Breck head coach Les Larson waited five shootout rounds to send out his senior captain, Carter Breitenfeldt, to attempt a game-winning goal against St. Michael-Albertville in the Schwan Cup Silver Division championship.
Larson said decision to wait on Breitenfeldt, the Mustang’s third-leading scorer, was based on gut instinct.
“We just went with some other guys first,” he said. “And some of them were unlikely guys, but we just had a feeling about them.”
Breitenfeldt presented a more logical reason for his late appearance.
“I’m like 1 for 10 on breakaways this year,” he said. “That’s kind of sad, but when it came down to it, I was hoping to put one away.”
After five straight misses for Breck, the senior was called upon and converted. Seeing room on goalie Kyle Hayden’s blocker side, Breitenfeldt fired a low wrist shot past him to give Breck the tournament championship.
“I wish we would have scored a little bit quicker in the shootout,” Larson said. “We actually practice those things every couple weeks just for comic relief.”
It was the fourth meeting between Breck (6-3-1, 1-0) and St. Michael-Albertville (8-1-1, 1-1) in two years. Earlier this month, the Knights fought back from a 3-1 deficit in the third period to beat Breck 5-3.
The third period had been a strength all season for St. Michael-Albertville — the Knights entered Saturday’s contest outscoring opponents 23-2 in the third — but the Mustangs, after falling behind 2-1, got a power play with a little more than four minutes to play.
“We had to move the puck,” Larson said. “I told them, ‘Let’s go steal one , even it up here and then steal the whole game.’”
Breitenfeldt pounded home a rebound eight seconds into the man-advantage to tie the game at 2-2. The tie would hold until overtime. Breitenfeldt also scored Breck’s first goal, just 38 seconds into the game. Finishing games, with late third-period goals, was exactly what Breck learned to do after a few close losses.
“You have to be ready for every game,” Breitenfeldt said. “(In the previous game against the Knights) we came out hard and coasted. You can’t do that with any team.”
Both teams pride themselves on speed, and that was on full display Saturday afternoon. After Friday’s 8-0 semifinal rout of Mounds View, St. Michale-Albertville coach Jerremiah Johnson was confident in his team’s ability to stay with Breck — especially on the smaller sheet of ice at Ridder Arena. (Schwan Super Rink has Olympic ice sheets, which are 15 feet wider.)
At times, however, St. Michael-Albertvilleat struggled to get pucks deep against a stingy Breck defense. Each team had its own momentum shifts, but the third game in a three-day stretch took a toll on both teams — something most evident in the overtime period.
“I looked at both teams, and we were both gassed at times,” Johnson said after Saturday’s championship.
Even running four lines, the physical toll of three straight games got to them. “You don’t normally play like that,” Johnson said.
But Breck, as Larson likes to say, stayed the course. They forechecked hard, avoided costly turnovers and fought their way to overtime. His captain reiterated the message.
“They were chirping and using speed, but we put down our head and used ours,” Breitenfeldt said. “We stayed the course.”
St. Michael/Albertville's Kyle Hayden registered 29 saves during regulation play. Photo by Cheryl Myers, SportsEngine
Carter Breitenfeldt scored twice and and converted on his shootout opportunity to help Breck (6-3-1, 1-0) win the Schwan Cup Silver Division championship over St. Michael-Albertville (8-1-1, 1-1).
The third period ended with a 2-2 tie and neither team could muster an overtime goal, but Breitenfeldt finally converted on the 12th shootout chance of the afternoon. Neither team converted through the first five rounds of the shootout.
Breck, ranked No. 4 in Class 1A by the state coaches' poll, took an early lead just 38 seconds into the contest when Breitenfeldt tipped a shot from the point to himself and scored. The No. 16-2A Knights’ tying goal would come at the 7:18 mark of the second period. Defenseman Garrett Sandberg fired a wrist shot that bounced off both posts before crossing the goal line.
Third period play had been a strength for St. Michael-Albertville this year —the Knights entered Saturday’s contest outscoring opponents 23-2 in the third— but each team scored once in the final period, setting up overtime.
Kyle Hayden finished with 29 saves for the Knights and Linden Olness of Breck stopped 28 shots.
Breck's Carter Breitenfeldt celebrates his shoot out goal. Photo by Cheryl Myers, SportsEngine
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