Roseville's Cole Knowlton plays goaltender while goalie Zach Larson scrambles back into play on Saturday, Feb. 25. Photo courtesy of John Sonnek.
When a game goes into double-overtime, you never know who will don a cape and play hero. The one player who can take matters into his own hands and score the winner is near impossible to predict.
That is, unless you are Roseville coach Jeff Pauletti.
At the beginning of the second overtime in Roseville’s 3-2 win over North St. Paul on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood, Pauletti spoke with sophomore defender Andrew Colvard. The Raiders were set to be on the power play with Colvard stationed at the point as a defenseman.
“I challenged [Colvard] to ‘you know I wouldn’t be upset at you if you ended it now,’” Pauletti said after the game.
Although he only has seven goals on the season, Colvard has a knack for making them timely. Against Forest Lake in the Schwann Cup he also had a late-game goal that led Roseville to a win. Knowing this, Pauletti picked the right player to turn to.
Just 1:28 into the frame, Colvard got the puck at the blue line, backed up a little to find space, and snapped a shot that sailed through traffic and hit nylon, sending the Raiders into celebration.
The Raiders celebrate their victory. Photo courtesy of John Sonnek
“He went out there and did it so it was a great deal," Pauletti said. "He’s kind of been ‘Mr. OT’ for us or ‘Mr. Late-in-the-game’
“He’s scored some big goals in clutch situations. For being only a sophomore he’s shown a lot of maturity.”
Offensively, the Raiders had a tough time beating North St. Paul goaltender Eric Mantueffel. Their strategy seemed to be to work it down low and challenge him there. That approach didn’t have the best results, as Mantueffel stymied them until late in the third. Once it got to overtime however, Roseville switched it up, and the method lead to joyful madness.
“First period we realized that we weren’t gonna get too much down low,” Colvard said. “So work it up top on the power play and just shoot low and look for rebounds was our game plan.
“Pass came over and I just released a quick shot… didn’t really pick a corner, just fired it looking for a rebound.”
Colvard prides himself on his defensive ability and capitalizing on others’ mistakes. He only has ten points this season, (7 goals, 10 assists) but he is a capable member of a stoic Roseville defensive core. The Raiders only allow 2.62 goals against per game this season, the biggest reason for their success as a team.
The biggest victory that Colvard brought to his team however is the prize of another game. The Raiders face St. Paul Johnson on Wednesday in the Section 4AA semifinals.
“We’re really excited,” Colvard said. “We saw that they won, and there’s nobody else we’d rather play right now.”
North St. Paul's Cody Blom bears down on Roseville goaltender Zach Larson. Photo courtesy of John Sonnek.
Although Roseville is known for its defense, junior goaltender Zach Larson has a habit of bailing the Raiders out when they need it most.
In Roseville’s 3-2 win over North St. Paul on Saturday, Larson stopped 30 shots, muffling the Polars.
His biggest contribution to the game was robbing every opportunity that North St. Paul had on odd-man rushes. The Polars had at least six odd-man rushes, coming at Larson two-on-one, three-on-two, and all alone on breakaways.
Each time, Larson gobbled up snipe attempts and darted side-to-side in his net, blocking shots with his legs when the Polars made passes across the ice.
“You want to establish your depth and then it’s really just making the guy make the first move,” Larson said of his strategy on odd-man opportunities.
“When the pass goes across you want to shift your hips, and I was just feeling good, I had some luck. The guy in the box told one of our players that I had ‘a horseshoe up my butt.’”
In a goaltender battle against the Polars’ Eric Mantueffel, Larson was the first to blink, letting up goals late in the second and in the third. The goals stung, but Larson wasn’t rattled.
“It’s a deflating feeling all around but our guys battled,” he said. “We’ve done this all year, we’ve come back from two, three goals down so we knew what we were doing and said ‘we’ve been in this situation before.’”
In his first year as a varsity starter, Larson has more than earned his keep, stopping 92.1 percent of shots and only allowing 2.05 goals against per game.
“I just wanted to come out and show everybody what I can do,” he said. “I’ve just been sticking to my game plan, what me and my goalie coach put together… I’ve had a really good year. It’s been kind of a surprise to me.”
