GIRLS HOCKEY: Senior High reaches state title game
ST. PAUL — In East Grand Forks Senior High’s first trip to the Minnesota state girls hockey tournament, the Green Wave will play for the title.
No. 1 Senior High scored twice in the final six minutes to beat No. 5 St. Paul United 3-2 on Friday afternoon in the semifinals of the Class A state tournament at Xcel Energy Center.
Senior High, 25-2-1, advances to the state championship game against No. 2 The Blake School, a 5-4 double overtime winner against Red Wing in the semifinals. The championship game will be played at noon today at the Xcel.
“I told the girls that they never cease to amaze me,” Senior High coach Jim Scanlan said. “It was a very emotional locker room after the game. I was very proud of them. They’re three periods away from a state title.”
In the state quarterfinals, sophomore Haley Mack scored four goals in an easy win over Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato. In the semifinals, it was her sister’s turn to thrive in the spotlight.
Alexa Mack, a junior forward, scored her second goal of the game — and game winner — with 3 minutes, 39 seconds left in the third period to give the Green Wave their first lead of the game.
“It felt amazing,” Alexa said. “I was just in front of the net. I was getting hit in the back, but I wasn’t giving up.”
With her entire team sitting in on the postgame press conference for the second game in a row, Alexa shied away from questions.
Her head coach spoke up, though.
“This is our 28th game overall, but this was No. 11’s best game by far,” Scanlan said. “She was amazing.”
The Wave players at the press conference started to clap.
“Thank you,” a blushing Alexa said into the microphone.
After the game, both teams admitted that during play they drew parallels to the USA-Canada Olympic women’s hockey game from the day before in which the Americans built a 2-0 lead before faltering late in the third period. The U.S. wound up losing in overtime.
This time, it was the Green Wave in the role of the Canadians. St. Paul United bolted out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Alev Baysoy in the first seven minutes of the game.
Baysoy, a Princeton hockey commit, is dual citizen of U.S. and Turkey. She’s also a Ms. Hockey nominee. She scored her first on a shot from the high slot through traffic and the other off a rebound, thanks to a hard bank off the end wall.
“I’ve gone through so many games in my hockey career, and I knew that lead didn’t mean anything,” Baysoy said.
The Wave responded with one goal before the end of the first period. Alexa Mack scored as she smacked in a loose puck that was kicked around at the skates of her and a St. Paul United defender.
But finding that game-tying goal proved difficult.
Senior High began to tilt the ice in the second period and the start of the third. The Wave finished with a 34-16 edge in shots on goal.
But it took a pair of power-play opportunities for the Wave to beat St. Paul United goalie Catherine Johnson, who finished with 31 saves.
With a little more than seven minutes to go, Senior High went on the power play and Johnson made some spectacular saves, including one on Haley Mack on the doorstep.
But later in the same power play, Senior High defender Mak Langei broke through at 11:34 of the third period to tie the game at 2. Langei scored through heavy traffic on a shot from the right point.
Then, the Wave went on another power play shortly after Langei’s evener. Senior High took the lead at 13:21 with a power-play goal from Alexa Mack, who managed to swivel around in the slot and wrap in a rebound as she felt to the ice.
“We knew that it was a big challenge,” Haley Mack said. “We kept fighting and believed in ourselves. We knew if we kept getting opportunities one would go in. We knew someone on our team would step up and make a play.”
Senior High finished the final 1:48 of the game on the penalty kill, but the Wave didn’t surrender many strong chances.
“It was a hard loss, but we proved ourselves as to why we’re here and that feels good on the inside,” Johnson said. “We were right there with the No. 1 team in the state.”