St. Thomas Academy's Tom Novak (15) wheels up ice during the second period of the Cadets' 2-1 victory over Edina in the Schwan Cup Gold quarterfinals at Ridder Arena. Photos by Tim Kolehmainen.
St. Thomas Academy’s Tom Novak found himself with the rare luxury of time and space against Edina.
Carrying the puck in the overtime, Novak cut to the middle of the Hornets’ zone, shook loose a defenseman and scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory.
Wednesday’s Schwan Cup Gold Division quarterfinal at Ridder Arena at the University of Minnesota was a showdown of the state’s two No. 1 teams. The two-time defending Class 1A champion Cadets (7-1) handed Class 2A big-school power Edina (9-1) its first loss this season.
“It was a good opportunity to show we’re not just a good Class 1A team but also a good team all around that can compete with the best teams in the state,” Novak said.
Edina coach Curt Giles said the loss was a teachable moments for his Hornets, who waited too long to break a sweat against the skilled Cadets.
“It was a good lesson,” Giles said. “A good hockey team came in and slapped us around a little bit. That could be good for us.”
The teams played to a scoreless draw through two periods. St. Thomas Academy’s Henry Hart scored three minutes and 19 seconds into the third period. The Cadets won a faceoff in Edina’s zone and Alex Johnson slid the puck across the goal mouth for Hart to tap in.
Edina answered as Andy Jordahl knotted the game 1-1 at 11:45 of the third period to force overtime.
“We had to keep our heads up and get back after them,” Novak said.
Novak got the last word, taking a pass from Jack Dougherty and burying his chance. The moment might not have been possible without Cadets’ goaltender David Zevnik. St. Thomas Academy was outshot 38-20 but kept afloat by Zevnik, who stopped Edina’s first 27 shots.
“He was phenomenal,” Novak said. “He keeps us in games.”
-- David La Vaque, Star-Tribune staff writer
St. Thomas Academy sophomore Tom Novak (15) leads the Cadets in scoring this winter.
What a difference a year makes. At this time last winter, St. Thomas Academy’s Tom Novak was an unknown freshman, just working his way up onto the Cadets’ varsity roster. One year later, he’s a star.
“He didn’t last too long on the JV, did he?” joked Cadets’ co-coach Greg Vannelli.
Displaying the craftiness and puck skills that elevated him to the varsity as a freshman, Novak’s end-to-end rush midway through overtime gave St. Thomas Academy a 2-1 victory over top-ranked and previously unbeaten Edina in the Schwan Cup Gold quarterfinals at Ridder Arena. On the game-winner, Novak bobbed and weaved his way through at least four Edina defenders before roofing the puck over Hornets’ goaltender Willie Benjamin.
After a moment of disbelief on the bench, the Cadets stormed the ice to celebrate with Novak.
“We just never get tired of watching him do things,” laughed Vannelli after the game. “He’s one of those guys where you look at each other and say, ‘Did you see that?’”
Yes, they did.
As did hundreds of fans in the stands.
As did hundreds more watching online.
As did opposing coach Curt Giles.
“You watch the kids that excel at levels like this and under pressure like this,” said Giles, giving a knowing nod to the Cadets’ locker room and Novak. “This is when you really find out what you’ve got.”
What the state is quickly finding out is that Novak is the next in a long line of Cadets’ greats. Just a sophomore, he leads the team in scoring with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in eight games. In addition to his game-winning rush in overtime, Novak created several other outstanding scoring chances with similar feats of hand-eye magic.
“It’s all natural. It’s unteachable, when you go through five guys on one play,” said Vannelli.
A year ago, Novak admitted he wouldn’t have been able to make that same play. He’s bigger and stronger as a sophomore, able to shrug off the checks of opposing defensemen. He’s always had the hands, but with growth has come a more physical game and a better mental approach.
“Comfort definitely comes with experience,” said Novak. “I’ve grown a lot. I just try to keep improving every year.”
-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA
David Zevnik (30) of St. Thomas Academy stopped 37 of 38 shots in the victory over Edina.
1. Tom Novak, St. Thomas Academy
Novak was all over, all night, making great play after great play before finally finishing the game with a beautiful end-to-end rush that culminated with him slipping a quick forehand shot past Edina’s Willie Benjamin.
2. David Zevnik, St. Thomas Academy
Zevnik was outstanding between the pipes, making saves in all situations and from all angles. He was especially good in the third period and overtime, where he faced 23 shots and allowed Edina to record only a single tally.
3. Willie Benjamin, Edina
Although he will go down in the books as the losing goalie, Benjamin played sound in goal for the Hornets, making numerous big saves in the key moments of the game – especially early, when St. Thomas was taking it to Edina.
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff