Mound-Westonka forward Jeremy Schulz (No. 22) can only watch as Breck senior forward Wesley Iverson (No. 26) beats White Hawks' goaltender David Engel (No. 1) in the first period of the Section 2A semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Photo by Jon Laqua
Knowing that its top rival, Blake, had already advanced to the Section 2A championship, Breck clearly wanted to send a message heading into its semifinal matchup against Mound-Westonka.
Mission accomplished as the Mustangs scored six goals in the first period and added two more -- one in each of the second and third periods -- as Breck defeated the White Hawks, 8-2, on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
“We tell our guys, ‘let's start right away, play the best the best that we can right away, kill their will, show them who they're playing against, don't let them get comfortable, tell them who you are (in) the first five minutes,’” Breck coach Les Larson said. “I thought we pretty opportunistic tonight. There have been times where we've had that many chances and we've only scored a couple goals rather than four or five.
“Now's the time to do that I guess.”
It’s an attitude shared by the coaching staff down to the players.
“We know if we play our game we can do whatever we want,” Breck senior forward Welsey Iverson said. “We wanted to go out there and get a quick one and shut up their fans because we knew that they were going to be a big factor in the game if they would have got the first one.
“I've been excited for this game since I watched them play. I've been anticipating playing them and then I dunno what got into me. I started skating around and felt pretty good. I have a new stick so I knew I was just going to shoot the puck and everything was going my way.”
Another factor may have played into Breck’s motivation.
“We had a little struggle last year because we kind of let it go to out heads,” Iverson said. “So this year, we're just going through one game at a time just doing the best we can. Trying to bury teams and scare other teams. We're just playing our game and it seems to be working out pretty well for us.”
Things definitely clicked for Iverson who scored a hat trick in the first period alone much to the happiness of his coaches.
“Wes (Iverson) has figured it out,” Larson said. “He's finally figured out what he needs. He's got the talent but a lot of it is mental and you got to be ready and you got to stay out of the box and he's playing real well right now. He's worked hard all year.”
Iverson also had an assist on a first period goal by his teammate and linemate, Keegan.
“Who was going to get in the was of that?” Larson said of the Welsey and Keegan Iverson connection. “Brothers on the same team? And you can put them on the same line? I mean who would not do that? You would have to be The Grinch to separate them. They play really well together.”
However with no time to dwell on the victory, Larson and Breck knows that it’s back to work if the Mustangs want to play in the state tournament.
“We have one more step to go and we need to have a great practice; we've already talked about that after the game,” Larson said. “We didn't play a perfect game tonight so we need to play better. We're going to have a great practice tomorrow and then we gotta go get that game Thursday. We can't wait around, it's not going to come to us, what we did in the past doesn't matter. We gotta go get the game.”
Yet even though Breck has faced and handled Blake twice already this season, the Mustangs are not over looking their opponent and are excited as ever to play the Bears.
“Of course,” Welsey said. “Whenever we can play Blake, we want to play Blake. It doesn't matter who's in our section, we want to play Blake. It's going to be a great game. I'm excited for it, they're excited for it, it'll be a good game.
“We're just going to do the same thing we've been doing. Staying calm, not over-thinking anything, going out there and playing our game. It will all work out for us if we do that.”
Even the coaches are excited for the game.
“You can throw everything out -- it's down to one game,” Larson said. “We're both even and what matters is how you play Thursday night.”
After losing to Breck in the Section 2A semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 28, Mound-Westonka coach Doug Runke took some time to speak with the MN Hockey Hub about the game, Breck and next season.
Question: What did you say to the boys in the locker room?
Answer: Well we just tried to look back at the season and the positive season. Obviously things got out of hand early out there that that made it tough to keep fighting in this one.
Q: What was the preparation like going into this one?
A: I thought we had a couple good practices leading up and the attitude was good. They knew they had to play a disciplined, smart game and I'm afraid that maybe they were thinking too much -- position wise -- and that got us standing around more than we need to do. We had to stay disciplined within the system and work on turnovers. The hard thing about Breck is where you make a mistake a lot of teams turn it into a scoring opportunity; we make a mistake against Breck they turn it into a goal. You turn the puck over and it's in your net before you know it.
Q: Talk about the play of junior goaltender Andy Seats.
A: Andy came in tough. The thing about those two is that they knew it was a battle and a fight the whole way through. So they know that if they're not quite on their game, the other guy is ready to come in. That's the good thing. It's tough when you don't get the start and you're fighting for it. In the last regular season game, we actually we actually pulled Andy and put in David and he showed up and responded. Tonight, we pulled David and put in Andy and Andy responded and was ready to come in.
Q: What are some of the things from tonight that you can take to next year?
A: We've had good teams and we're kind of on the verge, we're on the cusp. That focus you need to have throughout the regular season into the playoffs where you can't take games off, you can't take shifts off. When it comes to the end of the season, you look back on the games and say 'well there's an OT-loss that we should have had' or 'there's a game we didn't show up right away' or 'that's one we got caught in the first period' and trying to learn through that the process that it's got to be that focus the whole way through. You can't necessarily win a game in the first period but you can definitely lose in the first period. So coming out ready to play every single shift because goes quick. I mean, 25 games seems like a lot of games and they fly by the crazy and you look back afterwards saying 'what if that', 'what if that/ so hopefully that's a learning process that kids continue to learn and be in focus throughout the year.
Q: It was nice to see Mound-Westonka not getting chippy or fans getting violent towards the end of the game. Could you please touch on the classy finish?
A: We always start out the season; we talk to the guys about character and attitude from the start. I like the way our guys responded with that. We took a couple penalties but they weren't cheap penalties or anything like that. They kept playing hard and playing focused. I have to give my hat off to the fans -- not many teams when (they're) down six goals at the first period (would even) have half (their) fans. They stuck it out to the end, kept cheering the whole way through and kept it positive too. Real credit to the kids at Mound-Westonka high school for keeping it classy the whole time.
1. Wesley Iverson, Breck
Amped up physical and offensive play as well as some early adrenaline may have fueled Iverson's dominant first period. The senior forward registered a hat trick in a seven minute, 23 second timespan and also assisted on the first period goal by his brother, Keegan.
2. Keegan Iverson, Breck
Speaking of Keegan, a year ago he played defense as an eighth grader. This season, he's playing forward with his brother Wesley and the sibling-connection is apparent. Keegan assisted on Wesley's first goal and also scored on a pass from his older brother.
3. Andy Seats, Mound-Westonka
When you're brought in to replace the starting goaltender you have one job: stop the bleeding. Though not able to anchor the White Hawks to a comeback victory, Seats only surrendered two goals and finished with 22 saves -- several of which came on Breck power plays or close-range chances.