Two top Classic Suburban teams met at Aldrich Arena last night as the Hill Murray Pioneers hosted the St. Thomas Academy Cadets. The rivals each faced off for the first time after both teams posted 1-2 records in Schwan Cup Gold division play. The Pioneers entered the game with a perfect 4-0 record in conference action while the Cadets were just one half game behind at 3-0.
An early jump on the Conference title is nice, although both teams needed to re-establish their game. Each team carries a trio of prolific offensive players, and when they were shut down, the results were usually not favorable in the win loss column. Who was to prevail in the game fell on the hands of their support players.
The Cadets are a young team as they dress four freshman and have just 6 seniors. They watched as their roster turned over from a State Class A championship last season. The Pioneers are a little longer in the tooth with 8 seniors and 6 juniors on the roster that too, was a state championship roster in class 2A.
Junior Christian Isakson scored the game's first two goals to give his team a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes, liftng his team to a sound 5-2 win over the Pioneers. Linemate AJ Reid set up both goals and it was the second tally that was memorable. As Reid and Isackson played catch with the puck on the power play off the end boards, it was Reid that feathered a pass back to Isackson who was open off the right side of the goal. Isackson sat on the puck for a split second, as he found his opening he tucked his 4th goal of the season under the cross bar.
Moments later the Pioneers answered as Tyler Zepeda raced into a Jordan Johnson pass. As the puck caromed off the boards, Zepeda sped into the Cadets zone and beat Kurt Altrichter to the glove hand side to cut the Cadet lead to 2-1 at 6:32 of the first period. The game settled in as it was the Cadets, a youthful team, that played a defensively responsible game. They worked the offensive zone effectively and did not allow the Pioneers any chance to stretch the neutral zone. The blueline was denied and the Cadets did not allow the Pioneers a chance to pursue the puck in the offensive zone.
With the Cadets holding a 2-1 lead and controlling play, it was freshman Zach Schroeder who opened up the two goal lead with a beautiful goal off a three on two rush. It appeared as though the Pioneers had a chance of their own, yet the Cadets forced a turnover high in their zone. Kevin Sienko fed Noah Gavin to the right wing in the neutral zone. Gavin took it wide and dropped a pass to the trailing Schroeder. He blasted a puck under the cross bar for his 4th goal of the season.
Justin Crandall went to work as he scored his 10th goal at 14:48 as he walked from the left corner toward Pioneer goalie Tim Schaughnessy. He found an opening over the blocker side and sent his shot to the short side. Schaughnessy got a piece of it, yet the puck tucked in under the bar for the commanding 4-1 lead at intermission.
Gavin went to work early in the third as he fired one past Schaughnessy as Sienko fed him from behind the net just :45 into the period. The 5-1 lead set the Pioneers back, but only momentarily as it was Zepeda with his second of the game and his 5th of the season. He deposited a hard shot off the end boards by Alex Kelly on the power play.
it energized the Pioneers who found the jump they needed. Meanwhile, the Cadets, held them off the remaining 8 minutes and captured the well rounded victory. There were numerous posts and cross bars rung the game by both sides. The play of St. Thomas freshman defenceman Eric Schurhammer was emphatic as he was shut down the entire game and fantastic in moving the puck. He played as though he was in the High School League for years. His bolstering play helped lead the defensive corps that was supported well by a committed group of forwards.
The Cadets(8-3-0, 4-0-0) travel to the Richfield Ice Arena to tangle with the Spartans on Saturday afternoon in a tough game. The Pioneers (8-3, 4-1), who finished strong and found the jump needed to be successful will be looking to carry that into their game with the Tartan Titans on Saturday in an equally difficult contest.
Tag(s): All Articles