MAPLEWOOD — Stillwater was sent to the penalty box just twice on Tuesday, but Roseville took advantage each time while scoring on the power play in a 2-1 Section 4AA semifinal victory at Aldrich Arena.
It was the third time the second-seeded Raiders defeated Stillwater this season, but this was easily the most competitive of the three as Roseville outscored the Ponies by a combined 11-1 in their previous encounters. The Raiders (19-7-1), who were the state runner-ups a year ago, advance to face top-seeded Hill-Murray (18-5-4), a 3-0 winner over Cretin-Derham Hall on Tuesday, in the section finals on Friday.
Stillwater finished the season with a 15-11-1 record.
“They scored two power play goals and special teams are the difference,” Ponies coach Tony Scheid said. “I can’t say enough about the job our seniors did. I just wish those guys would have had a chance to move on, they left it all out there.”
One of the state’s top players and a persistent thorn in the side for the Ponies Kate Flug scored Roseville’s first goal at 10:31 of the first period. She also helped set up Roseville’s second goal after getting stopped by goaltender Brianna Hersom, but Sarah Knowlton was there to bury the rebound into the open net for a 2-0 lead less than two minutes into the second period.
It was Minnesota State-Mankato recruit Sara Bustad who drew the defensive assignment of shadowing Flug and the Ponies were pleased to limit the Raiders to just two goals. Hersom finished with 17 saves, including a key stop against Flug on a breakaway to keep the Ponies within a goal late in the third period.
“We were trying to hold them down to two and score four tonight,” Scheid said. “(Hersom) came out and did her job tonight and Bustad did a nice job of shutting down Flug. I was really impressed with Hersom’s play in a big game, she came through and gave us a chance to win. Bustad saw a lot of extra ice time and it was really tough because we were trying to match up Bustad on Flug and it mixed our lines all up. Normally we roll three lines, but the first two games we played them it didn’t work and you have to try something else. It’s not our game, but it’s what we had to do and it’s the closest we came all season to the right results. I feel bad for the kids who had to sacrifice (ice time) in a big game.”
In three games against the Ponies this season, Flug has scored seven goals and provided three assists.
Stillwater carried the play throughout much of the second and third periods, outshooting the Raiders 11-6 in the third period and 29-19 in the game. The Ponies fought back with less than two minutes remaining in the second as Jane Vezina scored an unassisted goal to pull within 2-1.
“That was huge,” Scheid said. “That was a game changer and gave us momentum going into the third period and the kids came out and fed off that.”
Stillwater applied pressure throughout the third period, especially on its two power plays, but was unable to slip another one past Brittany Boss despite numerous strong opportunities,
“It seemed like their goalie made some really key saves in the third period,” Scheid said. “We could have done a little better job of hitting the net, but we had some really nice opportunities in the third period and I thought one of those was going to go in. I was really proud of our kids in the third period. They played with a lot of poise, they took the puck down and created a lot of good opportunities and gave themselves every chance to win that game, it just wasn’t our night. Their goaltender got her pad on a few that I thought were labeled for the corner, those have been going in all season.”
Scheid said the loss was most disappointing for the cast of eight seniors, many who have been two- and three-year contributors for the Ponies.
“They came out and executed the game plan,” Scheid said. “They played their hearts out and I wish we had a better result for them. I just think if we would have got a couple of bounces we’d be heading for the section final. I don’t feel like we got outplayed, I think we out-chanced them on high quality shots. I think Boss was the difference.”
Stillwater 0 1 0 — 1
Roseville 1 1 0 — 2
First period — 1. Ros, Kate Flug (Sarah Knowlton) pp, 10:31.
Second period — 2. Ros, Knowlton (Flug) pp, 1:43; 1. St, Jane Vezina (unassisted) 15:07.
Third period — No scoring.
Penalties — St, 2-4:00; Ros, 3-6:00.
Saves — St (Brianna Hersom) 8-5-6—19; Ros (Brittany Boss) 10-8-11—29.