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Blaine goaltender Brenden Nadeau takes a shot to the shoulder during the Bengals' Section 4 semifinal victory over Mahtomedi. Photo by Helen Nelson

Brenden Nadeau missed his first save opportunity even before leaving home.

Tuesday was laundry day at the Nadeau’s, and Brenden, Blaine’s starting goaltender, packed his crisp and clean uniform before heading to the Bengals’ Section 4 semifinal showdown with Mahtomedi.

Brenden Nadeau

Brendan’s brother, Mackenzie Nadeau, a high-scoring, high-revving midfielder, left his uniform behind, discovering the error only after it was too late to have it shuttled to the game.

The Nadeaus are twins. This sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen. If one twin forgets his jersey, the other is supposed to do the same. Or, if one has his jersey, he’s supposed to be sure his brother is also fully equipped.

Mackenzie Nadeau

Mac Nadeau

Turns out that, no, this isn’t the way it works. “We’re only identical brothers,” Brenden Nadeau said after the Bengals’ wildly entertaining 10-9 victory at Mahtomedi High School. “I’m not his mother.”

Of course, Brenden couldn’t be faulted for his brother’s mistake (Mac ended up wearing a spare jersey, No 13 instead of his customary No. 2). 

As for Mahtomedi’s first six goals, all of which came in the first quarter as the Zephyrs built a 6-0 lead, some of those might not have been Brenden’s responsibility, either. Still, six goals on six shots, no matter their quality, is more indictment than shaky start.

“There were a couple I wish I had back,” Nadeau said. “But they’ve got some shooters on their team and we had a couple mental lapses defensively. 

“After that first quarter we decided to just pick ourselves up again. New game. New quarter. Zero to zero is the score.”

The clean slate mindset and a "keep chipping away" mantra worked for the Bengals, who pulled within 6-5 at halftime and took their first lead on what proved to be the winning goal by Riley Etienne with 4 minutes, 10 seconds remaining.

Mackenzie Nadeau set up Etienne’s game winner, then Brenden took over, making a series of spectacular stops in the closing minutes.

Blaine junior goaltender Brenden Nadeau. Photo by Helen Nelson

“He was unreal,” Mahtomedi all-state defenseman Kevin Bowditch said about Nadeau. “He was making saves like crazy. 

"We just couldn’t get anything in the back of the net.” 

Bowditch, who scored a goal and added an assist, unloaded a 40-yard bomb just before the clock expired. Nadeau stepped in front of it, naturally, even if Bowditch admitted it was headed a foot or so wide right. Nadeau agreed that it was a miss. Not that he was taking any chances.

“I wanted to make sure there was no chance it was taking a bounce or something and was going in,” Nadeau, who finished with nine saves, said about the game-ending shot.

The Nadeaus unflappable nature was instrumental in pushing the Bengals to Thursday’s Section 4 championship game against Totino-Grace. The lightning-quick twins have spent hours honing their skills, mostly by Mac shooting on Brenden.

“I want to say we practice at home three or four times a week for an hour or two a day,” Brenden said. “After practice, too.”

Those shooting sessions sometimes end abruptly -- with fireworks. Brotherly shoves and all that.

“It gets out of hand a little bit,” Brenden said. “We’re just like any other siblings, we fight a lot, but in the end, we’ve got each other’s back. 

“I made some saves, he made some great plays.”

Blaine junior Riley Etienne unleashes a shot on Mahtomedi goaltender Drew Huso. Etienne scored three goals in the Bengals' victory. Photo by Helen Nelson

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Riley Etienne

Junior Riley Etienne scored the winning goal with 4 minutes, 10 seconds remaining to complete his hat trick, and Brendan Nadeau made several outstanding saves in the frantic closing minutes as No. 3-seeded Blaine rallied from a six-goal first-quarter deficit to upend No. 2 Mahtomedi 10-9 on Tuesday, May 29, in the Section 4 semifinals at Mahtomedi High School.
Blaine advances to the section championship at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Irondale High School in New Brighton against No. 4 seed Totino-Grace, which upset No. 1 White Bear Lake 9-8 on Tuesday.
No. 7-ranked Mahtomedi (11-3) scored all six first-quarter goals, including two by Michael Harris, on just seven shots.
The second quarter was dominated by No. 9-ranked Blaine (14-2). The Bengals scored all five goals, and Conlan Meade had a goal and two assists.
Both teams scored three goals in the third quarter – Etienne had two for Blaine – setting up the tension-clogged fourth.
Blaine’s Tyler Cline scored 1:07 into the fourth quarter, swatting a rolling ball past Mahtomedi goaltender Drew Huso from the right of the crease. 
Etienne’s winning goal came off a feed from Mackenzie Nadeau, Brendan’s twin brother. Brendan took over in the final minutes, making a handful of saves on point-blank shots by Zephyrs stars Jake Erickson and Ryan Brown, among others.
Nadeau finished with nine saves and Huso had four.
Harris finished with three goals to lead Mahtomedi, which defeated Blaine by a goal late in the regular season.

1. Riley Etienne, Blaine
A junior attackman who scored six goals during the regular season, Etienne continued to build his reputation as a clutch performer by scoring three goals to push his postseason total to seven. Etienne’s fourth-quarter goal proved to be the game winner.

2. Brenden Nadeau, Blaine
After an inauspicious start (Nadeau allowed six goals on the Mahtomedi’s first six shots), the Bengals’ junior goaltender became more and more difficult to beat. The Zephyrs threw everything they had – short of their ball buckets and equipment bags – at Nadeau in the fourth quarter, when he was unbeatable.

3. Michael Harris, Mahtomedi
A senior midfielder, Harris scored twice in the Zephyrs’ dominating first quarter, and he put Mahtomedi ahead again as he completed his hat trick late in the third quarter.

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