Centennial's Scottie Nelson (22) couldn't get this puck past Hill-Murray goaltender Wyatt Vint. There were plenty of near misses in a game Hill-Murray eventually won in a shootout. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Hill-Murray’s Ben Helgeson says he considers Centennial’s Lucas McGregor a good buddy.
And when a good buddy high sticks you in the Schwan Cup Gold Division quarterfinals, it’s only good form that you return the favor (the two took matching high-sticking penalties in the second period).
“We played last year on an Elite League team together,” said Helgeson, whose shootout goal clinched unranked Hill-Murray’s upset victory over the No. 5 Cougars on Tuesday (the game is officially scored as a 4-4 tie per Minnesota State High School League rules), sending the Pioneers on to Wednesday’s semifinals against undefeated Minnetonka. “We were just giving each other some crap.”
McGregor, Centennial’s supremely skilled senior forward, scored three goals and was the only Cougars player to beat Hill-Murray goaltender Wyatt Vint in the three-round shootout. Scott Moyer and Helgeson each scored in the shootout for the Pioneers, with Helgeson’s goal serving as the clincher.
The back-and-forth between Helgeson and McGregor, the top scorer for Centennial (5-1-2), continued after the shootout.
“I went up to him and kind of and slapped him on the back a little bit at the end,” Helgeson said. “Give him a little grief for it.”
Because that’s what friends do.
What the Pioneers don’t do much of is practice shootouts. In Minnesota high school hockey, only holiday tournament games are decided by shootouts, and then it is only for the purpose of determining which team advances in the championship round. Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner figures he spends about five minutes a week on breakaways, and even then it’s done mostly for the goaltenders.
Still, Helgeson, Hill-Murray’s third and final shooter, had a plan as he skated in on Centennial goalie Bryce Crowley.
“It was a fake shot, and I don’t even remember if I went backhand or forehand,” said Helgeson, a junior Wisconsin commit who ranks second on the Pioneers (4-3-3) in scoring with 14 points. “I shot and it somehow went over him.”
For the record, Helgeson went backhand after his deke.
“With Benny, he’s the calmest, he’s our captain, he’s been on the varsity for three years,” Lechner said when asked when he sent Helgeson out last. “The other guys just haven’t been in this situation.”
Like Helgeson, Lechner also had some words for McGregor after the game, stopping and telling the Centennial star how much he appreciated his game in the handshake line.
“I like the way he plays,” Lechner said. “He’s the real deal.”
Hill-Murray goaltender Wyatt Vint stopped Centennial's Will Francis on the third shootout attempt, opening the door for a game-winning score by Ben Helgeson on the Pioneers' final attempt. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Junior forward Ben Helgeson’s shootout goal clinched Hill-Murray’s victory over Centennial on Tuesday in a Schwan’s Cup Gold Division quarterfinal matchup at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
The game, which will officially be scored as a 4-4 tie, was deadlocked through regulation and an 8-minute overtime period, forcing the shootout to determine which team would advance to Wednesday’s semifinal round.
Hill-Murray’s Scott Moyer and Centennial’s Lucas McGregor also scored in the shootout, setting up Helgeson’s winning deke and backhand flip over Centennial goaltender Bryce Crowley.
The upset loss for the Cougars, ranked fifth in Class 2A in the latest state coaches’ poll, spoiled a brilliant performance for their senior forward McGregor. A likely Mr. Hockey finalist, McGregor scored three goals, his third coming with 2:02 left in the third period to force the overtime session.
Joshua Hermes also scored for Centennial (5-2-2).
Michael Fleischhacker scored twice, and Brett Oberle and Charlie Strobel also had goals for the Pioneers (5-3-3).
Hill-Murray goaltender Wyatt Vint, a sophompore, made 27 saves, including five in the overtime period. He stopped two of three shooters in the shootout.
Crowley finished with 31 saves, including six in overtime. He stopped one of the three shooters he faced in the shootout.
Centennial's Lucas McGregor celebrates the second of his three goals in a shootout loss to Hill-Murray. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
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