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Clutch Kaiser keeps Andover perfect with title win over Minnetonka

Senior scores with 1:40 left as Huskies complete undefeated season with Class AA title

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Andover's Sara Kaiser (3) scores on Minnetonka goalie Sophia Johnson (30) to make the score 5-4 during the third period Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live
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ST. PAUL — Sara Kaiser doesn’t score the most goals for the Andover girls hockey team, but when the game is still in doubt late in regulation, one could argue she’s the most clutch goal scorer on the Huskies’ roster.

The senior assistant captain’s 11th goal of the season in the dying minutes of the third period broke the tie that lifted Andover to its second state championship and a perfect season.

The No. 1 Huskies outlasted third-seed Minnetonka 5-4 in the Class AA championship Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center.

“It left me speechless,” Kaiser said. “I just wanted to go straight over to our fans because of all the excitement and then celebrate with my teammates. It was amazing.”

Kaiser scored with 1:40 left on the clock after Maya Engler won a race to the puck just inside the blue line of the Skippers zone. Engler poked it forward along the half boards and Kaiser swooped in to pick up the puck and wrist it past goaltender Sophia Johnson.

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Andover goalie Courtney Stagman (1) blocks a shot against Minnetonka during the second period Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

The call for a good goal stood after a review to make sure Kaiser was onside.

“I believed in Maya that she won the battle,” said Kaiser, whose last goal came Feb. 3. “I went for the puck and shot for the open net. It was just an amazing experience.

“I thought I was onside, but I got nervous when they reviewed it, but then I remembered I was way behind the play.”

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Andover players stormed the net to celebrate their win over against Minnetonka in the State Class AA Tournament Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Kaiser’s heroics came into the spotlight on a much smaller stage earlier this season when Andover met Minnetonka in the championship game of the Walser Invitational on Dec. 29. She scored the game-winner on a breakaway with 3:35 left in the third period of a 4-3 win.

Andover, an emerging titan of Class AA, has made the semifinals four times in five years, appeared in the last three title games and won it all in 2020.

“I just love being here with team,” said senior captain Ashley Grabau. “The last few years set the fire in our stomachs. After taking first and then losing last year (in the finals to Edina). We used it as motivation.”

Minnetonka won three straight Class AA titles from 2011-13 and was runner-up in 2015.

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The Huskies opened Saturday’s game on fire, taking the lead 15 seconds in on an Ella Boerger wrister from the left circle and Isa Goettl – battling through a collarbone injury that caused her to leave Friday’s game – scored late in the first to put Andover up two.

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Andover's Ella Boerger (15) puts the puck in behind Minnetonka goalie Sophia Johnson (30) during the first period Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

But Minnetonka got on the board with an Ava Lindsay goal and took the lead with goals by Grace Sadura and Kendra Distad 25 seconds apart early in the second period.

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Minnetonka's Ava Lindsay (9) puts the puck over Andover goalie Courtney Stagman (1) to score during the first period Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Boerger and Lindsay traded goals and Minnetonka maintained its one-goal lead going into the third period.

Madison Brown – who had two assists – tied the game on the power play 3:03 into the third, pouncing on a puck that ricocheted off a Skippers defender on a shot attempt by Engler, who finished with three assists.

A flurry of penalties late in regulation provided an entertaining and suspenseful finish.

With 2:47 left, sophomore defenseman Cailin Mumm was called for a two-minute body-checking penalty trying to position herself to get control of the puck but Skippers forward Lindzi Avar tumbled off Mumm and into the boards.

“It was definitely frustrating sitting in the box, but I was cheering for the girls from the box,” Mumm said. “I knew they could do it.”

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Minnetonka's Lindzi Avar (13) and Andover's Cailin Mumm (4) collide into the boards during the third period Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

The Minnetonka power play lasted 52 seconds before Sadura was called for a body check of her own to leave each team with four players aside. Fifteen seconds of 4-on-4 was all the Huskies needed for the puck to come free in the neutral zone, slide over the blue line, Engler to win the race and Kaiser to put it home.

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Andover limited Minnetonka to two shots in the final minute to prevent the equalizer and Courtney Stagman finished with 31 saves for the Huskies. Johnson stopped 26 shots and Lindsay finished with four total points for the Skippers.

“It stings and you can say time heals, but you never forget it,” said Skippers coach Tracy Cassano. “It doesn’t leave you, but it does drive you to work hard and get better to get back to this place and to never feel this way again.”

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2022 Minnesota Girls State Hockey Tournament

Related Topics: GIRLS HOCKEYHOCKEY
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