Hill-Murray poses for its Section 4AA championship photo after beating Roseville 3-2 at that State Fairgrounds Coliseum. Photo by Helen Nelson
Roseville goalie Zach Larson slides over to block a shot from Hill-Murray's Zach Lavalle (21). Photo by Helen Nelson
The contrast in styles was readily apparent.
No. 9-ranked and top-seeded Hill-Murray flew around the ice, flipping saucer passes and stickhandling with ease in tight spaces.
Roseville played with more restraint, locking up in its defensive zone, playing with physicality, strength and its trademark stifling defense.
The strategies led to a chess match between the two squads in Hill-Murray’s 3-2 victory in the Section 4AA championship on Friday, March 2, at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum in St. Paul.
The Pioneers appeared to have the upper hand while peppering Roseville goaltender Zach Larson, but every time they had a real chance, there was always a Raider in the way to block the shot, poke it off a Pioneers’ stick, or get in the way at the last second.
“Well, we played pretty well in the ‘D’ zone,” Roseville coach Jeff Pauletti said. “One of our big things was to limit their inside presence and keep everything to the rail, I thought we did a pretty good job.
“Our defenseman all year have been trained to play the body and play through hands, and I think they did a really nice job of that, I can’t credit my ‘D’ corps enough.”
Hill-Murray senior forward Charlie Sampair.
Still, Hill-Murray kept working and waiting until its wealth of skill eventually broke through the silver and black wall stuck over the Roseville net.
“It’s just we’d make the right play and be one pass short. They just got at sticks and everything,” Hill-Murray junior forward Jake Guentzel said. “We had to overcome that, I’m happy that our team did that.”
After a fluky goal from junior Blake Heinrich in the first, 'Mr. Hockey' candidate Charlie Sampair finally showed off the offensive flair that had been absent throughout the game.
Sampair dished it to his cousin Conrad Sampair from dot-to-dot across the ice heading into the zone. Conrad quickly sent it right back his way through defenders to Charlie, who was able to tip it right in. All of the sudden the Raiders' shell was broken.
“Right at the beginning I thought I had it working, feeling my moves were working,” Sampair said. “They started clogging it up and that’s when you gotta move the puck, keep it simple you know.”
“I just busted to the net, my cousin found me, Great play, great relief.”
In the third period, the Pioneers finally earned some breathing room when Jake Guentzel scored Hill-Murray’s third goal of the game, propelling them to a state tournament berth.
The final shot total was 37-21 in favor of Hill-Murray.
“Definitely the shots show, I think we should’ve beat 'em by more,” Sampair said. “That goalie played great, I think they played a hell of a game, but when we get to state we got to bury our chances, we really gotta take advantage of our opportunities.”
-- Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff
Pioneers' senior forward Charlie Sampair (14). Photo by Helen Nelson
1. Charlie Sampair, Hill-Murray
One of 10 finalists for the Mr. Hockey award given annually to the state's top senior skater, Sampair scored on a gorgeous passing play with his brother Conrad and used his turbo-boost speed to create numerous other scoring chances. Is there player in the state with better wheels? Doubtful.