Cole Hansen, once a promising youth player oozing with potential, finished his sophomore season on Blaine's fourth line. His stats were meager, to put it gently. One goal and one assist.
"I went into the offseason thinking about that," Hansen said. "I told myself that's not going to happen again."
Endless summer weightlifting and puck shooting sessions helped elevate Hansen's game, and the junior forward's rise to relevance reached a new level Thursday as he scored two goals and added an assist in No. 2 seed Blaine's 4-2 triumph over White Bear Lake in the Class 2A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center. He has 14 goals and 51 points.
"It's not a surprise to us," said Blaine junior Carsen Richels of Hansen's spectacular play. "He does it all the time in practice. He's a goal scorer, and he's earned them."
Hansen's linemates, Richels and Mr. Hockey award finalist Bryce Brodzinski, each scored one goal. Richels' goal, a shot off a Hansen feed through the slot, put Blaine (23-2-2) ahead 4-0 early in the second period.
"Let me tell ya, they move, they are big, they're strong," White Bear Lake coach Tim Sager said of the Bengals' top line.
The loss extended the Bears' losing streak in state quarterfinals to 19 in as many appearances.
"We all got scared of the bright lights, all the people," said Sam Newpower, whose goal late in the second period pulled White Bear Lake (21-5-1) to within 4-2.