Rochester Lourdes junior forward Jason Samuelson (No. 7) sneaks a shot through traffic towards Breck goaltender Jack Kenney on Saturday, Feb. 4. Photo by Adam Crane
After holding the top ranking in Class 1A for the first part of the season, Breck found itself in a mid-January slump losing two games in one week -- a 5-3 loss to Moorhead on Saturday, Jan. 14, and a 3-2 overtime loss to St. Thomas Academy on Saturday, Jan. 21.
Since then, Breck has bounced back with a four-game winning streak including a 6-3 victory over Rochester Lourdes on Saturday, Feb. 4.
Part of the Mustangs’ revived spirit has been a late season reshuffling of their lines that has been well-received by the Breck locker room.
“The new lines are working out pretty well I think,” Breck forward Conor Andrle said. “Everyone's rolling so it's hard for other teams to match lines, which is pretty nice."
Breck senior forward Conor Andrle (No. 5) nets a first period shorthanded goal against Rochester Lourdes on Saturday, Feb. 4. Photo by Adam Crane
Andrle seemed to benefit from the new lines registering four points (two goals, two assists) in the win over Rochester Lourdes.
“It's pretty nice,” Andrle said. “I really like having the three even lines, too. Team wise, it's really fun to see that every line can score. You don't have to worry about matching anyone.
“Against St. Thomas, late third period and overtime we were only rolling two lines and by the end of it we were just dead tired. We couldn't keep going that long and eventually they just outworked us.”
Despite the energy from the new lines, Andrle admits that his team still has things to improve on as Rochester Lourdes battled back from a 3-0 hole and outshot Breck, 33-28.
“Our biggest problem so far has been our killer instinct,” Andrle said. “Once we get up on teams we really gotta step on their throat and never let them come back.
“We really haven't played a complete game yet this season.”
As a seasoned member of the Breck team, the senior captain recalled another example of the Mustangs’ failure to play solid all three periods.
“I think back to state last year, we were up going into the third period against Thief River Falls and then we blew the lead,” Andrle said. “We really have to develop that instinct to just keep going the whole game.”
Though the regular season is winding down, Andrle says there is still time for Breck to work out the kinks before a run at the Mustangs’ third straight state tournament appearance.
“We have a good group of guys in there,” Andrle said. “In practice they work extremely hard and everyone has the right mindset about it.
“I think if we get everyone working hard the entire game and not let up, I think we can do a lot of (good) things.”
Breck senior goaltender Jack Kenney (No. 37) dives to make one of his 30 saves against Rochester Lourdes on Saturday, Feb. 4. Photo by Adam Crane
After taking some time to discuss the victory with his team and coaching staff, Breck coach Les Larson took some time to speak with the MN Hockey Hub on the win, the four-point effort by Conor Andrle and where the Mustangs go from here.
Question: A good victory against a tough Rochester Lourdes team that battled back. What were your thoughts on the game?
Answer: Well they're a good program and they're young and they always play tough. They don't give up. They've got good kids. I thought it was a good game. We got disrupted -- too many penalties from both teams. When that happens we can't get all three lines out there, we're playing shorthanded. I don't mind being on the power play but it just disrupts the tempo of the game. But you gotta play through that and I thought we did. We didn't give up.
Q: Talking about special teams play, great game by Conor Andrle with a shorthanded goal and a couple points on the power play. Talk to me about his effort today.
A: Well, we always get a good effort out of him. He's a hockey player. Now he's playing with Grant Opperman and (Nate) Breitenfeldt. We switched the lines around a few days ago and I think they're all good combinations. We've got three strong lines but we needed a little bit of variety too in the doldrums and staleness of the middle of the season here.
Q: What are some things you are going to work on next week in practice?
A: It's always just the little things. Take care of the puck better, I still think we don't capitalize on a lot of opportunities. We'll get up 4-0 and we become kind of cavalier about it. In other words, we don't capitalize on a three-on-two or a two-on-one. I tell the kids it's kind of like fishing in Canada -- there's always going to be another fish on your hook; you can't think that way. You have to take advantage when you have chances.
Q: What’s next for the Mustangs?
