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Blake changes its style to defend its home turf

Conditions force Bears to abandon systems in come-from-behind win over Blaine at Parade Stadium

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

MINNEAPOLIS -- There is hosting Hockey Day Minnesota, then there is, quite literally, hosting Hockey Day Minnesota.

The event, in the shadows of downtown Minneapolis, took place across the street from Blake School, which made for a sort of literal home-ice advantage for the eighth-ranked Bears against Blaine in the second game at Parade Stadium. 

The high school teams that participated in the event got ready inside the school, using classrooms as dressing rooms. 

The one Blake used was where Bears forward Jack Sabre had math class just last year. 

"This is right at home for us," Sabre said. "It just gave us a little bit more of that confidence, an edge, that I think we needed and we played up to it."

"It's kind of like defending your own turf," said Blake forward Joe Miller. "It's obviously in the city and across from our school so it kind of felt like we had to do it. To get a win, it was big."

Miller scored the game-winning goal off his shin pad on a pass by Sabre with 5:34 remaining as the Bears won 3-2 against the Bengals.

The winning tally was fitting for the Bears: it was big, but it certainly wasn't pretty, at least according to Blake coach Rob McClanahan. 

A fast, skilled team that normally relies on possessing the puck, the Bears learned early in the game that the ice and the weather conditions were going to force them to go away from their comfort zone. 

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"We had to change the way that I like us to play," McClanahan said. "We dumped and chased it. We found a way to make it successful. I think they did it well. Our speed paid off, I just think it paid off in a different way."

McClanahan was happy with the victory, but one could tell he was perturbed by the way his team had to accomplish it. 

Dump-and-chase is a cuss word to the 1980 Miracle On Ice hero, who took over as Blake's head coach in August. 

"It's just really hard for me to go to that style," McClanahan said. "I don't know if everybody understands, exactly, but I just abhor that type of play and generally that type of game, but these fellas have never done that with me and they responded."

If anything, the sudden change in game plan showed off just the kind of team McClanahan has. 

"That's not a game we usually play, then they bury one right off the first shift. That was kind of a wake-up call for us," Sabre said. "This was a different game for us, a different strategy, so coach, especially after the first period, hammered that we need to get pucks deep and get pucks on net."

Whatever McClanahan said worked.

After heading to the first intermission down a goal, Blake scored twice in a span of 5 1/2 minutes early in the second to take a 2-1 lead. 

Blaine tied the game on Ben Wallraff's goal 6:12 into the third before Sabre's saucer pass banked in off Miller's leg for the eventual game winner. 

Not pretty, but good enough. And for Blake, hopefully a sign of a team that's capable of making a nice, long run come playoff time.

"It shows that we're a dangerous team and regardless of who we're playing, we can adapt and change our style to match theirs," Miller said. "Specifically today, showing that we can come with a win after changing our style of play is good for us and good for our confidence."

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