St. Cloud – With a freshman doing his best Tim Howard impersonation, Breck held off the consistent attacks of No. 1-seeded St. Thomas Academy to emerge with a 2-0 victory Wednesday in the Class 1A state semifinals.
Goalkeeper Hudson Haecker was credited with only five saves. But virtually every one was of the spectacular variety, and all were crucial to the Mustangs' victory at Husky Stadium.
"Hudson is technically just a fantastic goalkeeper for a freshman. You don't see that very often," Breck coach George Stuempfig said.
"He dealt with a number of difficult shots really, really well. We needed him today."
Breck (14-4-4) took a 1-0 lead in the first half when Garrett Opperman banged a corner kick off his knee past the St. Thomas Academy keeper.
"I love attacking on corners," Opperman said, "so I thought as long as we put it into the box, if I'm going hard and attacking, we can put one in."
Playing with a lead and buoyed by the presence of junior all-metro forward Avi Eller, an elite scorer known for scintillating runs, Breck went into a counterattacking mode in the second half.
St. Thomas Academy (17-4-1) responded as expected, controlling play and applying pressure, but Haecker and the Mustangs' defense were up to the task.
"Hudson made some really great saves, but I thought our team defending, when we were under pressure like that, was really solid, too," Stuempfig said.
"We didn't allow second balls to drop in front of the goal and we handled things pretty cleanly."
Breck, under pressure for most of the second half, finally got the breathing room it needed when Eller took a pass from Reed Goldstein and dribbled in on a breakaway, scoring with 2 minutes, 47 seconds left for the final margin.
After the game, Haecker said being given a first-half lead motivated him.
"After Garrett gave us that lead, I felt like I could do anything," Haecker said.