Christian Horn of Benilde-St. Margaret's, right, scored in the third period for Minnesota Red in the championship game of the Bauer National Invitational Tournament. Photo by Helen Nelson
One thing was certain before the Bauer National Invitational Tournament even began: the championship game would be the best ticket in town before the high school varsity season starts.
Living up to expectations was the Sunday, Nov. 6, showdown between Shattuck-St. Mary’s and Minnesota Red.
“It's one of the best tournaments, you saw how many people were here,” Minnesota Red forward Christian Horn of Benilde-St. Margaret's said. “People love to come watch this because they know it's the two best teams going at it.”
Unfortunately for Horn and his Minnesota Red teammates, Shattuck-St. Mary’s proved to be the best of the best as the Sabres used a dominant second period along with solid overall play to capture the 2011 Bauer NIT title with a 5-3 victory.
“Shattuck runs their systems to a T, you know, perfect,” Horn said. “They backcheck like crazy, some of those things they do you don't see them coming.”
Shattuck-St. Mary’s win comes 364 days after losing 5-4 in overtime to Minnesota White in last year’s Bauer NIT championship game on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010. Then playing for Minnesota White, Horn provided the game-winning goal.
“Last year kids knew what Shattuck was like last year,” said Horn, a senior. “We knew we had to backcheck hard this year and our coach told us that's what got us -- we didn't backcheck as hard as we could. We just waited for our defensemen to do something and we left them out to dry. Our goalie (Bryan) Nies played great but we left him there on two-on-ones, three-on-ones to let them score.”
Despite taking two periods to find the back of the net, Minnesota Red displayed the offensive power that had propelled it to the championship.
“We knew we just had to start outworking them, playing some bodies and trying to make them fold,” Horn said. “Once we started hitting, we knew we could compete and things started going our way.”
A quick wrist shot by Hill-Murray's Jake Guentzel that found the top left corner and a power-play goal by Maple Grove's Jordan Gross for Minnesota Red cut Shattuck-St. Mary’s lead in half during the third period, but the Sabres answered back with a power-play goal of their own.
Needing to gain every ounce of possible momentum, last year’s NIT championship game hero knew he needed to take things to a higher level.
“I just wanted to get out there and score, to be honest,” Horn said. “Every Minnesota kid will tell you he hates losing to Shattuck, and all they want to do is score against them and beat them. That's the only thing that goes through your mind as a team on our bench.”
Horn got what he wanted, scoring with 3:12 remaining in the third period but the goal would not be enough.
Although the final score this year was not in Minnesota Red’s favor, Horn still managed to find a silver lining within the silver medal.
“This was my last hurrah (in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League),” Horn said. “I'm a senior and it's the last time I'll have a chance to play with these top players in the state. It's weird because you've played with them ever since you were seven or eight years old. You grow up playing with them, some of them become your best friends and then they go to different schools."
Horn finished the three-game Bauer NIT with five points (two goals, three assists) following a 23-point (12 goals, 11 ) effort on Team Northwest in the Elite League.
“It was definitely a confidence booster," Horn said. "A game like this is always fun you have all these scouts watching. You just want to have a good memory coming out of this and that's what it turned out to be.”
With all the glamour of the Elite League and the Bauer NIT behind him, Horn is excited to begin focusing full-time on his captainship duties at Benilde-St. Margaret’s.
“Oh yeah -- I'm ready to get going,” Horn said.
Horn and the Red Knights are ranked No. 2 in the Class 2A preseason poll and will kick off the season on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. when they travel to face St. Cloud Tech at the National Sports Center in St. Cloud.