Mounds View avoids upset bug

This was not a good year to be a high seed in the Section 5AA girls hockey playoffs. The second, third and fourth seeds all lost in Saturday's quarterfinals to lower-seeded opponents.

The only higher seed to survive was No. 1 seed Mounds View, which cruised to a 7-0 victory over ninth-seeded Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony Village.

Among the upsets was sixth-seeded Irondale's 1-0 surprise victory over third-seeded Blaine. Also feeling the sting of the upset bug were second-seeded Andover, which lost 5-1 to No. 7 Centennial, and fourth-seeded Anoka, which dropped a 4-1 decision to fifth-seeded Champlin Park.

Irondale shut down a deeper, physically-stronger Blaine team behind a shutout performance by sophomore goaltender Anna Pate. Playing in her first post-season game, Pate was in control the whole game and also got plenty of help from her teammates.

Neither team was able light the lamp through the first two periods and as the game headed to the third, overtime appeared to be a realistic option. That is, until senior defenseman Jessica Mularie and junior forward Alex Toupal teamed up for the only goal of the game. Toupal gained control of the puck and went on a clock-wise tour of the Blaine zone. After carrying the puck from behind the net and up near the blue line, Toupal started down toward the goal line on the left side before sliding a pass to Mularie, who cheated in from her right point position to take the pass and beat Blaine senior goalie Courtney Jensrud.

From there, Irondale closed out the game and the victory, which became official at about 9 p.m. on Saturday. That's about 3 1/2 hours earlier than last year's quarterfinal between Mounds View and Irondale. That game started 70 minutes late because the game before it went two overtimes, wound up going four overtimes and ended around 12:30 a.m.

The win over Blaine was Irondale's fourth in the playoffs since 2009 when the Knights topped the Bengals in the semifinals. The next year, Irondale beat Blaine in overtime in the quarterfinals and did the same in 2011.

Irondale takes on Centennial in the second semifinal on Tuesday at Roseville Arena. It will be a rematch of Irondale's 3-2 victory over the Cougars on Jan. 3.

The first semifinal on Tuesday features Mounds View against Champlin Park in another rematch. The Mustangs beat the Rebels 3-1 in the first round of the Irondale Thanksgiving tournament on Nov. 23.

Mounds View had little trouble in its quarterfinal on Saturday against Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony Village, although the Mustangs led only 1-0 after the first period. Things picked up in the second as Mounds View pumped in five goals to overwhelm the Panthers.

Senior Kathryn Larson led the barrage with a hat trick and an assist. Elle Marvin (three assists), Lauren Klein (one goal, two assists) and Syndey Brodt (one goal, two assists) all recorded three-point games. Maddie Quickstad and Cristi Oliver also scored for the Mustangs and Sophie Marvin added an assist.

Mary Dingman started in goal for Mounds View and picked up the victory by making 11 saves through the first two periods. Paige Kittleson played the third period and stopped all six shots she saw.

Mounds View peppered two Panther goalies with 49 shots, 40 of which came in the first two periods.