Stunned is the best way to describe the head-hung-low body language of Maple Grove senior forward Alex Mason as he served his penalty time to round out the Crimson’s 5-2 Class 2A quarterfinal loss to Hill-Murray.
Just over three minutes into the game Thursday, the Crimson’s first shot on goal - a rising wrist shot off Mason’s stick - beat Pioneers’ goalie John Dugas over his blocker pad.
The tournament’s No. 2 seed appeared to be in the driver’s seat, but was soon pushed aside with a hardy shove.
Hill-Murray scored goals 38 seconds apart later in the first to take a 2-1 lead. It really took the momentum just over 10 minutes into the second when Maple Grove’s Jordan Gross, being pressured by Zach LaValle, put the puck into his own net.
Balloon, meet pin.
“From what I remember, he just kind of slashed my stick and then I threw it in,” a dejected Gross said afterward.
LaValle, who had the Pioneers’ second goal of the first period and added two assists in the game, didn’t recall much about the fluky eventual game-winner, either.
Apparently, neither did the official scorer at Xcel Energy Center. Credit initially went to LaValle before it was changed to Jake Guentzel, then back to LaValle again.
Regardless, it assured the unseeded Pioneers are into the semifinals. “I’m not sure really what happened; it went in,” LaValle said. “No matter who touched the puck, it doesn’t matter. It’s a goal.
“I was fortunate.”
Maple Grove, which scored 15 goals last week in its section final victory, walked away with a different feeling. “I thought we had a couple of good chances to get back in it, but they either missed the net or just didn’t get there,” Crimson coach Gary Stefano said.