Mahtomedi advanced to the state semifinals with a win over Mankato East. Photo by Matt Harrington
St. Paul, MN - The Mahtomedi Zephyrs have been workmanlike in their game this year and left little to the imagination in that consistent effort as they delivered another typical championship level three zone game and a 4-1 win over the Mankato East/Loyola Cougars. The quarterfinal round win sent the No. 3 seed Zephyrs to the semi-finals against the No. 2 seed Warroad Warriors.
Surviving a strong push by the Cougars that resulted in a first period that favored a number of quality scoring chances for Mankato East/Loyola. Mahtomedi picked up their tempo and stayed with advancing the puck from zone-to-zone in the second period. They were rewarded with a trio of even strength goals by Carter Haycraft at 1:10, Nick Beiersdorf at 8:04, and Cav Bruner at 16:53. The Bruner goal was a back breaker and capped off a period where the Zephyrs outshot the Cougars 14-7.
It did not come easy for the Zephyrs (17-11-1) as they had to respond to a Cougar team that is in the midst of their second state tournament in three years and were unfazed by the tournament atmosphere.
Poeshl liked how his club fought through the sluggish start and said, “We only have three players that have been here before. That was one of our concerns going into the tournament. How were we going to respond? You’re skating at the Xcel Energy Center, the lights are bright, you are feeling a little bit tense, and I thought we worked through that. The first ten minutes or so I thought we were very tentative and we were sluggish and we persevered. I was most proud of that.”
The Zephyrs owned the end boards and had a pair of goals as a result of plenty of room to maneuver and having players uncovered by the Cougar defensive zone coverage.
The Cougars (17-11-1) did not lay down and pushed back with a power play goal by Aiden Prochaska at 7:18 for the third period. Prochaska’s shot beat Dardis clean from the top of the left circle, cutting the deficit to 3-1. It is rare to beat Dardis on a clean shot that he sees and moreover, it is the first time Dardis has allowed a goal since Thursday, February 17t that spanned 244:18.
“I knew it was eventually going to happen,” said Zephyr goalie Ben Dardis. “It’s just like with all the pucks, it will find its way in. Whether it is a lucky bounce or a screen on a shot or just a nice shot by the other team. It’s all right, we still won, it’s all that matters.”
Junior forward Charlie Drage who scored his team’s fourth goal suggested it takes some pressure off the team as it was becoming a hot topic around the rink. “I think it’s actually kind of good,” Drage said of the shutout streak being snapped. “It’s kind of bittersweet. That goes in, it relieves a lot of stress off him (Dardis) and off us.”
The Zephyrs will have a day off to prepare for the Warriors. In effect Mahtomed have been preparing for this moment for the entire season having played 12 games against quality Class AA teams that play fast and strong. Many of those games mirror that of the Warroad Warrior. They will faceoff at 11am on Friday morning for the right to move on to the state championship game.
Tag(s): State Of Hockey