After being checked by Hill-Murray's Zach Mills (14), Minnetonka's AJ Klein (18) still manages to pass the puck in midair. Photo by Katherine Matthews
An overaggressive Dusty Krueger made a big mistake. Boarding was the call after he slammed into a Minnetonka player right in front of the Hill-Murray bench.
“I saw his face actually, right after I did it,” Krueger, a senior forward said Friday after No. 1-ranked Hill-Murray’s 5-3 win over Minnetonka in the Schwan Cup Gold Division semifinals at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. “The first thing I saw when I looked up was Coach Lechner.”
That can be a scary sight. Lechner, an icon among state coaches who is in his 17th season, was not pleased. Not at all.
“Oh, he had a talk with me a little bit,” Krueger said. “He was just telling me, ‘Use your head, be smart. There is a difference between being tough and taking stupid penalties.’ ”
As Krueger sat in the penalty box, dreading the idea of a Minnetonka power-play goal or two or more, he saw his Pioneers teammates generating a series of quality chances. There were breakaways and odd-man rushes and all manner of Hill-Murray forays to the Skippers’ goal.
“Unfortunately, our power play has been pretty nonexistent this year, and it actually hurt us tonight,” Minnetonka coach Brian Urick said. “We had seven minutes of power play time in that second period, and we were minus-1.”
That minus is a disheartened nod to Hill-Murray’s shorthanded goal in the second period. The goal scorer? But of course, it had to be Krueger.
“He made amends,” Lechner said.
Krueger, back on the ice after serving his major, and Joey Anderson were deep in the Minnetonka end, banging bodies and moving the puck, when Anderson fed Krueger, who popped in his own rebound. That goal put undefeated Hill-Murray (9-0-0) ahead 3-1.
“For sure you get confidence when you get opportunities on the penalty kill,” said Krueger, whose goal was his fifth of the season. “It just shows that you are a good team, and you can play with them even when you are a man short.”
Freshman Joey Anderson, who has committed to play at Minnesota-Duluth, added two goals and two assists for the Pioneers. John Schuldt scored twice for Minnetonka (5-5-0), which returned no varsity regulars from last season but did manage to pull within a goal of Hill-Murray in the late stages of the third.
“We have a long way to go, but you know, we are still pulling it off,” Lechner said about the state of his Pioneers. “We’re finding a way. When teams starting getting close, we seem to find a way to get another goal.”
-- Loren Nelson