MAPLEWOOD — With the season hanging in the balance, Aaron Kasinak scored just 14 seconds into the second overtime on Saturday to lift the Stillwater boys’ hockey team to a 3-2 victory over Mounds View in the Section 4AA quarterfinals at Aldrich Arena.
The victory earns the fourth-seeded Ponies a match-up against top-seed and No. 1-ranked Hill-Murray (23-2-1) in the semifinals on Tuesday at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum. Game time is 6 p.m. The second semifinal on Tuesday features second-seeded White Bear Lake vs. sixth-seeded Roseville, a 6-5 quarterfinal winner over Tartan.
Stillwater (10-14-2), which snapped a four-game losing streak to close out the regular season, scored off the opening faceoff to start the second overtime. Nick Anderson prevented the Mustangs (13-10-3) from clearing the puck and it was deflected to Kasinak on the right side and he fired a shot into the net while falling down to provide the game-winner.
The early tally was welcomed by the Ponies after allowing two goals in the first 68 seconds of the third period when the Mustangs surged in front 2-1.
“At the start of the third they scored early goals on us the first two shifts and we sort of reversed that role,” Ponies coach Phil Housley said. “It was just a great effort by everyone.”
After giving up those goals to Mounds View’s Darian Romanko and Tucker Gran to start the third period, the Ponies answered quickly with a power play goal by Devin Cates at 3:38 to tie the game at 2-all. Mitch Reinke and Zach Eder-Zdechlik assisted on the tying goal.
“We had a five-on-three earlier that could have been a big change in the game, but (Mounds View) did a good job of getting in shooting lanes,” Housley said. “That was a huge goal for us to tie the game.”
Jon Heddle and Brandon Jungmann each had strong scoring chances in overtime only to be denied by Mounds View goaltender Brandon Smith, who finished with 21 saves — including a glove save to stop Heddle from close range.
“There was momentum changes on both sides,” Housley said.
Jarrid Balz scored first for the Ponies at 12:07 of the opening period on assists by Peyton Gosso and Blake Kohanek for a 1-0 lead that held up until Mounds View’s scoring burst in the third.
Colton Anderson finished with 26 saves for the Ponies, including five in the first overtime.
“Colton Anderson probably played one of his best games to date. He was very sharp, and we needed that. They have a very powerful lineup and they play a great a pretty good schedule. We knew we had our work cut out for us, but the guys played hard and everyone contributed.”
Earning the No. 4 seed, despite finishing five points behind the Mustangs in the Suburban East Conference standings — the Ponies won 9-1 and tied them 2-all during the regular season — was critical for Stillwater in trying to match up with Mounds View’s top line.
“It was important that we got the four seed so we could get the match-ups we wanted,” Housley said. “It was nice to get the fourth seed and get the last change. Some of their players you know they’re going to get chances, but we just wanted to try and contain them as best we could and Colton rose to the occasion, which you’re going to need in playoff hockey. I thought he had a terrific game and our defensemen for the most part kept it to the outside.”
Mounds View 0 0 2 0 0 — 2
Stillwater 1 0 1 0 1 — 3
First period — 1. St, Jarrid Balz (Peyton Gosso, Blake Kohanek) 12:07.
Second period — No scoring.
Third period — 1. MV, Darian Romanko (unassisted) :26; 2. Tucker Gran (Matt Hunt) 1:08; 2. St, Devin Cates (Mitch Reinke, Zach Eder-Zdechlik) pp, 3:38.
Overtime — 3. St, Aaron Kasinak (Nick Anderson) :14.
Penalties — MV, 5-10:00; St, 3-6:00.
Saves — MV (Brandon Smith) 5-5-8-3-0—21; St (Colton Anderson) 8-7-6-5-0—26.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at email@example.com