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Maple Grove hangs on for title

By MN Hockey Hub staff, 12/30/11, 9:00PM CST


Late goal seals win over Benilde-St. Margaret's, gives Crimson tourney crown

Jake Horton of Benilde-St. Margaret's (16) fires a shot through traffic at Maple Grove goaltender Kyle Koop. Photo by Adam Crane

Like a fishing boat captain assessing a bank of storm clouds, Kyle Koop knew full well what was coming.

 Pucks. Lots and lots of them. From all angles and trajectories.
“(Benilde-St. Margaret’s) is a good team, and they always come at you with pressure,” said Koop, Maple Grove’s senior netminder who twice in 10 days has withstood a hailstorm of vulcanized rubber en route to victories over the Red Knights. “I expected that.”
With its stable of snipers, Benilde-St. Margaret’s desperately attempting a comeback in the third period is, to an opposing goaltender, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.
“I thought he did a nice job,” Maple Grove coach Gary Stefano said about Koop, who made 18 of his 34 saves in the third period as the No. 3-ranked Crimson beat the No. 8 Red Knights 5-3 on Friday, Dec. 30. “They’ve got some guys that can shoot the puck. He doesn’t get rattled back there.”
The victory in the championship game of the Sports Authority Holiday Hockey Classic at the St. Louis Park Rec Center gives unbeaten Maple Grove (11-0-1) two tournament titles in as many tries. With Koop in goal the Crimson beat Edina 3-0 in the championship game of the Wayzata’s Turkey Trot tournament to start the season.
After backing up standout Ryan Coyne last season, the unflappable Koop has played all but one period for the Crimson this season. He has two shutouts, a 2.20 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. Most impressive, though, has been his two wins over the high-flying Red Knights. 
“They are very good crashers,” said Koop, who stands 6-foot-2 and, in full armor, blocks much of the goal without doing anything more than standing in front of it.

Maple Grove goaltender Kyle Koop gets in position to make the save as Grant Besse of Benilde-St. Margaret's, middle, and Maple Grove's Drew Aspinwall battle for the puck. Photo by Adam Crane

 Of course, Koop does much more than that. Against the Red Knights, he used his well-positioned big body to make the initial save but relied on his agility and hand-eye coordination to make sure the rebound opportunities were limited.

“I had to just suck it up and just make sure I don’t let those rebounds go, otherwise they will get those goals,” Koop said. “I think they had one or two of them like that.”
Koop played just two full games and parts of three others as a junior. He was an unknown commodity entering the season, and not just for opposing teams.
“Coming into the season we had no idea what he was going to do,” senior forward Tony Paulson said. “And then the first couple of games he really proved to us he was going to be the guy.
“He just plays good in big games. That’s all what we need out of him. He does his job.”
Koop allowed back-to-back goals in the third period as the Red Knights pulled to within 4-3. Instead of losing his poise, he simply played with more resolve.
“Last year (watching Coyne) I just learned to stay calm in tight situations, no matter what it is,” Koop said. “Just keep cool, calm and collected.”
Away from the rink, Koop is pretty much the same as he is on it. There aren’t a lot of extreme highs or lows. Mood swings are minimal. 
“I’m a pretty calm person,” Koop said. “You have to really get under my skin to get me mad.”
While Koop’s teammates have a healthy respect for their goaltender, these are teen-agers we’re talking about. No one is above a little button-pushing.
“He’s real laid back, an honest kid,” Paulson said. “When we rattle him, it’s usually about his girlfriend, but that’s about it.”
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

Red Knights bring out the best in Crimson's Paulson

Maple Grove senior Tony Paulson scored twice against Benilde-St. Margaret's. Photo by Adam Crane

Late in the third period, as his team’s three-goal lead was in danger of disappearing, Maple Grove forward Tony Paulson found a small opening and fired.

