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6A boys hockey: Cards fall just short of state tourney bid

St. Cloud Cathedrals' Erik Gadbois, William Hammer, Matson Courrier and Sam Medvec climb the glass to celebrate with their fans after winning the Section 6A title game against Alexandria on Thursday night. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)1 / 2
Alexandria sophomore Jack Steffl (second from left) lets out a scream as his teammates come to pile on him after he scored the game's first goal against Cathedral on Thursday night. (Eric Morken/Echo Press).2 / 2

The Alexandria boys’ hockey team saw its goal of a state tournament appearance come up just short in a 2-1 loss to St. Cloud Cathedral in the Section 6A title game in St. Cloud on Thursday night.

A flurry of action in the second period proved to be the deciding stretch in the game for Cathedral. Alexandria took a 1-0 lead on a goal from sophomore Jack Steffl when a shot from Kevin Finley on the perimeter deflected off his stick and into the net at 10:42 in the period.

It took less than two minutes for the Crusaders to answer. Cathedral pressured the net and Cardinals' goalie Sam Goetsch made a couple saves but got caught out of position as he went to the ice. The Crusaders worked the puck around and found an open Logan Neu who burried a shot that tied the game at one apiece. 

Alexandria got the first power-play opportunity of the game at 13:54 in that second frame. The Cardinals got caught in a line change a little more than a minute into their man advantage, and Matt Fritz took advantage of it as he got the puck near the left circle and fired it past Goetsch for a shorthanded goal.

“He shot it in between Parker [Revering’s] legs,” Goetsch said. “He even got a piece of it. He used Parker as a screen. It was just a good goal on the rush there. He made a good play.”

It was a goal that proved to be the game winner for the Crusaders. Alexandria outshot Cathedral 11-6 in the third period, but couldn’t get anything past goaltender Zach Fritz.

The Crusaders have a talented top line that features four players with more than 30 points this season. William Hammer is the catalyst of that group with 51 points after tallying an assist on his team's first goal. That first line played well when it mattered most in the title game as they accounted for both goals, and Matt Fritz added an assist on Neu's goal before scoring the game winner.

“They know how to move around the puck,” senior Aaron Steidl said. “They got that first line that’s one of the best in the state. I give them credit there. Our other lines were keeping up with them. Their top line is what really made the difference.”

A team often needs to catch a few breaks to get the win in a close game, and the Cardinals didn’t get those against the Crusaders. They hit one pipe in the first and another off the stick of Revering in the second that Fritz seemed to never see. Revering fired the shot from the top of the left circle and watched as it hit the pipe and caromed across the crease.

Alexandria had 19 quality scoring opportunities to Cathedral’s 20. The Crusaders just found a way to capitalize on one more of those.

“That’s hockey,” Alexandria head coach Ian Resch said. “It’s a game of inches, even less than inches. You got to get the bounces too. Tonight, we hit a couple pipes there that didn’t bounce our way, but you play through it like they did. The kids never quit. They just kept coming and we just fell short tonight.”

The Alexandria defense anchored by Goetsch has been good all season, and they were again tonight. The senior goaltender had 27 saves, but Z. Fritz was just a little better with 28 saves for the win.

“Sam didn’t have a chance on either one of those,” Resch said of the two Cathedral goals. “Those are guys who can just shoot the puck. [Sam] has been our leader. He gives us a chance. He gave us a chance all year long to win hockey games.”

It was a season filled with a lot of wins as the Cardinals wrapped up the year 18-6-3. They found ways to win close games all season. Ultimately, though, they couldn’t get one last comeback as they came up just short of a section title.

“We’re just disappointed,” Goetsch said. “We fell short. That’s all…it was a great year. It just ended way too early.”


Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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