The Minnesota Seniors beat Michigan 6-2 on Sunday to win the CCM National Invitational Tournament. Photo by Loren Nelson
Turns out Alex Funk and sidekick Jason Samuelson aren’t inseparable after all.
The varsity standouts at Rochester Lourdes terrorized opposing defenses for four years on their way to becoming the highest scoring players in the program’s history.
If one scored, most often it was the other providing the pinpoint pass. They complemented each other perfectly, like Hope and Crosby or, in hockey parlance, Gretzky and Kurri.
So it was strange to see Funk suiting up for Minnesota Seniors in the CCM National Invitational Tournament with Samuelson nowhere in sight.
Funk may not have had his longtime partner (Samuelson is also standout baseball player) during Sunday’s championship game against Michigan, but he was far from alone.
Playing alongside Bemidji’s Matt Serratore and Eden Prairie’s Mason Bergh, Funk scored twice and set up another goal as the Minnesota Seniors cruised past Michigan 6-2 on Sunday, April 28, in the NIT championship game.
“This is a good opportunity for a kid to shine,” said Minnesoa Seniors coach Ken Pauly, who, as Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach during the high school season, saw Funk firsthand when the Red Knights played Lourdes. “I knew how good he was. I think a lot of people saw how good he was this weekend. I think he took full advantage of his opportunity.”
The NIT is a tournament designed to showcase the top players from five states. It serves a scout’s smorgasbord. Not that Funk necessarily needed the extra exposure. He is likely to play junior hockey next season for the Minnesota Magicians of the North American Hockey League.
Even with his immediate future set, Funk played with his usual all-out abandon. Which is to say he forechecked like a demon, backchecked at mach speed, picked corners with his shot and hit nothing but tape with his passes.
“Funk is a great player,” Serratore said. “He can really shoot the puck, as you guys saw this week. Pure goal scorer. I really liked playing with him.”
Who wouldn’t? It was a Funk pass that found Serratore alone in front 30 seconds into the third period. Serratore quickly buried the puck, and in effect, Michigan, with one smooth shooting motion.
Funk finished with a stunning seven goals in the three championship round NIT games.
“The first game, it’s always kind of weird, breaking in new guys,” Funk said. “Especially because I’m used to playing with Jason (Samuelson). Everybody has got their own style. But after that first game we kind of dominated. We did really well the rest of the weekend. I enjoyed playing with them a lot."
Alex Funk of Rochester Lourdes scored twice and added an assist for the Minnesota Seniors as they eased past defending champion Michigan 6-2 on Sunday, April 28, at the Plymouth Ice Center in the title game of the CCM National Invitational Tournament.
Funk and linemates Matt Serratore of Bemidji and Mason Bergh of Eden Prairie accounted for four of the Minnesota Seniors’ goals.
Funk’s pass from deep in the right corner found Serratore alone in front of the net for a goal 30 seconds into the third period, putting the Minnesota Seniors ahead 4-2. Funk, who had scored with 13 seconds left in the first period on a laser shot under the crossbar, added an insurance goal with 1:15 remaining in the third.
Bergh and Zach LaValle of Hill-Murray also scored in the first period as the Minnesota Seniors bolted to a 3-1 lead while outshooting Michigan 14-4.
Travis Koepke of Hermantown scored 15 seconds into the second period.
Michigan stayed within striking distance on a goal by Nicholas Daigneau with 6:53 left in the second. Samuel Rennaker also scored for Michigan.
David Zevnik, a three-time state Class 1A champion from St. Thomas Academy, stopped five of six shots and Chris Amsden of Le Sueur-Henderson/St. Peter took over midway through the second period and made six saves on seven shots.
Michigan goaltenders John Lethemon and Casey Korhonen combined to make 34 saves on 40 shots.
1. Alex Funk, Minnesota Seniors
A scoring machine during a brilliant four-year career at Rochester Lourdes, Funk consistently puts up ridiculous point totals no matter at what level or on what team he plays. Funk’s two-goal, one-assist performance against Michigan gave him a whopping seven goals and eight points in three championship-round NIT games.
2. Matt Serratore, Minnesota Seniors
The Bemijdi dynamo was all over the ice, chasing pucks and blocking shots, during a Michigan 5-on-3 power play early in the second period. Serratore’s hustle and heady play helped hold Michigan without a shot during the two-man advantage that lasted for a 1 minute, 55 seconds. Serratore also scored a critical goal 30 seconds into the third period, putting the Minnesota Seniors up 5-2.
3. John Lethemon, Michigan
Lethemon entered early in the second period and made 23 saves on 25 shots, including a stunning robbery of Mason Bergh late in the third period. Without the stellar play of Lethemon the score would have been much more lopsided.