Teammate Dylan Steman won the faceoff back to Paulson, who snapped off a shot from the blue line that screened Benilde-St. Margaret’s goaltender Justin Quale never saw until the puck passed over his left shoulder.
It was Paulson’s second goal of the game and fourth this season against the host Red Knights, and it secured a 5-3 victory and the Sports Authority Holiday Hockey Classic tournament championship on Friday at the St. Louis Park Rec Center.
“You never know on those,” Paulson said. “I saw the right side open and just put it right in the middle. I was just hoping he wouldn’t see it.”
The play allowed Maple Grove to withstand a strong Benilde-St. Margaret’s comeback in the third period. Trailing 4-1 after two periods, the Red Knights regrouped on goals from T.J. Moore and Christian Horn. It seemed the tying goal would be scored in just a matter of time. Instead, the Crimson escaped with their second close victory over the Red Knights in 10 days.
“We had them in their end the entire period,” said Horn, whose Red Knights outshot Maple Grove 20-7 in the third period. “I think we showed the kind of team we are. We kept hammering them.”
Said Red Knights coach Ken Pauly: “We came out in the third period and pretty much dominated – after being dominated.”
The third-ranked Crimson (11-0-1) started the game taking full advantage of No. 8 Benilde-St. Margaret’s (7-3) depleted defensive corps, building a 3-0 lead in the first period and outshooting the Red Knights 20-7.
Sophomores Nate Erickson and Sam Valerius each scored, followed by Paulson’s first goal of the game.
Injuries and illness kept three regular Red Knights defensemen, Jonah Johnson, Jack Glover and Ryan Collins, from playing for a second consecutive game.
Maple Grove’s victory sets up a tantalizing showdown against No. 1 ranked and fellow unbeaten Duluth East (11-0) on Jan. 4 at the Maple Grove Community Center.
“We’re pumped up; the school is excited,” Paulson said. “We went up there and beat them last year so I’m sure they want a little revenge.”
-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune Staff Writer

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Game Recap

Maple Grove took full advantage of Benilde-St. Margaret’s depleted defensive corps, beating the host Red Knights 5-3 and winning the Sports Authorith Holiday Hockey Classic on Friday at the St. Louis Park Rec Center.

The third-ranked Crimson (11-0-1) built a 3-0 first-period lead and withstood a strong third period comeback by the No. 8 Red Knights (7-3-0).
Maple Grove’s victory sets up a tantalizing showdown against No. 1 ranked and fellow unbeaten Duluth East (11-0-0) on Jan. 4 at the Maple Grove Community Center.
Injuries and illness kept three regular BSM defensemen -- Jonah Johnson, Jack Glover and Ryan Collins -- from playing for a second consecutive game. The Crimson applied early pressure, outshooting the Red Knights 20-7 in the first period.
Nate Erickson opened the scoring for Maple Grove, slamming a puck past Red Knights goaltender Justin Quale at 1:51 of the first period.
Sam Valerius scored next, weaving his way into the slot and getting a puck into the net at 7:37. A power-play tally by Tony Paulson pushed the Crimson lead to 3-0 at 14:09 of the period.
A run of goals by the Crimson was reminiscent of their first meeting with the Red Knights. Maple Grove beat Benilde-St. Margaret’s 5-4 on Dec. 20 on the strength on four consecutive second period goals.
Dan Labosky answered for the Red Knights, winding up and blasting home a power-play goal with 1 minute and 10 seconds remaining in the period.
The second period was much quieter in Friday’s game, with Alex Mason’s goal at 5:59 the only one scored. It gave the Crimson a 4-1 lead going into the third period. Mason missed much of the period serving a two-minute checking from behind penalty and a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s T.J. Moore scored to cut the Maple Grove lead to 4-2 just 1:23 into the third period. A goal from Christian Horn at 6:32 brought the Red Knights within a goal at 4-3.
The teams traded roles. Once the aggressor, Maple Grove struggled to contain the advancing Red Knights.
But a Paulson shot from the blue line got over a screened Quale’s left shoulder with less than 2 minutes remaining to clinch the victory.
-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune staff writer

Maple Grove players hoist the trophy that goes with winning the Sports Authority Holiday Hockey Classic in St. Louis Park. Photo by Adam Crane

1.  Tony Paulson, Maple Grove
The senior forward sealed the game, and the tournament championship, for Maple Grove with his third-period snipe of goaltender Justin Quale. The goal which came with 2:01 left to play deflated the Red Knights. Paulson finished with two goals and an assist, giving him four goals in two games against the Red Knights. He is now tied for fourth on the Crimson in points. 

2.  Kyle Koop, Maple Grove
Although he allowed two goals in the third period, Koop made some magnificent saves in the final minutes. He did a nice job of rebound control and held on for dear life when Benilde-St. Margaret’s constantly buzzed the net in the third period. He ended the night with 34 saves, including 18 in the final period.

3.  Christian Horn, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
Horn ignited the crowd and his team with a third period-goal that made the score 4-3. The senior forward went crashing into the net, deflecting the puck in and sliding face-first into the twine. He also had two assists and now has 27 points (9 goals, 18 assists) to lead the Red Knights.  

-- Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff

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