Blake's depth shows in title victory

Top-seeded and defending champion Blake got behind early but didn't waste much time coming back for a 6-2 state-championship victory over No. 2 seed St. Paul United.

The Bears (27-2-1) won their fourth Class 1A state title in five years and seventh overall in 10 trips to the state tournament. They also finished the season with a 19-game winning streak.

Saturday's Class 1A title game at Xcel Energy Center was a rematch of last year's title game, in which the Bears prevailed 8-0 over United, a co-op with players from Visitation and St. Paul Academy. In that game, the Bears had two hat tricks. This time around, they got goals from six different players. Nine players on their roster scored goals in the state tournament.

"We talk about that all the time, about how everybody on this team is important," said Blake coach Shawn Reid.

United struck first, with a goal from senior Joie Phelps 6:30 into the game off a 3-on-1 opportunity. Senior Lauren Boettcher skated the puck into the zone and passed it to Phelps in the middle of the ice, who scored with a top-shelf shot.

The Bears got even three minutes later with senior defenseman Hayley Konowalchuk's first goal of the season. She came into the game with just four assists, the last coming in a 1-0 victory over Elk River/Zimmerman Dec. 31.

"When I saw it go in the net, it was just a super-cool feeling," Konowalchuk said.

They made it a 2-1 Bears lead a couple minutes after that with a goal from freshman Lily Delianedis on a juicy rebound off a blocker save from United's goaltender, eighth-grader Jillian Oncay.

That first goal seemed to serve as a momentum changer for the Bears, who outshot United 10-0 the rest of the period for a 14-4 advantage. The final shot total was 37-15 in favor of the Bears.

The Bears kept their feet on the gas in the second, too, scoring two goals 1:29 apart for a 4-1 lead with rebound, crashing-the-net goals from freshmen Grace Johnson and Audrey Wethington. Sophomore Izzy Daniel added another goal with 33.2 ticks left in the period for a 5-1 lead through two periods.

Freshman Addie Burton added the sixth goal for the Bears. Samantha Burke scored for United with 1:26 left.

"The game plan was keep it simple and make simple plays," said United coach Nate Mauer. "If you don't play simple hockey against them [Blake] … you're going to get these results."

The Bears also beat United (21-7-2) twice during the regular season this year. This was the third overall state tournament appearance for United, after taking fourth place in 2014 and finishing second last year.