One scoreless period against Mounds View in the Section 4AA semifinals and Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner had seen enough of his team “Hollywooding around”.
The top-seeded and No. 4-ranked, Pioneers took a much simpler approach to the final two periods and stormed into the section finals with a 6-0 victory over the fifth-seeded Mustangs on Wednesday, March 3, at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum in St. Paul.
Kevin Becker’s four-point night (two goals, two assists) led the way for Hill Murray, while Ben Bahe (one goal, two assists) and Willie Faust (one goal, one assist) also had multi-point games.
Tim Shaughnessy stopped all 20 Mounds View shots to lead Hill-Murray to its 28th section final since 1975. Dylan Culver made 27 saves for the Mustangs.
The Mustangs matched Hill-Murray shot-for-shot in the opening 17 minutes and headed to the dressing room having kept the explosive Pioneers off the scoreboard. Meanwhile, it was clear to Lechner that his team was hurting itself by not staying true to its system.
“A little bit of the semifinal jitters I guess,” said Lechner. “But we were being too cute. We weren’t playing as a unit.”
During the intermission, Lechner and his staff instructed the Pioneers to get “back to the basics” which they did with dramatic results. Bahe’s goal broke the deadlock for good just 3:54 into the second period on a feed from Becker.
Just 11 seconds later, public address announcer Dave Wright’s goal announcement was rudely interrupted by Becker’s lamp-lighting shot past Culver. Goals by Charlie Sampair and Faust just 1:32 apart straddling the 14-minute mark gave Hill-Murray a commanding 4-0 lead heading into the third period.
After two periods of penalty-free hockey, the lopsided score took its toll in the third, setting off a parade to the penalty box as the teams combined for 14 minutes in penalties. Amid all of that, Hill Murray’s Jack Walsh put the Pioneers up by a handful and Becker’s shorthanded goal midway through the third capped off the scoring.
Lechner was proud of the Pioneers’ effort over the final two periods. “What I like is they trusted us, they listened to us, they went out and executed, and it worked.”
1. Kevin Becker, Hill-Murray
Becker was a force all over the ice and factored on four of the six Pioneers goals
2. Ben Bahe, Hill-Murray
Bahe is a big-game performer — as evidenced by his overtime game-winner in last season’s section semifinal win over White Bear Lake — and he stepped up his game again in this one.
3. Willie Faust, Hill-Murray
The speedy Faust wreaks havoc from endboards to endboards and Wednesday night was no exception.
A late second period whistle drew attention to an official helping Hill Murray’s Jack Walsh to the bench in an odd scene. Shortly thereafter, another official was seen carrying Walsh’s missing skate blade back to him. Walsh headed to the dressing room to fetch an extra pair of skates before scoring Hill-Murray’s fifth goal early in the third.