With a winger zipping towards the goal, the opportunity to pass the puck was there.
So with less than two seconds left in a 3-3 tie that Champlin Park was stuck in with Andover Jan. 29, senior Hailey Adair fired on goal.
In that instant, the Rebels girls hockey team had its signature victory.
Adair ripped a shot that beat the Andover goalie over her glove. By the time of the referee blew his whistle, .06 seconds were left in the game.
It wasn’t technically a buzzer-beater, but it was nearly the hockey equivalent in the Rebels 4-3 victory over the eighth-ranked Huskies.
And it very well could be precisely what Champlin Park needed heading into this week’s Section 5AA quarterfinals.
“It was a huge, huge goal,” said head coach Jim Koltes. “That is our biggest win of the year, especially the way it happened. We are playing our best hockey right now, and think we as coaches have seen that. But now that we have one of these type of wins, the girls can see it as well.”
In retrospect, Champlin Park nearly had one last week, when they forced No. 5 Edina into overtime before eventually losing 3-2 Jan. 22.
The girls came back Jan. 26 to beat Centennial 1-0. Then came their Jan. 29 victory over Andover, and a season-ending victory at Coon Rapids Feb. 2 to finish the year with a 14-11 overall record.
That mark left them in the middle of an interesting conversation amongst the Section 5AA coaches late Feb. 3 – a seeding meeting held after this edition of the paper went to press.
According to Koltes, the top three seeds in the section – Mounds View, Andover and Blaine – were locked. As was 7-8-9, which (in order) were expected to go to Centennial, Coon Rapids and Spring Lake Park.
Deciphering seeds four through six was going to much more difficult.
Champlin Park, Anoka and Irondale were each in the mix, and Koltes said there was no telling how the coaches would line those three teams up.
“We have more conference wins than Anoka, and we split with them,” Koltes said. “We beat Buffalo, who they lost to. We both beat Andover. We swept Maple Grove, they split with them. That is our argument, and they all have an argument for the fourth seed. We could be four, and we could fall to six. But we’re not worried about it. We’ll be ready to go.”
Just about every team heading to Roseville this week for the tournament can say the same. There are other sections that have a deeper pool of quality, but there might not be a more wide-open field.
Koltes said as many as seven teams have a realistic chance of getting though the section and into the Class AA state tournament, and that list includes the Rebels.
The Section 5AA tournament begins with the play-in game between the No. 8 and 9 seed Feb. 6. All four quarterfinals will be played in succession Saturday, Feb. 9.
The semifinals are set for 6 and 8 p.m. Feb. 12, and the final will be played at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15. Champlin Park believes it can still be playing then.
“We know what our identity is, and we know that can work in the playoffs,” said Koltes. “The girls are excited. We expect to win games. Even against Andover, we expected to win. Of course, Adair bailed us out with .06 seconds left, but we’ll take it.”
Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]