The Anoka Tornadoes had all kinds of trouble with an underdog Rogers team twice this season, but put that behind them when Isaac Johnson tapped a soft goal into the net in the second overtime Thursday evening.
“They beat us to the puck a lot, and they were really physical and we matched that,” said Johnson, who started and finished a flurry of shots leading to his game-winner as the Tornadoes finally shook off the Royals 3-2 at Coon Rapids Ice Arena. “And now we can move forward.”
No. 3 seed Anoka (17-7-2) advanced to the Section 5AA semifinals against Centennial while No. 7 Rogers finished 11-15-1, including a 5-4 overtime win over Anoka on Jan. 6.
“They took a lot of things away from us. They did a fantastic job,” said Anoka coach Todd Manthey about Rogers. “They always had a third guy high. We didn’t have many odd-man rushes. In their D zone they played really well.”
Manthey described all three Anoka goals as “pretty ugly,” but added, “From here on, any ugly goal we can get, we’ll take it.”
Anoka faces Centennial at Champlin Ice Forum on Saturday, 3 p.m., with Maple Grove facing top-seeded Blaine at 7 p.m. Finals are Thursday at Aldrich Ice Arena, 7 p.m.
Rogers knotted the score on a big slap shot from the point by Dustin Schoepke with just 2:09 left in the third period, assisted by Vinny Billing. The Royals and goalie Jackson Nelson hung on while being outshot 7-1 in the second period.
“The players did all we asked of them,” said Justin Strunk, Rogers coach. “We left it all on the ice and just came up a little bit short. We felt we were pretty evenly-matched and it was going to be a good battle, a one-goal game one way or the other.”
Anoka score 40 seconds into the second overtime. Johnson fired from the right of the net, past Nelson but just missed, with the puck pausing behind the goalie, not quite across the line. Somebody batted the puck away, but Johnson sent it back a couple seconds later for his ninth and biggest goal of the season.
“I shot and hit the pipe, and my teammate shot and hit a pad,” said Johnson, “and it came out right at my feet. I was at the top of the crease, right by the goalie. I barely got a touch on it, but it went in
”Agreed Mantey: “I don’t think he got much on it, but it found the back of the net.”
Travis Limoseth had the other goal for Rogers, tying the score 2:00 into the second period, assisted by Jake Moss.
Giving Anoka one-goal leads were Riley Perry at 15:07 of the first period (assists by Johnson and Dylan McLaughlin) and Michael Talbot at 5:08 of the third period (assists by Ryan Streetar and Ben Saba), each on scrambles at the net.
Anoka goalie Spencer Olson made 30 saves and Nelson made 29 for Rogers. Strunk said Nelson was stout in the net, the seniors provided good leadership in the long battle, and Schoepke delivered a big goal, his ninth of the year along with 25 assists.
“Dusty was our leading scorer all year, and we moved back him to defense and he’s excelled there,” said Strunk.
It was an “up and down” season by the Royals, Strunk reflected. “We were young and inexperienced,” he said, “so there were some growing pains along the way. To our players’ credit, there was no bad attitude, no finger pointing. They hung in there and stuck together.”