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Thoreson shines again as Andover beats Hill-Murray for title game berth

The junior had three points in No. 5 Andover's 4-2 upset over top-seed Hill-Murray

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Andover forward Gavyn Thoreson, right, celebrates his goal with Andover defenseman Landon Stringfellow (3) against Hill-Murray during the first period Friday, March 11, 2022, in the State Boys Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

ST. PAUL — The Andover boys hockey team keeps on winning and Gavyn Thoreson continues to be one of the biggest reasons why.

The junior forward’s goal put Andover on the board early, he assisted on the game-winner and added the empty netter to seal the victory in No. 5 Andover’s 4-2 upset of top-seed Hill-Murray in the semifinals Friday night of the Class AA State Boys Hockey Tournament.

“We’ll openly say he’s the most talented player in the history of our program,” said Andover coach Mark Manney following the game at the Xcel Energy Center.

Andover improved to 24-5-1 and will face Maple Grove in the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday in a matchup of two teams that had a combined four state appearances prior to this season and had never previously reached the semifinals.

Thoreson was the hero in the late game on Thursday as well, scoring the game-winner in double overtime against Moorhead in the quarterfinals. Despite his knack to come up big in critical moments, his teammates still threw a few jabs at their team’s leading goal scorer in the postgame.

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“I hate the kid, but at the same time I love him,” said Huskies senior captain Weston Knox. “He’s always the kid that’s under your skin, but what he does on the ice is just amazing and honestly, it relaxes you and at any time he can score.”

Andover also had a star on the other end of the rink for the second night in a row, Austin Brauns, whose 37 saves on Friday were the second most for a single all year – second only to Thursday’s 44 saves.

Andover took a 1-0 lead into the second period off Thoreson’s goal four minutes into the game, but Caden Sampair tied the game 3:14 into the second.

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Andover defenseman Weston Knox (4) checks Hill-Murray forward Simon Seidl (25) into the glass during the second period Friday, March 11, 2022, in the State Boys Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

The Huskies pushed the lead back to two when Davis Gohman put home the third-chance opportunity on a rebound after Ben Doll got a couple whacks at the puck in front of the net.

Perhaps the game’s most critical goal came with 10 seconds left in the second period when Andover took advantage of the Pioneers’ mishandling of the puck, spurring a rush the other way led by Thoreson.

When the Pioneers backcheckers caught up to him, instead of shooting or trying to deke the goalie, he slid the puck behind his back to Cayden Casey who was left alone streaking in for the easy goal.

“It was a big goal to get up two on them and get some momentum going into the third period,” Thoreson said.

The Pioneers drew to within one when Caden Sampair left the puck for Dylan Godbout after he brought the puck over the Andover blue line. Godbout fired a high wrist shot snuck under the crossbar.

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Momentum was in Hill-Murray’s favor in the minutes after the goal when Andover took two minor penalties.

“We focus on [the penalty kill] all of the time,” Knox said. “We just kind of focus on nailing it down. We have confidence in Austin, so we feel confident to go out and take chances.”

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The Hawks allowed an early goal, but locked down defensively and allowed just six shots the rest of the game.

The Pioneers' best chance to tie the game on the first power play came when the puck deflected up and over the center of the cross bar and that was as close as Hill-Murray got the rest of the way.

Andover struggled to put the game away as Cooper Conway missed two wide-open nets – one with Hill-Murray goalie Jack Erickson on the bench – but Thoreson buried the elusive empty-net goal with 1:05 left.

Erickson finished the game with 17 saves and Hill-Murray (24-5-1) will play Prior Lake in the third-place game at 4 p.m., though Pioneers coach Bill Lechner said he makes it a point to list the time and date of the state championship game on his team’s schedule at the beginning of the season in an effort to raise standards and expectations.

“That’s dangerous and it's a tough way to do it but that’s what our program tries to do,” Lechner said. “So, when you fall off that, it’s a bigger cliff for those 19 guys.”

PHOTO GALLERY (click/swipe to view)

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