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Cadets slip past pesky Eagles

By Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff, 01/31/12, 9:15PM CST


St. Thomas Academy junior David Zevnik makes 24 saves to shut out Totino-Grace

St. Thomas Academy junior goaltender David Zevnik (No. 30) makes one of his 24 saves on a shot by Totino-Grace's Carter Roo (No. 18) on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Photo by Adam Crane

With Section 4A playoff implications on the line, there was no doubt that the Tuesday, Jan. 31, matchup between St. Thomas Academy and Totino-Grace would be a hard-fought battle.

Yet despite the powerful scoring potential by both teams, this battle would take place between the pipes.

St. Thomas Academy junior goaltender David Zevnik (No. 30) makes one of his 24 saves on a shot by Totino-Grace on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Photo by Adam Crane

St. Thomas Academy goaltender David Zevnik emerged victorious, making 24 saves to collect his second shutout of the season.

“Sometimes you have to have your goaltender stand up and actually win the game for you,” St. Thomas Academy coach Greg Vannelli said. “It's nice to see David (Zevnik) play like that.”

Turning shot after shot away, Zevnik continually frustrated the Totino-Grace forwards and settled into a groove early.

A groove he would not lose.

“It was nice to come out and win here,” Zevnik said. “(I’ve) felt like I've been in a funk the last couple of games but it's been good to finally get a shutout, and it feels good to get your team a win.”

Though the section victory will likely help his team come seeding time, Zevnik knows he will need to be at the top of his game to extend the Cadets’ season into the 2012 state tournament.

The junior goaltender is no stranger to that pressure, playing in 18 games for St. Thomas Academy last year while posting a 12-4-0 record along with a save percentage of .904. He was the Cadets' starter throughout the state Class 1A tournament as they won the championship.

“David had a great year last year as a sophomore so we were expecting good things from him,” Vannelli said. “I think he started a little slow this year -- we actually started rotating goalies because of it -- but I think the last two or three games, he's played very well.”

The keys to Zevnik’s success have been very basic.

“If you're in the right position, they're eventually going to hit you,” Zevnik said. “That's what we've been working on lately -- just getting position right.

“Fortunately they all hit me (tonight).”

Thanks to Zevnik’s efforts and a second-period goal by Cadets' forward Andrew Commers, St. Thomas Academy is likely to earn the top seed when Section 4A seedings are announced

“We wanted to win to get the first seed in sections and see how they play and what they do,” Zevnik said. “It's a good preview for us later on.”

Paired with the hard-earned victory, the Cadets are hoping to build off any momentum earned.

“It's very important to get that number one seed because you never know what can happen,” Commers said. “If you get the number two seed, run into a tough team, maybe an upset happens. But we're really happy that we could get that one seed. That's going to help a lot.

“Hopefully we can stay on track with the winning and keep it going. We want to keep rolling, get into sections, keep those wins going and then make it to the state tournament.”

Leader of the Cadets

St. Thomas senior forward Andrew Commers (No. 21) takes aim against Totino-Grace goaltender Rory Davidowski (No. 35) on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Photo by Adam Crane

He may not be leading St. Thomas Academy in points, but senior Andrew Commers is continuing to provide a large impact behind the scenes.

“Andrew is as good a leader as you can have as a captain,” St. Thomas Academy coach Greg Vannelli said. “He's a hard-nosed guy, he's really tough and he's good to everyone on the team. He doesn't isolate anybody. He encourages everybody so, yeah, we couldn't have a better guy. I think pound-for-pound he's as tough as they come as a winger.

“So it's nice to have Andrew -- he's a key player.”

Commers scored in the second period against Totino-Grace on Tuesday, Jan. 31, giving the Cadets the victory over their section rivals.

“It was pretty lucky,” Commers said of his game-winning goal. “Tony (Bretzman) got that pass cross ice from (Peter) Krieger and he took that shot. I saw it sitting right in-between his legs and I just took a jam in there and it somehow creeped through.”

