If White Bear Lake played the rest of its games at the St. Croix Valley Rec Center, Mac Jansen is going to be a happy young man.
With two goals on against Stillwater, the Bears biggest Suburban East Conference foe Jansen now has six and a total of eight points in just two games at the Ponies' home rink as the Bears took down their rival 5-1 on Thursday, Jan. 6.
Jansen scored four goals in what was a home game at the SCVRC when the Bears beat Cretin-Derham Hall 7-1 earlier this season in what was the SEC Boy’s Hockey Day.
“I don’t know what it is,” Jansen said. “It’s a great atmosphere to play in and you always want to have a big game in a place like this.”
Indeed it was, as Stillwater fans packed the arena in what was expected to be a great SEC showdown. Unfortunately for the hometown crowd, Jansen did not oblige.
“Before the game I just told him to make a day of it,” Bears coach Tim Sager said. “Maybe they will name the place 'Mac’s Shack' afterwards.”
More importantly, Jansen made things happen in an important game not only for conference play, but the postseason as well.
Stillwater and White Bear Lake are in Section 4AA and will have a good chance of playing one another once again. Being able to chip in two goals in a game with section seeding implications and lead the Bears to a dominating win was imperative.
“This is a big game,” Jansen said. “We always look forward to playing them, and that doesn’t mean we don’t look forward to other games. It’s just this one is a big game.”
Jansen's goals were not necessarily highlight quality.But after going almost 7 minutes without a shot on goal to start the game, any shot for the Bears was a good one.
“I looked up at the clock and said, 'We haven’t registered a shot yet,' ” Sager said. “I just told them to throw the puck at the net.”
Jansen listened and saw the positive results.
His first goal gave White Bear a 3-1 lead late in the second when he fired a low wrist shot that beat Ponies goalie Blake Cates. Jansen and his teammates went into the locker room after the period knowing that their rival was not going to go away so quietly.
So, Jansen continued to take his coach’s advice and kept pulling the trigger.
He second goal came from the left faceoff circle, beating Cates once again and more importantly, give the Bears a 4-1 lead.
“You know the old rule about two-goal leads,” Sager said. “You throw it at the net, and if it hits, you have a 50-50 chance. It (Jansen’s shot) found a hole and anything they thought they could get, the mountain looked twice as high because we had a three-lead.”
“Our mindset going in the third was to match them because we knew they were going to come out with everything they got,” Jansen added. “We had to come out like it was a 0-0 game.”
If anything, White Bear Lake overmatched Stillwater, creating more scoring chances and getting more shots on goal for the period.
“We want to show them that even with a lead, we are not going to let up,” Jansen said. “Show them what we will give them the next time we play them.”
In just about every sport, Stillwater and White Bear consider each other fierce rivals.
Since Phil Housley jumped on board as the Ponies head coach, boy’s hockey has joined that conversation.
Both teams play a similar brand of physical, emotional and up-tempo hockey.
With the two schools being so close in proximity, the rivalry doesn't begin in high school.
The youth organizations in Stillwater and White Bear Lake have two huge assets. Talented players and plenty of numbers to chose from.
There are few programs that can assemble several traveling teams at the youth levels, and Stillwater and White Bear seem to find one another at the youth region tournaments and recently, the high school section tournament as well.
“This is not only a conference foe, but a section foe,” Sager said. “We got them one more time in our building, and probably another time down the road after that.”
Since the 2005-06 season, the two have met 14 times, with the Bears holding a 10-3-1 record advantage in that span after their 5-1 win on Thursday, Jan. 6.
The Bears have won all three meetings in section play during that time, including a 3-1 win in last season’s Section 4AA semifinals.
Prior to Thursday, White Bear Lake had outscored Stillwater 57-30 since 2005 and were on a three-game winning streak.
In Thursday's meeting, there was even more to prove for both teams. Not only trying to put a headlock the SEC lead, both were coming off holiday tournaments where it had two losses.
White Bear had the recipe for recovery, which now has a four-game win streak against the Ponies -- and the traveling student section knows it.
