Experience is crucial at the state hockey tournament. First timers often find themselves staring at the lights as much as they stare down tough defenders. So it was no surprise that last year’s tournament experience helped Breck past Hibbing/Chisholm 3-1 in the Class 1A Quarterfinals Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center.
“I think it made a difference,” said Breck coach Rob Little. “The experience is always good. We really only have two kids that haven’t played here before. I think it does help. You’re a little more relaxed and kind of know what it’s about.”
But what about the Bluejackets’ tournament history? They hold the record for tourney appearances with nine (tied with South St. Paul, who also lost on Wednesday.) I guess a little motivation is needed as well.
“The first one is the hard one to get,” admitted Little. “It feels good to know that you’re going to be playing here at the Xcel on Friday.”
Breck was beat in the first round in 2007 by the eventual state champions from Blake, their archrival. The same team they beat in the Section 5A finals on Saturday. They weren’t about to let H/C send them home early this year.
The Mustangs started early in the first when Milica McMillen netted a 1-0 lead at 7:28. Ellen Swiontkowski followed suit at 6:01 of the second and teammate Kayla Mork put them up 3-0 at 1:15 in the third.
“We did a lot of things real well and towards the end we did a few things that we could do better,” explained Little. “So all in all it’s nice to get that first win and get that under your belt and play even better, I hope, on Friday.”
Maddy Wheelecor scored the Bluejackets’ only goal at 4:52 of the third period, but it wasn’t due to any lack of effort…or speed.
“It was a fast game. Hibbing’s got a real nice team,” said Little. “They’re strong around the puck and they move the puck well. We think one of our strengths is skating and moving the puck. It was a good game. Well played by both teams.”
Second time in; first time moving on. Experience pays dividends.