The second game of the evening matched the two AA teams. The Blaine AA team came into the game leading in D10, holding a 4 point edge over Centennial. The Centennial victory cut that margin to two points and the Cougars have two games “in hand” over the Bengals.
Before Wednesday night’s game, the Bengals were ranked 27th by the YHH rankings. Centennial was ranked 11th by YHH.
Centennial played in the Spirit of Duluth last weekend, beating Thunder Bay 6-2 and Cloquet 7-3. The Cougars lost to Edina 8-0 and to Hermantown 5-4 in overtime in Sunday’s Consolation Semifinals. Blaine lost to Andover 6-3 and beat Champlin Park 7-4 last week in D10 action.
Centennial was the odds on favorite going into the game, but the Cougars did not play well in the first half of the game and struggled in the third period. They had a dominant 6 minute spurt in the last half of the second period scoring all three goals that gave them the win.
The Blaine defense opened the game with a mistake, giving up a solo rush on the Bengals net forcing their goalie to make a good stop early in the game. After that, the game slowed and became an up and down game with a lot of skating, but few shots on goal.
As the first period progressed, Blaine began to build more and more pressure on the Cougars goal. With two minutes left in the period, the Bengals scored by sustaining pressure on the Cougars. The score was made off the second rebound after two Bengals attacked the net in succession. The Cougar’s goalie stopped the first two shots, but the puck rebounded to the slot. The third Bengal forward put the puck in the net to put Blaine up 1-0.
The second period started out to be a repeat of the first. After a ragged first minute of play, the two teams started to roll. The puck movement was faster, the passing more accurate, and the puck was being controlled by the receiving player.
But as in the first period, Blaine started to control the game. At the 10 minute mark, a collision in the Cougar zone resulted in a Centennial player down on the ice and no whistle. The play went on and Blaine quickly turned it to their advantage, scoring their second goal off a two on one rush from the left side boards to put Blaine up 2-0 with eight minutes to go in the second period.
A minute later, the game momentum changed and for the last half of the second period, it was all Centennial. The Cougars scored at the 7 minute mark. On the attack in the Blaine zone, the puck rotated from the left to the right side of the Blaine goal. A Cougar forward beat the Blaine goalie to the puck and shot the puck over the sprawling pads into the net to cut the lead to 2-1.
Thirty seconds later, the Cougars scored again to tie the game 2-2. After that goal, Blaine played tentatively and Centennial played aggressively. The feeling in the arena shifted from who would score next to when would the Cougars score?
With two minutes left in the second period, the Cougars scored to take a 3-2 lead into the third period.
The question as the third period opened is who would take control of the game. Blaine was faltering as the period ended and Centennial had dominated after struggling most of the first two periods.
Surprisingly, the third period was the best played period of the game. Both teams opened up and the pace became more hectic. As the period progressed, Blaine turned the corner and began to pressure the Centennial again. The Cougars had their opportunities, but as the period progressed, the Cougars started to retreat into a defensive shell.
Blaine dominated the final three minutes of the game, pulling their goalie, but still not scoring. The game ended 3-2. The Cougars improved their D10 record to 8-0 and Blaine fell to 7-3 with the D10 schedule at the midway point of the season.
Centennial showed they could skate and compete with the best last night, but Blaine was a surprise. After struggling the last few years, the Bengals showed they could compete with the better teams.
Blaine is scrimmaging Grand Rapids this weekend at Fogerty Arena. The Bengals and Centennial will play in the Edina Tourney over the Holiday season. Centennial draws Wayzata, Eden Prairie, and Stillwater in pool play at Edina. The two teams will not play their second D10 game until early February.