Blake head coach Rob McClanahan doesn’t like dump-and-chase hockey. His systems fundamentally disagree with it.
But when his No. 8-ranked team was down by a goal to No. 19 Blaine after a period with plenty of offensive chances but no goals to show for it, he changed the plan of attack: dump and chase.
“For us, we had to change the way that I like us to play,” McClanahan said. “We dumped it, and chased it. We found a way to make it successful.”
McClanahan usually preaches puck possession as a coach, which has worked to keep the Bears ranked in the top 10 this season. But a combination of ice conditions, the weather and the general pace of the game influenced McClanahan to make the change and eventually propel Blake to a 3-2 victory a stone’s throw from the school they all call home.
The game-winner came late in the third period from one of Blake’s leading scorers, Joe Miller. Miller, a commit to the University of Minnesota, parked out front of the Blaine net and waited for his linemate, Jack Sabre, to lob him a pass right in front. The pass from Sabre ended up going off Miller’s knee into the net, but it counted, nonetheless.
“I was just trying to get to the right place at the front of the net,” Miller said. “Luckily, [Sabre] was able to rip one and luckily it just hit me and went in.”
To get to Miller’s game-winner, the teams were knotted up at two goals apiece in the third after Blaine’s Ben Wallraff got his team’s second goal of the game right off an offensive zone faceoff.
The change in Blake’s play style began in the second period, where Blake went on to score two goals.
Forward Gavin Best took the puck into the offensive zone and ripped a shot that hit Blaine’s goaltender Ryan Wallin but snuck in. Up to that point, the game was tilted in favor of the Bears on nearly every offensive chance since the opening minute of the game.
Later, Blake took its first lead of the game with a scramble in front of the net. Players piled up, but the puck was never covered and Bears forward Brett Witzke tapped it in for a 2-1 lead in the second period, a lead that held into the third.
Before Blake changed its play style, Blaine got on the board within the first minute of the game. A somewhat fluky goal, with an off-speed flip that got past Blake goaltender Aksel Reid, scored by captain Cole Hansen. That goal could have sent the Bears into a shell, but they pressed aggressively offensively the rest of the game, with goals finally falling in the second and third periods.
Overall, Blake was excited to win on its home ice, in its own backyard.
“We talked about it on the bus on the way here that we’ve got to cherish this moment,” Sabre said. “It’s going to go by fast and we want to be focusing on the game. … When the head hits the pillow tonight, you’re going to want to remember as much as you can.”