Blaine girls' hockey coach Steve Guider beamed during the news conference following his team's 5-1 semifinal victory against No. 3 Hill-Murray (24-5-1) on Friday night. Senior defenseman Emily Brown shook with excitement as she spoke.
High-energy, victorious hockey has that effect. No. 2 seed Blaine (24-3-2) advances to Saturday's championship game for the first time since taking second in 2001. Two Blaine goals in a span of 13 seconds from the late second to early third period created a momentum shift Hill-Murray could not overcome.
"I'm ecstatic," Guider said. "I thought we played a great hockey game. These kids are a hardworking bunch, and they got what they deserved."
Blaine struck twice early in the second period. Ramsey Parent came around from behind the net and tucked the puck inside the post at the 2-minute, 13-second mark.
Courtney Moser made it 2-0 with a quick shot from the high slot 92 seconds later. Hill-Murray cut its deficit to 2-1 as Haylee Blinkhorn rifled the puck home at 6:15. The Pioneers spotted Blaine a 3-0 lead on Jan. 26, a game that ended in a 4-4 tie. This time, however, there would be no comeback.
With the final moments of the second period ticking away, Brown launched a shot into the back of the net. She scored her power-play goal with one second to spare and put the Bengals ahead 3-1.
"That one stung," Hill-Murray coach Bill Schafhauser said.
Second intermission failed to cool the Bengals. Paige Beebe added a goal 11 seconds into the third period for a 4-1 lead before Gabby Rosenthal added the last tally at the 10:29 mark.
"You try to regroup and they get one early," Schafhauser said. "It's tough to come back from that."
DAVID LA VAQUE