March 3, 2017 @ Aldrich 7:00
Hill-Murray reclaimed the section crown in front of a third straight sellout crowd for a Section 4AA championship game at Aldrich Arena. The do-or-die game featured fourteen seniors for Stillwater and twelve for Hill-Murray.
If high school hockey awarded three stars, Pioneer defenseman Will Sonntag would certainly have claim to one of them. His stellar defensive play complimented offensive stats that included two goals, his second and third of the season, and an assist on the winning goal.
Stillwater entered the game as the top seed thanks to a 24-3 record, although their performance was similar to Hill-Murray against common opponents. Noah Cates gave the Ponies an early lead with a wraparound goal just 1:15 into the first period.
Hill-Murray countered at 6:45 when Ben Helgeson fired a low shot from the left wing circle. Stillwater goalie Seth Eisele stopped it and tried to cover the rebound, but Brock Bremer beat him to it and whacked it into the net.
The play was even until Hill-Murray took the lead 7:29 into the second period. A Stillwater defenseman broke up a 2-on-1, but Sonntag pounced on the loose puck and fired it past Eisele just before the net became dislodged. Twelve seconds later, Kyler Yeo skated down the slot and wristed a low shot past Eisele's glove for a 3-1 lead.
Stillwater amped up its attack playing from behind and spent most of the last six minutes of the second period in the Hill-Murray zone thanks to back-to-back power plays. Hill-Murray killed them both, but with 42 seconds remaining, Luke Manning got the puck just to Jake Begley's right, spun and fired a shot into a small opening in the far upper corner of the net. Cates picked up his 70th point of the season with an assist on the goal.
Stillwater tied the game 1:28 into the third period. Thomas Bruchu's shot from the right point sailed through a screen and caromed off a body into the far corner of the net before Begley could react.
Hill-Murray regained control of the tempo and started to send pucks and bodies at the Stillwater net. On a power play, Helgeson made a great move to the net, but Eisele smothered the shot to preserve the tie. Moments after Bremer crashed hard into the goalie, Sonntag led a rush from center ice and fired a shot from the right side. Joe Quast was the first to get his stick on the rebound. Eisele partially blocked it, but appeared to get tangled with his own defenseman and the puck wound up in the net for a 4-3 Hill-Murray lead.
Stillwater again played best when trailing. Cates hit Stillwater's second crossbar of the third period, and Begley was forced to stop Matthew Stanton's open shot from between the circles with two minutes remaining.
With Eisele on the bench, Hill-Murray cleared to center, where Sonntag entered the play and shot from three feet behind the red line into the empty net. Seconds later, Helgeson found the same empty net to seal the victory and Hill-Murray's 28th section title.
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