Including his most recent goal against the Eagles, Commers has 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) through18 games this season -- and is only three points behind St. Thomas Academy scoring leader Alex Johnson, who has 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists).

But to Commers, it doesn’t matter what the scoring leaders table says.

“So far with the points, that's really no big deal to me,” Commers said. “If our team is winning, I'm fine with that -- it doesn't matter to me who's taking the points. We got (Alex) Johnson leading the team in points, he's doing great on that second line, I'm really proud of him. To me it just doesn't matter.

“As long as we're winning and everyone's having a good time, that's what it's all about.”

Q & A with Totino-Grace coach Mark Loahr

Following the tough 1-0 loss to St. Thomas Academy on Tuesday, Jan. 31, Totino-Grace coach Mark Loahr took some time to speak with the MN Hockey Hub on the game as well as the play of Eagles goaltender Rory Davidowski.

Question: After such a hard-fougtht game, what did you tell your team in the locker room after the game?
Answer: It was a great high school hockey game and we unfortunately didn't get one and they got one and that's all you can say. Our kids played well, they played really well. The message I gave (our kids) was, 'that's the team we want to play again in a month, and if we're that close, in a month maybe we can have the one goal lead.'

Q:  Do you think there were any lucky bounces or chances that were going against your team?
A:  They got the little bit extra bounce there and we didn't and I thought we might get it even there at the end but that's just the way it goes. I give our kids a lot of credit -- I think now they're starting to believe. That's the hardest thing is that they have to believe they're that good. I think that's something that's been lacking a little bit and you can see that in some of the games we've played. Hopefully with this game, now they know that this is how good they can be.

Your goaltender played well for you. Talk to me about his game tonight.
A: That makes all the difference. Rory (Davidowski) had a great night tonight and that's what we've been looking for all season. He is that good if he wants to play that well. He gave us a chance to win, and that's all we can ask. 

Totino-Grace goaltender Rory Davidowski (No. 35) reaches back to make one of his 27 saves against St. Thomas Academy as Cadets' forward Andrew Commers (No. 21) looks on. Photo by Adam Crane

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

Andrew Commers scored the game's lone goal in the second period as St. Thomas Academy slipped past Totino-Grace with a 1-0 victory on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Outshooting the Eagles in the first two periods, 22-12, St. Thomas Academy continually tested Totino-Grace junior goaltender Rory Davidowski.

The Cadets' goal came after Davidowski made a sliding save on a quick shot by St. Thomas Academy defenseman Tony Bretzman but left a loose puck in the crease and gave Commers the opening he needed.

Davidowski finished with 27 saves.

Cadets' junior goaltender David Zevnik made 24 saves to record his second shutout of the season.

Up next for Totino-Grace (12-7-0) is a North Suburban Conference rivalry game as the Eagles will host Chisago Lakes at Parade Ice Garden on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m.

St. Thomas Academy (13-5-0) will travel to face Henry Sibley at West St. Paul Arena on Thursday, Feb. 2, for a 7:30 p.m. Classic Suburban Conference matchup.

1.  Andrew Commers, St. Thomas Academy
At the time, Commers' goal was a major momentum boost for the Cadets who were struggling to beat Totino-Grace goaltender Rory Davidowski. As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard, the senior forward's goal was proved to be all the scoring either team could muster. Commers was dangerous in the offensive zone throughout the game and meticulous on the forecheck for the Cadets.

 Rory Davidowski, Totino-Grace
He may not have earned the win, but Davidowski's effort was undoubtedly the main reason the game ended as close as it did. The junior goaltender frustrated the St. Thomas Academy power play, and his 27-save performance kept the Eagles in position to pull off an upset until the very end.

 David Zevnik, St. Thomas Academy
Making crucial saves and earning the shutout was Zevnik. Though the junior goaltender may not have been challenged as often or as early as Davidowski was, Zevnik excelled when he was called upon. The Cadets' goaltender faced a barrage of shots in the third period as Totino-Grace amped up the energy in its unsuccessful push for a tying goal. 

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