Wayzata earns a long awaited trip to the state tournament with a 5-2 victory over Benilde-St. Margaret's in the section 6AA final. Photo by Brian Nelson
His postgame television commitments now complete, Wayzata coach Pat O’Leary was momentarily done with the interviews.
Time to give a speech.
He entered the Trojans’ locker room with a resounding “whooo hooo!” After that, well, what else needed to be said?
“I didn’t even know what to say in there really,” the second-year coach said after his Trojans beat the defending state Class 2A champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s 5-2 on Wednesday, Feb. 27, in the Section 6AA championship game at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. “I just said I’m very proud of them.”
Might as well keep it simple. That approach has worked for O’Leary and Wayzata all season.
The Trojans are a defense-first, shot-blocking team anchored by the superb goaltending of senior Aaron Dingmann. The offense is balanced and opportunistic. There’s not much more to the formula than that other than an unmistakable element of grittiness.
Please refer to Jalen Wahl as Exhibit A of that trait.
The senior forward walked off the ice with a huge bandage affixed to his head. It was removed to reveal a nasty looking gash and bruise next to his left eye, the wound coming from an early game collision with hulking Benilde-St. Margaret’s forward Seth Chumley.
“I was trying to get it deep and dump it in, and Chumley just came in and killed me,” Wahl said. “I didn’t really see him come in, and my face just went right against the boards. My cage came in and got me.
“And it got my nose, too. And my pinky is kind of messed up. I can’t really feel it yet.”
It only seemed appropriate that Wahl would score a momentum-switching second-period goal that tied the score at 2. Wahl was crashing the net when a shot ricocheted in off his shin pad.
“Whatever it takes,” he said with a smile.
Ultimately, it took a shutdown defensive effort against one of the state’s prolific scoring lines in state history.
Wayzata held Benilde-St. Margaret’s top line of seniors Grant Besse, T.J. Moore and Dan Labosky without a point. That trio had accounted for 198 points this season entering Wednesday night. Labosky is the state’s assist leader with 58 and Besse’s 163 career goals is the fifth most in state history. Moore, the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League’s scoring leader last fall, had scored twice in each of the Red Knights’ previous two playoff games.
Dingmann dove to stop a Labosky breakaway chance early in the third period, but beyond that there were precious few prime scoring opportunities for the Benilde-St. Margaret’s trio.
“That was a huge accomplishment,” Wahl said. “We had written on our board at our home rink, it was three players versus 20 Trojans.”
Stop the Red Knights’ top line, and you stop the Red Knights. That’s been every team’s strategy for the last three seasons. Easy to write on a white board. Difficult to execute on the ice.
“Our team defense tonight was second to none,” Dingmann said. “It was one of the best performances I’ve seen all year.”
Wayzata’s suffocating defense certainly contributed to what Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Ken Pauly described as a rare off night for Benilde-St. Margaret’s top line.
“Wayzata plays tough, and they were just off a click,” Pauly said. “It was a bad time to be snakebit."
Wayzata upset defending state champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s 4-2 in the Section 6AA championship game on Wednesday night at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
The No. 8-ranked Trojans (21-7-0) return to the state tournament for the first time since 2004.
No. 2-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the section's top seed, built leads of 1-0 and 2-1 through the first two periods on goals from sophomore right wing Chase Jungels. Third-seeded Wayzata drew even each time on a power-play goal from Kyle Olson and a goal from Jalen Wahl.
Chandler Lindstrand gave the Trojans their first lead at 3-2 with a goal at 8:29 of the second period.
Goals from Chase Haller and Matthew Freytag bumped the Trojans’ lead to 5-2 in the third period. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (22-6-0) had its 10-game winning streak snapped. The teams split their regular season meetings.
1. Chandler Lindstrand, Wayzata
Five players scored, and nine players had assists, a testament to the team effort required to beat the defending state champions. But someone has to be the first star, and Lindstrand, a junior defenseman, was one of just two Trojans with both a goal and an assist. His blast from the point midway through the second period proved to be the game winner. And let’s not forget about the stellar defensive play that held the Red Knights’ top line, one of the highest scoring in state history, without a point.
2. Aaron Dingmann, Wayzata
The senior goaltender made 28 saves and, after an early soft goal on a long-range shot by Chase Jungels, was flawless in the third period when the Red Knights desperately tried to climb back into the game. Dingmann’s diving save on a partial breakaway by Dan Labosky early in the third period was a game changer.
Benilde-St. Margaret's forward Grant Besse sends Wayzata defenseman Alex Hemenway flying against the boards. Photo by Brian Nelson