Mahtomedi, the state's sixth-most penalized team in the regular season, has so perfected every nuance to killing penalties that, in practice, the Zephyrs' power play sputters to the point that working on it becomes "counterproductive," according to Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl.
Yet it was power-play goals from Charlie Bartholomew and Kory Pilarski in the final 1 minute, 51 seconds that vaulted the No. 2-seeded Zephyrs to a 4-2 victory over unseeded Mankato East/Loyola on Wednesday in the Class 1A state quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.
"Everybody was getting involved and everybody was moving it quick and fast," said Bartholomew, the Zephyrs' scoring leader who slammed a shot underneath Mankato East goalie Jack Cusey for the winner with 1:51 left.
Junior Kory Pilarski added another power play goal 58 seconds later on a wraparound as Mahtomedi (22-6-1), ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 1A, avoided the first-round upset that it suffered last season.
With the score tied 2-2 and 5:49 left, freshman Layten Liffrig of Mankato East (16-11-2) was called for a 5-minute checking-from-behind misconduct.
"Right now, it stings," Mankato East coach Adam Fries said. "We had the momentum on the two shifts right before that penalty."
As for all those frustrating Zephyrs practices, maybe they weren't so fruitless after all.
"We kind of practiced that little play," Bartholomew said about his winning goal. "It worked out pretty well today."