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Minnetonka too much for Knights to handle
The Irondale High School girls hockey team upset a pair of ranked teams to make it to the state tournament but was unable to add Minnetonka to its list of high-profile victims. Unlike Blaine and Mounds View, the Skippers didn't allow Irondale to dictate play or stick close on the scoreboard.
Top-seeded Minnetonka, the two-time defending state champion, scored three times in the first period en route to a 4-0 victory over unseeded Irondale in the third Class AA state quarterfinal on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul.
For Irondale, which is making its third state-tournament appearance in five years, the key was to keep it a low-scoring game but Minnetonka had other ideas.
Minnetonka took control with three unanswered first-period goals, starting with Hannah Behounek's wrister from the right faceoff circle at 4:40. The Skippers made it a two-goal lead at 7:36 when Diana Draayer followed up Laura Bowman's rush and knocked the rebound past Irondale netminder Anna Pate. Three minutes later, Maggie Bazany beat Pate with an unassisted goal.
"The first period wasn't our period but we came back and we definitely showed that we were able to stick with it," said Pate. "We weren't going to get too down. We just needed to stay focused."
Irondale slowed down the Skippers a bit better in the second period, holding them scoreless until late in the period. Minnetonka's Amy Peterson scored the only goal of the second on the power play with 2:21 left.
Irondale kept Minnetonka off the scoreboard completely in the third period but was still unable to get one past Skippers' goaltender Sydney Rossman.
"Before the game, our girls were confident but we were nervous," said Irondale head coach Tom Rodefeld. "We knew we couldn't make the slightest mistake."
Pate finished with 22 saves while Rossman turned away all 14 of Irondale shots. The shutout for Rossman was her second in a row in state-tournament play dating back to last year. She shutout Roseville 3-0 in the 2012 state title game.
"We had a great game plan," said Rodefeld. "The girls executed it perfectly and gave us a chance to win."
Freshman Sena Hanson, the hero for Irondale in both the section semifinals and the finals after scoring the game-winning goal in both games, led the Knights with five shots on goal against Minnetonka. Madeline Rog added three while Samantha Donovan and Meghan Pieper had two each.
The loss drops Irondale (19-9-1) into the consolation bracket, where it will play either fourth-seeded Lakeville North or fifth-seeded North Wright County on Friday at 12 p.m. at Ridder Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
With the victory, Minnetonka advances to Friday' 8 p.m. semifinal against Lakeville North or North Wright County at Xcel Energy Center.
In Thursday's Class AA afternoon session, the seeded teams held serve. No. 2 seed Eden Prairie blanked unseeded Forest Lake 6-0 and third-seeded Hill-Murray topped unseeded Eagan 6-2. Eden Prairie and Hill-Murray will meet in the 6 p.m. semifinal on Friday at Xcel while Forest Lake and Eagan play in a consolation semifinal on Friday at 10 a.m. at Ridder.
The loss drops Irondale's record in state tournament games to 3-4. The Knights went 2-1 in the 2009 and 1-2 in 2010.
The Knights saw their five-game winning streak, the longest of the season, come to an end. Prior to Thursday, Irondale's most recent loss was a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Benilde-St. Margaret's on Jan. 22.
Three Knights made their third state-tournament appearances when they stepped on the ice on Thursday. Seniors Lindsey Kueng and Jessica Mularie and Donovan, a junior, were also on Irondale's state teams in 2009 and 2010.