State Girls Hockey: Gentry downs top-seed Tonka in AA Semifinal OT thriller

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Entering the 2023 Minnesota State High School League’s Girls Hockey State Tournament, Minnetonka was given the No. 1 seed in the Class AA field. Gentry Academy, dubbed with the No. 4 seed had something to say about that. The Stars staged the upset of the tournament with a 2-1 victory in overtime to topple Minnetonka in the Class AA semifinals late Friday night, Feb. 24 at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul.

Click the video box on this page to watch extended highlights of Gentry Academy vs Minnetonka in the semifinals of the Class AA Girls State Hockey Tournament

Gentry Academy (26-2-0) put an end to a dramatic end to a high intensity game when Ellie Sarauer scored from the left side of the boards on a shot that made its way through traffic to send the Stars into a championship game for the second time in three seasons. Gentry Academy will now see Andover again this season, but this time with the Class AA title at stake. Earlier this season, Gentry Academy recorded a 4-3 victory over Andover on Nov. 19.

In 2021, Gentry Academy lost in the 2021 Class A championship game to Proctor/Hermantown. Last season, Gentry Academy made the move to Class AA.

Through three periods of play, Gentry Academy was credited with eight quality scoring chances and Minnetonka had six. With the high intensity of play at each end, it seemed like all of those occurred in the final minutes of the third period.

Gentry Academy was awarded a power play when playmaking standout Cara Sajevic was tripped on a semi-breakaway. Trying to seize the golden opportunity, the Stars attacked with a frenzy and nearly found the game-winner during a spree, but the goal pipe intervened.

While Minnetonka (26-3-0) opened the third period in a flurry to add to a one-goal advantage, it was Gentry Academy that found the equalizer. Alexa Hanrahan scored on a backhand after a sly deke with 12:29 left in regulation. The play was engineered brilliantly by Cara Sajevic from the far circle, who slid a pass to Hanrahan at the precise moment to create a goal.

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Minnetonka wasted little time in getting an early jump on the Stars.

The Skippers’ Molly Ryan scored an even-strength goal with just two minutes elapsed in the opening period. She scored on a long-range wrist shot after taking a nifty drop pass from Kindra Distad.

That lead would carry through two periods of play as neither team was able to muster another goal in an evenly-played, up-tempo face over the first 34 minutes.

Gentry, which averages more than seven goals per game, held a 13-12 advantage on the shots on goal, but could not string together enough offense to beat Minnetonka goalie Layla Hemp. On the other side, Minnetonka couldn’t add to its lead as Gentry Academy goalie Zoe Laming was equally difficult to best.

It wasn’t without any high-stakes close calls as each team had quality scoring chances that were either just off target.

Courtesy: Minnesota State High School League