The St. Cloud Tech-Apollo boys hockey team might not have a nickname, but they could have its first Central Lakes Conference Championship banner hanging in the rafters after a 4-0 win over Alexandria on Thursday night.

The Cardinals (13-7) struggled to find an answer for St. Cloud’s (14-6-1) physicality at the Runestone Community Center. St. Cloud senior forward Blake Keller said that was a focus coming into the second meeting against the Cardinals this season.

“We wanted to finish every check,” Keller said. “(Sam) Oster was hyping us up in the locker room, saying we needed to finish our checks. Especially today against these guys. It’s that conference championship that we want so bad right now. I guess it just pushed us tonight.”

Joe Westlund drives to the net during Alexandria's 4-0 loss to St. Cloud on Thursday night at the Runestone Community Center. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Joe Westlund drives to the net during Alexandria's 4-0 loss to St. Cloud on Thursday night at the Runestone Community Center. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

The Cardinals got the better of St. Cloud in the first game of the season series back in December. Alexandria pulled out a 4-3 win in overtime.

On Thursday, St. Cloud took a 1-0 lead in the first period after August Falloon scored with an assist from Keller. They extended the lead to 3-0 in the second period with goals from Eric Warner and Christian Engel. Keller put the icing on the cake with the fourth goal late in the third period.

“It feels amazing to get this one,” Keller said. “We want that banner so bad that we went out and played for it.”

Despite several scoring chances, Alexandria couldn’t get the puck behind St. Cloud senior goalie Spencer Bertram. He stopped all 17 shots he faced. Alexandria junior goalie Chris Loken made 24 saves on 28 shots.

St. Cloud currently sits at the top of the CLC standings at 7-1-1, with the Cardinals now at 8-2. Since Tech and Apollo combined to make one hockey team in the 2016-17 season, they have yet to win a conference title. Now they are in the driver’s seat with four games remaining.

“Last year, I felt like we played as individuals,” Keller said. “We are playing as a team this year. We have depth in our lines, and we play like we can beat any team that we go against. This year feels different.”

Alexandria has three conference games left with a chance to make up ground. The Cardinals host Fergus Falls (10-11-1) on Monday, travel to Brainerd (7-11-2) on Thursday before hosting Sartell-St. Stephen (5-16-1) in the final game of the regular season.

Even though the Cardinals came away empty-handed, they still hold the second spot in the QRF section standings. Right behind them in third place is Little Falls (17-4-1), who comes to town for the second meeting this season on Tuesday. Alexandria beat the Flyers 3-1 earlier this season.

ST. CLOUD 1 2 1 - 0

ALEXANDRIA 0 0 0 - 0

SCORING- FIRST PERIOD- St. Cloud- August Falloon (Blake Keller) 6:59; SECOND PERIOD- St. Cloud- Eric Warner (Kyle Christen) 7:50; St. Cloud- Christen Engel (Jack Randolph) 11:09; THIRD PERIOD- St. Cloud- Keller (Max Rud, Sean Davidson) 11:39; PENALTIES- Alexandria- 6 minutes on three infractions; St. Cloud- 4 minutes on 2 infractions; GOALTENDING- Alexandria- Christopher Loken, L, 24 saves, 3 goal allowed; St. Cloud- Spencer Bertram, W, 17 saves 0 goals allowed