February 28, 2007 @ Coliseum 8:00
The Pioneers and Bears will meet again. For the section championship, again.
One night after White Bear dismantled top seeded Roseville 4-0, Hill-Murray pulled away with two late goals and Centennial's season came to an end in the semifinal for the second year in a row. On paper, this looked like a tight matchup between the defending section champion Pioneers and the steadily improving Cougars who are the only team to defeat Moorhead so far. It turned out to be a nail-biter for 45 minutes, but it the end Centennial had no answer for the depth of Hill-Murray's second forward line, and the Pioneer defense limited Centennial's dangerous first line to few open shots.
Centennial goalie Jack Hanna was tested early when Hill-Murray amassed a 13-2 shot advantage through the game's first 15 minutes. Nick Larson drove to the net on the first shift, and Hanna got a pad on Ryan Furne's rebound attempt. Hanna also stopped close shots by Andy Singerhouse and Jeff Westerhaus off setups from behind the net.
The Pioneers did get a goal to reward their early dominance, coming when Bo Dolan's bank pass hit Tyler Zepeda in stride and Zepeda scored a breakaway goal for a 1-0 lead.
A late power play finally gave Centennial a chance to apply some offensive pressure, and they took seven shots in two minutes. Joe Phillippi stopped them all, including drives to the net by first line forwards Jake Larsen and Tyler Pitlick, who ended up crashing into the goalie and dislodging the net.
Phillippi made his best save on another Centennial power play early in the second period, when Pitlick gathered a rebound all alone at the crease had and the goalie temporarily out of position, but Phillippi somehow got his blocker on the shot, deflecting it high and wide.
Hill-Murray grabbed a short-lived two goal lead 10 seconds into its first power play. Andy Singerhouse was checked while stickhandling towards the goal, and Isaac Kohls trailed the play, found the loose puck and fired a shot just inside the post on the blocker side.
Centennial went right back on the power play 14 seconds later, and although Larson nearly had a shorthanded breakaway, Matt Voigtlander held the blue line and blasted a hard shot into the net for what would be the Cougars' only goal.
With a 2-1 score, the game settled into a tense back-and-forth with neither team able to generate much offensive flow. Hanna remained sharp, denying several quality shots that would have given Hill-Murray some breathing room, as many of the Pioneer faithful prepared for a final Centennial onslaught. The Cougars sent several bouncing pucks through the crease during a power play midway through the third period, but Phillippi and the penalty killers preserved the narrow lead.
Finally, the line of Kohls, Westerhaus, and Dan Cecka broke through, after moving the puck well and generating scoring chances for much of the game. Kohls and Westerhaus drove to the net, and Hanna made a save but was down and couldn't do anything to stop Cecka's weak-angle forehand shot.
The crowd had barely stopped cheering when Hill-Murray struck again 15 seconds later. Furne's cross ice pass found Zepeda at the bottom of the right circle, and Zepeda slid the puck back across to Larson, who faked Hanna and put the puck behind him.
That gave Hill-Murray a 4-1 lead, and that's the way the game ended. The Pioneers prevailed in a close playoff game and have just under 48 hours before what is sure to be another in the section championship, and a chance at a return to the state tournament.
Copyright 1999-2021 hmpioneers.net