North St. Paul's first state championship appearance was made possible by two unintentional strokes of luck and an impressive late save for a 2-1 victory over Andover in the Class2A boys' soccer semifinals at the Metrodome on Monday night.
The first goal by Adam Hildebrandt was intended to be a pass. The second goal by Tyler King was deflected into the net by an Andover defender.
"I didn't try to shoot that. It hit the wrong part of my foot. We got a little bit of luck," Hildebrandt said. "This journey is fantastic. We can't ask for more out here."
Polars goaltender Tommy Molski saved the victory by swatting away a shot by Andover's Andrew Bird with 2½ minutes left in the game.
North St. Paul coach Casey Holm also admitted to hints of luck, but said a lot of it was made possible by the Polars working hard for scrappy goals in the second half. They continually pressured the Andover defense and eventually caught a few breaks.
North St. Paul wiped away a 1-0 halftime deficit only 8 minutes, 29 seconds into the second half. Justin Oliver and Hildebrandt broke away from defenders for an open scoring chance. Oliver passed to Hildebrandt as Andover goalkeeper Colton Syler left the net. Hildebrandt's returning pass never made it to Oliver, but instead carried into the net.
"That's probably the best cross of your life," Holm jokingly said to Hildebrandt before giving him a hug.
King's go-ahead goal resulted from a free kick that deflected into the goal off the head of an Andover player.
The Huskies, on a run of upsets to reach the semifinal, were in control in the first half and appeared primed for another one. Their size wore down the Polars and limited the impact of the Oliver brothers, Justin and Tyler, on the game.
Ben Nivala scored the Huskies' only goal midway through the first half with a header off a corner kick.
"I think they came out a little stronger [in the second half]," Nivala said. "We were a little hesitant going into [the half] because we knew they've been able to come back."
EASTVIEW 2, EDINA 1
Recap: Eastview survived two more overtimes and a shootout to return to its third consecutive Class 2A championship game. The Lighting outscored Edina 4-2 in the shootout for what is officially scored as a 2-1 victory on Monday night at the Metrodome.
Jack Teske's shootout goal ended the long night and was preceded by goals from Kyle Lamott, Sam Fluegge and Pierce Erickson. Lamott, also Eastview's goalkeeper, knocked down Edina's first shootout attempt and saw the Hornets' second attempt hit off the crossbar.
Eastview also required overtime to win its state quarterfinal vs. Owatonna.
The back of Trip Adams' head produced the only regulation goal for Edina and an early 1-0 lead. Erickson's goal late in the first half tied the score.
Edina had several quality chances to win near the end of regulation and the second overtime. Lamott, however, handled the pressure well to extend the semifinal into a shootout.
Quote: "Roughly a week ago, my coach decided that I would take [a shootout shot]. He thought I'd be used to the pressure. It's really nerve-racking going up there, though. … It's kind of the same pressure [as goalkeeping in a shootout]. They rely on me there and I came through." — Lamott, who saved and scored a goal in Monday night's shootout.
One thing to know: It's been over a decade since Edina last played in the state tournament (2002). Back then, the Hornets were one of the elite programs in boys' soccer and won back-to-back-to-back Class 2A titles from 1999 to 2001.