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Duluth East starts fast, then finishes off St. Thomas Academy

12/27/2011, 11:18pm CST
By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune

The Greyhounds jumped out to a 4-1 lead, then St. Thomas Academy got back in it before being put away.


Duluth East's Bryan Lundgren scored despite the efforts of St. Thomas Academy goalie Dave Zevnik.

Duluth East boys' hockey coach Mike Randolph prefers to judge games with his own eyes, which sometimes conflict with the scoreboard.

Even as his Greyhounds held a three-goal lead in the second period of Tuesday's showdown with St. Thomas Academy at the Xcel Energy Center, Randolph felt the advantage did not reflect his team's tepid energy level.

"We didn't deserve to have a three-goal lead," Randolph said. "I don't think they realized they did because they were getting hollered at every shift."

Duluth East's 5-4 victory in the Schwan Cup Gold Division semifinals allowed the Greyhounds (10-0) to win a battle of the state's two No. 1 teams.

The Greyhounds' Ryan Lundgren finished with a goal and three assists while Conner Valesano scored twice, including the clincher late in the third period.

The teams seemed headed in opposite directions in the second period. Goals from Dom Toninato, Jake Randolph and Lundgren built a 4-1 lead.

"When we got up 4-1 we were kind of like, 'We got this,' " Lundgren said.

Wrong.

Henry Hart's goal just 20 seconds later revived the defending Class 1A state champion Cadets, who later cut the deficit to 4-3 in the third period on Alex Johnson's second goal of the game. Valesano's second goal of the game made it 5-3.

"That's where we had them where we wanted them," Cadets' co-head coach Tom Vannelli said. "To get down 4-1 and come back, I can't be disappointed with that."

Minnetonka 6, Edina 0

Coaches on either side of Tuesday's surprising final score did their best to keep their players looking at a bigger picture.

For the youthful Hornets, who have two seniors on the roster, the loss was a challenge.

"They haven't had somebody put them on their backs like this yet," Edina coach Curt Giles said. "This will be good for them to see how they respond."

For the deep, experienced and second-ranked Skippers (10-0), the goal is staying on task. Coach Brian Urick said No. 5 Edina (8-2) exploited a few of the Skippers' dents, though the final score provided ample touch-up paint.

Two goals from junior forward Max Coatta fueled a three-goal first period, and Minnetonka never looked back.

"We wanted to come out and put the pressure on them and off of ourselves," Skippers forward Max Coatta said.

Tuesday's game, the first of three meetings this season between the Lake Conference hockey powers, marked the seventh time in 10 games the Skippers allowed one goal or fewer.

Tuesday was also the first time these teams met at the Xcel Energy Center since Edina upset Minnetonka in the 2010 Class 2A state tournament championship game.

Winning Tuesday hardly evens the score, but it gives credence to the Skippers' chances for a title shot this season.

Future Gopher Vinni Letteri tallied two assists in the first period. A third-period goal from Phil Katopodis gave Minnetonka a 6-0 cushion and put the game into running time.

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