By Nick Gerhardt
Northfield turned in the game of the day Wednesday to open the Class A state tournament but saw its state title hopes sink with 31 seconds to play in overtime when Orono’s Avery Anderson tipped a shot through the legs of Raiders senior goalie Keaton Walock for a 2-1 win in the quarterfinals.
Walock turned in an outstanding performance despite the finish. He turned away 48 shots in the game to keep fifth-seeded and No. 8-ranked Northfield (23-6) in the game, especially in the first and third periods. The fourth-seeded and No. 3-ranked Spartans (24-5) put 13 shots on Walock in the first period, including some quality scoring chances. Walock faced 19 shots in the third period and seven in overtime.
Orono, which won the 2018 Class A state title, grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second period when Bradley Walker got credited for a goal that deflected off a Raiders defenseman at 10:30 of the period.
Northfield responded with a goal from sophomore forward Griffin Kennelly after he put home a one-timer off a pass from junior winger Kam Kaiser at 11:36 of the period with freshman defenseman Bridger Riley also assisting. The goal came after a good forecheck from Kaiser who collected a loose puck from behind the goal and fed Kennelly who found the net on the blocker side to make it 1-1.
The Raiders, who appeared in the state tournament for the first time since 2017 where they lost to Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake in the semifinals, looked more dangerous in the second period and finished with 10 shots in the period. Kaiser hit the post and Kennelly had a rebound chance in the period for near misses.
Orono kept the pressure on throughout the third period to the end with Walock making a game-saving stop with two seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
In overtime, Northfield took a tripping penalty a minute into the extra session and generated one scoring chance when junior winger Cayden Monson sent a shot on goal that Spartans goalie Brock Peyton made a kick save on.
Orono played much of the overtime session in the Raiders zone and Brody Finnegan’s shot from the point found Anderson’s stick as he slid away from in front of the net to get just enough of a deflection to slip through Walock’s five-hole for the game-winner.
Northfield finished with 26 shots on goal in the loss. The Raiders faced the Spartans Dec. 13 during the regular season in Orono where they fell 3-1. Northfield fell behind 3-0 before Kaiser scored in the third period for a 3-1 final.
The Raiders will face St. Cloud Cathedral Thursday at noon at 3M Arena at Mariucci at the University of Minnesota. The Crusaders fell 5-1 Thursday to top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Warroad in their quarterfinal game. Northfield faced St. Cloud Cathedral in the 2017 Class A state tournament third-place game where the Raiders fell 2-1.
Walock remains one win away from tying Ryan Bielenberg’s school record for career wins.
Kaiser, who had 40 goals this season, is one goal from tying the single season goal record set by Jake Enebek in 1987.