“He did an exceptional job for us,” coach Jeff Pauletti said after the game. “[Larson] played very calm… made some great saves, and that’s what you’re gonna need in the playoffs is a hot goaltender to ride, and we’ve got that out of him.”
Roseville and North St. Paul play two completely different styles of hockey.
The Polars (15-11-0) rely on high-octane offense, flashy passing, and goal scoring. Their top three scorers George Splichal, Tyler Oliver and Justin Oliver each had over 50 points (57, 56, and 52 respectively) and combined for seventy goals through the regular season.
Roseville (16-8-2) on the other hand, had only 67 goals as a team. Gritty and strong, the Raiders play tough-as-nails defense and rely on shutdown goaltending from junior Zach Larson.
Since both teams had nearly identical records, the matchup was a perfect measuring stick for finding whether offense or defense wins playoff games.
“They always say defense wins championships,” Roseville coach Jeff Pauletti said after the game. “I hope that would be the case with us, but if we try to limit the opposition to one or two goals a game… I’d give ourselves a chance to get at it.”
Pauletti’s plan worked to perfection, keeping the Polars within striking distance as Roseville’s offense got working.
“Our kids in the locker room right now, they know how to play in tight situations,” Pauletti said. “We’ve got eleven seniors on our roster and they’ve all been through the ringer…
“This year we’ve learned quite a bit, they’ve really adapted to a certain style of play and they’ve done well with that.”
The Raiders’ top goal scorer, senior Tom Bartel only has 12 goals and 25 total points. Those marks would rank fifth on the Polars squad. Still without the scoring, Roseville managed to beat North St. Paul and many other teams this year by keeping goals off the board.
“The message for us was playoff hockey,” Pauletti said. “The message I’ve been sending to these guys is basically three things, ‘get it out of our zone, get it in their zone, and get it to the net.’”
Roseville defenseman Andrew Colvard fired a wrist shot from the point that beat goaltender Eric Mantueffel in double-overtime to send Roseville to the Section 4AA semifinals in stunning fashion with a 3-2 win over North St. Paul (15-11-0).
The Raiders (16-8-2) were down 2-0 in the third period but battled back to tie the game on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood.
Tom Bartel finally solved Mantueffel with 4:08 to play in the game for Roseville, injecting the Raiders with energy. From there, Roseville played with desperation, peppering Mantueffel until they finally broke through with just 39 seconds to play.
With their goalie pulled, a Raiders shot handcuffed Mantueffel and dropped behind him, allowing junior forward Robb Stautz to crash the net and score.
Both goaltenders rated off-the-charts in this one, with junior Zach Larson stopping 30 shots and Mantueffel stopping 34. With the number of chances for both teams there should have been many more goals on the board. Larson was the first to let up, but he kept the high-flying Polars in check and earned the win.
Justin Oliver scored first for North St. Paul late in the second period when he put home a rebound on Larson. About midway through the third, Jim Karel was fed by George Splichal right on top of the crease and Karel stuffed it home.
Early in the third, Justin Oliver whacked a puck out of mid-air with a backhand that beat a sprawling Larson. The ref immediately called it a ‘no goal’ for a high stick. It was a close call, and ultimately would have made the difference in the game had it counted.
Roseville will now face St. Paul Johnson in the semifinals of Section 4AA on Wednesday, Feb. 29 at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum in St. Paul.
The junior goaltender continued his fantastic season by winning a goaltender battle against Eric Mantueffel. Larson made 30 saves and held the high-scoring Polars to just one goal on two five-minute major power plays. Larson averages 2.05 goals against per game and saves 92.1 percent of shots he faces.
Although he let up a couple of iffy goals late in the game, the senior goalie ended his career with a wonderful performance. Making 34 saves, Mantueffel fended off barrages of shots, crashing Roseville forwards and mad scrambles and gave his team a shot at victory. Mantueffel played nearly every game for the Polars, allowing 3.06 goals per game and saving 90.6 percent of shots.
He scored the game-winner, end of story. The sophomore defenseman scored his seventh goal of the season to bring his point total to 10. He may not score many goals, but he picked a right time to start, allowing the Raiders to keep on playing hockey for at least one more game.
Polars' goaltender Eric Mantueffel makes a stop while Tom Bartel looks on. Photo courtesy of John Sonnek