In a pair of games last week against top ranked teams, the St. Michael-Albertville hockey team wanted to keep things respectable.
In a matter of three days, the Knights were facing the No. 11 ranked Class AA team in Prior Lake and the No. 2 ranked Duluth East Greyhounds.
The Knights fell both nights by identical scores of 6-1. According to senior goaltender Matt Borgen – who faced 93 shots in the combined two games – the week was one that seemed satisfying.
“One of the goals we had this year was to not get shutout and not have running time on us,” Borgen said. “To make it through these last two games without doing that is pretty nice.”
In the Feb. 7 game at Prior Lake (15-7), the Knights fell behind 1-0, but went into the first intermission tied 1-1 on a late goal scored by senior David Anderson. Senior’s Jon Gibbs and Mike Ryan assisted on the goal.
“We actually got off to a tough start,” said STMA head coach Jerr Johnson. “We took a couple penalties to start and the shots were 11-1. Somehow we clicked and shots got back to 13-12.”
The Lakers came out in period two looking like one of the state’s top teams. Three unanswered goals gave them a 4-1 lead and Gavin Smith and Connor Bump added two insurance goals in the third period, as the Lakers outshot the Knights 50-30.
As if facing a top team in Prior Lake wasn’t enough of a task. Two days later they faced the No. 2-rated Greyhounds of Duluth East (20-4).
Much like the previous game, the Knights hung with the superior Greyhound squad. A team that has qualified for the state tournament four seasons in a row under head coach Mike Randolph, who earlier this year won his 500th career game as head coach.
The Knights had a golden opportunity to take a 1-0 lead midway through period one. STMA failed to take advantage of a 2-man advantage for nearly two minutes and shortly after, Anderson was called for a 5-major for boarding.
“I think it was a little bit of nerves for the guys,” said Johnson, referring to the lack of chances created on the 5-on-3 power play. “They were looking at this game ever since we put it on the schedule last spring. Duluth East is a great program and you could see the past couple games a few guys were a little wide eyed.”
Meirs Moore scored a late power play goal to give the Hounds a 1-0 lead at the first intermission. Moore would later assist on two other goals before the major to Anderson expired and in a blink of an eye, Duluth East was up 3-0.
“We didn’t want to come in this building and try blowing them out,” Randolph said. “Our power play was very dangerous on the major. That’s a good group of five we throw out there. Our goal to finish the season is to get rested and healthy. We played six defensemen and rolled three lines.”
Senior Jack Forbort assisted on five of the six goals and senior Ryan Lundgren finished with a hat trick. STMA sophomore Tyler Hayes spoiled the shutout bid with a late goal assisted by senior Daniel Lund and junior Connor Spetz.
Borgen gave the Knights a chance to win early. He stopped 37 of 43 shots and stopped 81 of 93 shots faced in the two games. He said he was feeling good despite the busy workload.
“I’ve had a pretty busy schedule,” Borgen said. “The last couple conference games I was tired and just wanted to get them over with. But these last two games I felt really good in warm ups and felt really good out there.”
“I thought Borgen played well,” Randolph said. “He made some very big saves. He controlled his rebounds. He’s another good goalie in this section. Top to bottom, the section has goalies no other section has and when it comes to goaltending, you can ride a hot goalie all the way to the state tournament.”
The Knights (7-14-2 overall) returned to conference play with their final home game of the season last Tuesday night against Monticello (results unavailable). Thursday night at 7 p.m. they close out the regular season at Rogers.