St. Thomas Academy and Peter Krieger, left, could be headed for a playoff showdown with Totino-Grace and T.J. Roo, right. Photo by Adam Crane
Goaltender David Zevnik was at his best last season in the playoffs, when he led St. Thomas Academy to the state Class 1A championship. Photo by Adam Crane
Most schools in Minnesota would be content with one state championship. Heck, most teams are thrilled just to make it to the tournament.
But for Section 4A favorite St. Thomas Academy, the only satisfactory ending to the season is with the phrase ‘back-to-back.’
The No. 2-ranked Cadets (20-5-0) are battle tested. Their schedule this season consisted of regular matchups against Class AA titans such as Hill-Murray, Edina, and Duluth East. They struggled at times to defeat those tougher foes, but co-head coaches Greg and Tom Vannelli have steered St. Thomas Academy to a perfect 14-0-0 record against Class A opponents.
The Cadets excel in both defense and goaltending, two big things to look for in a contender. Their blue line is anchored by ‘Mr. Hockey’ finalist Eric Schurhamer (13-25-38), a shutdown defender with a flair for scoring from the point. With the help of the Schurhamer, who has committed to play for Maine next season, St. Thomas Academy only allows 1.62 goals against per game, and kills off 92.2% of penalties.
In goal, junior David Zevnik leads the section in save percentage, stopping 90.1% of shots and only giving up 1.94 goals against per game. Junior forward Alex Johnson (19-20-39) and senior forward Peter Krieger (14-25-39) lead the Cadets in points on the season and are both veterans of the 2011 state championship.
Mahtomedi's Tanner Jordan, left, and St. Thomas Academy's Eric Schurhamer. Photo by Helen Nelson
A nearly perfect foil, second-seeded Totino-Grace is set on making sure the Cadets don’t make a trip to the X. Carrying a 16-9-0 record, the No. 7-ranked Eagles are an offensive juggernaut that relies on bunches of goals to win games rather than stifling defense.
At the head of the scoring department, senior Andrew McDonald (30-27-57) and junior T.J. Roo (17-39-56) pack the punch for Totino-Grace. The squad averages 5.09 goals per game and has the potential to uproot the Cadets if their offense gets rolling like it did in a 7-4 dismantling of No. 3-ranked Breck in early February.
Seeded third, Mahtomedi (15-10-0) features 12 seniors who have all spent time at the Xcel Energy Center. The Zephyrs went 0-3 this season in games against Totino-Grace and St. Thomas Academy, and will need the veteran poise of senior top-liners Tanner Jordan (26-30-56), Johno May (24-18-42) and Patrick Kegley (14-23-37) to realize any upset hopes.
Fourth seeded South St. Paul may not hold the best record at 10-12-3 but a strong finish in fifth place (6-8 in conference) in the Classic Suburban conference and a difficult schedule lifts the Packers above other teams in the field. South St. Paul is paced by sophomore Billy Brandecker (8-14-22) and senior Mick Grundtner (8-13-21).
For South St. Paul to make any noise, they will first have to get by a tough quarterfinals matchup in Simley (16-8-1), the fifth seed that improved its record by five wins this year. The Spartans know how to put rocks in the twine, and the dynamic duo of junior Ben Rauschnot (20-37-57) and senior Brandon Reitberger (39-18-57) can skate with the best scorers in the state.
Coming in at No. 6, St. Paul Academy/Mounds Park Academy (8-14-3) had an impressive end to the season, beating Minnehaha Academy, St. Paul Johnson, and hanging tough against Breck. The Spartans will try and use that momentum in their matchup against Mahtomedi. Junior Matt Littler leads the Spartans with 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists) and junior Karl Hommeyer (5-10-15) pilots the defensive end with skill.
No. 7 Chisago Lakes (9-15-1) graduated loads of seniors from last year’s squad that went 21-6-0. The young Wildcats will take their leading scorers, sophomores Brandon Gillespie (15-6-21) and Trevor Lushanko (5-13-18) up against No. 10 St. Paul Highland Park.
After going winless last year, the Scots have five victories this season (5-18-0), thanks to scoring punch from senior Adam Tjaden (22-6-28), improved defense, and solid goaltending from sophomore Howie Sands.
No. 8-seed Spring Lake Park (9-15-1) will square off against No. 9-seed Henry Sibley. Spring Lake Park beat Totino-Grace 8-4 this year, and seniors Jake Matthys (24-11-35) and Patrick Graves (14-18-32) have hit their stride for the Panthers. Henry Sibley (7-18-0) has enjoyed the production of junior Noah Nelson (5-17-22).
|St. Thomas Academy||20-5-0|
The Cadets are ranked second in the state, and for a good reason. Expect them to handle the section playoffs and return to the state tourney for the second year in a row. They may find trouble in Totino-Grace, but St. Thomas Academy has beaten every Class 1A school it has faced.
High-flying and potent, Brandon Reitberger and Ben Rauschnot have Simley primed to make noise in Section 4A. The Spartans face low-scoring South St. Paul in the quarterfinals and have the potential to give teams fits with their offense.
2011 – St. Thomas Academy
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