By Bob San
Sun Press Newspapers
A high-powered line and a stellar goaltender have provided the spark the Maple Grove boys’ hockey team has been looking for all season.
“We are really coming together at the right time,” said Crimson coach Tom Starkey. “We are getting outstanding goaltending, our first line is really clicking and we are getting better and better on defense. That’s what you hope for — to have a winning product in February and March.”
Maple Grove is 8-2-2 in its last 12 outings and one of the keys to its surge is the top line of Sam Valerius, Josh Passolt and Joe Norenberg. Ever since Starkey put the three together, they have emerged as one of the most explosive lines in the state.
Valerius the team with 15 goals and 24 assists, Passolt is next with 17 goals and 20 assists and Norenberg is tied for third along with Sam Franta and Sam Huff with 21 points.
“That first line has really been playing well together,” Starkey said. “They have been playing so well that I’d put them up against any top lines in the state.”
Another key to Maple Grove’s success is sophomore goalie Brady Goodman, who has taken over the No. 1 goaltending job. In 12 starts, Goodman is 8-2-2 with two shutouts and a .948 save percentage.
“I am not taking anything away from the other goalies but you need one goalie to step up late in the season and Brady has done that,” Starkey said. “I can’t say enough about what Brady has done. He has been tested with games against Eden Prairie, Moorhead, Elk River, Duluth East. He has been outstanding.”
Last week, the Crimson went 1-1-1. They lost 3-1 to Andover in a battle of two of the hottest teams in the conference, tied Centennial 1-1 and defeated Osseo 7-1.
Andover had won nine in a row and Maple Grove was riding a 7-1-1 streak entering the game. Both teams fired 40 shots in the exciting contest. The Huskies, however, managed to score three times while the Crimson got only one goal from Passolt with assists from Norenberg and Valerius.
Goodman turned back 38 of 39 shots he face to help the Crimson to a 1-1 tie against Centennial. The Crimson were outshot 39-18. Franta scored MG’s lone goal.
Valerius had three goals and two assists to lead Maple Grove to a 7-1 win over Osseo Saturday. Drake Thomsen added two goals and Cuyler Fischer each had one goal.
Maple Grove, 13-7-3 overall, ends the regular season with a game against Blaine at the State Fairground Coliseum at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. The game has huge impact on section seedings.
“The playoffs has really started,” Starkey said.
Contact Bob San at email@example.com