Familiar to being on the wrong end of a streak, White Bear Lake is currently on a 14-game slide against arch rival Hill-Murray, Bears fans gave it to Ponies fans Bronx style, like Yankees fans did to Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez.
Chants of “Who’s your daddy?” rang through the arena once White Bear established a 4-1 lead and there was not much Stillwater could do.
“It gets pretty intense,” Jansen said. “Usually it’s us and them at the top for conference and sections.”
Phil Housley returned behind the bench for the Ponies after spending time in Buffalo, N.Y. as an assistant with Team USA at the World Junior tournament. Team USA won the bronze medal against Sweden, two days after losing to Canada in the semifinals.
With the win in the third place game, Team USA’s bronze marks the first time in the tournament that it went back-to-back in the medal ceremony.
“Nobody (Team USA) has ever won back-to-back medals, so that is a feather in their hat. They made some USA hockey history. I was very proud of our guys.”
Last year, USA beat Canada in the finals for the gold and the Canadians would once again have to taste silver as Russia beat Canada last night 5-3 to take home the championship honors.
Losing 4-1 to Canada, Team USA had to lick its wounds quickly to play Sweden and had a solid effort, winning 4-2 on Wednesday.
“We didn’t get the effort we wanted against Candada,” Housley said.
It was essentially a home game for Canada despite being on U.S. soil for the much anticipated rematch of the Gold Medal championship game from last season.
With Buffalo near the Canadian border, it was an easy trip for the passionate fans from the North.
“Their fans are hockey crazy,” Housley said.
Max Birkinbine had two goals and two assists and Mac Jansen scored twice as White Bear Lake defeated the Ponies 5-1 in a matchup of top Suburban East Conference and Section 4AA teams on Thursday, Jan. 6, at the St. Croix Valley Rec Center
Brandon Wahlin scored the game winner in the second on a 2-on-1 feed from Birkinbine. Wahlin's shot snuck under the arm of Ponies goalie Blake Cates, who was particularly busy in the final two periods.
Cody Corbett scored the game's first goal on a nifty snap shot in the upper left corner to give Stillwater a brief 1-0 lead.
Just over a minute later, Birkinbine, on the Bears' first shot on goal, got it through Cates and it was all Bears after that.
After Wahlin gave White Bear the lead for good, Jansen added some insurance with two consecutive goals.
His first was a low wrist shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Cates late in the second period.
To begin the third, Jansen took any momentum Stillwater was looking for when he buried a shot from the opposite dot for a 4-1 lead.
Later, Birkinbine tallied his second on the power play to finish the scoring.
The Bears remain flawless in the SEC with a record of 5-0-0 (7-4-0 overall) and Stillwater drops to 3-2-1 (5-4-1 overall).
On Saturday, Jan. 8, White Bear Lake will be on the road at Mounds View. The Ponies travel to Cottage Grove to take on the Wolfpack.
1. Mac Jansen, White Bear Lake
The senior forward scored two goals, including one at the start of the third period that essentially iced the game for the Bears. Jansen has tallied 13 goals this season and six have come at the St. Croix Valley Rec Center.
2. Max Birkinbine, White Bear Lake
The senior forward put the Bears on the board in the first period to answer the Ponies' goal just more than a minute after they scored. It was also the first shot on net White Bear had and it was an important one because Stillwater had momentum early in the game. Birkinbine also assisted on the game winner by Brandon Wahlin in the second, literally seconds after Birkinbinde came out of the penalty box. He got the puck at the blue line and gave a nice feed to Wahlin. In the third, he scored his second on the power play to put away Stillwater for good.
3. Jared Schletty, White Bear Lake
Halfway through the first period, Schletty was just hoping to make it out alive. After giving up a goal to the Ponies' Cody Corbett, Schletty was stellar between the pipes. His positioning was nearly flawless and he did not give up many rebounds as he recorded 24 saves for the victory. Stillwater had some chances on the doorstep, but the junior was able to gobble up most of the Ponies' shots in his stomach.