Breck's Conor Andrle (5) scores his second goal of the game, helping the Mustangs hold off Duluth Marshall in the finals of the Hilltopper Thanksgiving Classic (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).
Breck coach Les Larson discusses a call during the Mustangs' 7-5 victory over Duluth Marshall (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).
Conor Andrle immediately knew something was wrong.
Late in Breck’s 7-5 victory over Duluth Marshall in the Hilltopper Thanksgiving Classic Saturday at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth, Andrle went down in a heap behind the Marshall net and struggled to get to his feet. The Mustangs’ feisty and aggressive senior had been pressuring a ‘Topper defenseman during a penalty kill, forcing the play behind the net – a long 180 feet away from the Breck net. But when he stopped to rag the puck, his right skate just gave away.
For those watching, perhaps including Breck coach Les Larson, the first thought must have been an injury. Thankfully for the top-ranked Mustangs (2-0-0), it was something stranger -- but much less damaging to their championship hopes.
“I stopped and was going to take a hit and keep the puck, but my blade just fell off,” explained a shocked Andrle after the game. “I tried to get up and push off and I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t know how to skate with it.”
With his skate blade lying like a discarded weapon in the corner, Andrle stumbled and skidded toward the bench on the bare plastic of his tuuk.
At the same time, the Mustangs’ lead over Duluth Marshall also seemed to be slipping away. Referees allowed the play to continue, resulting in a 5-on-3 advantage for the Hilltoppers. Judd Peterson took advantage, netting his third goal of the game (and sixth of the weekend) to cut Breck’s lead to just two. The Mustangs had led 6-1 late in the second period and seemed on their way to an easy victory.
“They scored, which I got really, really mad about,” said Andrle, who had helped Breck race out to its big lead with two goals and two assists.
With the Mustangs clinging to a suddenly slim lead, Breck JV player Tyler Lindstrom scrambled to the dressing room and brought Andrle a new skate so he could take his last shift. Duluth Marshall pulled goaltender Christian Coffman and pressured the Mustangs with the extra attacker, but with the help of Andrle and his new skate blade, held on for the victory.
With the tournament title in hand, Larson was in the mood to joke about the incident afterwards. “I told him to get a new pair of blades, so hopefully he’ll do that tomorrow so it’ll be okay the rest of the season.”
Larson certainly doesn’t want the aggressiveness of Andrle to change. His senior leader was a force on the forecheck all tournament long, using his body to fend off defensemen and creating numerous scoring chances for linemates Wesley and Keegan Iverson.
“I like to try to get the D to turn it over a lot, because I know either Wes or Keegan will be there waiting for the pass,” said Andrle, who described his game as a playmaking one.
“That’s his office back there (behind the net),” agreed Larson.
Third line magic
Arguably the biggest goal of the tournament didn’t come from Breck’s potent top two lines, but instead from its third line. After Duluth Marshall began to chip away at the Mustangs’ lead in the third period, junior Jack O’Connor gave his team some breathing room with a true goal-scorer’s goal.
Cutting in on the left wing, O’Connor appeared to have his angles cut off by Marshall goaltender Christian Coffman. But O’Connor calmly shifted the puck to his backhand and roofed it over Coffman’s shoulder to regain a 7-3 lead with just 6 minutes, 31 seconds remaining.
“Those guys always come to play. We can’t do it without them,” said Breck coach Les Larson, noting the contributions of O’Connor and Andrew Headrick, who had a big blocked shot in the sequence.
“The third line really stepped it up today. Jack O’Connor had a huge goal,” said Conor Andrle. “He iced it for us.”
Third-place to Cathedral
In the third-place game played earlier Saturday at Mars Lakeview Arena, St. Cloud Cathedral stormed to an 8-2 victory over Providence Academy. Senior Danny Johnston netted three goals and an assist while Austin Swingle added four assists for the Crusaders (1-1-0).
Ryan Kissner and Jordan Revier each had two goals for Cathedral, while goaltender Josh Robak made 24 saves on 26 shots. Marshall Klitzke and Ryan Tapani had goals for Providence Academy (0-2-0), while Sam Goetsch stopped 39 of 47 shots in nets.
For the second straight game, Duluth Marshall's Judd Peterson (18) recorded a hat trick. (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).
Conor Andrle and Wesley Iverson each tallied two goals as No. 1 Breck held off a late Duluth Marshall rally to claim a 7-5 victory in the championship of the inaugural Hilltopper Thanksgiving Classic Saturday afternoon at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth.
Breck (2-0-0) built up a 6-1 lead midway through the second period and looked ready to cruise to the tournament title. But Duluth Marshall's Judd Peterson keyed a third-period rally with his second hat trick in two days. Peterson's power play goal with just over two minutes remaining cut the Mustangs' lead to two goals. Marshall (1-1-0) pulled goaltender Christian Coffman for an extra attacker over the final one minute, 40 seconds, but could not get any closer.
Coffman entered the game in the second period for starting netminder Caden Flaherty. The duo combined for 39 saves. Jack Kenney made 30 stops for the Hilltoppers.
1. Conor Andrle, Breck
Andrle was a key player in more ways than one. His two goals and two assists led the Mustangs, but it was his absence due to a broken skate blade in the third period that helped Marshall rally. When he was on the ice, Andrle flashed his terrific speed and hard-nosed forechecking skills.
2. Judd Peterson, Duluth Marshall
Peterson scored his second hat trick in two days for Duluth Marshall, keying a third-period rally that brought the Hilltoppers back from a five-goal deficit.
3. Wesley Iverson, Breck
Iverson continued to be a force both with his scoring (two goals, one assist) and his hard-hitting ways. Breck's top line of Iverson, Keegan Iverson and Andrle combined for nine points (four goals, five assists).