Raiders can't solve Minnetonka in state final

When the Roseville Area High School girls hockey team took on Minnetonka over the holiday break in late December, the Skippers blanked the Raiders 4-0. Roseville was without two of the their star players for that match-up and expected a different outcome when they met again Saturday night in the Class AA state final.

The ending turned out to be similar, unfortunately for the Raiders. Minnetonka again shut out Roseville, this time 3-0, to claim its second consecutive state championship.

"Minnetonka obviously has a lot to say with what we're doing out there," said Roseville head coach Vic Brodt. "The puck just didn't pop in."

Roseville came into the game 3-0 in state finals.

For senior captain Lee Stecklein, the disappointment was difficult to hide during the post-game press conference. She choked back tears while answering questions.

"I'm very proud of my team for getting this far. I think we played very well. It just didn't bounce our way," Stecklein said. "I don't think any of us are disappointed in our play. I'm a little disappointed that we couldn't come up with the win today."

Roseville came out firing but couldn't get the break it needed. Erika Bjorkman had a pair of point-blank chances early in the first period as the Raiders drew an early power play. Minnetonka goalie Sydney Rossman was up to the task all night, however.

"Maybe the difference was their goaltender," said Brodt. "We just couldn't get the puck past."

Minnetonka weathered the storm and then struck late in the first period with a power-play tally on just its second shot on goal of the game. The Skippers added to their lead with a goal 11 minutes into the second and that would prove to be more than enough for Rossman.

The Skippers closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal as time expired in the third period.

Despite the loss, Brodt said his team has nothing to hang their heads about this season.

"They had a fantastic year," said Brodt. "They gave it everything they had. There's nothing to feel sad about from that perspective."

Prior to the final, Roseville dispatched a pesky Grand Rapids/Greenway team 3-1 in the quarterfinals and Edina 4-1 in the semifinals.

The Raiders battled through some early frustrations against Grand Rapids, which Roseville beat 7-0 in November. The Lightning led 1-0 late in the second period before Stecklein got Roseville on the board with a wicked wrist shot in the final minute of the period.

"I got the puck on the red line and I knew the time was winding down," said Stecklein. "So I knew I had to make a rush in and try to change the momentum in our direction. It was game-changing, I think. If we had gone through that period without getting a goal, who knows what would have happened in the third period."

After giving up a goal in the final minute of the second period, the last thing Grand Rapids needed was to give up another in the first minute of the third but that's what happened. Kate Flug put Roseville in front with a marker 17 seconds into the third.

She also added an empty-net goal with 16 seconds left in the game.

"Was it our best game of the year? Absolutely not," said Brodt. "But a lot of credit has to go towards Grand Rapids. They gave us all we could handle out there. That team really improved this year from the start of the year."

In the semifinals, there was little frustration as the Raiders never trailed the Hornets, another team Roseville also faced during the regular season.

Sarah Knowlton and Flug got Roseville on the board with goals 38 seconds apart in the final minute of the second period. Jordan Capeti added to the lead 71 seconds into the third and Flug closed out the scoring with another empty-net goal late.

Allen honored
Roseville goaltender Erika Allen wrapped up her weekend with a prestigious award. Allen was named the Let's Play Hockey Senior Goalie of the Year at a banquet held Sunday afternoon in downtown St. Paul.

A member of the varsity since eighth grade, Allen has been a part of five Suburban East Conference championships and won a state title in 2010. She also helped lead the Raiders to this year's state final.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com.