Panthers, Huskies garner holiday hockey tourney gold

by Jason Olson
Sports Editor

Legacy Christian Academy continued what has been its best start in the program’s five-year history by winning back-to-back games at the annual holiday tournament in Silver Bay Dec. 28-30.

The Lions began with a 2-1 loss to Silver Bay before knocking off Ely 3-1 Dec. 29 and Two Rivers Conference rival Moose Lake in a dramatic 4-3 win Dec. 30.

“We’re definitely off to our best start ever at 5-4-2 and we just played terrific in Silver Bay,” Legacy coach Steve Larson said about the still young program in the middle of its fourth year of varsity hockey.

Moose Lake took a 3-2 lead at the 4:25 mark into the third period before Legacy’s Brandon Leier tied the game 3-3 at 7:01 into the period and Ike Larson’s power play 11:12 into the period for the game winner.

Junior Ike Larson’s tally was set up by Tyler Arenz and Brock Thompson. Lions senior goalie Nick Stolarczyk made 31 saves as 68 shots were on net between the two teams.

Coach Larson pointed to another year of experience for the group after starting sections last March with 15 of the 20 players on the roster being eighth-, ninth- or 10th-graders.

“We’re not a peewee team playing against bantams anymore,” he said. The Lions have four seniors and six juniors on the roster this season.

The result might not be the most potent attack, but a very balanced line up has helped the Lions to a 3-2-0 mark in the conference good for third place behind Minneapolis Novas and WSFLG Blizzard (Wis.) who sit at 4-0-0 and 3-0-0, respectively.

Ike Larson leads a group of 11 players with at least five points through 11 games. He has 14 points (eight goals) and Thompson has 12 points (eight assists) in 11 games. Arenz and Dan Olufson each have eight points, while Gordy Vitek and Zack Cole each have seven points and Nolan Bloyer, Sam Asfahl, Matt Larson and Brandon Leier all have six points.

“We have six quality defensemen, five at the moment because Holt Wiczek is out with a concussion, but the top two lines will skate with mostly everybody, we just don’t put the puck in the net much. We don’t have anyone running away with [the scoring lead] but it’s really spread out,” Coach Larson said. “We’ve developed into quite a nice hockey team and it’s been fun.”

The coach, who began the program five seasons ago, knew times might be tough for the program but stayed diligent. “It’s been a thrill to see where we came from,” Larson said. “When we took over the program I knew we had to be patient for five years to see it develop or if it would develop.”

Legacy has been on the winning side of blowouts, including an 11-1 win over St. Paul Highland Park and 5-1 win over Mora, while it lost back-to-back games in early December – 6-2 at Sauk Rapids-Rice and 4-0 to WSFLG Blizzard three nights later.

Coach Larson said penalty kill issues in both losses plagued the team, but they’ve moved past it and are winning close games.

“We’ve competed with everyone we’ve played against on the ice,” he said as they are 2-2-2 in one-goal or less games. “Being close is a huge part of it for the guys. We know we’re a capable hockey team.”

The Lions welcome Moose Lake to Schwan Center for the first time this season for its Homecoming game Jan. 7 at 3:30 p.m. with the pep band leading the cheers from the stands.

Coon Rapids
Coon Rapids’ bid to repeat as Open Division Champions at the Schwan Cup fell short as it dropped the championship game to fellow Northwest Suburban Conference squad North Metro 3-2 Dec. 28.

The Cardinals came into the game on a three-game winning streak and took a 2-0 lead late in the first period on goals from Dillon Ridge and Seth Johnson before the Stars scored three times for the win. North Metro’s Jordan Stroh put the Stars on the board two minutes after the Cardinals made it 2-0 with less than three minutes left in the opening period. Stroh scored the game-winner 2:37 into the third period after setting up Travis Ricci on a second-period power play score.

The Cardinals reached the championship by downing Luverne 7-1 in the opener Dec. 26 and Irondale 5-0 in the semifinal round Dec. 27.

Coon Rapids scored five times in the third period against Luverne including two goals by Seth Johnson. Brent Johnson had a goal and assist and Alex Wojciechowski had two assists. Cardinals goalie Patrick Drazkowski made 10 saves for the win.

