Cardinals wear down short-handed Breakers to extend winning streak to six
Kailee Falconer did everything she could to put the short-handed St. Cloud Breakers in the win column on Thursday. Goals from Lauren Maras, Peyton Boesl and Anna Doherty prevailed as Alexandria came away with a 3-1 win.
The St. Cloud girls hockey team nearly stole a 2020 Section 8AA quarterfinal win from Alexandria on the back of its goaltender Ahlea Arvidson. Similar to the two-overtime thriller from 13 months ago, scoring was at a premium, and the Cardinals came out on top on Thursday night at the Runestone Community Center.
The Cardinals (9-4-1) dominated much of their last regular-season home contest on their way to a 3-1 win. This time around, it wasn't Arvidson with the thorn in the side of Alexandria. Junior Kailee Falconer made 38 saves for the Breakers (5-8) in the loss.
"She played very well," Alexandria head coach Molly Arola said. "It was good for us to get that many shots on net. It was one of our goals tonight. It can get a little deflating to put up that many shots and not have a ton to show for it. The mentality you have to have is to keep grinding because it's eventually going to breakthrough."
It took 29 shots before Alexandria sophomore forward, Lauren Maras, broke the scoreless tie. She found the top-left corner of the net over Falconer's shoulder on the power play to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Seniors Anna Doherty and MaKenna Aure assisted Maras' goal.
"When we are in close games like this, it's a lot of fun, but it's also challenging," Doherty said. "The first goal is huge. It gives you a lot of momentum. To be the first one on the board tonight was big for us. It got our team going. We've been working on the power play quite a bit in practice, so it's nice to be rewarded for that."
The Cardinals would strike again midway through the third period with a goal from Peyton Boesl to take a two-goal lead, but it didn't come easy. Falconer closed the door on a flurry of high-danger chances to keep the Breakers within reach.
"It can get frustrating at times," Doherty said. "Our coaches continue to encourage us to get to the net and keep pushing. We have to be there for screens and rebounds. Just because you're not scoring, it doesn't mean you get to stop pushing. You have to keep pouncing on the net because the goals are going to come."
Falconer's efforts paid off late in the third when Cailey Davidson scored on a one-time pass from Ava Schmidt with 2:24 left. With the goalie pulled, the Breakers had a chance to tie the game in the final 20 seconds, but Alexandria junior goaltender Jordan O'Kane made the biggest save of her 18 on the night.
Doherty put the finishing touches on Alexandria's sixth-straight win with an empty-net goal with four seconds left.
St. Cloud brought 10 skaters and one goalie to the Runestone Community Center on Thursday night due to some of their players being in quarantine. However, it didn't deter them from giving the Cardinals a run for their money.
"They worked so hard and played very well against us tonight," Arola said. "We could tell we were starting to wear them down. That's when we needed to put the pedal to the metal and find a way to win."
Alexandria is playing some of its best hockey of the season at the right time. After an up-and-down first half of the season, the Cardinals are proving why they're a real threat to compete for the Section 8AA crown.
"I think we are finally bringing the chemistry we have off the ice into the games," Arola said. "That's making a huge difference for us right now. We are not only starting to play for each other, but they are seeing the game better and understanding what it means to work as one unit."
The final week of the regular season is a chance to get back at two teams that handed the Cardinals losses. Alexandria will head to Brainerd on Thursday night for its final 8AA matchup of the regular season before one last Central Lakes Conference matchup at Willmar on Saturday.
"Both Willmar and Brainerd are great teams," Doherty said. "We have to come in confident. We are coming in with a winning streak. We are clicking, so we have to continue to trust each other and rely on each other if we want to keep it up. I think we are doing a really good job of that right now."
Alexandria will likely be a top-three seed in the section tournament, no matter the outcomes in its final two games. However, they will need some help if they want to hop Roseau or Brainerd-Little Falls to get the second seed. All the Cardinals can do now is take care of business on their schedule and hope for the best.
"The confidence is there," Doherty said. "I know when we trust each other and when we fight for each other that we can be unstoppable, and we can go really far. But that's going to take us playing that every single day. Once you fall out of that mentality as a team, it's hard to get it back."
ST. CLOUD 0 0 1 - 3
ALEXANDRIA- 0 1 2 - 3
SCORING- SECOND PERIOD- Alexandria- Lauren Maras (Anna Doherty, MaKenna Aure) power play, 14:40; THIRD PERIOD- Alexandria- Peyton Boesl (Maras) 9:50; St. Cloud- Cailey Davidson (Ava Schmidt) 14:63; Alexandria- Doherty (Unassisted) 16:56; PENALTIES- Alexandria- 2 minutes on 1 infraction; St. Cloud- 4 minutes on 2 infractions; GOALTENDING- Alexandria- Jordan O’Kane, W, 18 saves, 1 goal allowed; St. Cloud- Kailee Falconer, L, 38 saves, 2 goals allowed