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As the seconds ticked down in the first period of Thursday’s Class 2A, Section 6 quarterfinal game between Wayzata and Blake, it appeared the teams would enter the first intermission tied at zero. But with 10 seconds left, one simple whistle changed momentum the Trojans' way.
The Bears were called for holding, and with five seconds to play, senior forward Colin Schmidt converted a shot to give Wayzata a lead going into the locker room.
It was Schmidt's 13th goal of the season, and it provided the springboard the Trojans needed to build a lead before holding off a furious Blake rally and escaping with a 5-3 victory at Plymouth Ice Arena to advance to the section semifinals.
Though the Trojans came in as the No. 3 seed, Wayzata had plenty to worry about with the sixth-seeded Bears. The teams met on Dec. 22, with Blake recording 6-3 victory.
“The first time, we beat them in transition,” Bears coach Greg May said. “We know they’re more physical and were probably going to out puck-possess us.”
May’s intuition proved to be true in the rematch as Blake struggled to put up a consistent offensive attack against a Trojan team focused on pushing the Bears off the puck.
Late in the first, it appeared Blake may stick around, but Schmidt’s goal changed things.
“That was big for our locker room,” Trojans coach Pat O’Leary said. “That meant a lot for us. It might not have been a TSN Turning Point, but it was still a pretty big deal.”
Once the second period started, Wayzata rode the momentum. The Trojans’ second goal came on a long shot from blue line. The lead increased to 3-0 later in the period when Wayzata senior defenseman Tyler Dingmann buried his point-blank chance.
In the final period, the Trojans faced some adversity as the Bears battled to cut into the lead behind freshman forward Joe Miller, who scored a pair of goals to make it a one-goal game.
Miller is among 14 ninth- and 10th-graders on the Bears’ roster this season, Blake's first as a Class 2A program. Despite their year coming to an early end, the Bears have plenty to look forward to.
“They’re just such a great group,” May said. “They battled as a young group. I couldn’t be more proud.”
For the Trojans, whose roster features 11 seniors, its on to the next step in the attempt to reach their third consecutive Class 2A state tournament, a run that included a state championship in 2016.
“Everyone is able to just take a deep breath,” O’Leary said. “Our leaders stayed positive. Overall, we stayed level-headed.”
Wayzata fought off the Bears thanks to senior forward Griffin Ness, who scored twice in the third period -- including an empty-netter -- to give himself a team-best 19 goals this season.
“You just see all of these kids continuing to mature,” O’Leary said. “This is a battle-tested group that has won a lot of big games.”
Wayzata faces No. 2 seed Cretin-Derham Hall in the section semifinals on Saturday, a rematch of a regular-season game the Trojans won 5-4 on Dec. 16.
Wayzata enters the game unfazed by being the lower seed. Coincidently, Wayzata defeated Cretin-Derham Hall in a the same situation last season.
“Some people say experience isn’t a big deal, but I think it is,” O’Leary said. “Even from my own playing experience, I can see how it helps. You’re still nervous, but you’ve seen what it’s like. These guys know what it’s like to be in about any situation.”
After falling to Blake during the regular season, Wayzata got out to an early lead on Thursday and held on to extract revenge on the Bears as the Trojans won 5-3 on Thursday at Plymouth Ice Center to advance to the Class 2A, Section 6 semifinals.
The scoring for Wayzata (15-10-1) didn’t start until the final seconds of the first period. After the Trojans drew a penalty with 10 seconds remaining in the opening period, senior forward Colin Schmidt got Wayzata on the board with five ticks left in the first.
In the second period, Schmidt tallied assists on both goals for the Trojans, which are ranked No. 10 in the Class 2A coaches’ poll and are the No. 3 seed in the section. Junior forward Michael North scored Wayzata’s second tally while senior defenseman Tyler Dingmann made it 3-0 on the power play.
After beating Wayzata 6-3 in their first meeting on Dec. 22, the No. 6 seed Bears (16-9-1) were unable to keep pace with the Trojans in the second meeting of the season. Freshman forward Joe Miller got his team on the board in the middle of the third period. He tallied his second minutes later to cut the game to 3-2.
Blake scored once more in its season-ending loss. Senior forward Bennett Hawley got the Bears within a goal with less than a minute remaining.
After Miller’s flurry of goals, Wayzata senior forward Griffin Ness scored his team-high 18th goal of the season on a rocket of a wrist shot to make it 4-2 Trojans. With the score 4-3 late in the third, Ness found the net again as he converted on an empty net to clinch the win.
With the win, Wayzata advances to take on Cretin-Derham Hall in the section semifinals. That game will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Bloomington Ice Garden.
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