Maple Grove's Spencer Bell led the Crimson attack on Blaine goaltender Nick Malvin with a team-best four goals in the 15-1 Section 5AA championship game victory. Photo by Helen Nelson
All but a few stragglers had cleared out of the bleachers, the Zamboni had long ago made its final rounds and the clock was pushing 11:30 p.m.
Out came a shirtless Taylor Goetsch, cell phone in hand and skates still strapped to his feet. The senior forward was snapping pictures of the massive scoreboard hanging from the State Fairgrounds Coliseum's concrete ceiling.
Goetsch should have been in the locker room with his teammates celebrating Maple Grove’s first trip to the state tournament in the program’s history, but instead he required handheld proof of what had just happened.
He is now the proud owner of a photo that, if you weren’t there, you might have trouble believing wasn’t somehow altered with the magic of Photoshop.
Maple Grove 15, Blaine 1.
No team in state history had ever scored more than 12 goals in a region or section final before the top-seeded and No. 3 state-ranked Crimson’s freight train-flattening of No. 2 seed Blaine to win the Section 5AA championship on Friday, March 2.
A week of blowout Class 2A section finals began with Benilde-St. Margaret’s’ dominating 5-1 triumph over Minnetonka on Wednesday and continued with Lakeville South’s 7-1 victory over Lakeville North and Eagan’s 10-1 thumping of Hastings on Thursday.
Goal celebrations came early and often for Maple Grove in its 15-1 Section 5AA triumph over Blaine. Photo by Helen Nelson
No. 3-ranked Maple Grove took the blowout theme to the extreme, earning the most lopsided win in the history of state and region championship games that date back to 1945.
“We weren’t trying to run it up on them or anything, we just happened to find the back of the net,” Goetsch said. “I guess that’s what happens when you put the puck on the net. When you have teamwork, it’s a great thing.”
The Crimson scored four goals on one power play, a 5-minute checking from behind major on Blaine star defenseman Michael Brodzinski just 19 seconds into the game. Maple Grove’s fifth goal, from Spencer Bell, came while the Crimson were shorthanded.
Defenseman Jordan Gross also scored in the opening period, which ended with the Crimson leading 6-0. Maple Grove outdid itself in the second period, scoring seven more goals, including two more from Bell to give him four in all, to put the game well out of reach.
“This is something that we need to use as a rallying point for the next couple of years here,” Blaine coach Dave Aus said. “Because it was embarrassing. I know our kids were embarrassed.”
By Minnesota State High School League rule, the clock continued to run during stoppages of play in the third period because Maple Grove had a lead of six or more goals.
Even with the running clock, the Crimson scored twice more in the final period.
Maple Grove's Tony Paulson stickhandles around Blaine goaltender Nick Malvin. Photo by Helen Nelson
“They did everything they could in the third I think to try and avoid playing their better guys; I respect that,” Aus said. “But geez, we couldn’t stop a beach ball tonight, either.
“It was like shinny hockey.”
Many of Maple Grove’s goals were the result of pretty two- and three-way passing plays. There were at least four or five tap-in goals into open nets thanks to the tic-tac-toe puck movment.
“I’ve never been involved in (blowout) like this,” Maple Grove coach Gary Stefano said. “Especially in a (section) final game.
“The beauty of it was we made some nice plays. We weren’t selfish with it, we didn’t try to do it ourselves.”
The Crimson also also unloaded a handful of laser-guided shots placed just inside goalposts or underneath the crossbar. Blaine starting goaltender Nick Malvin, a senior who was one of nine state goaltenders selected to compete in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League last fall, had little chance to stop many of the goals.
He made a handful of spectacular saves in the opening period, including two on Maple Grove sniper Tony Paulson. The Crimson finished with a 44-22 advantage in shots on goal.
Maple Grove (24-2-2) beat Blaine (18-10-0) by scores of 6-3 and 4-2 during the regular season and was heavily favored to shed the label of “Best Program Never to Have Reached the State Tournament.” No one, however, could have predicted such an emphatic breakthrough.
“We had high hopes, and we expected to come out of here with a win, because we had some confidence,” Goetsch said. “The whole team had faith in each other, but we never thought it would be like this.
“This is unbelievable.”
But remember, Goetsch has the pictures to prove it.
Goal celebrations were a common sight at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum on Friday as Maple Grove beat Blaine 15-1 in the Section 5AA title game. Photo by Helen Nelson
Members of Blaine’s student section wore togas for Friday’s Section 5AA championship game against Maple Grove.
The toga-clad Blaine student section was brimming with excitement before the start of Friday's Section 5AA championship game. Photo by Helen Nelson
The scenario couldn't have been scripted any better for Maple Grove.
It was strictly worst-case for Blaine.
Blaine star defenseman and University of Minnesota recruit Michael Brodzinski took a checking-from-behind call just 19 seconds into the Section 5AA championship game, sending him to the box for a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct.
The penalty was the overriding storyline leading to an outcome of historic proportions, as top-seeded Maple Grove (24-2-2) scored four times on the ensuing power play, leading to a 15-1 blowout over second-seeded Blaine (18-10-0) on Friday, March 2, at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum in St. Paul.
The win sends the Crimson to the state Class 2A tournament for the first time in the program's history. Maple Grove had lost to Blaine in the section title game in each of the previous two seasons.
Maple Grove's 15 goals is believed to be the most ever in a section or region final, eclipsing the 12 scored by St. Cloud Tech in 1952 in a 12-2 win over St. Louis Park in the Region 6 final.
Forwards Spencer Bell, Tony Paulson, Shane Wolden and Dylan Steman netted the four goals, starting a period that snowballed to a six goal lead for the No. 3-ranked Crimson.
The second period wasn’t any closer as Maple Grove piled on seven more goals, chasing Blaine’s starting goaltender Nick Malvin, a senior considered one of the top netminders in the state, to the bench.
Senior forward Shane Wolden had with six points (2 goals, 4 assists). Senior Spencer Bell tallied six points and junior Jordan Gross had five.
The Bengals Ian Scheid broke the shutout of Maple Grove goalie Kyle Koop who finished with 16 saves before being pulled because of the score.
Nick Malvin made 22 saves on 34 shots and replacement goalie James Simmer, a junior, stopped 5.
Maple Grove co-captain Spencer Bell
1. Spencer Bell, Maple Grove
Bell scored the third goal for the Crimson, helping to start the seemingly never-ending barrage of goals that followed. He also broke the Bengals’ back when he scored a shorthanded goal in the first period which was the Bengals first opportunity to get back in the game. The senior forward, who needed seven stitches to close a gash in his right leg after being cut by a skate in the section semifinals, finished with four goals and two assists, pushing his season point total to 44 (19 goals, 25 assists).
2. Shane Wolden, Maple Grove
Wolden, who also tallied six points, scored the second goal in the all-important game-opening power play. His two goals and four assists gives the senior forward 47 points this year (20 goals, 27 assists).
3. Jordan Gross, Maple Grove
The play caller on the Crimson power play, Gross spent his night dishing the rock. The junior defenseman who has committed to play at Notre Dame picked up a goal and four assists, adding to his already overstuffed resume. Gross has 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists).