Benilde-St. Margaret's junior Grant Besse fires a shot on Lakeville South goaltender Tyler Schumacher. Photo by Adam Crane
Nausea forced Benilde-St. Margaret’s sophomore Jack Jablonski to miss his first game of the Red Knights spirited postseason run.
Coach Ken Pauly worried what impact Jablonski’s absence would have on his team. Jablonski watched Thursday’s stirring victory against Edina from a suite at the Xcel Energy Center and later drew hearty cheers from the boys in the locker room.
He stayed home from Friday night's game against Lakeville South and unintentionally created additional pressure on his team in the process. The Red Knights knew Jablonski wanted to be healthy enough to see them play for the state Class 2A championship Saturday night.
So they delivered.
A five-goal first period led to a 10-1 rout of the Cougars, who had knocked top-seeded Duluth East from title contention the night before.
“Coaches told us before the game they had talked to Jabby and he wanted us to go out and win for him,” senior defenseman Jonah Johnson said.
They advance to play Hill-Murray in what will be an already emotional game amplified by Jablonksi’s story. He suffered severe a spinal cord injury in a Dec. 30 junior varsity game.
He was checked from behind into the boards and doctors have said he will not regain the use of his legs. His injury garnered national attention and led to mid-season changes to the penalty structure of Minnesota high school hockey.
The Red Knights student section kept his presence in the building with third-period chants of “I believe in miracles” and “We love Jabby.”
“I told Jabby, ‘Elvis left the building, but you need to get back here,’” Pauly said. “This has been an ongoing thing that gets intensified in this environment. To make it this far shows the kids are dealing with it really well.”
There was much for the Red Knights to feel good about on the ice as well. Dan Labosky scored just one minute and one second into the game. He added a second goal in the period and got help from Grant Besse, Tyler Ellegard and Alec Anderson.
Besse and Jake Horton added second-period goals and Labosky completed the hat trick in the third as the Red Knights overwhelmed the Cougars.
“They came out and took it to us,” Lakeville South Kurt Weber said. “All of a sudden we panic because we can’t keep the puck out of the net and they just keep coming.”
Weber said he was “shocked” his team struggled to such a degree one night after upsetting top-ranked Duluth East.
With the victory, B-SM moved to 10-1 all time in state tournament games. The Red Knights won Class 1A titles in 1999 and 2001 and took third in Class 2A in 2008.
-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune staff writer
Benilde-St. Margaret's junior Dan Labosky has a step on Lakeville South's Charlie Heller and his eyes on the puck during Friday's state Class 2A semifinal against Lakeville South. Photo by Adam Crane
After beating one of the most storied public-school programs in the state in the quarterfinals of the state Class 2A tournament, Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Ken Pauly about jumped out of his sports coat.
Emotions on his sleeve?
Pauly had them dripping from his tie, smeared his slacks and oozing out of his loafers.
“I know I showed probably some embarrassing emotion last night, but part of that too is almost a culmination of that journey from where we started this thing,” a more subdued Pauly said after his Red Knights routed Lakeville South 10-1 in the state Class 2A seminfinals on Friday, March 9, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. “And now we’re playing the most storied public school program in Edina, and we’re winning on this stage.”
After winning two state Class 1A titles in 1999 and 2001, Benilde-St. Margaret’s made the jump to 2A with the intent of winning more championships on an even bigger stage.
"After we won our second Class A title there was this feeling, 'You know what, we’re very proud of that,' at the same time we felt like, 'You know what, it’s time to move to where we should be.' "
The Red Knights placed third in Class 2A in 2008 but hadn't reached the state tournament since.
Benilde-St. Margaret's beat Lakeville South 10-1 ro reach the state Class 2A title game for the first time. Photo by Adam Crane
Now, as it turns out, the Red Knights will play the most storied private school program in the state in Hill-Murray at 7 p.m. in Saturday’s championship game at the Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s fun playing another private school,” said junior forward Dan Labosky about the matchup with the Pioneers. “But I don’t know if it’s a rivalry. We think of them as another team that is in our way. Private school versus private school.
“We always want to beat another private school.”
The all-private school matchup is just the second in state big-school history. Holy Angels beat Hill-Murray 4-2 in 2002 for the Class 2A title.
“All year coach has been talking about us making history,” said Labosky, who scored three goals against the Cougars in the most lopsided state semifinal game since Hill-Murray beat Grand Rapids 11-3 in 1993. “We don’t have a double-A state championship yet, and that’s kind of what we have been banking on all year. We want to get to that point and keep building our program.”
Pauly said Benilde-St. Margaret’s didn’t use Hill-Murray, also a Catholic school, as a template when trying to achieve big-school success. The Pioneers have made a stunning 25 state tournament appearances, winning titles in 1983, 1991 and 2008.
“I think any private school would look at Hill-Murray as, ‘Why couldn’t we do that?’ ” Pauly said. “Hill-Murray had a 30-year head start on everyone, too.”
Pauly, who used Labosky as interpreter in the postgame media session and joked about his poor hearing, said his plan was to spend part of Friday night to “soak it all in.”
He didn’t figure there would be much required in terms of motivational speeches to prepare his Red Knights come Saturday night.
“I don’t think it will be difficult,” Pauly said. “You are playing for the state championship. It’s all there. My goodness, if they don’t get that at this point we haven’t done a very good job and they haven’t been paying attention their entire lives to what this event is about and how important this game is.
“Zero problem there.”
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
Playing in the last game of the evening, Benilde-St. Margaret’s had time to watch the other Class 2A semifinal game between Hill-Murray and Moorhead.
For most of the Red Knights, they were scouting a potential championship game opponent.
For Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior defenseman Jonah Johnson, he was watching his former team -- the Pioneers -- beat one of the best goaltenders in the state and lay some punishing hits on the Spuds.
For what he described as "family reasons," Johnson is in his first year with the Red Knights after spending previous seasons with Hill-Murray. One of Johnson’s old teammates drew his attention during the Pioneers’ victory over Moorhead.
Hill-Murray junior defenseman Blake Heinrich -- the only returning member from the Pioneers’ 2010-2011 defensive core -- had no problems catching the Spuds with their heads down; most notably putting a crushing hit on Moorhead sophomore forward Aaron Herdt.
“Heinrich -- that's his game,” Johnson said. “He likes taking the body.”
Now facing the heavy-hitting Heinrich and the rest of his former teammates, Johnson admits that while he’s going to focus on the task of winning the state championship, he’s also going to keep his head up.
“Yeah I will,” Johnson said. “I mean they don't scare me too much.
“The first time we played them I was getting the texts, 'keep you head up' and everything. So I bet I'll go back to my locker room, check my phone and I'll have some of those too.”
While the texts may or may not be sent jokingly, Johnson expects no love from any Hill-Murray fan or player.
“It will be a big rivalry for me,” Johnson said. “The crowd -- I'm not good friends with them all, but on the ice it's going to be a challenge.”
Hopefully for Johnson and the Red Knights, the adversity will be worth it in the end.
“It’s gonna be a big game,” Johnson said. “It’s on a stage, two great teams with a lot of pride. Both teams are gonna want it.
“It’ll be a great game.”
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff
Benilde-St. Margaret's scored five goals in the first period against Lakeville South. Photo by Adam Crane
Already committed to the University of Minnesota, Lakeville South senior Justin Kloos made the decision to play one more year of high school hockey.
One more season with the teammates he grew up with and they made the most of it.
Even in a 10-1 defeat to Benilde-St. Margaret's, Kloos was able to reflect on what it meant to share this last experience with his teammates.
"It's what you dream of doing," Kloos said. "Just like the other teams across the state, you want to do this with the guys you grew up with, your best friends."
Kloos will go into the Class 2A third place game with 101 points (40 goals, 61 assists).
A day later, he could be crowned as Mr. Hockey, as he is one of 10 finalists for the prestigious award.
Lakeville South's Justin Kloos, right, was held without a point for one of the few times in his career in the Cougars' 10-1 loss to Benilde-St. Margaret's. Photos by Adam Crane
This season Kloos had 14 multi-goal games, three hat tricks a 10-point game (2 goals, 8 assists) against Winona in the Section 1AA playoffs.
"He's once in a lifetime as a coach," Lakeville South coach Kurt Weber said. "I don't think I will be around long enough to see anyone like him.
"He was off the radar when he was younger. Now he's arguably one of the best hockey players in the state of Minnesota."
Since Lakeville South opened in 2005, when it split with Lakeville North, it has made one state tournament appearance and it was a short one, losing the first two games without scoring a single goal.
In the quarterfinals of the this year's Class 2A tournament, the Cougars pulled off one of the biggest upsets, knocking out No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Duluth East 3-2.
Kloos was instrumental as he always seems to be, scoring the game-winning goal into the empty net and notching an assist.
If he doesn't come back for his senior season, that upset may not happen.
"He wanted to come back and show the young kids that staying in high school hockey and staying with your friends is the right thing to do," Weber said.
Doing the right thing appears to be in Kloos' nature.
With the notoriety he has received this season, he is quick to give back and recognize the youth program that helped him become the player he has become.
Weber said the Lakeville Pee Wee team was in the state tournament and, without hesitation, Kloos and his teammates were there to watch them compete.
Kloos did not just go there and leave right after the game.
"They look up to Justin and he talks to them and spends time with them," Weber said. "He's just a great kid to have around because he sends the message that it's a great place to be."
So there is one more high school game for Kloos before he will get a chance to crack the lineup for the Gophers in the fall.
Similar to what he has recently experienced, Minnesota plays some big games at the Xcel Energy Center, but Kloos' heart is still with the Cougars. They play Moorhead for third place.
"I'm just in an awe of maybe getting a chance to put on that uniform," Kloos said. "I look forward to my experience there, but we have one more game left, so I will just be focusing on that."
-- Justin Magill, MN Hockey Hub staff
In a season that has been all about moving on, Benilde-St. Margaret’s did just that Friday night, crushing Lakeville South 10-1 in the Class 2A semifinals to earn its third trip to a state championship game.
The Red Knights got everything they needed in a masterful first period.
Dan Labosky scored twice in the opening 17 minutes – including a wrist shot from a bad angle 61 seconds into the game – and completed the hat trick midway through the third to lead the charge.
Grant Besse, Tyler Ellegard and Alec Anderson also scored in the first period to set the commanding tone and chase starting goaltender Tyler Schumacher from the cage.
The win pushes BSM to 10-1 all-time in state tournament games. The Red Knights won state championships in 1999 and 2001.
Cougars senior Justin Kloos came into the game with 101 points on the year. He was held to three shots on goal.
Brian Stensaas, Star Tribune
1. Dan Labosky, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
Labosky got the snowball rolling for the Red Knights, scoring just 1:01 into the game. He scored a goal in each period to finish with a hat trick . He has 64 points this season (19 goals, 45 assists) good for fourth on the squad.
2. Grant Besse, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
Besse sniped Tyler Schumacher to score the Red Knight’s second goal just around five minutes after Labosky’s. Besse ended with two goals and an assist to push his point total to a stunning 88 for the season (47 goals, 41 assists).
3. Jake Horton, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
The senior defenseman did a great job of keeping Lakeville South’s Justin Kloos in check throughout the game as well as scoring a goal in the rout. Horton has 14 goals and 28 assists this year, giving him a total tally of 42 points.
|Loren Nelson||Lakeville South|
|Tim Kolehmainen||Benilde-St. Margaret's|
|Michael Murakami||Benilde-St. Margaret's|
|Zack Friedli||Benilde-St. Margaret's|
|Justin Magill||Benilde-St. Margaret's|
|Walker Orenstein||Benilde-St. Margaret's|
|Eric Ebert||Benilde-St. Margaret's|
|Helen Nelson||Benilde-St. Margaret's|
|Pete Waggoner||Benilde-St. Margaret's|
Class 2A Tournament
Section 1AA Playoffs
Class 2A Tournament
Section 6AA Playoffs