period got things going for the Red Knights and his play in the defensive end kept Armstrong off the scoreboard. The junior defenseman was a force at both ends of the ice.

3.  Michael Greenberg, Robbinsdale Armstrong
Greenberg delivered yet another solid showing, making 30 saves and surrendering four goals against a dangerous Red Knights' offense (Benilde-St. Margaret's fifth goal was scored on an empty net). The senior made the most of his last career varsity game, which followed his 49-save performance on Thursday, Feb. 23, in a stunning 2-1 upset over defending Class 2A champion Eden Prairie.

-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff

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