It didn’t have the drama of, say, a penalty shot in overtime, but Carson Limesand’s diving save Thursday night was so ridiculously brilliant it could have been torn straight out of a Mighty Ducks script.
Limesand’s glove-hand stab while flying face first through the crease not only secured the shutout in Benilde-St. Margaret’s 2-0 victory over Blake in a Section 6AA quarterfinal at the St. Louis Park Rec Center, it also put an exclamation mark on another made-for-Hollywood finish between the teams.
After Jonah Mortenson scored with 1:41 remaining to give the No. 13-ranked and No. 4-seeded Red Knights (14-5-0) their two-goal cushion, Blake threw everything but its skate sharpener and water jug at Limesand in an attempt to claw back in the game. The No. 25 Bears (10-7-1), seeded No. 5, supplemented a power-play in the closing 75 seconds by pulling goaltender Aksel Reid in favor of an extra skater. At one point Limesand was under such heavy pressure he lost his stick in the mayhem and played without it for an extended flurry of Blake chances.
“If you think anyone's going quietly into that night in the section tourney, you are sadly mistaken,” Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Ken Pauly said about the Bears’ final, frantic push.
Then came “The Save.” With time about to expire Blake’s Rowan Heithoff fired a close-range shot at a seemingly vacated net. Limesand, caught out of position after making a previous stop, recovered in time to sprawl toward the puck, his legs and arms all flailing in different directions. Most important in Limesand’s impeccable impersonation of an octopus was his left arm and the catching glove attached to it. That’s what snared the puck just before it could cross the goal line as Limesand belly flopped to the ice.
“I’ve lost three or four shutouts in the last two minutes already this season,” Limesand said. “I wasn’t losing this one.”
The outcome was a reversal from from last season’s section championship meeting won 4-3 by Blake on Gavin Best’s penalty shot goal in overtime. Limesand, a senior, was between the pipes that night, making him forever attached to one of the most dramatic moments in state section playoff history. He's the answer to a trivia question, and not in a good way.
Now, however, he's the proud owner of one of the most YouTube worthy saves of the season.
“It felt great to beat them here, after what happened last year,” Limesand said. “That is was what motivated me the most.”
The game marked another reversal of fortunes in that the Red Knights’ defense limited Blake to just 23 shots (15 of them in the third period) and only a handful of high-grade scoring chances until the closing seconds. From Feb. 13 through March 2 the Red Knights allowed an average of 5.16 goals per game as they went 2-4-0.
“Against the very best teams in the state we were 0-5,” Pauly said. “And so we said, ‘You know what, if we kind of felt like the strategy was to go score four or five goals, I think that's a formula for getting beat, for getting out of the tournament early.’
“So we're going to have to rally around our greatest asset, and that's Carson Limesand and Tristan Sarsland and the great defensive corps we have back there.”
Sarsland, a junior defenseman committed to Colorado College, ignited the Red Knights’ offense with several first-period rushes then was happy to stay tethered to Limesand and the crease area in the closing minutes.
“That second goal was like total relief,” Sarsland said. “Just play defense and not worry about anything else.”
Even though Sarsland had an ice-level few of Limesand’s game-ending save, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“That was crazy,” he said. “I thought we're giving up (the shutout) with like two seconds left. I was like, ‘Oh, no,’ and then he extends the glove and catches it.”
Pauly said that while the Red Knights almost certainly would have won the game without Limesand’s last-second save, the fact that they preserved their shutout can only boost their confidence.
“We have broken down in critical moments in critical games, that’s been our mode of operation all year,” Pauly said. “And so it's really nice for us to kind of flip the script, because that would have left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth if they had scored.”