Delano's Dillon McLain (No. 25) gives chase to Blake's Max Harrington (No. 3) as Bears' goaltender Devon Johnson (No. 35) looks on during the Section 2A semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Photo by Jon Laqua
In the playoffs, when the opposing team pulls its goaltender for an extra attacker during the final moments of a game that usually means your team is seconds away from collecting the victory.
Last season, that was not the case for Blake as then top-seeded Bears were upset in the 2011 Section 2A semifinals by No. 4-seed Orono in famous fashion.
With 47 seconds remaining in the third period and with his team’s goaltender pulled, former Orono forward Ross Luedtke tied the game at 2-2 and netted the game-winning goal 25 seconds later to complete a hat trick as well as one of the craziest games in state section playoff history.
Even an entire year later, current Blake freshman forward Mark Lyman remembers what happened that night.
“(Orono) scored with about 19 seconds left to win the game,” Lyman said. “It was a heart breaker.”
Though his memory may be off by three seconds, you can’t really blame Lyman who was absent from the infamous game.
“No I wasn't here actually,” Lyman said.
Regardless of Lyman’s whereabouts that night, it was his location this year that has made last season's semifinal loss to Orono seem like ancient history as No. 3-seed Blake defeated No. 2 Delano, 4-2, on Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the 2012 Section 2A semifinals.
Blake senior defenseman Max Harrington (No. 3) carries the puck up ice with Spencer Naas (No. 8) against Delano's Justin Oja (No. 17) on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Photo by Jon Laqua
“It was a big win,” Blake coach John Sturgis said. “It was a great win against a very good team. I thought the teams mirrored each other, they were very hard working, I thought our guys came to work. A couple bounces here, a couple bounces there and it was just a great hockey game.”
Sturgis was also quick to note the differences between last year’s team and the current squad that is one win away from a state tournament appearance.
“Last year's team was fantastic,” Sturgis said. “We had a good group of seniors and a lot of good players. The bounces just didn't go their way last year. We have less seniors this year but some very strong leadership. We have some young guys stepping up and leading our team.”
Lyman is certainly one of those underclassmen as the ninth-grader scored twice in the second period including a shorthanded goal as well as the eventual game winner.
Blake celebrates one of the two second-period goals Mark Lyman (No. 7) on Tuesday, Feb. 28, during the Section 2A semifinals. Photo by Jon Laqua
“He played a fantastic game tonight,” Sturgis said of Lyman. “He's just been getting better and better each game. He's got a wicked wrist shot and he showed that tonight. We're going to continue to look to him to do big things.”
Despite the two timely goals by Lyman, Sturgis pointed out that Blake is more than just one player or one line.
“It's a total collective team effort,” Sturgis said. “It's fun to watch the kids pull together and play like that, it's been really fun and they certainly earned that win.
“And we're not done yet -- this is a stepping stone, we're looking forward to Thursday (March 1).”
Sturgis and the rest of the Bears will also be looking towards Lyman with hopes the young forward will continue his hot streak.
In the month of February, Lyman scored nine (five goals, four assists) of his season’s 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists); registering at least one point in each of Blake’s seven games -- except one: a 9-0 loss to Breck on Saturday, Feb. 18.
As fate would have it, Blake will take on its long-time foe and top-seeded Breck on Thursday, March 1, in the Section 2A championship game at Parade Ice Garden.
“Obviously (they’re) our biggest rival,” Lyman said. “It's going to be a huge game and to beat them would be huge after losing earlier in the season to them.”
For Blake, Sturgis wants everything to be business as usual.
“We're going to get our rest, light skate tomorrow and ready to come right back after it and work hard on Thursday,” Sturgis said. “We're just going to have to be ready to play our game and go out there and win another hockey game.”
Blake goaltender Devon Johnson (No. 35) made 24 saves against Delano though senior forward Dillon McLain (No. 25) scored one of the Tigers' two goals in the Section 2A semifinal game on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Photo by Jon Laqua
Freshman forward Mark Lyman scored twice and Devon Johnson made 24 saves as No. 3-seeded Blake upset No. 2 Delano, 4-2, in the Section 2A semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
Lyman scored both goals in the second period in a two minute, 29 second timespan -- scoring the first goal shorthanded -- providing the only scoring for the Bears in the period.
The second of Lyman's goals proved to be the game-winner as Max Harrington had netted a power-play goal in the first period.
Delano's scoring was limited to the second period with Dean Halonen and Dillon McLain beating Johnson. McLain's goal came with 21 seconds remaining in the second period but the Tigers were unable to capitalize on the momentum and Blake defenseman John Austin scored an empty net goal with 23 seconds remaining in the third period.
Senior goaltender Ryan Pinoniemi finished with 29 saves as Delano ended its season with a 19-8-0 record.
Blake (18-9-0) advances to the Section 2A championship at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, at Parade Ice Garden where the Bears will face top-seeded Breck for a birth to the 2012 Class 1A Boy's High School Hockey State Tournament.
1. Mark Lyman, Blake
A one-goal lead after the first period would not have been enough for the Bears to get past Delano. Fortunately for Blake, Lyman showed up in the second period and netted a pair of goals -- one coming shorthanded and his second being the eventual game-winner.
2. Max Harrington, Blake
Harrington made his first-period power play goal look easy, snapping off a quick shot that beat Delano goaltender Ryan Pinoniemi. The senior defenseman also played his position well cutting down Delano's chances includes an over-powering hip check on the Tigers' Jack Prinsen that saved a breakaway. Harrington also had an assist on Johnny Austin's empty net goal that sealed the game for Blake.
3. Ryan Pinoniemi, Delano
Keeping his team in the game until he was pulled for an extra skater late in the third period, Pinoniemi made 29 saves for the Tigers. Though the quantity was not astronomical, the quality was phenomenal as Pinoniemi was called on several times throughout the game to make a point-blank save.