In the sport of hockey, it’s possible to beat a team that’s skating circles around yours — if your goalie happens to be a puck-eating Godzilla.
White Bear Lake is equipped with such a not-so-secret weapon in Calla Frank and was able to upset Hill-Murray 2-0 for the Section 4AA championship, despite being outshot 50-17, on Friday evening.
‘I had a lot or fun tonight. I kind of had a feeling that we could do it,” said Frank, a finalist for Let’s Play Hockey’s senior goalie award, who anchored shutouts by the Bears in all three section games.
“Calla was so focused. She has been looking forward to this game for months,” coach Jerry Kwapick said. “Hill-Murray’s a great team, with a lot more depth than we have. To beat a team of this calibre, she was great out there.”
Olivia Reif and Sydney Shearen delivered the clutch goals as the Bears (13-12-2) toppled a team that’s outscored them 134 to 57 this season, and earned just the second state trip in girls hockey for their school.
Hill-Murray had won six consecutive section championships, and beat the Bears in the last two title games, 4-0 and 4-1. The two section rivals met in the season opener this year with Hill-Murray winning 3-2.
“It’s unreal …. It just feels great,” said Reif, about avenging those painful losses to the Pioneers. The senior forward had a lot to do with that, notching five of the team’s 10 goals in the sectionals.
“We knew we had to play real good defense and make the most of every opportunity, to beat them,” said Shearen, whose breakaway goal for a 2-0 lead was the 76th of her career and the biggest.
Hill-Murray’s offense, which averages five goals a game, led by Katie Kaufman with 30 goals and Nina Steighauf with 26, was in high gear throughout, firing 11 shots in the first period, 18 in the second and 21 in the third, but could not get one past Frank, who withstood three Pioneer power plays in that furious third period, and four in the game.
“We just really came together as a team and we were defensively sound,” said Frank, about the section tournament, when the Bears posted three shutouts after getting just one in the regular season.
The score was 0-0 until Reif managed to shove the puck through a thicket of fallen bodies in front of the net with 2:13 left in the second period.
“I honestly don’t know how I got it — I just kept pushing with my stick and the puck went in!” Reif said.
One goal was like a mountain the way Frank was playing but it was an immense relief when Shearen pounced on a loose puck, with no defender in front of her and rifled the puck past goalie Rachel Kennedy into the bottom left corner with 6:53 left.
“The puck popped out and I had a clear shot (at the net). And I knew, I can’t miss this one,” said Shearen, who danced all the way to the other end of the rink to slap gloves with the bench.
Frank skated out to high-five her at the boards also. “I was so happy when she scored, I jumped so high that I fell down,” laughed Frank after the game.
The Bears, after winning 18 and 17 games the last two years, have sputtered all season, never winning more than two straight games prior to the current three-game streak in the sectionals, and will be a rare state tourney entrant that’s actually been outscored (54 to 57). But they put it together at crunch time.
“Seven weeks ago,” Kwapick said, “we made it our goal to be at our pinnacle at this point in the season — and we did that. We started to take a different approach, more geared to defense, knowing that with Calla, if we can get a two or three goals, we can win. We knew we would lose a few along the way but we are where we want to be now.”
The state Class AA tournament will be held Feb. 21-23 at Xcel Energy Center. The only other year the Bears went was 2002 when they were runners-up.