Hill-Murray and St. Thomas Academy advanced to play for the Gold Division title in the Schwan Cup.
Mixed and matched with different teammates for the season opener against Burnsville, Hill-Murray's recently assembled top line showed in Thursday's rematch that they belong together.
Center Josh French and wingers Zach LaValle and Mitch Slattery combined for four goals in the Pioneers' 7-2 romp against the Blaze in the Schwan Cup Gold Division semifinal at Ridder Arena.
Hill Murray will face two-time defending Class 1A state champion St. Thomas Academy in the Gold Division final at 8 p.m. Friday at Ridder Arena.
The Cadets edged the Pioneers 2-1 on Dec. 15.
In Thursday's semifinal victory, French and Slattery each scored as the Pioneers, ranked second in Class 2A, opened up a 3-0 lead against No. 10 Burnsville in the first period. LaValle gave his team a 5-0 lead with two goals scored less than two minutes apart in the second period.
This was the fourth time in the past five games the Pioneers (10-1) have scored six or more goals -- about the same span of time the top line has been united. Hill-Murray previously defeated Burnsville 2-1 on Nov. 29.
"It's encouraging," Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner said. "We wanted to see where our game has taken us, and I was proud of the guys early. We held a pretty good team down."
Burnsville (6-4) missed its best chance to fight back during the second period on a point-blank backhander from Cole Borchardt. Pioneers goaltender John Dugas held Burnsville without a goal until the third period.
"Our effort wasn't there the first two periods," Blaze coach Janne Kivihalme said. "You give a team like that time and space and they will capitalize on it."
Lechner credited his guys for rising to the challenge of high-level hockey during the Christmas break. The Pioneers started strong as French scored at 2:48 of the first period. A goal from Slattery at 9:36 and another from Willie Brown at 15:18 kept the momentum.
"We came out right away and got a lead and just tried to keep it going," Slattery said. "It was nice to see that we improved on what we did earlier this season."
St. Thomas Academy 2, Breck 1: For the Cadets, a big game means a tight game.
St. Thomas Academy (8-1) broke open a scoreless game with two quick second-period goals but was forced to sweat out a one-goal victory against the Mustangs in the second Gold Division semifinal.
"We've had a lot of one- or two-goal games against the best teams," Cadets co-head coach Greg Vannelli said. "We've played solid team defense and gotten good goaltending."
The Cadets, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A, got a goal from Matt Perry at 5:04 of the middle period, then went ahead 2-0 as Christiano Versich scored on the power play 1:46 later.
Breck (5-2), No. 4 among the small schools, cut the lead on Jack O'Connor's goal with 2:24 left in the period.
"We told the kids not to give up and they didn't," Breck coach Les Larson said.
|Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon||4||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Samardzija||1|
|St. Louis - LP: M. Wacha||1||FINAL|
|Washington - WP: G. Gonzalez||3|
|Milwaukee - WP: K. Lohse||5||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - LP: C. Morton||3|
|Toronto - WP: S. Delabar||3||FINAL|
|Cleveland - LP: M. Rzepczynski||2|
|LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver||11||FINAL|
|Detroit - LP: D. Smyly||6|
|Atlanta - WP: A. Harang||6||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: J. Niese||0|
|Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman||8||FINAL|
|Boston - LP: J. Lackey||4|
|NY Yankees - LP: A. Warren||5||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - WP: J. McGee||11|
|Seattle - LP: Y. Medina||4||FINAL|
|Miami - WP: S. Cishek||8|
|Chicago WSox - LP: F. Paulino||0||FINAL|
|Texas - WP: M. Perez||12|
|Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco||0||FINAL|
|Kansas City - WP: J. Vargas||5|
|Philadelphia - LP: J. Pettibone||1||FINAL|
|Colorado - WP: T. Chatwood||12|
|Houston - LP: J. Cosart||3||FINAL|
|Oakland - WP: S. Gray||11|
|San Francisco - LP: M. Cain||1||FINAL|
|San Diego - WP: T. Ross||2|
|Arizona - WP: J. Thatcher||4||FINAL|
|Los Angeles - LP: C. Perez||2|
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