Just as the puck hit the ice Wednesday night, the St. Thomas Academy fans began to chant "This one's over… ."
They were right. St. Cloud Apollo had no chance against the two-time defending Class 1A champion, losing 12-0 in the quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.
"It just happened," St. Thomas Academy coach Greg Vannelli said. "It wasn't comfortable for either team."
Discomfort began early and repeated often for unseeded St. Could Apollo. The Cadets scored four in the first period, five in the second period, and three in a toned-down third period.
Top-seeded St. Thomas Academy respectfully acknowledged there was no need for scoring once it hit a dozen with 10 minutes left in the game. Instead, the fourth-line worked on moving the puck and passed on good shot opportunities. This nice gesture meant the Cadets would finish four goals short of the state tournament record for most goals in a game (16).
St. Thomas Academy had no intention of a statement victory in the opener of its final Class 1A tournament. Jack Dougherty reiterated the goal is to win a state title no matter what level they're at and sometimes that includes blowouts.
The Cadets' defense was just as good as its offense. St. Cloud Apollo went 33 minutes without a shot on goal and both sides of fans applauded once it finally happened.
"We know [the fans are] here to have fun, too," Cadets forward Alex Johnson said. "I think we mostly try to tune that stuff out. Obviously we don't think this one is already over cause a 0-0 game is far from over."
It was over 3-minutes, 42-seconds later when Matt Perry skated past two defenders, swept back in front of the net, and slammed the puck off the goaltender's chest for the only goal they would need.
St. Cloud Apollo's freshman goaltender Nick Althaus stomached 50 shots on goal, saving 38. The Eagles' offense had three shots on goal all night.
"You never wish a team to not get a shot on goal," Dougherty said. "It's the state tournament. You want everyone to have fun and you always wish for a good game."
Green Wave hangs on
No. 4 seed East Grand Forks escaped with a 3-2 victory against No. 5 seed Rochester Lourdes in Wednesday’s Class 1A quarterfinal nightcap.
The Green Wave got two first period goals from Kolton Aubol, a second period goal from Tommy Hajicek and 11 saves from goaltender Tanner Lindstrom to complete the victory. East Grand Forks plays No. 1 seed and two-time defending state champion St. Thomas Academy on Friday.
East Grand Forks hit the ice showing no visible signs of nerves despite a 11-year absence from the big stage.
“We were loose and we played our game,” Green Wave defenseman Colton Poolman said. “We got a couple on the board early and that sparked us.”
Aubol got loose behind the Lourdes’ defense for his first goal, coming at 8:51 of the opening period. He struck again at 12:58 thanks to a tremendous effort by Hajicek. Carrying the puck near the boards, Hajicek got checked, slid on one knee, got up and kept skating. He sent the puck across the slot for a streaking Aubol to bury.
Hajicek was rewarded with a goal of his own at 15:08 of the second period.
The Eagles refused to concede.
Alex Funk scored for Lourdes at 6:10 of the third period. Griff Slightam got his team within one with his goal, scored with less than five minutes remaining.
“We put home those two goals and you could see everyone on the bench believed,” Eagles captain Jason Samuelson said. “We just came up a little short.”
DAVID LA VAQUE
Breck breezes into semis
The post-game press conference moods didn’t match the result.
Breck, making it’s fifth consecutive state tournament, felt disappointed with a 6-1 quarterfinal victory.
Marshall, making its state tournament debut, couldn’t stop smiling while describing its lopsided loss to Class 1A’s No. 2-ranked team.
Expectations for the boys’ state hockey tournament opener were very different and each group voiced both with conviction. Though tournament newcomer Marshall put up an admirable effort, Breck coach Les Larson wanted more from his team and senior forward Thomas Lindstrom agreed the Mustangs could have done more.
“Maybe we were caught off guard a little,” Lindstrom said. “We didn’t execute the way we wanted to. I’m happy with the win … but I’m a little disappointed.”
The disappointment stemmed from what Breck classified as a mediocre second period in which the teams traded goals. After David Husband, Lindstrom, and Michael Orke gave the Mustangs a 3-0 advantage through one period, Marshall kicked off the second period with its lone goal.
Jeremiah Barker’s first career goal was the program’s first state tournament goal. The score provided extra excitement among the Marshall players and for the next 14 minutes they skated evenly with Breck.
This made the Tigers’ trip worth it.
“We just lost, but I don’t even care. It’s just fun to be here,” goaltender Mason Campion said. “I think we did better than expected. I don’t think they expected us to come out here and play that close for that long.”
Breck did not. It expected Section 3’s historical weakness, but Marshall showed a new look from that area of the state on Wednesday.
Hawks win a shutout
Once known as the “Diaper Line” Hermantown’s trio of Chris Benson, Bo Gronseth and Travis Koepke is all grown up.
Each senior forward scored a goal as the third-seeded Hawks defeated Duluth Marshall 3-0 in Wednesday’s Class 1A state hockey quarterfinal at the Xcel Energy Center. The three goals set a program single-season record with 85 goals by a line.
Hawks (24-4-1) coach Bruce Plante said the linemates were “little fuzzy things” when they played on the third line as sophomores. Their fuzz has become scruff, their contributions more significant. Benson scored his team-leading 30th goal of the season with Koepke (29) and Gronseth (26) not far behind.
Gronseth and Benson tallied power-play goals. Koepke scored on a great individual effort. Going hard to the net, he kicked a rebound to his forehand and buried his chance.
The Hawks’ defense made sure the lead stood, keeping the team on pace for a fourth-consecutive championship game appearance.
Goaltender Adam Smith made 17 saves for a shutout in his first state tournament start.
“They’re very suffocating defensively,” Duluth Marshall coach Brendan Flaherty said. “We just didn’t have a lot of places to go.”
The teams, whose schools sit just seven miles apart, met in January. Hermantown won 4-3. Both coaches said their teams improved and Hermantown’s defense served as a prime example.
“We’re taking fewer risks and we’ve become less vulnerable,” Plante said. “Once we started making more of an effort and will defensively we became a tough team to play against.”
DAVID LA VAQUE