Duluth East shots hit pipes. The clinching St. Thomas Academy goal came on a deflection at center ice. The hockey gods showed the Cadets favor throughout their 3-1 quarterfinal victory on Thursday.
"We've played in a lot of games that went the other way," St. Thomas Academy co-head coach Greg Vannelli said. "I guess it was our turn this year."
No. 4 seed St. Thomas Academy (25-3-1) won its first quarterfinal game in four tries since opting up to Class 2A. But more than fortunate bounces made the difference.
The Cadets' deep defensive corps was stout, their skilled forwards opportunistic.
Ryan O'Neill's second goal of the game, coming at 9:45 of the third period, gave St. Thomas Academy a 2-1 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Later, during a Duluth East timeout, Ricky Lyle, a senior captain, implored a few sullen teammates to stay positive.
"We'd been down before and we had to try and come through it together," Lyle said.
The Greyhounds pulled their goalie and mounted a rush that backfired. A pass near center ice deflected off Lyle's stick and the puck found the vacated net.
"That couldn't have been a worse bounce," Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said.
No. 5 seed Duluth East (18-7-2), which pounded Andover throughout an overtime victory in last week's Section 7 championship game, rattled the boards Thursday but failed to unnerve the Cadets. A blue-collar defensive corps withstood the blows and even dished out a few of their own.