There isn’t a hockey observer alive, from coach to couch potato, who doesn’t think players should throw more shots on net. Maple Grove’s Henry Nelson proved Wednesday that it’s generally a good idea.
Nelson, Maple Grove’s Mr. Hockey finalist, broke open a tight game with a pair quick shots on goal in the second period, earning a goal and assist as the Crimson beat Andover 5-2 in Wednesday’s late Class 2A quarterfinal at Xcel Energy Center.
With Maple Grove leading, 2-1, early in the second period, Nelson took a puck from the deep slot and lofted it high toward the net. On the way, it deflected off a defenseman’s stick to give the Crimson a 3-1 lead at 2:36.
Six minutes later, Nelson threw a similar shot from the far left circle that teammate Kyle Kukkonen deflected into the high near corner to make it 4-1 at 8:32. It was Kukkonen’s 31st goal this season.
Huskies goaltender Will Larson had little chance on either goal.
It was enough to send second-ranked Maple Grove (21-1-0) into the semifinals for the first time. They’ll meet top seed and third-ranked Eden Prairie (19-1-2) Friday at 8 p.m.
It should be an entertaining game. The Crimson, seeded fourth, entered tournament play averaging 8.8 goals a game, the Eagles 5.2. Ian Barbour added two goals, and Bennett Glad one for Maple Grove, which lost to Blake in the first round last season.
Andover (18-3-1) bowed out of the tournament in the first round for the second consecutive time, bounced last season by St. Thomas in its first state appearance.
The Huskies tied the game 1-1 on a power-play goal by sophomore Gavyn Thoreson at 14:19 of the first period, and Garrett Schifsky cut Maple Grove’s lead to 4-2 with a power-play goal with 1:07 left in the second period. His hard wrist shot from the right circle found its way through traffic, hit the bar in the corner and bounced behind goaltender Jack Wieneke, just over the goal line.
Barbour finished a rush by scoring on a pass from teammate Grant Zick with just under 4 minutes remaining to seal the victory. He put the Crimson up 2-1 with a power-play goal from the high slot.
Wieneke finished with 21 saves for Maple Grove. Larson stopped 30 shots for Andover.