Ali Praus usually isn’t looking to score. The Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior forward has made her reputation as a two-way stalwart, content to make her mark with her defensive skills and team-first play.
But what goes around comes around, and Praus’ selflessness was repaid in the form of a remarkable third period in the Red Knights’ 7-1 rout of Chaska/Chanhassen in the semifinals of the Eden Prairie Mid-Winter Meltdown on Friday.
Praus doubled her season goal total in the third period, scoring three consecutive goals for the first hat trick of her career.
“I don’t usually do much scoring,” Praus said. “That was my first high school hat trick ever. I think my last one was in seventh grade.”
There’s no question that Benilde-St. Margaret’s (13-1-1) is exceptionally talented. The question has been whether their mix of senior standouts and promising underclassmen can mesh in time for a state tournament run.
One night after leaving that question unanswered in a closer-than-hoped-for 3-2 quarterfinals victory over Andover, the Red Knights looked every bit the part of a championship contender, outshooting Chaska/Chanhassen 45-12.
“We let down a little bit [against Andover],” Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Dave Herbst said. “We made sure we addressed that [Friday].”
The Red Knights’ skills were on display early. They swooped and darted for a 2-0 first-period lead on a shorthanded goal from Brittany Wheeler and a short-side goal by Caitlin Reilly.
Their second line of Praus, Kippin Keller and Kaylee Druk stepped forward after the first intermission. Keller, a speedy sophomore left winger, scored twice in the second period, sandwiched around the Stormhawks’ only score of the game, a rebound goal from Lydia Passolt.
In all, the Red Knights’ No. 2 line accounted for nine points, a scoring bonanza not expected but very much welcomed. Even Praus was surprised.
“We were trying to get Kippin her third goal,” Praus admitted. “I wasn’t even thinking about me. This was really exciting.”
Benilde-St. Margaret’s will meet host Eden Prairie, which beat Minnetonka 1-0, Saturday for the tournament championship. The Eagles got a second-period goal from Kate Rydland and leaned on eighth-grade goalie Alexa Dobchuk, who stopped all 23 shots she faced, to hand the Skippers their first loss of the season