The Alexandria boys’ hockey players never let doubt creep into their minds despite being down 1-0 after one period in the Section 6A quarterfinals against Prairie Centre on Tuesday night.
That’s because the Cardinals controlled the pace of play and outshot the North Stars 13-5 in the first. The only goal came off a rebound from Prairie Centre’s Cody Steward, but it felt like just a matter of time before those chances would pay off with a goal for Alexandria.
That’s exactly what happened in the second as the Cardinals scored two goals and went on to win 3-1. Their reward is a third matchup with St. Cloud Apollo at the MAC on Saturday with a trip to the section title game on the line.
“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 Bast who scored the tying goal just five minutes, 38 seconds into the second period. Bast got the puck near the blue line and made a pretty move to beat a defender before putting it in the back of the net.
“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.”
The Cardinals continued to pepper the net and forced the North Stars to take a couple penalties late in the period. Alexandria had 11 seconds of a 5-on-3 when Prairie Centre took a slashing penalty at 14:24 after taking a tripping penalty at 12:35.
With 54 seconds left in the period, senior forward Levi McFarlane capitalized on the man advantage when he knocked one in on an open net from the left side of the crease. Prairie Centre got seven shots off in the third, but McFarlane scored his second of the night on an empty net with 15 seconds left to put the game away.
“We really feel like we’re battle tested this year,” Alexandria head coach Ian Resch said. “We’ve been in a lot of close games, and that was one thing we wanted to learn this year was to keep our composure. Just stick to the game plan and rely on each other and trust each other, and the guys did that. I’m proud of them that they didn’t panic and didn’t start forcing things.”
Sam Goetsch stepped up again in net for Alexandria with 17 saves to get the win. He needed to be good on a night when Prairie Centre senior Clay Deters was equally as strong despite getting peppered with 41 shots.
“Their goalie played a great game,” Resch said of Deters. “He’s a senior who didn’t want his season to end. They should be proud of him. He gave it everything he had.”
The Cardinals didn’t get a lot past Deters, but they got enough to advance to the section semifinals against a familiar foe in St. Cloud Apollo after the Eagles beat Fergus Falls 3-0 on Tuesday. These two teams split in the regular season with Apollo winning 2-1 on February 3 and Alexandria winning 3-1 on January 13.
The Cardinals are expecting another close game when the two teams drop the puck at 5 p.m. in St. Cloud on Saturday.
“Another great opponent,” Resch said. “They forecheck hard. They got a first line that’s skilled. They got some good team speed and a good goalie. They play with good structure, so it’s going to be another one of those games where guys got to execute.”