Coon Rapids’ success continued in the semifinals as it outshot Irondale 40-15 as five different players scored. [smooth=id:445]

Andover (7-4-0) added three quality wins to capture the 2011 Heritage Classic trophy in Duluth Dec. 27-29 topping Cloquet 3-2 in overtime in the final. Andover’s Calvin Rak scored 2:30 into overtime for the decisive goal as Jared McComber found him crashing to the net in the slot to set up the winner.

Huskies forward Tyler Jokinen took a 1-0 lead 8:09 into the opening period.

The Lumberjacks answered with two goals 63 seconds apart before the end of the opening period. Andover’s Kyle Gausman scored 6:01 into the second period to tie the game.

Andover goalie Chase Perry made 31 saves in the win and didn’t make a stop in overtime as the offense had two shots as the Huskies have won six-of-seven games. The lone loss over the time period was a 5-4 loss at Centennial after taking a 4-1 lead Dec. 20.

“We’re finding a way to get it done,” Huskies coach Mark Manney said about the team’s recent level of play. “We fought our way through the flu that was going around the locker room and we’re getting everyone back from that, but still everyone was a little sluggish over the break and we haven’t been able to string along many practices.”

The win over the Lumberjacks was doubly important as it also holds weight when it comes to section seeding time. Andover had four scheduled games against section opponents until the tournament finale. “We put a lot of pressure on them to get it done,” he said.

Andover downed Rosemount 7-1 in the opening round and beat Duluth Denfeld 6-1 in the second round to reach the championship game.

Andover’s Christian Mohs, Nick Manney and Tyler Tomberlin each had three points against Denfeld on its home rink. Gausman and Mohs both had two goals, while Tomberlin had three assists as the Huskies went four for seven on the power play.

Andover scored four times in the second period against Rosemount, outshooting the Irish 43-16 and went two-for-four on the power play. Andover’s Brady Barthold and Mohs each had three-point games. Barthold scored twice as Mohs, Brit Brothen and Rak each had two assists, while Perry stopped 13 shots for the win against the South Suburban Conference squad.

“Rosemount is a very good team, but the score got out of hand,” Manney said. “The game was fairly competitive until it got out of hand.”

The Huskies finished the pre-holiday break with a 5-4 loss at Centennial in a key Northwest Suburban Conference game Dec. 20.

“It was a great lesson for us and the team to keep its composure,” Manney said as the team spent 28 minutes in the box. Centennial went three-for-eight while Andover went zero-for-one on its limited power play.

“We were a little frustrated by the calls and it worked from us coaches into the psyche of the team and we all lost our composure,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s a chance for us to look forward and a call is a call and we can’t let it affect us.”

Andover’s Jared McComber and Gausman scored 31 seconds apart in the latter portion of the first period as Andover took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Two goals by each team kept Andover with a seemingly secure 4-2 lead into the second intermission. Andover led 4-1 before the Cougars converted on a power play late in the period.

Centennial exploded for three goals in a span of less than four minutes, including two power play goals coming 52 seconds apart around eight minutes into the final period. Hans Gorowsky scored his second power play goal at 8:51 before Ryner Gorowsky made it 5-4 for the home Cougars at the 11:50 mark of the period.

Centennial outshot the Huskies 35-17 as Perry made 30 saves in the loss.

Anoka traveled to South St. Paul for the holiday-break tournament in which it went 2-1 at Wakota Arena Dec. 26-28. The Tornadoes (3-7) opened with a 6-1 win over St. Paul Johnson before falling to No. 4 ranked Eagan 8-1, then rebounded to hand North St. Paul a 7-0 loss to finish the tournament.

Anoka’s Anders Skaalerud had two goals and Cale Grinde had two assists in the first and third games, while T.J. Wallskog had two goals and Grinde and Drew McLaughlin each had two assists against North St. Paul. Tyler Hong had three points (two assists) against Johnson.

Grinde scored the lone Anoka goal against Eagan midway through the second period after being set up by top-line teammates Hong and Thorpe. Anoka goalie Lane Kocovsky posted 33 saves, while Anoka generated 14 shots.

