|The view from the Xcel Energy Center press box.|
A couple weeks ago, I covered Minnetonka and Wayzata in the Section 6AA girls hockey final. That ended with the Skippers heading back to state after a 3-2 overtime win. The coolest thing about this game, other than the exciting finish, was that Minnetonka tied the game with 5:26 left in regulation and then won the game with 5:26 left on the clock in overtime. Time to play the lotto.
I also covered the girls state hockey tournament at the Xcel Energy Center, which was a lot of fun. It maybe wasn't the most exciting or competitive tournament (for example, Blake won its quarterfinal game 9-0 and outshot the opponent something like 42-3), but I still loved the work I was doing.
Boys puck: Overtime thriller
Last week, it was boys hockey section finals. Breck and Delano faced off for the Section 2A title. For most of the game, it had the feel that the final score would be 1-0. It was a scoreless game, despite chances, for nearly two periods. Breck got that all-important first goal with just 54 seconds left in the second period.
Play went on throughout the third period, again with a vibe that the damage was already done and No. 1-seed Breck would return to state. Not so fast. Delano energized the building at Parade Ice Garden in Minneapolis with a tying goal with 3:41 left in regulation. OK, so we'll likely head to overtime tied at one.
Things just kept getting better
About a minute later, Breck regained the lead. Their fans went wild this time. This was already a pretty exciting turn of events, after a mostly scoreless game. There was more to come. Down 2-1 with less than a minute left and an extra attacker on the ice for the pulled goaltender, Delano tried desperately to make something happen.
With 37.5 seconds potentially left in their season, the Tigers tied the game 2-2, raising the decibel level in the arena yet again. It was absolutely crazy.
It also brought a smile to my face as I stood among other media and furiously scribbled notes. It wasn't a smile because I was happy for Delano, or Breck. After all, there's no cheering in the press box. No, I was content with getting to cover a game with such an incredible finish. I get to write about this; how cool is that?
Then it was overtime. In high school, it's an eight-minute period, followed by an intermission before a 17-minute second overtime. Sometimes in hockey's overtime games, the winning goal comes really early, or the teams end up settling in and it becomes a battle of outlasting the opponent.
On this night, we were in for nearly 74 total minutes of hockey from start to finish. Both teams came extremely close in their overtime chances. So much so that at one point I threw my hands up behind my head in an "Ohhhhh! So close!" reaction that everyone in the stands seemed to share.
Breck's Will Blake came into the zone and shot a puck that Delano's coach later said he thought was headed wide of the net. Instead, it beat the goaltender, sending Breck players onto the ice in the pandemonium of celebration that only section and state titles can bring.