Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tonka Trifecta

Amy Petersen (left) and Laura Bowman (right) starred in Minnetonka's third straight state title run

Penn State signees Laura Bowman and Amy Petersen, Minnetonka High School linemates and best friends since preschool, took their third straight Minnesota Class AA title with the Skippers Saturday night by defeating Hill-Murray 3-1. The victory completed a state tournament run of three wins in three days at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center, and made Minnetonka the first girls program in Minnesota history to win three championships in a row (and still only the fourth when counting the boys).

Bowman and Petersen were both named to the all-tournament team - as one might expect of the primary catalysts of the champs' offense - and will join the Nittany Lions as freshmen next season. Once at PSU, they'll unite with current freshman Paige Jahnke, a member of the Roseville team Minnetonka defeated in the 2012 state title game. In 2011's final, the Skippers topped Edina, which featured forward Sarah Nielsen, a third member of the incoming class.

This time around, Petersen scored on a second-period breakaway, a goal that gave Tonka a 2-1 lead and held up as the winner. Bowman, a Minnesota Ms. Hockey semifinalist, added some insurance by burying a third-period feed from Petersen. Really, though, the story of the game was the fact that Minnetonka had enough left in the tank to down a tough Pioneers team, given what happened the night before.

It doesn't really need to be said, but the Skippers' 4-3 semifinal win over Lakeville North Friday night was one for the ages - a six-overtime epic that now stands as the longest game in the history of the Minnesota state high school tournament. It lasted a total of four hours, 15 minutes of real time and 113 minutes, 29 seconds of game time, ending at 1:04 a.m. central.

Both Bowman and Petersen had assists in regulation. Bowman's was relatively easy, as she handed it to Diana Draayer, the third member of the tandem's line, who took it most of the way herself to open the scoring just 29 seconds from the opening faceoff. On an early second period power play, Hannah Behounek made the score 3-1 Minnetonka after Petersen recovered a blocked shot and lasered it to her in the low slot.

After Lakeville North rallied to force extra hockey, the 62:29 of overtime (the periods alternated between eight and 17 minutes, which is how one gets to six of them that quickly) was full of the usual twists and turns by all accounts. The feed I was watching from the Minnesota television station broadcasting the games cut out late in regulation, so I'm going to rely on an outside description of the marathon's conclusion.
Amy Petersen was credited with the game winning goal at 4:29 of the sixth overtime after Laura Bowman’s shot deflected off her and past Lakeville North goaltender Cassie Alexander.

“It hit me right in the chest,” Petersen said.
The goal was actually controversial - at least according to some fans of the losing side, who argue that Petersen gloved the puck in and believe the game should have been stopped and resumed Saturday morning after the video reviewers grew tired and departed for the evening.

From left to right: Lakeville North's Christi Vetter and Minnetonka's Bowman, Petersen and Hannah Ehresmann at the Minnesota state tournament banquet Wednesday night

Regardless, the goal stands, and I'm sure Petersen isn't about to give it back. Unbelievably, it represented the second year in a row that she scored in overtime of the state semifinals to eliminate Lakeville North (she took care of things a lot more expeditiously last season, at 6:21 of the first overtime).

In Minnetonka's 4-0 quarterfinal win over heavy underdog Irondale on Thursday, Petersen had a goal and two assists. On the first assist, to help open the game's scoring, she sped down left wing, stopped cold in the circle, then demonstrated tremendous patience and vision in waiting for the backcheckers to overpursue before tossing the puck across to late-arriving Behounek, who scored from high in the right circle. The second involved her feeding a streaking Bowman, who split the defense before having her backhand try foiled. Draayer was there to clean up the rebound, however (Bowman, obviously, earned an assist on the play as well). Petersen later proved that she could shoot too, with a power play snipe from the left circle after walking in from the wall to cap the game's scoring.

Petersen finished the tournament with seven points on three goals and four assists, while Bowman scored once and added three assists.

The Skippers won the right to compete at the state tournament by sweeping through the Section 6AA tournament, which notably included a 3-2 comeback win over Benilde-St. Margaret's in the final. Tonka was down 2-0 into the last seven minutes of the game until goals from Behounek, Petersen and Bowman generated a startling turn of the contest's result. The two schools had battled for the top slot in the state polls all season long, so in winning their section, the Skippers also took care of a key statewide contender.

Minnetonka's team also includes goaltender Hannah Ehresmann, who is committed to head to Penn State in 2014. She backed up senior standout Sydney Rossman for the entirety of both the section and state tournaments, but was a key contributor during the regular season, going 11-1-0 with a 0.91 goals against average and a 0.939 save percentage. She'll have the chance to capture her own three-peat (she wasn't a member of the 2011 title-winning team) next season as the primary starter, although that might prove a tall order given the departures of Bowman, Petersen and others.

While she only ended up with a bronze medal - again - Vetter was fantastic

A fourth future Nittany Lion, forward Christi Vetter of Lakeville North, also had an outstanding tournament, joining Petersen and Bowman on the all-tournament team. She was on the losing end of that six-overtime tilt, although the outcome was hardly her fault. In fact, with all due respect to the victors, she was probably the best player on the ice in the game, scoring the Panthers' second and third goals in the middle period to complete the OT-forcing rally. One was a one-timer from the left circle that popped off of Rossman's blocker and in, while the equalizer was a power play deflection of Alexis Joyce's point blast.

The loss to Minnetonka was actually Vetter's second consecutive overtime game. In her quarterfinal matchup against North Wright County Thursday night, Vetter buried from the low slot at 3:42 of the fourth period on the power play, after a Heidi Winiecki pass from the goalline left of the cage somehow snaked through a cluster of players to find the big forward. While that was Vetter's only point of the game, she was a dominant presence down low throughout and helped cause goals without touching the puck, like when she delivered a perfect screen for Taylor Flaherty's second-period power play bomb.

Somehow, Lakeville North recovered from having their guts ripped out in overtime of the semifinals by Minnetonka - for the second year in a row, remember - to win their third place game, 3-2 over Eden Prairie. Without a doubt, Vetter would rather win Saturday's late game for the championship next year... and she'll have a chance as a senior with what should be a strong group of returning Panthers.


  1. What told me the most about Christi Vetter in the six OT game was when she dislocated her thumb, was walked into the tunnel (presumably to go to the locker room), and instead she stopped to have them just pop it back in so she could get back on the ice - which she did. That's intense, especially for a high school junior.

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