Saint Thomas Academy might have hit a few bumps in the ice during the regular season, but in the end it got to where it has grown accustomed to being—the Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament.
The Cadets blasted Rosemount 6-1 in the Section 3AA finals on March 24 at Saint Thomas Ice Arena to earn their fifth straight trip to the state tourney. STA (13-4-3) will face top-seeded Eden Prairie (18-1-2) in the opening round of state at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 31, at Xcel Energy Center. The semifinals and final will be held on April 2-3.
At first glance, one might have thought that STA could have a tough time handling Rosemount, which had lost only three games heading into the section final. The Cadets had a three-game losing streak toward the end of the regular season and also had a run of three straight ties in mid-February. However, that proved to be more the product of a rugged schedule than any kink in the Cadets’ armor.
STA coach Trent Eigner didn’t see any facets of his team’s play that caused him concern when asked about the 6-1 win over the Irish. “Our kids competed really, really hard against a good Rosemount team,” he said. “We had a really good first period. It’s hard to see any real negatives. If we execute as we did (against Rosemount), you can’t ask for more.”
The Cadets got balanced scoring while outshooting the Irish 23-14. Senior Jared Wright, a Colgate commit, had a goal and two assists. Senior Jackson Hallum, a Michigan recruit, stepped up with two assists. However, it was senior Tommy Deverell who really delivered, scoring two goals.
Eigner was happy to see the production from Deverell, whose season had been hampered first by a back injury that caused him to miss a few games and then by strep throat. Deverell scored the game’s first goal to get the Cadets off on the right foot.
“He’s been close all year,” Eigner said about Deverell. “He’s had some peaks and valleys, so it was great to see how he came through tonight.”
Juniors Max Nagel, Jack Strobel and Tyler Grahme also found the back of the net as the Cadets scored two goals in each period in dominating the Irish. Also getting assists were Nagel and fellow juniors Johnny Johannson, Luke Candon and Austin Williams.
“Our kids competed really, really hard against a good Rosemount team,” coach Eigner said. “We had a really good first period. It’s hard to see any real negatives. If we execute as we did (against Rosemount), you can’t ask for more.”
One concern for the Cadets going into the game was the need to stop sterling Irish forward Luke Levandowski, a Wisconsin recruit who came into the contest with 22 goals. Eigner countered with his own powerful first line featuring Hallum, the team’s leading scorer with 41 points. In the end, the Cadets were able to keep Levandowski to only an assist on Rosemount’s sole goal scored early in the second period.
Eigner liked the way his team responded after that goal trimmed STA’s lead to 2-1. “Rosemount got a little push for about four or five minutes after they got their goal,” he said, “but then we settled down and got our third goal (by Deverell).”
The Cadets played well in their own zone as well. Senior goalie Carsten Lardy stopped 13 shots and had to deal with very few defensive miscues.
“I was really pleased with our defensive corps,” Eigner said. “Our game plan was to keep it simple and we were able to do that.”
Heading into this year’s tournament, Eigner said his club has upgraded its play from the start of the season.
“This is a better team than we were earlier,” he said. “A lot of that has to do with experience. We’ve played some tough teams, which helped us gain that experience.”
— By Bill Wagner
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