When pucks are coming at you like they are being shot from a Gatling gun, when opposing players with ill intentions are intent on invading your personal space, when you are bouncing up and dropping down with the frequency of a bungee jumper it’s a good idea to take it all in, then take a few seconds and … just … breathe.
That’s all Blake senior Aksel Reid thought about when the barnlike Blake Ice Arena was crashing down on him for long stretches of Friday night’s game against Wayzata in the season opener for both teams.
“Honestly, I try to think about very little,” Reid said after making 31 saves in the Bears’ 5-1 victory over the Trojans. “I just try to clear my mind and focus on my breathing. When it’s in your zone for a long time, it’s hard to kind of to breathe right. So I just try to refocus my breathing, refocus my head and get ready for the next shot.”
Reid, who has been playing for Blake since he was an eighth-grader, did a lot of refocusing and a lot of readying himself against the Trojans, ranked No. 10 in Class 2A. Blake is ranked No. 17. The puck was in the Bears’ end for most of the second half of the second period, and other long stretches, when Reid was so unflappably unbeatable he had Trojans players breaking their sticks in frustration.
Reid, who starred in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this fall, figures to be a top candidate for the Frank Brimsek Award that goes to the state’s top senior goaltender, joining the likes of Maple Grove’s Jack Wieneke, Benilde-St. Margaret’s Carson Limesand and Eden Prairie’s Zach Hayes, among others.
“It started the last quarter of the year last year,” Blake coach Rob McClanahan said about Reid’s ascension from good to game-stealing goaltender. “He had a little down period, he had a little rough patch, and we talked to him and he just found himself. He’s a big reason why we made it to the state tournament.”
The Bears were one of the darlings of the state Class 2A tournament last season, beating Maple Grove 7-5 in the quarterfinals before losing to Eden Prairie 4-1 in the quarterfinals. Star forward Joe Miller and standout defensemen Will Svenddal and Ben Dexheimer are among the most significant departures from last season.
“We’re a different team this year,” McClanahan said. “We had a lot of guys that played their first varsity game today. It’s a different deal. But we know that we have a strong goaltender.”