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Breck plays it straight

By Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA, 12/27/11, 12:00PM CST


Four PP goals help Mustangs hold off Kloos and South, 5-4

Breck's Austin Rudnick (24) celebrates his power play goal (Photos by Tim Kolehmainen).

Lakeville South's Justin Kloos (15) looks for room in the offensive zone against Breck.

Shadow or play it straight?

Those are the two schools of thought when matched up with a singular offensive talent on the opposing team. Faced with Lakeville South and Justin Kloos in the Schwan Cup Silver Division semifinals Tuesday night, Breck chose the latter.
“Our plan was like we did with (Little Falls’ Ben) Hanowski a couple of years ago,” explained Breck coach Les Larson. “We’re not going to walk any home run hitters. We have a system we play where we feel like all three lines and three sets of D can shut down anybody.”
Like Hanowski, the state’s all-time leading high school scorer, Kloos is a supreme offensive talent who can make something happen on any shift. The Gophers’ recruit draws plenty of attention most nights, but Larson trusted in his team defense and goaltender Jack Kenney.
The plan worked to perfection for about 45 minutes, as Kenney stonewalled Kloos on numerous close scoring chances. Breck’s power play was also clicking as the Mustangs surged ahead 5-1 midway through the third period.
“We just felt we had chance after chance,” said Lakeville South coach Kurt Weber. “Sometimes it feels as if you just can’t break the ice.”
Kloos was also feeling under the weather, as he’d suffered from the flu for the past two days. Normally one to stay on the ice until dragged off, Kloos had a few shifts that ended after 30 seconds, letting Weber know his legs weren’t quite there.
But as the game continued, Kloos got his second wind.
“He’s a competitor and he wants to finish the game,” said Weber. “We definitely are going to go as he goes. If he’s a little snakebit, we’re a little snakebit.”
And when Kloos is going well, so are the Cougars.
With Breck leading 5-1 and on the power play, Kloos began to work his magic.
He picked up a loose puck in the defensive zone and instead of clearing it, the senior charged up ice in full attack mode. A quick head fake to the outside, a cut back to the slot, and a rifle shot preceded a goal that kicked off a South rally.
“Justin starts it,” said Weber. “All of a sudden, momentum came.”
Kloos scored again a minute later and John Wiitala added a third goal to cut the Breck lead to just 5-4 with five minutes to go. The Mustangs held on for the victory, but an easy one turned into a nailbiter in a hurry.
Score one for play it straight. Barely.

Power play potency

Grant Opperman (14) scored one of Breck's four power play goals.

Both teams entered Tuesday night’s game clicking on nearly 50 percent of their power plays. Breck was at 47.6 percent while Lakeville South was at 46.9 percent. The Mustangs bumped up that number by notching four power play goals on seven chances – and they needed every one in an eventual 6-4 victory.

“It was one of those game were there were a lot of penalties and it ruins the rhythm of the game, but you have to be able to play in those games,” said Breck coach Les Larson.

Breck got on the board first on the man advantage, as defenseman Ben Tegtmeyer chipped a low shot from the point through traffic and past a screened Jesse Garcia. Austin Rudnick made it 2-0 later in the first on an absolute blast from the blue line.

“We’ve been clicking lately,” smiled Rudnick, who added an empty net goal with 37 seconds left for the final victory margin. “It’s nice to see the forwards move it around to the point so we can get some action up top.”

Rudnick explained that the defenseman has the option to either cut loose with his hardest shot or lob one towards the net for a tip. Both were effective against South. Using the defensemen also left the South penalty killers spread out as they had to account for all five skaters.

Grant Opperman took advantage of that space in the second period, notching the Mustangs’ third power play goal of the game. Conor Andrle added another tight-quarters power play goal in the third.

“We work on moving the puck, we work on that a lot,” said Larson, whose son Pete is in charge of gearing up the potent Mustangs’ power play.

Pete Larson has the good fortune to teach two power play units that could easily be a No. 1 on any other team. It’s been a strength of the Mustangs all season and will continue.

“When you get into this type of hockey – sections, state tournaments, (holiday) tournaments – you play good teams and special teams are really important,” said Larson.

“They move the puck well and we knew that was going to be their strength,” said Lakeville South coach Kurt Weber, who also described the power play as his team’s strength.

“Their power play crippled us. When they got it, they finished it.”

South's Alex Harvey (9) fires in a goal late in the first period.

Statistics, Summary

Game recap

Top-ranked Breck scored four power play goals and held off a late Lakeville South rally to advance to the finals of the Schwan Cup Silver Division at Blaine's Super Rink Tuesday night, 6-4. Austin Rudnick and Conor Andrle each scored twice to lead the Mustangs (9-0-0).

With its power play clicking on all cylinders, Breck jumped out to a 5-1 lead on extra-man goals from Ben Tegtmeyer, Rudnick, Grant Opperman and a pair of third-period goals from Andrle. Andrle's second of the night 4 minutes, 17 seconds into the third appeared to put the Cougars (5-3-0) away.

But Justin Kloos' two goals helped spur a Cougars' rally, as they tallied three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 41 seconds late in the third. Kloos notched the first two, including a short-handed tally that started the spurt, and John Wiitala capped it with five minutes left to cut the lead to 5-4.

Rudnick hit an open net from the far blue line to close out South with 37 seconds remaining.

Lakeville South outshot Breck, 26-23, but Mustangs' goaltender Jack Kenney made 22 saves. He was spectacular during a 10-minute span of the second period as South dominated play and threated to cut into Breck's lead.

Hunter Ziniel made 17 saves for South.

1. Conor Andrle, Breck
Pesky and irritating to the Lakeville South defensemen, Andrle scored a pair of third-period goals that at the time seemed to be just icing on the cake. But they turned out to be the difference in a 6-4 game. His first was the Mustangs' fourth power play goal of the game and his second was pure effort, as he stepped out of the corner, took on the bigger South defensemen and drove the puck home before being driven to the ice himself.

2. Justin Kloos, Lakeville South
Kloos is fun to watch even when he's not scoring. For much of the game, Breck didn't so much as shut him down as survived his rushes. Finally, with the game seemingly out of reach he exploded for a pair of goals to make it interesting. His short-handed tally to start the rally was an end-to-end, highlight-reel rush.

3. Austin Rudnick, Breck and Jack Kenney, Breck
Rudnick scored two goals from the blue line -- the first a power play score from the near blue line that gave Breck a 2-0 lead late in the first period and the second an empty-netter from the far blue line that iced the victory. He also played his usual rugged defense. Kenney's final numbers only look fair -- 22 saves on 26 shots -- but he stood on his head through much of the second period as South hammered away at him. His play helped the Mustangs extend their lead to 5-1 and survive the inevitable onslaught.

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