With the holidays come plenty of perks: presents, an abundance of food, Christmas cheer, and of course, holiday hockey tournaments. Unfortunately, the winter season also brings some not-so-sought-after gifts.
Wayzata's starting goaltender Vaughn Ahrens suffered from the flu over the holiday break, missing the quarterfinal and semifinal games of the Sports Authority Holiday Hockey Classic. Ahrens was cleared to play hours before Saturday's high-stakes championship.
"My goalie coach told me, 'Even when you're playing sick, that dulls your mind a bit and takes away from all the distractions' " Ahrens said.
Ahrens, along with No. 7 Wayzata's stout defense, brought No. 3 Blaine's high-powered offense to a halt in a 4-0 win at the St. Louis Park Rec Center. Ahrens stopped all 20 shots he faced, holding the Bengals scoreless for the first time this season.
"This is a great tournament for our team, last year it put us in the right direction and we are hoping this year is the same," Ahrens said. "It's all about the blocked shots and being in the lanes; our guys do a great job of that and got the job done tonight."
Jack Sorensen struck just 48 seconds into the game. Coming down the left side of the zone, Sorensen centered the puck to Matthew Freytag. The puck caromed off Blaine defenseman Alex Copa's stick as Bengals goalie Bailey Ketola slid across the crease. The puck eventually crawled between Ketola's legs and into the net. Sorensen found Freytag flying into the zone for a score of his own in the second period, and each finished with a goal and an assist.
Blaine opened the third period down 2-0 but on the power play but couldn't solve Ahrens. The Trojans' defenders used their sticks like spears, fending off any attacking puck or carrier around the net.
"Don't give them any second-chance opportunities," Wayzata coach Pat O'Leary said about his team's strategy. "Especially with Blaine, they have so much firepower."
Alex Stevens was a human shield, blocking shots even on the power play. Stevens rewarded himself by stepping in the neutral zone for a free puck, then cutting in at the hash marks to snipe top right over Ketola. Stevens' goal put the Trojans up 3-0 halfway through the final period, silencing any comeback the Bengals could plot.
"We played a good tournament," said O'Leary. "We took every game one at a time because we haven't had a winning streak like this yet. It was nice to get three good wins against three good teams."
-- Trevor Squire