Nate Breitenfeldt (7) and Grant Opperman (14) combined to net the game-winner in overtime for Breck in a 4-3 victory over Thief River Falls in the Class 1A third place game. Photo by Helen Nelson.
As the Class 1A third-place game between third-seeded Breck and fourth-seeded Thief River Falls entered the third period early Saturday morning, March 10, at the Xcel Energy Center, Grant Opperman had a terrible flashback.
Grant Opperman (14) celebrates his goal that gave Breck a 3-1 lead. Photo by Helen Nelson.
-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA
Keegan Iverson (9) of Breck sends a Thief River Falls player tumbling to the ice. Iverson scored the first goal in the Mustangs' 4-3 overtime victory in the Class 1A third place game. Photo by Helen Nelson.
Mr. Hockey finalist and Breck senior forward Grant Opperman was upset after he and his Mustangs fell short against St. Thomas Academy in the Class 1A semifinal Friday afternoon.
The 1-0 loss cut him deep.
“We took (yesterday) pretty tough,” Opperman said following his final game in a Breck uniform, a 4-3 overtime victory over Thief River Falls in the Class 1A third-place game Saturday, March 10 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Luckily, Opperman had another shot to go out with a win, even if it wasn’t his ideal ending to a spectacular high school career. Saturday's victory was the Mustangs’ 26th win of the season, capping one of the most successful runs by any group of seniors in Minnesota high school hockey history.
A pair of state titles.
Over 100 wins for a handful of the seniors.
Enough trophies to fill a room.
But going out on a high note didn’t come easy. Entering the third period with a 3-1 lead, Breck let the Prowlers get back into it, tying the score and forcing overtime.
Opperman and his fellow seniors talked about that during a TV timeout in the final minutes, and they knew that they needed to play for one thing above all else.
“We knew that we would all regret it if we weren’t able to get the winner,” Opperman said. “Our last game together, (thinking) if we couldn’t go out with a victory, it wasn’t too hard to get up after that.”
When the contest entered overtime, Opperman set up teammate Nate Breitenfeldt for the game-winning goal.
Opperman, who mentioned how he is usually nervous in the extra session, said he experienced none of that today.
“Everything seems to get a little bit scarier (in overtime), every shot seems like it's going to go in,” Opperman said. “Today for some reason, in the back of my mind, I knew we were going to get that one.”
As the Mustangs celebrated, coach Les Larson smiled.
“The seniors really responded today,” said Larson. “We had a little bit of a talk after the first period, I challenged some guys to get moving. It’s normal for a 9 o’clock game to get going (slowly) after a tough one yesterday.”
“I knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time.”
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff
Nate Breitenfeldt scored 3 minutes, 30 seconds into overtime to lift No. 3 seed Breck past No. 4 seed Thief River Falls 4-3 in the third place game of the state Class 1A tournament on Saturday, March 10, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Breitenfeldt’s goal came on pass through the slot from Grant Opperman, who had carried the puck wide into the Prowlers’ end, controlling it until he spotted his open teammate.
Riley Soderstrom and Evan Ose scored in the third period as Thief River Falls (23-6-2) rallied from a 3-1 deficit. Ose’s goal game with 7:51 left in the third.
Breck’s Keegan Iverson and Thief River Falls’ Logan Engelstad traded first-period goals.
The Mustangs (26-4-1), winners of back-to-back Class 1A titles in 2009 and 2010, surged in front in the second on goals by Opperman and Andrew Headrick.
Thief River Falls goaltender John Narverud made 32 saves while Breck’s Jack Kenney finished with 22.
-- MN Hockey Hub staff
1. Grant Opperman, Breck
Opperman scored just 36 seconds into the second period to jumpstart the Mustangs. Opperman also set up the Mustangs' overtime goal. The Mr. Hockey finalist finished his phenomenal season with 78 points (33 goals, 45 assists), including five points in the state tournament and six in the section playoffs.
2. Nate Breitenfeldt, Breck
The senior forward netted the game winner for Breck, earning a well-deserved star. A great way to end his career with the Mustangs, Breitenfeldt had three points in the state tournament and finished his year with 26 (10 goals, 26 assists). Breitenfeldt is one of 10 seniors for Breck.
3. Riley Soderstrom, Thief River Falls
Soderstrom had a goal and an assist for the Prowlers including a big shorthanded goal that kickstarted Thief River Falls. The senior forward had a wonderful tournament, picking up five points, including three goals. He finished his senior season with 57 points (30 goals, 27 assists).
-- Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff
Class 1A Tournament
Section 2A Playoffs
Class 1A Tournament
Section 8A Playoffs