Team Southeast defenseman Eric Schurhamer of St. Thomas Academy, far left, clears the puck from the front of the goal. Photo by Helen Nelson
Power-play opportunities are an exciting prospect for defensemen. Many dream of open ice and loading up their cannon to unleash a slap shot into traffic.
Team Southeast defenseman Eric Schurhamer of St. Thomas Academy isn’t like most defensemen.
With around 3 minutes left in the second period of Team Southeast’s 5-1 Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League playoff championship victory over Team North on Oct. 30 at New Hope Arena in New Hope, Schurhamer had just the opportunity.
He walked the puck to the middle of the rink while quarterbacking the power play. He fired a low wrist shot that beat Team North goalie Michael Bitzer of Moorhead to put Team Southeast up 3-1.
Schurhamer had plenty of space to wind up and smack the puck but opted for quick release instead.
“Personally, I actually like taking wrist shots instead of slapshots,” Schurhamer said. “You can hold on to the puck longer so if a lane closes you can just move and create a new one. With a slapshot you always have your head down, kinda stuck in the moment. So it’s just a personal preference for me.”
In the third period Schurhamer scored again on a low wrist shot from the point, helping cement the Elite League title for Team Southeast. Since Team Southeast finished as runner up in last year’s tournament, the win was sweet for Schurhamer.
“It’s great because last year I was on the team and we got second. So this year was big," he said.
Eric Schurhamer, right, celebrates with Matt Koch after a Team Southeast goal. Photo by Helen Nelson
The teams were evenly matched through most of the second period, but as the game moved along, Team Southeast began to pull away. And with Schurhamer patrolling the blue line, Team Southeast emplyed a stifling defense that held Team North in check.
Looking past Elite League supremacy, Schurhamer is also excited about St. Thomas Academy’s chances in the upcoming season. He even offered a sneak peak at what we should expect of the Cadets, who earned the class 1A state championship last season with a 5-4 win over Hermantown.
“Another state tournament,” he said. “We have a good D corps, we have good forwards. Everyone’s gonna be solid and we should be good.”
Offensively, Schurhamer contributes heavily for a defenseman. He had 26 points last season for St. Thomas Academy and scored 15 points in the Elite League this year. Schurhamer however, believes it’s the little things that help make his game effective.
“My biggest strength is that I think I move my feet well,” he said. “I like to think I can get it out of the zone pretty quickly and get everyone moving north. I think that helps a lot.”
Team Southeast coach Sean Toomey loved what he saw all season from Schurhamer.
“There was a transformation from a year ago,” Toomey said. “A kid who had tremendous skill but was lacking in some confidence, he stepped out and started to play like he was capable. He became a great leader and he led our D corps.”
In the championship matchup, Schurhamer also helped to pick up the slack for the high-powered line of Justin Kloos of Lakeville South, Jake Guentzal of Hill-Murray and Cory Chapman of Burnsville which got shut down all game. His coach was especially appreciative of the effort.
“These guys all recognized, ‘Hey they’re getting a lot of pressure. We have to step up and carry the mail because they’ve carried it so many times.’ ”
Schurhamer and Team Southeast delivered to their coach one last time on Sunday.
"We have a great team and a lot of great guys, so it was definitely a great accomplishment,” Schurhamer said.
--Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff
1. Eric Schurhamer, Team Southeast
The senior defenseman from St. Thomas Academy fired two innocent-looking shots from the blue line that resulted in goals. The low blasts were perfectly aimed, and Schurhamer’s lightning-quick release gave Team North goaltender Michael Bitzer of Moorhead little time to get in position.
2. Nick Kuchera, Team Southeast
The hard-working Eagan senior continued his playoff tear by scoring a goal and adding an assist. He finished the playoffs with a team-leading seven points in three games. He scored 13 points in 19 regular season games.
3. Tyler Tatro, Team North
The senior defenseman from Bemidji assisted on Matt Pohlkamp’s second-period goal, moved the puck crisply out of the Team North zone and initiated several hard hits.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
St. Thomas Academy senior Eric Schurhamer scored twice on low wrist shots from the blue line, and senior goaltender Bryan Nies from Grand Forks Red River stopped 27 shots as Team Southeast beat Team North 5-1 on Sunday, Oct. 30, in the championship game of the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League playoffs at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope.
Schurhamer, who helped the Cadets win the state Class 1A championship last spring, added another playoff title to his resume as he contributed goals in the second and third periods for Team Southeast, which also won the Elite League’s regular season championship.
A 5-foot-9, 182-pound defenseman, Schurhamer used quick releases to unload his low, hard shots that seemed to fool Team North goaltender Michael Bitzer of Moorhead.
Nies completed his brilliant postseason run with another rock-steady performance. He turned aside 13 shots in the third period as North attempted to climb back into the game. Nies posted a sparkling .971 save percentage in the playoffs.
Eagan senior Nick Kuchera had a goal and an assist to finish the playoffs with a team-best seven points in three games.
A shorthanded goal by Burnsville senior Cory Chapman midway through the second period proved to be the game winner. Justin Kloos of Lakeville South added an empty net goal.
Matt Pohlkamp of Brainerd scored less than 2 minutes into the second period for Team North.
Bitzer finished with 28 saves.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor