Alex boys' hockey: Finished comes far too soonAlexandria’s Garrett Skinner couldn’t hide his frustration as he hit the top of the net with his stick after his attempt to sneak one in trickled off the post and back behind the net in the final seconds on Tuesday night.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria’s Garrett Skinner couldn’t hide his frustration as he hit the top of the net with his stick after his attempt to sneak one in trickled off the post and back behind the net in the final seconds on Tuesday night.
At that point, the senior defenseman knew Alexandria’s fate. Willmar came into the Runestone Community Center as the seventh seed in the Section 6A tournament and played like it had nothing to lose in rallying from a 3-1 deficit with three unanswered goals. They bottled up the puck along the boards after Skinner’s last shot and erupted onto the ice after the buzzer finally rang on a 4-3 win for the visiting Cardinals.
“It was a quarter of an inch,” Skinner said of his shot at the equalizer. “If I would have just taken an extra second to try to get it around the post, it probably would have been in.”
That’s just the kind of night it was for Alexandria. The home Cardinals outshot Willmar 42-20 and dominated the pace for much of the night. That only added to the hurt after Hunter Schneider’s goal 9:16 into the third proved to be the game winner for Willmar.
“We played hard,” senior Jordan Domine said. “It’s not like we tried to lose. I don’t know. I just thank my teammates, and I guess God has a reason for everything.”
Domine gave his team an early lead in the first after making a pretty move to the middle. He fired a shot past Willmar’s Derek Baker for a 1-0 lead, but Alexandria couldn’t add on the rest of the period, despite getting 14 shots on net.
The home Cardinals continued to pile on the pressure in a 1-1 game in the second. Junior forward Tom Schmidt converted Alexandria’s first power play 2:33 into the period before Jacob Smith added one at even strength less than three minutes later to take a 3-1 lead.
Alexandria had chances to add to that after outshooting Willmar 18-7 in the period. Included in that was a penalty shot by junior Jack Wensman that hit off the post in what would have given Alexandria a 4-2 lead.
“For the most part, we played really well,” senior Charlie Wensman said. “We were passing well. We had a lot of chances. We just didn’t get the puck in the net. We had so many close chances to bury it, and just didn’t finish it. I think we outplayed them a lot. We just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Willmar countered by capitalizing when given a man advantage. The home Cardinals knew how important it was to stay out of the penalty box after Willmar scored three of its four goals against them on the power play during the regular season.
Alexandria took just three minor penalties on the night, but two of those proved costly. Zech Streed’s goal to tie things at one apiece came just 10 seconds into the first power play. The junior winger connected again with a man advantage in the second period to give his team life again at 3-2.
“Our thing was, we didn’t want to take any penalties the whole game because we knew,” Skinner said. “We’ve played them twice and they only scored four goals and [three] were on the power play, so we knew we were probably better than them five on five. Tonight, the penalties we took, they capitalized.”
The second of Streed’s power play goals gave Willmar hope when it seemed like Alexandria could run away with things. With just 1:24 left in the second period, he completed the hat trick on a shot from the point that got through a crowd and past Alexandria’s Ben Allen to tie things at three apiece.
That gave Willmar all the momentum heading into the third period. Alexandria also had to deal with injuries to two starters as both Smith and Schmidt left the game and didn’t return. All of that caught up with this team as Alexandria was left with a bitter taste after falling short in its quest to reach its third straight state tournament.
“I’ve been playing hockey since I was about four years old,” C. Wensman said. “Just losing the game to end my career, I don’t think it’s hit me yet that I’m not going to play hockey again unless I play after high school at some point. Who knows about that? I just really wanted to get back to the Xcel like the last two years.”
Alexandria finished the season 12-12-2 with a relatively young roster. A group of seven seniors leaves, hoping they have left their mark on the players who will try to bounce back next season.
“It was a fun year,” Domine said. “We had young kids, so we were teaching them the ropes and what they had to do, just to get prepared for the game…we had some games where we were up and played good. We had games where we were down and didn’t play good. That’s how hockey goes. You’re not going to win every game. We just lost at the wrong time.”
WILLMAR 1 2 1 – 4
ALEXANDRIA 1 2 0 – 3
SHOTS – Willmar – 9, 7, 4 – 20; Alexandria – 14, 18, 10 – 42
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Alexandria – Jordan Domine (Tom Schmidt, Christian Canavati), 4:26; Willmar – Zech Streed (PP) (Hunter Schneider, Hunter Mottinger), 15:05
SECOND PERIOD – Alexandria – Tom Schmidt (PP) (Garrett Skinner), 2:33; Alexandria – Jacob Smith (Garrett Skinner, Charlie Wensman), 5:02; Willmar – Streed (PP) (Schneider), 8:23; Willmar – Streed (Schneider), 15:36
THIRD PERIOD – Willmar – Schneider (Streed), 9:16
GOALTENDING – Willmar – Derek Baker – W, 39 saves, 42 shots; Alexandria – Ben Allen – L, 16 saves, 20 shots