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Wesley Iverson (26) crashes the net for the sixth Breck goal in a 7-0 victory over Duluth Marshall in the Class A quarterfinals. Photo by Helen Nelson.

Matt Colford saw the sign.

“No. 23, Score For Me!”

Colford, a Breck junior forward, said it might have been his little sister, 7-year-old Molly, waving the oversized, encouraging words. Or possibly his cousin.

Hard for him to know for sure. He did, after all, have a game to play.

And a goal to score.

Oh, what a goal it was.

Colford’s self-described “slip move” through and around Duluth Marshall defenseman Zach Isaacson and following upper-corner rocket was described, alternately, as a backbreaker and a beauty by Duluth Marshall coach Brendan Flaherty and Breck coach Les Larson.

Both words adequately summarize Colford’s second-period goal that sparked the No. 3-seeded and No. 3-state ranked Mustangs (25-3-1) to a 7-0 victory over the No. 6-ranked Hilltoppers (21-8-0) in the quarterfinals of the state Class 1A tournament on Wednesday, March 7, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.


Breck's Matt Colford (23) scores the third goal of the game. Photo by Helen Nelson.

With Breck leading 2-0 in the second period, Duluth Marshall’s Judd Peterson and Matt Klassen each missed on breakaway attempts. The Hilltoppers were showing signs of climbing back into the game.

Then Colford fulfilled the handwritten request staring at him from the bleachers. And buried a dagger in the process.

“Is that the one where our defenseman went down and their kid went right around him?” Flaherty said when asked about Colford’s goal. “The kid popped it in the upper corner.”

Colford’s shot, over the catching glove of Hilltoppers’ poke-check-minded goaltender Christian Coffman, was no doubt gorgeous. But the slip move around  Isaacson, who dropped to one knee in an attempt to steal the puck, was the YouTube clincher.

Colford, who entered the state tournament ranked fifth on the Mustangs in scoring with 19 goals and 37 assists, said he works on the move with teammate Grant Opperman before games. It wasn’t the first time has tried it in a game.

“It’s been a move that has been working for me, and I try to go to it when I see the chance,” Colford said.

The timing of the goal, combined with its shinny hockey flair, effectively vacuumed any momentum the Hilltoppers had built.

Opperman scored in the final minute of the second to put Breck ahead 4-0 and the rout was on. Colford added another goal and notched an assist in the third.

“No. 23 has become a very good player for us,” Larson said. “He’s a center, and the center in our scheme is very important.

“So yeah, that was a huge goal.”

-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

Ch-ch-ch-chances


Duluth Marshall's Anthony Miller (15) gets sent for a tumble in front of the Breck net. The Hilltoppers were shut out for the first time this season. Photo by Helen Nelson.

Judd Peterson isn’t likely to forget his state tournament debut anytime soon.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be because of all the wrong reasons.

Peterson and his Duluth Marshall teammates dug themselves an early hole by getting into penalty trouble, then missed out on numerous scoring chances before No. 3-seeded Breck ran away in the second Class 1A quarterfinal of the afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

“I thought we were outplaying them for a while [in the second period], thought we were going to pop one in,” said Peterson, who leads the Hilltoppers with 41 goals. “Our power play was looking good, getting a lot of shots, but like coach was saying, the penalties…”

Yes, the penalties.

The Hilltoppers were guilty of two infractions before the 10-minute mark of the first, giving the Mustangs and their high-powered offense extra room to operate.

Thomas Lindstrom scored just before a Luke Pavelich hooking minor expired to get the scoring started, then Conor Andrle built a 2-0 lead when Duluth Marshall defenseman Jake Bushey was sitting for the same infraction.

That’s not exactly the start head coach Brendan Flaherty had in mind.

“We weren’t working our game plan very well early, and we got down 2-0,” Flaherty said following the game. “We wanted to stay out of the box and wanted to get pucks deep. We didn’t do that. As a result, we started taking penalties.

“That was not the game plan.”

However, Duluth Marshall found a way to get back to its game plan in the second period, and it benefited with quality scoring chances of its own.

