Blake Edges Maple Grove in Exciting Class AA Opener

by Matt Harrington

St. Paul, MN-- After a blowout-filled day of Class A hockey on Wednesday, the first AA quarterfinal offered a glimpse of hope for the action to come. The Blake Bears edged the Maple Grove Crimson 7-5 after a late goal from Will Svenddal.  

The game got off to a hot start in the first period, with both teams scoring a pair of goals. First it was Joshua Giuliani for the Crimson, but Joe Miller tallied a goal for the blake bears to even it at one apiece. 

Less than three minutes later, the Crimson re-gained the lead. A perfect redirect from Grant Zick found its way to the back of the net. But once again, Joe Miller responded for the Bears. His 30th goal of the season knotted the game at two, drawing a thrilling first period goal. 

About 10 minutes into the third, Jack Sabre gave the Bears the first lead of the game. A shot from Lachen Reid at the point produced a big juicy rebound, where Sabre pounded it home with authority. It was the lone goal of the period, and Blake closed out the frame with a 3-2 lead.

The third period had it all-- chaos excitement, and controversy. After the Crimson evened it up early in the period, Blake scored a pair of goals to take a 5-3 lead, including another goal by Joe Miller to complete the hat trick. 

Less than two minutes after Blake regained a one goal lead, the Crimson tallied two goals (Oakland and Guiliani) to even the game at five, creating an palpable buzz inside the Xcel Energy Center. 

With the game tied at five and 3:15 to go, a slashing penalty was called against Maple Grove’s Benjamin Leafblad, although many felt that the play did not warrant a slashing call. Maple Grove head coach Todd Bergland gave his thoughts about the call in the postgame press conference. 

“The refs are human and make mistakes, but that was the game changer. You don’t call that penalty,” Bergland said. 

On the ensuing powerplay, Will Svenddal scored for Blake, giving the Bears a huge one goal advantage with under three minutes to play. The Bears added an empty netter to seal the deal and secure a 7-5 victory. 

Joe Miller, who scored three of Blake’s seven goals, noted how hectic it was inside the Xcel Energy Center. 

“It was pretty crazy. I’ve never played in a game quite like that. It was great action,” Miller said. 

Blake advances to the Class AA Semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of Eden Prairie and Lakeville South on Friday afternoon.