A: We just try to keep on getting better. We only got a couple weeks left. I think we have six or seven games left. Now is when you want to solidify your lines and get on a roll.
Before boarding the bus for the trip back south, Rochester Lourdes coach Josh Spaniol spoke with the MN Hockey Hub on his team’s effort against Breck.
Question: You guys started slow but you battled back. What were your thoughts on the game from your perspective?
Answer: I thought you take away the first -- we had two breakaways in the first minute of the game we missed -- and then the first period we kind of sat a little bit. When you come up here and you play Breck, it's always that transition off the bus. You watch every guy play and it's just getting our feet wet and going. But take away the first period I thought we played a hell of a game, excuse my language. I thought we played really well. We outshot them 33-28. We had some penalties and some power plays that helped us but I thought our boys played really hard.
Q: You were outshot 15-4 in the first period and then dominated the shots on goal in the second. What did you say to the team in-between periods?
A: We didn't say anything abnormally. We just said we gotta start moving our feet. You look at Breck, they capitalize every chance they get. We didn't. That's why it became a 6-3 game. We just told them keep working hard, pucks are gonna go, just keep pucks moving and I thought we did a good job today.
Q: Though not a win, still a good showing by your team. What does this game do for Rochester Lourdes for the remainder of the season?
A: I think it's a big boost for us just because we get a (tough) schedule here at the end -- we play Blake, we play Breck, we play Totino(-Grace), we play Rogers coming up -- those are all good squads and good teams. For us to steamroll now for the rest of the season that's what we want. We want to play good competition, we want our guys playing the best they can and if we play like this here I think good things will happen for us.
Rochester Lourdes junior forward Alex Funk (No. 20) on a breakaway chance fires a quick wrist shot on Breck goaltender Jack Kenney (No. 37) during the first period on Saturday, Feb. 4. Photo by Adam Crane
Breck senior captain Conor Andrle scored four points (two goals, two assists) as the No. 3 Mustangs defeated No. 9 Rochester Lourdes 6-3 on Saturday, Feb. 4.
Thomas Lindstrom also scored and had an assist and Wesley Iverson contributed three assist in the winning effort for Breck.
Mustangs' senior netminder Jack Kenney made 30 saves to pick up his 13th win of the season.
Rochester Lourdes goaltender Jesse Neumann made 17 saves before being replaced by Andrew Ellingson, who made five saves in the loss.
The Eagles rebounded after a sluggish first period, eventually outshooting Breck 33-28 -- largely thanks to the Mustangs' 20 penalty minutes, all coming from minor penalties. Senior forward Landon Farrell had two points (one goal, one assist) and seven other players registered a point for Rochester Lourdes.
After losing two games in January -- at Moorhead (5-3 on Saturday, Jan. 14) and against St. Thomas Academy (3-2, OT on Saturday, Jan. 21) -- Breck (17-2-0) is hoping to stay perfect in February as it travels to face Minnehaha Academy at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
Rochester Lourdes (14-7- 0) will look to bounce back as the Eagles take another road trip north to face Blake at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at Blake School Ice Arena in Hopkins.
1. Conor Andrle, Breck
Andrle amassed four points (two goals, two assists) on his team's first five goals -- can't ask much more from the Mustangs' senior captain. Andrle was excellent in the offensive zone and was a force on Breck's special teams with his first goal coming shorthanded. He also had a goal and an assist on the Mustangs' rare power-play opportunities.
2. Jack Kenney, Breck
The senior goaltender may have thought he was in for an easy game, as he only faced four shots in the first period and stopped each one -- even though a couple came on breakaway chances. As the game progressed and Rochester Lourdes got its legs moving, the Eagles peppered Kenney with several shots coming on the power play. Keeping his team ahead until the end, Kenney finished the game with 30 saves.
3. Landon Farrell, Rochester Lourdes
Capitalizing on his team's momentum, Farrell assisted on the Eagles' first goal on the power play and also scored with 7 seconds remaining in the second period. Farrell's play definitely provided Rochester Lourdes the boost it needed to get back into the game.
Rochester Lourdes' forward Landon Farrell (No. 8) fires a shot on Breck goaltender Jack Kenney (No. 37) during the Saturday, Feb. 4, game. Photo by Adam Crane