A late first-period power play was followed by a quick man-advantage to start the middle period. The Hilltoppers worked the puck around the zone and fired away at Breck goalie Jack Kenney.

Nothing went in.

Peterson had a handful of good looks at the net, including a backhanded try from the bottom of the circle.

The puck flipped up on edge. Peterson missed the net.

Matt Klassen had a breakaway midway through the period. He loaded up, fired and bounced the puck high and off the end wall.

“We had breakaways, and we typically bury those,” Flaherty said. “We had a few chances that we caused, and several good opportunities. We thought we’d score on this team.”

In the end, the Hilltoppers didn’t.

-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub

Kenney bounces back


Jack Kenney (37) rebounded from a tough Section 2A final with an 18-save shutout of Duluth Marshall in the Class A quarterfinals. Photo by Helen Nelson.

As if the emotions of an adolescent aren’t enough of a mixed bag, toss in high-pressured athletics and it can be a bit of a train wreck.

Breck goaltender Jack Kenney felt the business end of it a week ago. The senior was pulled in the third period of the Class 1A, Section 2 championship game after allowing five goals on 17 shots in an eventual overtime victory for the Mustangs.

Given a chance at redemption Wednesday, Kenney stopped all 18 shots Duluth Marshall threw at him in the state quarterfinals, preserving a 7-0 shutout for the tournament’s No. 3 seed.

“It feels pretty good to bounce back,” said Kenney, who upped his record to 19-3-1. “The goalie coach just told me to relax and just play and everything will take care of itself. And I think that went for the team today, too. A lot of the guys just took it easy.”

Well, for the most part. Kenney admitted he was nervous to start.

“I don’t know if you saw, but I took a spill like 30 seconds into the game,” he said, drawing a muffled snicker from nearby teammates. “Luckily, the puck was in their zone. After that I settled in and played pretty well.”

Especially in the second period, when he denied a pair of scoring chances by the Hilltoppers just outside of the goal mouth.

“He’s our guy, we’re sticking with him,” Breck coach Les Larson said. “We love him. We’re not trading him. There’s a little bit of a blip on the screen that is ancient history.”

Six Mustangs’ players accounted for the scoring, with Matt Colford netting a pair of goals.

-- Brian Stensaas, Star Tribune

Statistics, Summary

Game recap

Four consecutive goals through two periods put No. 3 seed Breck ahead to stay in a 7-0 victory against Duluth Marshall in Wednesday¹s second Class 1A state tournament quarterfinal game.

Thomas Lindstrom opened the scoring at 3:27 of the first period with a power-play goal. He later assisted on Conor Andrle¹s power-play goal at 10:55.

The Mustangs went on the man-advantage again in the second period and cashed in with a goal from Matt Colford at 9:48. Grant Opperman, one of 10 Mr. Hockey finalists, made it 4-0 on a wrap-around backhand goal with less than a minute remaining in the second period.

Colford added a second goal in the third period. Mustangs goalie Jack Kenney stopped all 18 shots he faced.

Breck advances to play No. 2 seed St. Thomas Academy in a rematch of a Jan. 21 game won by the Cadets 3-2 in overtime.

-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune

1. Matt Colford, Breck
Colford showed off for the Mustangs, especially when he scored a dazzling second-period goal that deserved having ESPN's “SportsCenter” theme played afterwards. He also scored in the third period when he pounced on a rebound. His three points give him 59 on the season (21 goals, 38 assists).

2. Grant Opperman, Breck
The Mr. Hockey finalist had a goal and two assists, including a beautiful saucer pass across the rink to Thomas Lindstrom, who scored the Mustangs' second goal. Opperman, who has committed to play at Dartmouth, has 76 points this season on 32 goals and 44 assists.

3. Jack Kenney, Breck
After getting pulled in the Mustang’s 7-5 victory over Blake in the Section 2A final, Kenney bounced back by stopping 18 shots and earning his fifth shutout of the season. "He’s our guy, we’re sticking with him," Breck coach Les Larson quipped after the game. "We love him and we’re not trading him, how’s that?"

-- Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff

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