6A Boys hockey: Alex never wavers in face of an early deficit
The Alexandria boys’ hockey team had been in this position many times before this season.
The Cardinals dominated the pace of play during the first period on Tuesday night in the Section 6A quarterfinals against Prairie Centre. That’s why there was no panic as Alexandria went into the first intermission down 1-0.
“We went into the locker room and we talked about it,” senior forward Brady Bast said. “We’ve been in this position many times, and we’re a team that usually can pull through. We got the tying goal and just kept going from there.”
It was a goal from Bast that got this team going at 5:38 in the second period. He got free by tapping the puck past a defender and slipping by him to get an open look. Bast buried it from in front of the crease to send his team into a frenzy after scoring the equalizer.
“I was going to shoot it but it looked like he was kind of poke-checking,” Bast said. “So I just put it around his stick and went around him. I felt like that goal got us pretty pumped up. Our line especially, we went out there and just kept grinding.”
It was part of a second period where Alexandria completely controlled the puck. The Cardinals outshot the North Stars 23-6 in the second frame.
That pressure forced Prairie Centre to take a couple penalties late. That spelled doom for the North Stars as the Cardinals worked the puck around and got it in front of the net on the power play. Senior forward Levi McFarlane buried an opportunity from the left side of the crease with less than a minute left in the period.
It was the first of two goals on the night for McFarlane. The North Stars put seven shots on net in the third period, but McFarlane’s empty netter put the game away with 15 seconds left. That gave the Cardinals their eighth win this season in games decided by one or two goals.
“It’s just the character of these kids,” head coach Ian Resch said. “They compete hard. They play for each other, and they hate to lose. It’s just another great example tonight where a lot of teams might have panicked or started pointing fingers, but they just kind of relied on each other, did their job, and they got rewarded for it.”
Resch doesn’t like to label his lines as first, second or third. Instead he looks for matchups, and the depth of the Cardinals was on full display against the North Stars.
Resch likes to match up Bast’s line with the opponent’s second line, and they often have the advantage. That was the case Tuesday as they got all three goals and the Cardinals continued to pepper the net no matter which line was on the ice.
“Brady has had a great year,” Resch said after Bast finished with two points and was constantly around the puck. “He’s just playing in a zone right now. He’s a senior that doesn’t want his career to end, and that line has just a tremendous amount of energy. That line he’s on right now, they’ve scored so many big goals for us this year, and we really count on them.”
The Cardinals ended up outshooting the North Stars 41-18. Putting up 30 or 40 shots has been the norm for this team all season, and they know it’s all a matter of making the most of those chances in the playoffs.
“I feel like it just comes,” Bast said. “I mean, we could have buried more tonight. We had a lot of shots on net, but I think it’s just going to come naturally for us.”
Prairie Centre’s Clay Deters played well in a losing effort. The senior goaltender kept the North Stars in the game on his way to 39 saves. Alexandria’s Sam Goetsch got the win with 17 stops.
That sets up a third matchup of the season with St. Cloud Apollo on Saturday night at 5 at the MAC in St. Cloud. These two teams split during the regular season with the Eagles winning 2-1 on February 3 and Alexandria winning 3-1 on January 13.
There is a lot more on the line this time around. The Cardinals hope to be the ones who rise to the moment as they try to secure their first section title game appearance since their trip to the state tournament in 2011.
“You play for this,” Resch said. “It starts in the summer. All year you work hard and tonight it was a packed house. That was our biggest crowd of the year, and the crowds just get bigger from here on out. It’s a great time of year and hopefully the guys are ready.”
PRAIRIE CENTRE 1 0 0 – 1
ALEXANDRIA 0 2 1 – 3
SHOTS – Prairie Centre – 5, 6, 7 – 18; Alexandria – 13, 23, 5 – 41
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Prairie Centre – Cody Steward (Preston Pung), 3:42
SECOND PERIOD – Alexandria – Bast (Zach Johnson), 5:38; Alexandria – McFarlane (PPG) (Kevin Finley, Bast), 16:04
THIRD PERIOD – Alexandria – McFarlane (Finley), 16:45
GOALTENDING – Prairie Centre – Deters – L, 39 saves; Alexandria – Goetsch – W, 17 saves, 18 shots faced