Lakeville South and coach Kurt Weber have reloaded the Cougars' program after the graduation of Mr. Hockey Justin Kloos and eight other key seniors. Photos by Tim Kolehmainen.
A quick question for movie buffs out there. How many times does the sequel surpass the original?
Well, no one seems to be rushing out to buy a special edition copy of Blair Witch 2, Caddyshack II, Dumb and Dumberer or any of the Transformers dreck of the last few years. But sift through that trash and there are a few classics buried, such as The Godfather II or The Empire Strikes Back.
Are there any lessons learned from that list?
The key to making another all-time great isn’t to try and top it. It’s to build upon the foundation that was laid in the original. And so it goes with this year’s Lakeville South hockey team.
After finishing a surprising third in the Class 2A state tournament last winter, South graduated nine key seniors, including Mr. Hockey Justin Kloos and high-scoring Alex Harvey, the “Godfathers” of the Cougars’ program. Coach Kurt Weber knew there was no way he was going to be able to replace those players straight up.
He knew the sequel had to forge its own path.
“We tell our kids, ‘You’re not Justin Kloos. You’re not Alex Harvey. Do what you’re capable of doing,’ ” said Weber, whose team finds itself in the championship game of the Schwan Cup Silver division after upsetting eighth-ranked Centennial, 5-4 in the semifinals Thursday, Dec. 27 at the Super Rink in Blaine.
“We have to write our own story,” agreed goaltender Tyler Schumacher, one of the key returning veterans who made 25 saves against Centennial, including 16 during a busy third period.
“We have a clean slate,” continued Schumacher. “No one expects anything from us but I think we can make a run.”
Weber admitted it was difficult to put last season’s successes aside. He forgave his Cougars for celebrating the best season in school history throughout the offseason. But Weber also knew that his team must pack those memories away if it was going to be more than a one-hit wonder. He challenged the squad with an early-season schedule that included top-ranked Edina and then-No. 2 Hill-Murray, as well as powerful Eagan and the Schwan Cup Silver division tournament. The Cougars lost each of the first three tests, but have passed with flying colors over the holidays.
“We did that on purpose because it was important for our kids to learn that last year is over. Yeah, it was a great year and we had a lot of fun,” said Weber. “But the reality is that we have to find kids who can find their roles right away. With that type of schedule, you don’t get to stand around much.”
New leaders have emerged, such as Schumacher in goal and junior forward Patrick Lauderdale, who played a supporting role as the third member of the powerful Kloos-Harvey line. Seniors Weston Baumann and Ben Freemark stepped up from fourth-line roles to score goals Thursday night against Centennial. Defensively, senior Cam Jackson and junior Drew Byers have excelled.
“With some of the young guys we have, we have to show them how things work around here,” said Schumacher.
So how would a sequel to last year’s state tournament surprise sit with Schumacher and the Cougars? Would they like to rewrite that chapter?
“Not even a question,” grinned Schumacher.
“Our kids learned their identity a little bit,” said Weber. “They’re expecting things, which is what you hope for by the middle of the season.”
-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA
Lakeville South defeated Centennial 5-4 in the semifinals of the Schwan Cup Silver Division on Thursday, Dec. 27 at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine.
Lakeville South (5-4-0) will play Prior Lake in the championship Friday at Ridder Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.
Centennial (7-3-0) opened the scoring in the first period on a goal by Kenny Sinna, but South came back to score the next four goals.
In the first period, Weston Baumann tied it and Drew Byers gave Lakeville South the lead on a wrist shot that found the upper left corner on the power play.
Ben Freemark and Patrick Lauderdale scored 3 minutes, 2 seconds apart in the second period to give Lakeville South a commanding 4-1 lead before Jordan Pitlick cut Lakeville South's lead in half when he ripped a slapshot past Tyler Schumacher with 2 minutes, 26 seconds left in the second period.
Centennial appeared to score again just 10 seconds later, but the referees ruled that a player was in the crease before the puck went in and waved off the goal.
After the whistle, Centennial's Ryan Gorowsky was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and South capitalized on it on another Byers power play goal, which made the score 5-2 heading into the third period.
In desperation, Centennial poured on its offense in the third and unloaded 18 shots on goal.
Adam Anderson scored just 1 minute, 20 seconds into the third to make it a 5-3 score.
Things got interesting when Adrew Bertrand scored for Centennial and cut Lakeville South's lead to one.
Centennial pulled goalie Patrick Munson with one minute left, but Lakeville South was able to survive the chaotic final period for the victory.
Centennial will take on its Northwest Suburban foe Andover in the third place game on Friday at the Schwan Super Rink.
-- Justin Magill, MN Hockey Hub staff
1. Drew Byers, Lakeville South
Byers scored two goals -- both of which proved to be huge for the Cougars' momentum. The junior's first goal, a power play tally in the first period, gave South a lead it would not relinquish. But the bigger goal came late in the second period after Centennial thought it has pulled within a goal. Referees waved off the goal, but called an unsportsmanlike penalty on Centennial. On the ensuing power play, Byers again scored to stretch the lead to 5-2.
2. Patrick Lauderdale, Lakeville South
Lauderdale was at the center of the action for South's offense all night, scoring a goal and two assists. Overshadowed last year when he played on a line with Justin Kloos and Alex Harvey, the junior has stepped into a big leadership role offensively after their graduation.
3. Tyler Schumacher, Lakeville South
The final numbers are respectable, 25 saves on 29 shots, but it was Schumacher's play in the third period that kept Centennial at bay. South's senior goalie faced 18 third-period shots, stopping 16 of them, including several from close range. He showed a quick glove hand and was even better at kicking out a leg pad.
-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA