Maple Grove's David Corazalla, right, was held without a goal while being followed step for step by Blaine's Cody Johnson. Photo by Loren Nelson
Undefeated with three games to go in the regular season. Players all over the field toting gaudy statistics. A lofty state ranking.
None of this is new territory for Blaine. The No. 4-ranked Bengals have routinely developed star players, and they have reached section championship games each of the last two seasons, only to be denied a berth in the state tournament each time.
“We don’t’ even talk about it.” Blaine coach Josh Swart said about the Bengals’ perfect record through 10 games. “These guys, I think they respect and understand how hard it is to get to the state tournament.”
It is understandable, then, that the Bengals’ postgame celebration was a low-key affair after their 11-1 dismantling of Maple Grove on Wednesday, May 15, at Maple Grove High School. Part of that might have come from the inevitability of the victory – Blaine was in control throughout. Given their history, it's understandable why regular season wins don’t move the needle much for the Bengals.
Senior Mac Nadeau leads Blaine with 28 goals. Photo by Loren Nelson
“I think our team does a really good job with keeping it chill for the most part and trying not to let it get to our heads,” senior midfielder Mac Nadeau said. “We’ve been lucky enough to come out and stay undefeated for this part of the season. We’ve got a few tough games coming up this next week. We’ll see if we can keep it going.”
The Bengals close the regular season with games against No. 9 Mahtomedi, Anoka and No. 3 Eagan. Each of them will serve merely as dress rehearsals for the playoffs.
Blaine’s winning recipe includes a large supply of depth, veteran leadership (14 seniors are listed on the roster), a punishing defense, balanced scoring and the Nadeau brothers, Mac and Brenden.
If the Bengals have a weakness, it might take a microscope to find it. There were no cracks evident against the Crimson, who were ranked No. 15 entering Wednesday’s matchup.
The work of senior defenseman Cody Johnson on Maple Grove goal-scoring phenom David Corazalla was particularly impressive, given that Corazalla entered the game leading the state in goals. He did not score against the Bengals and was limited to just a handful of opportunities. It was the second straight year Johnson, Blaine’s designated defensive stopper, held Corazalla without a goal.
“It’s tough because he is a quick player, so you’ve gotta have a quick first step,” Johnson said about Corazalla. “You have to have good body position and just go off of that.
“Just keep a close eye on him. Stay a stick length away from him so they aren’t tempted to throw any passes to him, and good body position when he is dodging toward the net.”
Johnson’s glue-like defensive work on Corazalla is nothing new. Johnson always affixes himself to the opposition’s top offensive threat. It’s a role he has come to relish.
“I love it actually, because every game is a tough game no matter who you are playing because every team has solid players,” Johnson said. “Whether it is a middie or an attack it gives you different looks from different angles on the field.”
Blaine's Eric Zickermann, right, leads the state with 40 assists. Photo by Loren Nelson
Blaine’s midfielders and attackmen have gained an appreciation for Johnson’s tenacity. They know from practice sessions what it is like to be targeted by him. Not fun.
“I hate going against Cody,” Blaine senior midfielder Eric Zickermann said. “He throws some pretty hard stick checks. Our team defense was really, really good today.”
Zickermann, the runaway state leader in assists with 40, is the setup man for a Blaine offense that has three players with 19 or more goals in Mac Nadeau (28), Ben Bulman (23) and James Warner (19).
“It’s great because the whole team, we’ve got threats everywhere,” Zickermann said. “James Warner, Mac . . . it’s great to just feed these guys and watch them do what they do. I just love getting the assists and getting them the goals.”
While the elusive Nadeau is Blaine’s leader on offense, his brother Brenden Nadeau is the final authority in the defensive zone. The Bengals’ goaltender, Brenden made a handful of tough stops against the Crimson and several times beat two or three players with his speed and cutting ability while clearing the ball.
“It’s probably the most balance we’ve had since I’ve coached here,” said Swart, who was referring to his offense but might as well have been talking about all of his team. “We have a lot of guys contributing now."
-- Loren Nelson
Blaine goaltender Brenden Nadeau prepares to make a save on a shot by Maple Grove's Jack Kelly. Photo by Loren Nelson
No. 4-ranked Blaine used its superior depth to overpower No. 15 Maple Grove 11-1 to remain undefeated Wednesday, May 15, at Maple Grove High School.
Ben Bulman led the Bengals (10-0) down low with a three goals and an assist, and Eric Zickermann scored two goals and added an assist.
Blaine's potent offense got things done from crease area with Bulman and Zickermann, but also from up top with Mac Nadeau who also had three goals while quarterbacking the Bengals' offense. Nadeau showed speed and great stick work on his third goal where he carried his stick out and vulnerable in one hand while scoooting around his defender to score.
Maple Grove's deadliest weapon, David Corazalla, ranks third in the state with 34 goals but was silenced by Bengals' defenseman Cody Johnson. Corazalla, who relies on his blazing speed and array of moves, was countered by Johnson's physicality and positioning. Corazalla was held goalless for a second straight year against the Bengals.
Blaine goaltender Brenden Nadeau, who shares his twin brother's speed and confidence carrying the ball, calmly stopped Maple Grove's limited quality scoring chances.
Pat Mordhorst scored the lone goal for Maple Grove early in the second quarter, pulling the Crimson to withing 3-1. Blaine led 6-1 at halftime.
1. Cody Johnson, Blaine
It seems defensemen never get the first star – or second or third. Until now. Johnson, a senior with great athleticism and a Teflon mindset, deserves top billing for his work on Maple Grove scoring whiz David Corazalla. One of the state’s most dangerous scorers, the lightning-quck Corazalla was limited to a handful of long-range shots by the tireless Johnson, who took up residence in Corazalla’s hip pocket and proved impossible to shake.
2. Mac Nadeau, Blaine
The senior midfielder is the engine that drives Blaine’s multi-faceted offense, and the Bengals’ were revving at maximum horsepower against the Crimson. Nadeau, one of the state’s fastest players, scored three goals to push his season total to 28. He’s scored at least one goal in all 10 of Blaine’s games this season.
3. Eric Zickermann, Blaine
The senior midfielder is the runaway state leader in assists with 40 after adding to two his total against the Crimson. Zickermann can also score, as he whipped home two goals against Maple Grove to push his season total to 16.
-- Loren Nelson