With the momentum bouncing back and forth like a ping-pong ball during the Feb. 14 Section 5A girls hockey title game, the penalty was going to be telling.
Kill it off, and Breck might just seize the momentum right back.
Score a goal, and Blake might just hold onto it long enough.
Up until Breck sophomore defender Megan Sweet was called for body-checking at the 10:34 mark of the third period, the action inside Parade Ice Gardens had that sort of tide-turning feel to it.
Blake had struck for the game’s opening goal in the first. Breck tied it shortly later. In the second, Blake added two more to go up 3-1, but Breck got one back before the period was over.
Blake scored in the opening 30 seconds of the third, but before that period was even a minute old, Breck got another one.
Then, in matter of just over three minutes of play, the Mustangs netted two more to take a 5-4 lead with 7:41 to play.
But now, with Sweet in the box, it was Blake’s turn to swing the pendulum in its direction, and on cue, the Bears took advantage.
Carly Bullock scored for Blake on that power play to tie the game at 5-5, and just over two minutes later, the momentum stayed with the Bears for good, as Ms. Hockey finalist Dani Cameranesi’s seeing-eye shot from the point eluded Breck goaltender Jenna Brenneman to give Blake the 6-5 victory and send the Bears to the Class A girls state hockey tournament.
“All night, the momentum shifted,” said Breck head coach Chris Peterson. “They had it early, we got it, and then we had all of it, and they get the penalty, and just like that, our momentum was gone.”
Breck had held onto it permanently for the better part of the last three seasons in this rivalry, each of which ended with the Mustangs beating Blake for a spot in the state tournament.
From the very start, this season was expected to be different though.
Breck graduated much of its talent, leaving only senior Kate Schipper and a handful of others to hold off Blake’s revenge tactics.
The two team skated to a 1-1 draw in their first meeting of the winter, but Blake took the second game by a 6-1 count back on Dec. 1.
Breck made plenty of strides in the 19 games since that defeat, and it was evident much of last Thursday. But whether the gap was five goals, or a single tally, the loss left a bruise.
“They are hurting, and they should be, because we were that close,” said Peterson. “We’ve come along way this year. For how young this team is, we never even knew if we’d be in this situation. But to their credit, they kept battling and kept getting better. We got here, but I know they wanted to go to St. Paul, so it hurts.”
The pain will likely subside shortly though.
Breck won its first state title a year ago, but returned this winter with just a single senior (Schipper) in the lineup.
She was brilliant in her final prep game, scoring a pair of goals and setting up both of Leah Schwartzman’s third period goals.
But the rest of the line-up consisted of five eighth-graders, six ninth-graders, four sophomores and a junior, and Peterson insisted they will be better for what they experienced in what finished as a 15-12-1 season for Breck.
“They showed how much guts and determination and heart that they have,” said Peterson. “We talked about it before the game, and they really stepped it up. They never gave up. Early on in the year, when we were down 3-1 or 4-1, a few times our kids waved the white flag. They didn’t dig down deep and find it, but tonight, they did. They will all be better hockey players because of what they did.”
Contact Nick Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org