Anoka finished the pre-Christmas break schedule with a 2-1 loss at Blaine Dec. 20. The Tornadoes’ Hong set up Jacob Mack 8:47 into the second period to score the game’s first goal.

Blaine’s Jesse Norling tied the game 1-1, 1:45 later to set up a competitive third period before Blaine’s Michael Brodzinski scored at the 8:31 mark of the third period for the game-winner. Nick Malvin turned away 30 shots to record the win for the Bengals. Anoka’s Kocovsky posted 33 saves. [smooth=id:444]

Blaine at Schwan Cup

Ninth-ranked Blaine (7-3) skated off the ice from the Schwan Cup with the Gold Division’s seventh-place trophy after a 4-1 win over Holy Angels at Schwan Super Rink Dec. 28.

The Bengals opened the tournament with a 2-0 loss to No. 5 ranked Edina Dec. 26 and followed with a 4-2 loss to No. 13 Hill-Murray Dec. 27.

After being shutout against a very powerful Edina squad, Blaine’s Dylan Lambert scored a power play goal with 1:17 left in the first period to tie the game 1-1 after the Pioneers converted on its own power play chance eight minutes earlier.

Hill-Murray scored twice in the second period to carry a 3-1 lead into the final period. Blaine’s Joey Lau scored an even-strength goal 13:28 into the period to make it 3-2 with 3:31 left in regulation. Thirty seconds later the Pioneers jumped back to the two-goal advantage. Malvin posted 32 saves in the loss between the pipes for Blaine.

Blaine returned to the Schwan Super Rink to conclude the tournament against Holy Angels Dec. 28. Blaine’s Mac Nadeau scored twice in the first period and assisted on Brodzinski’s third-period tally to highlight a strong offensive game for the Bengals. Brodzinski assisted on two goals including Nadeau’s first tally 1:35 into the contest. Blaine outshot the Stars 27-22, but failed to convert on any of its eight power play chances. Malvin made 21 saves for the win.

Spring Lake Park
Spring Lake Park traveled to Paynesville for a pair of games at the River Lakes Invitational Dec. 27-28. The Panthers won both games over Fairmont and River Lakes by a combined 17-3.

First up was a 13-2 win over Class A Fairmont inside the Koronis Civic Arena in Paynesville.

Panthers leading scorer Jake Matthys scored five times (seven points) and Brandon Reimann was the only other player to score more than one goal. Patrick Graves and David Taylor each had three assists and Taylor added one goal.

Spring Lake Park completed the tournament with a come-from-behind 4-1 win over River Lakes. The Stars scored first before Panthers Nick Heid and Nick Auman set up Matthys on a power play goal at the 11:53 mark of the opening period.

After a scoreless second period Spring Lake Park sprung for three goals in the final period. Taylor started the run with the game-winner 42 seconds into the period followed by Mack Nystrom at 11:13 and Patrick Graves at the 14:43 mark. Taylor assisted on Graves tally as the Stars outshot Spring Lake Park 40-28. Panthers net minder Brandon Jones made 39 saves against the Stars and 13 saves against Fairmont.

St. Francis
St. Francis competed in the Perpich North-South Challenge in Virginia Dec. 28-29 and came away with an 8-1 loss to Hibbing in the first round before settling for a 5-5 tie against Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl.

St. Francis’ Ryan Mohar scored with 58 seconds left in the first period to make it 1-0. A flurry of six goals in the second period (three for each team) gave the Saints a 4-3 lead going into the second intermission. St. Francis’ Cameron Kaehler scored twice in a span of 7:30 for a 4-1 lead before the Blue Devils scored twice to make it a one-goal game going into the third period.

Virginia tied the game at 4-4 with the first of three power play goals in the period at the 3:33 mark. St. Francis’ Ben Falk made it 5-4, 5:47 into the period before Virginia’s Nick Blaeser tied the game again at 5-5 at the 13:28 mark of the period.
Each team had three shots on net in overtime, but neither could solve the goalie in the end.

Saints Zach Foesch scored the lone goal against Hibbing in the first period and goalie Darion Hanson posted 38 saves in the loss.