ELK RIVER - Finn Brink was doing Finn Brink things. Scoring goals, dishes passes, delivering and receiving hits and making his presence felt in the locker room, too, as needed.
Thursday night’s Section 5AA championship game presented an abundance of “as needed” moments for Maple Grove’s senior captain, none more crucial than that last part about taking command of the room.
“Oh yeah, I said lots of stuff,” Brink said about addressing his teammates before the third period of the Crimson’s 7-3 triumph over Rogers in front a raucous Furniture and Things Event Center crowd of 3,124. “The biggest thing was to keep going, win every battle, don’t leave anything out there. Because if you do, you’re going to regret it.”
No. 2 seed Maple Grove saw its 4-1 second-period lead trimmed to 4-3 to start the third on goals by No. seed Rogers’ Mason Jenson and Sam Ranallo. The goal by Ranallo, his second of the game, came with 4:22 left in the second and had the Crimson, if not reeling, at least rocking on their heels.
“The message was, ‘If you could believe we would be up 4-3 in the section final game, right now, would you believe that we’re going to let this one go?’ ” Maple Grove coach Todd Bergland said. “And Finn Brink stepped up and said, ‘Heck no.’ Well, the word might not have been heck.
“You just know, then. When kids are that driven and committed. …”
The intermission pep talk produced positive results. And quickly. Jack Kernan scored 2:18 into the third on a dazzling solo rush to put Maple Grove up 5-3, forcing No. 10-2A Rogers (18-6-3) to make a mountainous climb.
“The message (before the third) was you’re going to get one, keep pounding away, keep chipping away,” Rogers coach David Brown said about the buildup to the third. “We had a pretty good look to get the equalizer, and it didn’t go, and 30 seconds later it was in the back of our net.”
Brink scored 23 seconds into the first period and his gorgeous goal that came on a perfectly executed 2-on-1 rush with Jay “Bird” Ellingson put the No. 4-2A Crimson (21-5-1) ahead 4-1 in the second.
Brink is one of 10 Mr. Hockey Award finalists along with Ranallo and Rogers defenseman Chase Cheslock. All three were among the state’s high-profile players who spurned offers to play elsewhere this winter and instead return home to represent their schools and communities in a quest to reach the state tournament.
Brink assured Maple Grove of its fourth straight state tournament appearance with an empty net goal with 1:43 remaining.
“I gave him a hug at the end and said, ‘Finn Brink, thank you for coming back and doing the right thing and doing what we need to do for high school hockey in Minnesota,’ ” Bergland said. “Finn Brink, he’s a champion, all the way.”