Burnsville forwards Hunter Anderson (No. 21) and Cory Chapman (No. 16) head towards Mason Wyman (No. 19) to celebrate a second period goal against Benilde-St. Margaret's on Thursday, Dec. 8, at Burnsville Ice Center. Photo by Adam Crane
For the hockey world outside Burnsville, the Blaze’s 5-2 victory over Hill-Murray on Saturday, Dec. 3, may have seemed to be the result of some early season luck.
Yet even with luck on its side, certainly there was no way Burnsville would shock No. 2-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret’s.
Burnsville celebrates a late third period goal behind frustrated Benilde-St. Margaret's forward Dan Labosky (No. 27). Photo by Adam Crane
After heading into the locker room for the first intermission trailing 1-0, Burnsville scored five unanswered goals spanning the second and third periods to secure a 5-1 upset victory over the Red Knights.
Whatever Blaze coach Janne Kivilhalme said between periods must have stuck with his team.
“He kept saying play our systems, get it in deep and good things will happen,” Burnsville forward Hunter Anderson said. “We got a break on the power play and one led to another and it just started clicking.”
Anderson recorded an assist on all three goals in the second period, helped set up the the first goal of the third and then scored the the Blaze's final goal. Four of Anderson's five points came when Burnsville held the man-advantage.
Quick to praise his power-play unit’s four goals, Kivilhalme deflected any credit from himself or any motivational speech.
“It's not what the coaches really say, it's about the kids playing how we want them to play,” Kivilhalme said. “Special teams is a big part of the game, and today we got lucky and we were able to get a couple in.”
The combination of Burnsville’s back-to-back power play goals in the second period mixed with physical play proved to be lethal for Benilde-St. Margaret’s.
“I thought (in the) second period they badly outplayed us,” Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Ken Pauly said. “They beat us to all the loose pucks, they set the terms, they set the tone the first three or four minutes.
“We lost, which you can't lose, we lost the special teams battle. They get a power play and it was like automatic going in our net. That was really disappointing tonight.”
Collecting the spoils were the victorious Blaze, who are the proud owners of a 2-1-0 record after three straight games against top-tier opponents (No. 3 Minnetonka, Hill-Murray and No. 2 Benilde-St. Margaret’s).
Despite the difficulty on paper, the rugged schedule didn’t seem to phase the Burnsville.
“Well, I kind of expected it from last year and the year before,” Burnsville forward Mason Wyman said his team’s first three games. “It's Janne (Kivilhalme) -- he expects us to play the best (teams) at the beginning so they can exploit our flaws so we can get better.”
Even with Burnsville’s hot start, improvement is something that remains at the top of Kivilhalme’s priority list.
“It's early in the season,” Kivilhalme said. “We're installing our way of hockey -- as of right now it's very basic. Kids have been working hard. We've got a lot of new kids, and we are happy with how they are progressing.
“But it's a long season. We've got to continue getting better.”
Burnsville senior captain Mason Wyman (No. 19) battles for the puck with Benilde-St. Margaret's forward T.J. Moore (No. 23). Photo by Adam Crane
Playing the state's toughest early season schedule hasn't left the Blaze shellshocked. Instead, they are improving with each game.
“It's gives us a confidence boost coming off the Hill-Murray win -- that was really big -- and then getting this win,” Wyman said. “We have to keep going though, this isn't the end of it.”
Though the Blaze’s record against their opening schedule may seem impressive, Burnsville’s players pointed out that there are more important things than victories in early-December.
“Like our coach said, it's just another opponent we need to play,” Anderson said. “It's a non-conference game and we won our conference last year so we're focused more on our conference games right now -- we play Rosemount this Saturday (Dec. 10).
“Just one game at a time and we'll worry about who we're playing one game at a time.”
In order to do that, Burnsville will need to have a short memory instead of basking in its current glory.
“We're going to go through school tomorrow, we'll probably have our heads high and everything but by the time it gets to practice we have to go back to work,” Wyman said.
“It starts tomorrow.”
Standing outside a quiet visitor’s locker room, Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Ken Pauly didn’t hesitate to acknowledge his team’s shortcomings following a 5-1 loss to Burnsville.
