Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Duluth Marshall 4 Blake 3

A late surge by the Bears of the Blake School wasn’t quite enough to overcome the third-seeded Marshall School of Duluth Hilltoppers, as Marshall won 4-3 to advance to Friday’s semifinal game against St. Thomas Academy.

Bob Gutsch started the scoring for the Hilltoppers at 5:28 of the first period when he picked up a loose puck in front of the net and deked around Blake goalie Peter Johnson. Later in the first period, Marshall’s Derek Randall fired a slap shot from point that found its way into the back of net to give Marshall a 2-0 lead.

Blake would cut the gap to one goal in the last minute of the first period on a goal by Erik Olson, but Marshall continued their dominance in the second period, getting two goals within 28 seconds from defenseman Dano Jacques and forward Zach Mausolf.

Momentum quickly shifted in favor of Blake in the third period, however. Stephen Steinhauser scored a powerplay goal 1:10 into the third period, and teammate Blake Dressen scored just seven second later to cut Marshall’s lead to one.

“I never felt comfortable when it was 4-1,” said Marshall head coach Brendan Flaherty. “My kids almost gave me a heart attack.”

Blake was unable to net the equalizer, though they came extremely close at 14:58 of the third period when Blake’s Mike Louwerse fed a puck to the front of the net that was tipped by teammate Josh Birkholz. The puck was trapped somewhere under Marshall goalie Jesse Behning whose body was partially in the net. The play was initially ruled as not a goal by the on-ice official, and a long video review provided no conclusive evidence that the puck had crossed the line.

“I was pretty confident that it didn’t go in,” said Behning, “but when the goal review took so long, I started to get nervous.”

“You believe it’s a goal, and you want it to be a goal,” said Blake head coach John Hamre. Though Hamre was disappointed in the final decision, he was extremely pleased with the effort showed by his team throughout the game. “You don’t play the scoreboard, you play the game. I’m proud of how our kids played; not just in the third period, but the entire game.”

On the other side, Coach Flaherty said his team will still have some work to do tomorrow before they face off against St. Thomas in a rematch of last year’s Class A state final.

“We didn’t play our best hockey. We had to win ugly. I think our kids know that they can play better.”