The Minnesota Juniors scored twice in the third period to pull away from North Dakota and cap off a perfect tournament run with a 5-3 victory in Sunday’s National Invitational Tournament at Plymouth Ice Center.
Frederick Paine (Duluth East) buried a shot from the right circle on a feed from Kyler Kleven (Moorhead) with 1:56 remaining that proved decisive, and the White team made of juniors from Minnesota would add an empty netter to finish off a determined North Dakota team.
“This is a great group of kids that bought in and supported each other,” co-coach Mike Taylor (Eagan) says. “Our guys really played as a team…we were unselfish with the puck and everybody did their job.”
North Dakota struck first, just 29 seconds in on a goal by Dane Montgomery (Grand Forks Red River), and Green would play tied or with the lead for much the remaining time outside of the final two minutes.
The teams would trade goals as Zach Brydges (Cretin-Derham Hall) tied the game for the first time at 8:26, and three minutes later, Minnesota would go ahead on a Darian Gotz (Hermantown) power play goal with 6:31 remaining as both sides dug in.
In the second, North Dakota struck early and late in the period on scores from Cade Stibbe (Fargo Davies) and Carter Bailey (Bismarck Century), with a goal from Minnesota’s Isaac Henkemeyer Howe (Moorhead) in between.
Intensity was high in the third as both sides created chances, and shots totals were running at a similar pace (final shots favored Minnesota 30-27).
Paine’s goal extinguished the North Dakota threat, as Green could not rally and tie things late as they had for the previous two nights.
Paine finished with two points in the game, and six for the tournament. Kleven had three assists in the title game, and finished with seven points (3-4-7) for the weekend, tied for most with teammate Tim Piechowski (Eden Prairie).
Their efforts all fit into what turned out to be an elite group of juniors for Minnesota.
“It’s not just the talent, but the compete-level that each one of these guys bring,” Taylor says. “I think the guys are proud to do it for themselves, and to represent Minnesota.”