Blake senior center Lucy Burton scored her 25th goal of the season with a backhand shot to give the Bears a 3-0 lead in the Class 1A semifinal against Northfield. Afterward, she was quick to spread the praise.
"I have to give basically almost all the credit to our defense, Sarah Chute," said Burton, adding that Chute got the puck in the neutral zone before they made eye contact and Burton broke for the net.
It's that defense that's been part of the success for the top-seeded Bears (26-2-1), who got points from eight players in a 4-1 victory over the Raiders Friday at Xcel Energy Center. Most notably, junior C.C. Wallin and Chute moved to defense this season after playing forward last year. They each notched an assist Friday and helped sophomore goalie Olivia Bizal stop 15 of 16 shots.
Wallin, who is a junior, was a defenseman as a youth player and returned to that position for most of this season.
"It's nice to get back there, and I love playing with Sarah," Wallin said.
Having experienced players helped in the game, "where we don't have the jitters," Bears coach Shawn Reid said.
The Raiders (20-7-3) scored a power-play goal with 1 minute, 31 seconds left off Brynn Puppe's stick. The Raiders had not lost a game since Dec. 27 but faced a good, deep team in Blake, Raiders coach Brent Bielenberg said.
"When you have teams that can skate, they take away time and space," said Bielenberg, whose team was outshot 39-16 and went 1-for-4 on the power play. "Blake is just a solid team all the way through."
In a rematch of last year's Class 1A final, the Bears will face St. Paul United with a shot at their fourth title in five years and seventh overall in 10 state tournament trips.