Sara McClanahan (24) shot the puck past Breck goalie Ally Frantzick (35) for a goal in the second period. (Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune)
Blake sophomore Madeline Wethington’s hockey future is on defense. She already made a verbal commitment to the Gophers and draws raves for her all-around game.
In youth hockey, however, she played forward. Those skills helped during spot duty in Thursday’s Class 1A, Section 5 championship game. Playing up front, Wethington tied the game in the third period. She later added an empty-net goal to clinch a 5-4 victory.
Defending state champion Blake, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A, and No. 2 Breck met at the Parade Ice Garden for their 10th consecutive section final. Blake earned its fifth-straight state tournament appearance and moved to 6-4 in title games against the Mustangs.
Winning Thursday required tenacity. Breck took a 3-2 lead just 61 seconds into the third period on Olivia Mobley’s hat trick.
But Blake never panicked. Not after falling behind by a goal twice. Not after a second period where officials waved off an apparent goal and Blake failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3.
“We kept digging, even when we were down twice,” Wethington said. “I was really proud of our team.”
Blake coach Shawn Reid said he encouraged players to “stay focused on the next two seconds, the next two shifts.”
Two shifts. That’s how many Wethington previously skated at forward this season. Thursday was the payoff. She fired a puck from the blue line into the upper portion of the Breck net at 9:00 of the third period.
Tied 3-3, the teams went different directions. Blake outshout Breck 19-9 in the third period. C.C. Wallin scored on a shot that deflected off a Breck player for a 4-3 lead. And Wethington added a critical empty-net goal.
The Mustangs’ top player, Grace Zumwinkle, posted a rare scoreless night, but the team didn’t quit. Nicole Oppenheimer scored with 14.7 seconds remaining to cut Blake’s lead to 5-4.
Blake edged Breck for a 5-4 victory in Thursday’s Class 1A, Section 5 championship game.
The Bears, ranked No. 1, got two goals from Sara McClanahan and Madeline Wethington to earn a fifth-consecutive trip to the girls’ hockey state tournament.
The teams met in their 10th consecutive section final and Blake improved to 6-4 in the series. The Bears also beat the Mustangs twice earlier this season.