St. Cloud Cathedral junior forward Nate Warner missed more than half the regular season because of an upper-body injury. But he's getting back to form, evidenced by a hat trick in the state tournament quarterfinals.
Warner's natural hat trick in the second period propelled the No. 2 seed Crusaders to a 7-0 rout of state tournament newcomer North Branch on Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center.
"I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent, but I'm feeling really good after that game," said Warner, who has verbally committed to the Gophers.
The Crusaders (25-4) led 2-0 when a shorthanded goal from Warner sent the teams' emotions in different directions.
"We kind of saw that they were out of it after that," Warner said. "So we just kept our foot on the pedal and buried some more."
Warner was that foot. He added two additional goals, pushing his goal total to 18 this season. The first of Luke Schmidt's two goals put the Crusaders ahead 6-0.
"The second period wasn't our best," North Branch coach Matt Cottingham said.
Sophomore forward Cody Croal credited the Crusaders, saying, "They came out and outplayed us."
Cathedral led 1-0 after one period despite North Branch having a 10-9 edge in shots on goal. The Vikings (19-8-2) drew a sea of red-clad fans but could not get an early goal.
Then Jack Smith scored a power-play goal just 1:40 into the second period and Warner went on a tear. "We started moving pucks and getting up the ice much faster," Warner said.
DAVID LA VAQUE