“It's an unforgiving game when you don't put your chances away,” Pauly said. “The truth is it could have been 3-0, 4-0 after one and this baby's over. But the fact is we didn't put it away, we let them hang around and we're going home bummed out.”
After the Red Knights capitalized on their first power play chance in the opening period, nothing seemed to fool Burnsville junior goaltender Chris Mallon who made 37 saves to frustrate the dangerous Benilde-St. Margaret’s offense.
Five straight goals by the Blaze -- four of them coming on the power play -- didn't help things either for the Red Knights.
“When you punch someone, they're going to counterpunch,” Pauly said. “When they counterpunch, you have to answer and we took too long to answer.”
Looking ahead Pauly knows that while the defeat doesn’t help his team’s record, it may help the Red Knights’ focus.
“The worst that could happen to you is for us to go and have those mental lapses, and play poorly and win cause now they think they can do that and get away with it,” Pauly said.
“You never learn from it unless it hurts.”
Though it may be a learning point, the lopsided loss may be enough to knock Benilde-St. Margaret’s from the top three of the Class 2A rankings.
For Pauly, that’s not something he’s wasting his time worrying about.
“Someone asked me who the number one team is,” Pauly said. “I made the comment that I think it's going to be a merry-go-round all year. I think it's going to go round, and round, and round. And I'm getting dizzy.
“If we think we're going to look at a number in Let's Play Hockey or on the Hockey Hub or whatever and that's going to get us to the state tournament, then we're going to be looking at the Hockey Hub during the state tournament and not playing.”
Burnsville junior goaltender Chris Mallon (No. 1) poke checks the puck off the stick of Benilde-St. Margaret's forward Dan Labosky (No. 27) during a breakaway opportunity. Photo by Adam Crane
Five days after defeating perennial powerhouse Hill-Murray, No. 10 Burnsville upset No. 2 Benilde-St. Margaret's 5-1 on Thursday, Dec. 8.
Junior goaltender Chris Mallon made 37 saves, and senior forward Hunter Anderson had five points (one goal, four assists) for the Blaze.
After Red Knights' forward Dan Labosky scored a power-play goal in the first period, Benilde-St. Margaret's didn't seem to have an answer for Burnsville as the Blaze scored five straight goals.
Grant Besse and Christian Horn assisted on Labosky's goal. According to a release from Benilde-St. Margaret's: "Horn's assist…was the 87th of his career and tied him with current Minnesota Golden Gopher Chris Student for the school's all-time record."
Benilde-St. Margaret's goaltender Anders Jecha made 24 saves.
Burnsville senior forward Mason Wyman scored goals in the second period -- one on a frequent Blaze power-play -- and added an assist in the third period.
Cory Chapman opened the scoring for the Blaze and also registered two assists.
Benilde-St. Margaret's (2-1-0) will host Duluth Marshall at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, at the St. Louis Park Rec Center.
Looking to keep its hot streak going, Burnsville (2-1-0) travels to Prior Lake on Saturday, Dec. 10, for a 12:15 p.m. South Suburban Conference matchup against Rosemount.
1. Hunter Anderson, Burnsville
Besides constant, unrelentless physical play in the corners and slowing down the pesky Benilde-St. Margaret's forwards, all Anderson did was record an assist on Burnsville's first four goals as well as score the Blaze's fifth goal. That's all.
2. Chris Mallon, Burnsville
One question for Burnsville heading into the season was goaltending. Enter Chris Mallon. The junior goaltender improved to 2-0-0 with the victory over the No. 2-ranked Red Knights. Though he may have lost the puck at times, Mallon stayed solid when it counted, making 37 saves and frustrating Benilde-St. Margaret's all night.
3. Mason Wyman, Burnsville
His first goal came on the power play in the second period and proved to be the eventual game-winner. His second goal was scored with 45 seconds remaining in the second period and may have destroyed any momentum Benilde-St. Margaret's had left. After being blatantly slashed -- a missed call -- in the third period, Wyman returned for revenge and registered an assist on Tyler Sheehy's power play goal for his third point.