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Hibbing/Chisholm buzzes by Lourdes

By Star Tribune and Hockey Hub staff, 03/09/11, 4:00PM CST

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Bluejackets upset No. 3 seed Eagles, 4-0


Rochester Lourdes' goaltender Nick Heimer and company hold this Hibbing/Chisholm shot out of the net, but the Bluejackets still took a 4-0 quarterfinal decision (Photo by Helen Nelson).

The way Hibbing goaltender Nathan Tromp is playing, shutouts don’t come as much of a surprise for the Bluejackets anymore.

No, they simply are part of the gameday routine. Tape sticks, tighten skates, strap on helmet and, oh yeah, get a shutout from Tromp.

The senior who led the state with a .983 save percentage in the section playoffs is on such a hot streak, the question now is, “How did he let one get by him?”

“Five-on-three,” Hibbing coach Mark DeCenzo said.

Seriously.

The one goal Tromp has allowed in his last four games was during the Section 7A semifinals, while Duluth Central was on a 5-on-3 power play.

Hibbing won that game 5-1, then beat Virigina/Mountain Iron-Buhl 5-0 in the section final. On Wednesday in the opening round of the state Class 1A tournament, the Bluejackets knocked off Rochester Lourdes 4-0 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Include Hibbing’s 9-0 shutout over Silver Bay in the opening round of the section tournament – Tromp played 28 minutes in that one – and the Bluejackets are getting the kind of goaltending that inspires teammates and drives opposing coaches batty.

“We didn’t play a bad game,” Rochester Lourdes coach Josh Spaniol said. “We outshot them 2-to-1 and couldn’t get one puck in the net.”

Spaniol’s math was almost correct. The No. 3 seeded Eagles (21-4-1) fired 29 shots on goal compared to 15 shots for the Bluejackets. Some of Lourdes best chances came in the opening 5 minutes, when Tromp made some of his most spectacular stops.

“We were sitting on the bench, and a save he made early in the game, everyone was just appalled,” Hibbing senior forward Nick DeCenzo said. “Some of the saves he’s made so far this year, everyone just gets pumped, and they go out and play harder for him.”

With Tromp robbing Andy Benner and Rory Vesel, among others, of goals early in the first period at one end, it was Hibbing sophomore Adam Johnson scoring in a most improbable way at the other. Johnson was sliding on the seat of his breezers when he swiped at the puck, somehow propelling it past Eagles goaltender Nick Heimer before crashing into the right goalpost midway through the opening period.

That, in essence, summed up the game.

At varying moments an array of Eagles – Jason Samuelson, Ryan Nicolay, Landon Farrell among them – bombed shots at Tromp. The Bluejackets, meanwhile, were capitalizing on their limited chances. Mike Pechnovik, Jake Doherty and Nick DeCenzo also scored for Hibbing.

“It’s nice when one of your most experienced players is your goalie,” Mark DeCenzo said about Tromp, one of just four Bluejackets’ seniors. “He’s done a great job of just kind of settling things down for us.”

Tromp said he doesn’t mind facing a lot of shots. Matter of fact, he enjoys it.

“I don’t really like just sitting back there watching the game,” he said.

-- Loren Nelson, Hockey Hub

Change for the better

Last year as a ninth-grader, Hibbing/Chisholm’s Adam Johnson played defense.

This year, Johnson switched to forward and the change has been a welcomed one.

“I like it a lot more,” Johnson said after scoring a goal and an assist in Hibbing/Chisholm's 4-0 victory over third-seeded Rochester Lourdes in Wednesday afternoon's Class A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul.

“I think it’s a lot more fun to play forward.”

Some call it ‘fun’, others call it ‘production.'

Through 29 games this season, Johnson has amassed 82 points (39 goals, 43 assists).

Just how much ‘fun’ has Johnson been having this year?

The difference in statistics provides the strongest indication. In the Bluejackets’ 27 games in 2010, Johnson notched 25 points (9 goals, 16 assists).  That's a big bump of 57 points from last year.

“This year he’s been put into a position to (score),” Hibbing/Chisholm coach Mark DeCenzo said. “We knew that he’d be productive but just how productive -- you don’t know.”

“I really didn’t (know),” Johnson said about the reasoning behind his 2011 success. “I expected to have a little better result cause I was playing forward this year but not this big of a jump from last year.”

Switching to forward also meant a more difficult offseason workout regimen.

“I tried to lift and get stronger as much as I could -- stickhandle and shot lot of pucks,” Johnson said. “Whatever I could to get better and help the team out this year.”

Another impressive statistic is that Johnson’s high numbers have come as a sophomore, not an age when big scoring numbers can be counted upon. Benilde-St. Margaret’s Grant Besse and Apple Valley’s Hudson Fasching are usually the first ones mentioned when discussing stellar sophomores in Minnesota.

“Well they have a tougher schedule and they’re both great hockey players,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot more people watching them down here in the cities than up north like we do.”

However with continued success on offense, Johnson can safely expect similar attention in the near future.

-- Michael Murakami, Hockey Hub

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Game Recap

Rochester Lourdes boys’ hockey coach Josh Spaniol liked his players’ effort and nearly 2-to-1 advantage in shots on goal during Wednesday’s Class 1A state tournament quarterfinal game.

There was just one problem — Hibbing/Chisholm goaltender Nathan Tromp stopped everything thrown his way. Tromp’s 29 saves led the Bluejackets to a 4-0 upset of the No. 3 seed Eagles.

“We were sitting on the bench watching him,” said forward Nick DeCenzo, who scored the game’s fourth goal. “Everyone got pumped to go out and play harder for him. It lifted our team.”

The Bluejackets’ Adam Johnson scored his team-leading 39th goal of the season to put Hibbing/Chisholm on top 1-0 at 7:56 of the first period.

A second-period goal from defenseman Mike Pechovnik made it 2-0. And Jake Doherty made amends for a roughing penalty by going directly from the penalty box to the Rochester Lourdes’ net and blasting home a goal to make it 3-0 at 5:55 of the third period.

 

-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune

Three Stars

1. Adam Johnson, Hibbing/Chisholm
Just a sophomore, Johnson plays with a grace and poise that belie his age. The son of former UMD star Dave Johnson, Adam was at the center of most of the Bluejackets' scoring chances, including the game-winning goal at 7:56 of the first period -- a goal scored from the seat of his pants. Johnson broke down the right side and was taken to the ice by Lourdes' defenseman Sam Slightham, but Johnson still managed to shove the puck past goalie Nick Heimer for his 39th goal of the season.

2. Nathan Tromp, Hibbing/Chisholm
The senior goaltender pitched his third shutout in four playoff games, stopping all 29 shots he faced. Entering the tournament, Tromp led the state in playoff save percentage (.983) a number that will amazingly go up after Wednesday's effort.

3. Mike Pechnovnik, Hibbing/Chisholm
Called the most underrated player on the Bluejackets by his coach Mark DeCenzo, Pechnovik played his usual solid game in the defensive zone and added his 11th goal of the season. The senior defenseman's rocket from the point on the power play gave Hibbing a 2-0 lead just three minutes into the second period.

-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA

Hub Prediction

Reporter Prediction
Loren Nelson Hibbing/Chisholm
Tim Kolehmainen Hibbing/Chisholm
Pete Waggoner Hibbing/Chisholm
Michael Murakami Rochester Lourdes
Jordan Doffing Rochester Lourdes
Justin Magill Rochester Lourdes

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