Mustangs push state’s top team, fall short

Tears are expected when a team sees its season end one game short of the state tournament but some of the tears shed in the Mounds Vie w High School girls hockey team’s locker room following its section-final loss on Feb. 11 were those of immense pride. They were most likely the tears of Mustangs  head coach Aaron Moberg.

The fourth-year head coach was emotional after watching his team put up a fight against the No. 1 team in the state, Hill-Murray, in the Section 4AA championship game at Roseville Arena. Mounds View shook off a ragged first period and trailed by one going to third before falling 3-1.

“I learned so much about these kids tonight it was unbelievable,” said Moberg. “They taught me a lot about leaning into adversity.”

That adversity included a two-goal deficit after being outshot 17-4 in the first period. Hill-Murray, which went undefeated in the regular season, could have come out in the second period and buried Mounds View but the Mustangs didn’t let that happen.

Instead, Mounds View put together a strong opening shift that resulted in a pair of shots on goal, including one that had a couple of Mustangs raising their arms as if the puck had crossed the goal line. It didn’t but following the next faceoff, Mounds View again got the puck to the net and this time cashed is as senior Sydney Brodt banged home a rebound.

“I think we got jump-started by that first shift off the draw,” Moberg said. “We get in the zone and get a couple of chances and then we bury one. You get a goal there to make it 2-1 and there s something amazing about momentum in sports. The girls started to relax and play their game.”

After being badly outshot in the first, Mounds View was even with the Pioneers in the second with 10 shots each. 

Going to the third, Mounds View had to like its position.

“All the pressure was on Hill at that point,” Moberg said. “If we win this period, at worst we re going to overtime to go to the state tournament.”

Hill-Murray then showed why it’s the two-time defending champion by scoring in the first minute of the third following a slugging second period in which the Pioneers failed to build any momentum in part because of four penalties.

“That was a big goal that they got right away in the third period,” said Moberg. “It was a punch to the gut because we were a shot away from tying this thing up. Credit them. That was a nice goal they had.”

Now with a two-goal lead, Hill-Murray went into lockdown mode and allowed Mounds View only two shots on goal the rest of the period.

“They got a lot of momentum after that third goal but the girls kept fighting,” Moberg said. “It could have gotten away from us there but to keep them off the scoreboard the rest of the way says a lot about out character.”

Another reason Hill-Murray wasn’t able to pull away was Mounds View goaltender Teagan Johnson. The freshman made a career-high 38 saves and earned some post-game praise.

“She was amazing,” Moberg said. “We told her she’s got nothing to lose tonight. Hill’s goals were grade A chances and nothing she could do about those. In this environment to go out and play like she did, she’s got a bright future.”

Mounds View reached the section final by knocking off a rival in the semifinals on Feb. 9 at Aldrich Arena. Suburban East Conference foe White Bear Lake was the second seed in Section 4AA and beat seventh-seeded Irondale in the quarterfinals.

When the Mustangs and Bears took the ice at Aldrich, it was their third meeting of the season and it would settle the season series between the two squads. Mounds View won game one 2-0 on Dec. 5 and White Bear Lake returned the favor 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 16. The winning team was outshot in both games and that was also the case in the playoff game although the margin was thin.

White Bear Lake held a 20-19 edge in shots but it was Mounds View that came away with the 2-0 victory. Rachel Anderson scored the only goal the Mustangs would need 3:25 into the second period and Courtney Conlin provided an insurance goal with five seconds left in the middle period.

Armed with a two-goal lead going into the third, Mounds View didn’t take any unnecessary chances and protected the lead. The two teams combined for only nine shots on goal.

Johnson made 20 saves and earned her eighth shutout of the season.

The win sent Mounds View to its fourth section final in five years. The Mustangs cashed in on two (2012, 2014) of those previous trips to the finals but couldn’t find a solution to the puzzle Hill-Murray has befuddled the entire state with this season.

Hill-Murray (27-0-1) is headed to the state tournament for the fourth straight year. The Pioneers drew the No. 1 seed in the Class AA state tournament and face unseeded Sartell/Sauk Rapids-Rice (21-7) in the quarterfinals on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.


 

Section 4AA girls hockey playoffs

Quarterfinals

Game 1  Hill-Murray 9, Woodbury 1

Game 2  Stillwater 4, Roseville 1

Game 3  Mounds View 2, North/Tartan 2

Game 4  White Bear Lake 4, Irondale/St. Anthony 2

Semifinals 

Game 5  Hill-Murray 8, Stillwater 1

Game 6  Mounds View 2, White Bear Lake 0

Championship game 

Game 7  Hill-Murray 3, Mounds View 1

 

 

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