by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
The Maple Grove boys’ hockey team could not have found a better way of boosting their confidence heading into this week’s Section 5AA than what they did in their regular season finale Feb. 14. The Crimson, seeded third, knocked off No. 1 seed Blaine 7-5 to extend their winning streak to four games.
Blaine had a perfect conference record entering the game against Maple Grove but the Crimson spoiled the Bengals’ bid for perfection. The Crimson were led by their top line of Josh Passolt, Nate Erickson and Sam Valerius. Passolt had two goals and four assists, Valerius had five assists and Erickson scored two goals. Calvin McKenney made 28 saves to get the win.
The score was tied 1-1 after one period when the firework began in the second. Maple Grove exploded for five goals and Blaine had three. The Crimson held on in the third period to end the regular season on a winning note.
“I thought it would be a low scoring game because they don’t give up much,” Crimson coach Gary Stefano said. “But it’s one of those games where the puck went in from all angles. Passolt, Erickson and Valerius have been our mainstays all year and they really had a good night. They are all very skilled players and they have come around and are doing pretty good.”
The Crimson are riding high after beating Blaine but they will have to go through Irondale in the quarterfinal Saturday, Feb. 23, at 8 p.m. at Champlin and probably No. 2 Centennial in the semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the State Fairground Coliseum to get to Blaine in the section final Friday, March 1, at the Coliseum.
“Our goal since the beginning of the season has been to get back to the section final to defend our section title,” Stefano said. “We feel we have a chance. It’s wide open. Blaine is the No. 1 seed but we feel Centennial and us are not far behind.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]