St. Francis boys’ hockey had a chance to make some noise in the North Suburban Conference title race but fell flat of that mark in a 6-3 loss at leader and third-ranked (Class A) Totino-Grace Jan. 26.
The Fighting Saints (13-7-0, 7-2-0) came into the game with only one conference loss, a 7-2 loss to the Eagles (14-2-1, 8-0-0) in East Bethel, Dec. 20.
In that first meeting, the two sides came into the third period tied 2-2. Totino-Grace scored five times to overwhelm the Saints.
Totino-Grace coach Mark Loahr said the two teams are closer than the final score in either game.
“We have more depth but both teams have one really strong line,” he said. “[St. Francis] plays really hard and are getting better and better. Their goalie played really, really well and kept them in it.”
St. Francis netminder Darion Hanson posted 44 saves in the loss. The Saints gave up six goals over the previous five games total.
The Eagles top line of TJ Roo, Carter Roo and Derek Lodermeier continued to shine as they jumped to a 3-0 lead after TJ Roo scored just 40 seconds into the second period.
He assisted on the two previous goals and added a third assist on Lodermeier’s third goal of the game, 37 seconds into the final period.
Lodermeier’s final goal extinguished the Saints hopes of keeping pace in the conference race after junior winger Kyle Wagner made it 4-2 with 1:02 left in the period. He scored after intercepting a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone that turned into an odd-man rush for the Saints. He ripped a shot over the shoulder of Eagles goalie Rory Davidowski who made 23 saves.
The Saints came into the game on a five-game winning streak. As coach Tyler Schaff said it: “We were hoping to win this one and have a chance of a conference championship. It was good competition for us going into the playoffs and our plan is to go in that positive direction.”
St. Francis senior Zach Foesch put the visitors on the board on a rebound goal, his team-high 28th of the season, at the 4:50 mark of the second period to make it 3-1.
“We did some forecheck things and had some faceoff plays that we ran tonight to counter them,” Schaff said. “But the biggest thing for them is that top line who has played together for three years now. They rely on that top line and our job is to shut them down and not allow them to have 5-6 goal-games.”
Loahr said his team didn’t want to look ahead to the Jan. 29 match-up against section foe St. Thomas. “I haven’t mentioned St. Thomas until after this game. They’re in our section and we know we are going to play a very good team there.”
Wanting to all but secure the North Suburban Conference title was all that was on the mind of the Eagles Saturday afternoon at the Brooklyn Park Community Center rink. “We knew we had to win the game and that’s what we kind of challenged our kids with,” he said. “St. Francis only has one loss and if we really want to win [the conference] we had to win the game.
“[A conference title is] something that we set up as a goal and if you want to win it, you have to beat the second place team and St. Francis is an improved team.”