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The kids have grown up, eh?
Meanwhile, junior goaltender Aaron Gretz made sure the single goal stood up, stopping all 30 Bengals’ shots. The last time Apple Valley (18-11-0) qualified for the state tournament (1996), they rode a hot goaltender (Karl Goehring) to a state title. Feeling déjà vu?
“I knew coming in that I was going to get bombarded and would have to make some big saves,” Gretz said.
Apple Valley coach Jerry Hayes was asked whether he considered going into a defensive shell with a one-goal lead late in the third period. He deadpanned that it was never option.
“I didn’t want to confuse our guys,” Hayes joked. “We just wanted to continue to play the game the way it was meant to be played. Smart hockey is defensive hockey.
“Smart hockey is getting the puck deep when you hit the red line.”
Apple Valley proved it may be young, but certainly smart. Hayes was loath to use the upset word to describe his team’s victory, but his players seemed to feed off the role.
“We’ve been the underdog since the section semifinals against Eagan,” Fasching said. “And we will be tomorrow, too.”
Fasching added an empty-net goal in the final minute, his team-leading 24th of the season.
Blaine, making its fifth-straight state tournament appearance, was ranked No. 5 in the Hockey Hub’s final state poll. Apple Valley had lost six of its final eight regular season games heading into the playoffs.
“We don’t regret the game plan or the way we played,” Blaine coach Dave Aus said. “We just didn’t win.”
1. Aaron Gretz, Apple Valley
Eagles junior shut out one of the state's most high-scoring teams (led by Mr. Hockey finalist and sniper extraordinairre Nick Bjugstad), making 30 saves in a spectacular effort.
2. Adam Robson, Apple Valley
Eagles senior scored the winning goal late in the second period, pouncing on a loose puck in the slot. Robson's goal was by far the biggest of the tournament to date.
3. Hudson Fasching, Apple Valley
Freshman forward was a Bjugstad-like force on most every shift. He sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 11 seconds left and finished with a team-high six shots.