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Cadets try, try again for elusive state berth

By Loren Nelson, Editor, 02/22/11, 5:29PM CST

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Section 4A Preview: St. Thomas Academy heavy favorite, but also a big target


St. Thomas Academy hopes to erase two years of disappointment in the Section 4A finals by celebrating a trip to the state Class 1A tournament. Photo by Loren Nelson


Senior forward Matt Kroska has scored 43 points for St. Thomas Academy this season. Photo by Loren Nelson

For the past two years, at the conclusion of the Section 4A championship game, St. Thomas Academy has watched Mahtomedi celebrate its upset victory over the Cadets for a trip to the state tournament.

Those disappointing losses for St. Thomas Academy may have led co-head coaches – and brothers – Greg and Tom Vanelli to better prepare their team for the postseason.

St. Thomas Academy played one of its toughest schedules in several years, taking on tough Class 1A competition and challenging Class 2A opponents.

Within Class 1A, the Cadets defeated Section 1A No. 1-seed Rochester Lourdes, Section 2A No. 2-seed Breck and Section 7A No. 4-seed Duluth Marshall.

Within Section 4A, St. Thomas Academy has taken on each of the top four seeded teams, prevailing against No. 2 Totino-Grace and No. 3 South St. Paul as well as taking revenge against No. 4 Mahtomedi, defeating the Zephyrs twice by a combined score of 11-2.

Against Class 2A teams, the Cadets suffered two losses each to Minnetonka (both in overtime) and top-ranked Hill-Murray and also lost to Duluth East. St. Thomas Academy did defeat White Bear Lake and Cretin-Derham Hall.

Despite its tough schedule, St. Thomas Academy posted a 19-6-0 record and was ranked No. 1 in Class 1A for most of the season.

"I think if you are ranked No. 1 you are going to be a target," Greg Vanelli said after the Cadets beat Rochester Lourdes late in the regular season. "We just have to be ready every game, because people want to take us down."

Leading the Cadets are seniors Zach Schroeder with 52 points (23 goals, 29 assists) and A.J. Reid with 48 points (19 goals, 29 assists).

St. Thomas Academy has also enjoyed an impressive performance by sophomore goaltender David Zevnik. He posted a 12-4-0 record, while allowing an average of 2.04 goals per game with a .904 save percentage.


Totino-Grace earned the No. 2 seed in Section 4A after going 19-5-1 during the regular season. Photo by Helen Nelson

Hoping to spoil the Cadets’ quest for a state tournament appearance is No. 2 seed Totino-Grace led by sophomore standout T.J. Roo, who has amassed 54 points (18 goals, 36 assists) in 25 games this year.

The Eagles have enjoyed relatively similar success (19-5-1) with quality wins coming against Mahtomedi, Duluth Marshall, Breck, Chisago Lakes and Spring Lake Park.

Roo is supported by senior forward Xavier Fust who has 43 points (25 goals, 18 assists) and senior goaltender Nick DeMuth who has an 11-3-1 record, allowing an average of 2.83 goals per game with an .887 save percentage.

South St. Paul, Spring Lake Park, Chisago Lakes and Mahtomedi -- of course -- all are positioned to play the spoiler role.

Jesse Poznikowich has 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 25 games for South St. Paul. Goaltender Luke Palmquist has been solid for the Packers this season, posting a 12-9-0 record with a 2.59 goal-against average and .916 save percentage.

After shocking Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Spring Lake Park is hoping to bring its upset potential to the playoffs. Nick Turbitt has 50 points (26 goals, 24 assists) this season including the game-winning goal with two seconds remaining in the game against the Red Knights.

The Panthers have another offensive threat in A.J. Fossen, who has 61 points (35 goals, 26 assists) in 25 games. Junior goaltender Brandon Jones has a 2.98 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.

Primed with "bracket busting" potential is Chisago Lakes, fueled by a high-powered offense led by Andrew Habel (26 goals, 46 assists), Cory Lushanko (31 goals, 23 assists) and Brett Lizotte (19 goals, 30 assists). Keeping pucks out of the net for the Wildcats is senior goaltender Ben Bratrud who has a 3.01 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.

Scoring leaders G A Pts
Andrew Habel 26 46 72
A.J. Fossen 35 26 61
Cory Lushanko 31 23 54
T.J. Roo 18 36 54
Zach Schroeder 23 29 52
Nick Turbitt 26 24 50
Brett Lizotte 19 30 49
Jesse Poznikowich 20 28 48
A.J. Reid 19 29 48
Goaltending leaders W-L-T GAA SV%
Luke Palmquist 12-9-0 2.59 .916
David Zevnik 12-4-0 2.04 .904
Brandon Jones 14-10-0 2.98 .902

Hub Prediction

Team Regular Season
 St. Thomas Academy 19-6-0

The Cadets' rugged schedule should have them prepared for the section playoffs and allow them to reach the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul after two years of frustration in the section final. Senior leadership will be key as forwards Zach Schroeder, A.J. Reid and Matt Kroska as well as defenseman Taylor Fleming all need to be in top form. The same could be said for sophomore goaltender David Zevnik.

Bracket Buster

Team Regular Season
 Chisago Lakes 20-5-0

Chisago Lakes wasn't talked about much this year en route to its 20-win season. The Wildcats quietly have assembled a mighty offense powered by Andrew Habel (26 goals, 46 assists), Cory Lushanko (31 goals, 23 assists) and Brett Lizotte (19 goals, 30 assists). Provided that senior goaltender Ben Bratrud plays well, Chisago Lakes might spring an upset or two.

Past Champions

2010 – Mahtomedi
2009 – Mahtomedi
2008 – St. Thomas Academy
2007 – Little Falls
2006 – Little Falls
2005 – Little Falls
2004 – Wadena
2003 – Fergus Falls
2002 – Fergus Falls
2001 – Fergus Falls
2000 – Fergus Falls
1999 – Fergus Falls
1998 – Fergus Falls
1997 – Fergus Falls
1996 – Detroit Lakes
1995 – Detroit Lakes
1994 – St. Cloud Cathedral

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