Champlin Park's Connor Smith (16) scores the winning goal in overtime, firing the ball past Blaine defenders Naji El-Araby (22) and Alex Johnson (10) and goaltender Brenden Nadeau. Photo by Jon Laqua
There are friends, there are teammates and there is family.
For Champlin Park it is the latter.
Down 8-4 in the third quarter the Rebels picked each other up like brothers do. They were jumping around on the sidelines, screaming on every ground ball and just genuinely enthushed for every second.
"Our coach always yells to us about the sidelines," Rebels' midfielder Connor Smith said. "When I hear our sidelines I just want to fight for my family."
In the biggest moments of the season, that enthusiasm from the bench was contagious. With 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter Max Turgeon tied the score and sent the Rebels' bench in a state of chaos.
"It was the greatest adrenaline rush I have ever had," Turgeon said. "As soon as I got the ball from the ground and got it in, I have never had a feeling like that before."
Just 44 seconds into overtime Smith scored his fourth goal of the night to give the Rebels a 12-11 win against No. 1-seeded Blaine in the Section 7 final on Wednesday, June 5 at Irondale High School.
Champlin Park did not have a lead until Smith's overtime goal.
"I saw it hit the net and I instantly started crying," Smith said. "I hit the ground and just started balling like a baby."
Like families do, the rest of the Rebels came to celebrate in the good fortunate for one of their own.
Champlin Park's Connor Smith. Photo by Jon Laqua
"You just don't mess with our family," Smith said. "When we were down some guys were crying on the sidelines, and I didn't want it to end that way."
Champlin Park had plenty of possession time in the first half, but missed shots and some outstanding play in net by Blaine's Brenden Nadeau kept the Rebels in check.
"We weren't frustrated at all," Rebels' coach Eric Borer said. "We had chances and were getting shots and their goalie was playing really good."
"Their goalie was sick," Smith said. "We just had to keep shooting on him and hope that some were going to go in."
Nadeau was just a small portion of the problem Champlin Park had to face. Blaine's defense was tough and didn't allow the Rebels many quality scoring chances early on.
It took Champlin Park a while to start seeing some results for its efforts.
"They played us pretty tough in their end," Smith said. "They were in your face and physical, but we found a way to get it tied up."
In overtime, as soon as the Rebels had control, Borer called a timeout to set up a play.
"I knew and I told our guys that we are going to call a timeout," Borer said.
"It was probably the best timeout he has called in his career," Smith added.
After the timeout, the ball and the season was in Smith's hands. And he didn't disappoint.
"He was playing great and we knew we had to go to him," Borer said.
All Smith did was put Champlin Park in the state tournament.
"It's unbelievable," Smith said. "I went when I was younger, but this group is so close, and I am glad we are going again."
Champlin Park upended Blaine in overtime to win the Section 7 championship. Photo by John Laqua
Connor Smith scored 44 seconds into overtime to give No. 2-seeded Champlin Park a 12-11 win against No. 1 seed Blaine in the Section 7 finals on Wednesday, June 4 at Irondale High School.
Smith scored four goals and was allowed a chance at the overtime winner because teammate Max Turgeon scored with just 12 seconds left in regulation to tie the score.
The Bengals held an 8-4 lead in the third quarter, but Champlin Park was consistent in its attack, despite a great effort in net by Brenden Nadeau, who made several highlight-reel saves, including one on Turgeron in the closing minutes of regulation.
Turgeon and Luke Dalman each had two goals to help Smith pace the Rebels' attack.
Alex Winecke scored three goals for Blaine, while teammates Tyler Cline and Ben Bulman each had two.
With the win the Rebels advance to next week's state tournament, which will be held at Chanhassen and Chaska high schools.
1. Connor Smith, Champlin Park
Four goals, including the overtime winner, makes the senior the easy choice for the top star. His "team is family" mentality showed as he was the one who came through in the clutch to send the Rebels to the state tourament.
2. Alex Winecke, Blaine
The senior scored three times, including a behind-the-back shot that got the attention from everyone in the crowd, including the public address announcer, who was pretty excited delivering the message.
3. Max Turgeon, Champlin Park
Smith is not the hero if Turgeon doesn't find the net with 12 seconds left in the fourth. It was Turgeon's second goal of the night and the biggest of his career. Turgeon was not shy about driving to the net, either. He's not the biggest player on the field, but he has a nose for the net.