The North St. Paul girls’ hockey team didn’t mind breaking some hearts on Valentine’s Day. After losing to Centennial in last year’s section final, North St. Paul scored their revenge Tuesday night in a semifinal.
“I saw that game last year and I really thought North St. Paul had it, and when Centennial got the tying goal, North St Paul’s wind went out of their sails, and then Centennial scored early in the overtime,” said North St. Paul coach Bill Halbrehder. “We were determined not to let that happen again. We talked about if we got tied here again, and that’s probably inevitable, that we play to win after that, that we can not just collapse.”
Halbrehder didn’t have to worry about any overtime or a collapse. North St. Paul came out flying, almost getting on the board just 14 seconds into the game. Allie Thunstrom unloaded a big shot which started a flurry in front of the Centennial net and set the tone early on.
Caitlin Hogan put North St. Paul in front at the 6:28 mark of the first thanks to a shot that would make Cupid jealous. With Centennial on the power play, Hogan picked up the puck around mid-ice, skated in, cut to her right between a couple of players and riffled a shot top shelf past Centennial goalie Alannah McCready.
“You can see when you get a power play against us, we still have some offensive power. That has happened all year for us,” said Halbrehder. “One of the things we’ve been asking her (Hogan) to do is to take a look and see what the goalie is giving you, don’t just make your mind up when you get the breakaway. She’s been doing a better job of that. She’s been seeing some openings and trying to go for them. I said I’d rather have a miss going for an opening than shooting right into the goal keeper.”
It stayed 1-0 for the rest of the first period thanks to some nice saves by McCready. North St. Paul peppered her, while Centennial did not get a shot on goal until almost 3 minutes into the second period.
It was still 1-0 in the third when North St. Paul got some insurance. Thunstrom split the “d”, skated in and beat McCready to make it 2-0 with less than 6 minutes remaining. That turned out to be the final score.
There was some heartache for North St. Paul. Junior Defenseman Hannah Davis went down in the third period with a knee injury.
“She’s in a lot of pain, and I don’t think it’s anything that is going to get better real soon,” said Halbrehder. “It’s right around the kneecap area, but we’re not sure if it’s ligaments or if it’s that the kneecap got displaced.”
Halbrehder knows he needs to fill the void on the blue line, but that can wait until Thursday. He gave the team Wednesday off.
North St. Paul will play top seeded Stillwater for a trip to state. Stillwater beat Blaine 6-2 in the other semifinal.