Many coaches around the state who have played the Cadets consider them the best team in the state -- regardless of class.
St. Thomas Academy will make a run at its third straight state title and, for the final time, will be in the Class 1A tournament.
The Cadets will be moving up to Class 2A next season and had a bit of a dress rehearsal this season -- They played Classic Suburban Conference rival Hill-Murray three times and went 1-1-1. The tie came in the Schwan Cup Gold Division final, where the Pioneers defeated St. Thomas Academy in a shootout. It also played Minnetonka, losing 3-1, and defeated annual Class 2A state powers Edina and Benilde-St. Margaret's.
And who can forget the 3-2 win against Shattuck-St. Mary's?
St. Thomas Academy has been the No. 1-ranked team for almost the entire season and flexed its muscle in the Section 4A playoffs, not allowing a single goal.
It will take on St. Cloud Apollo in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state tournament on Wednesday, March 6.
-- Justin Magill
FORWARDS: Near the midpoint of the season St. Thomas Academy switched up its lines, which put sophomores Tommy Novak and Christiano Versich with senior captain Alex Johnson. The three combined for 128 points. Novak has the maturity of a veteran and hands so good that he can lose you in a phone booth. There is also Henry Hart, who can fly by the defense with his speed and has the sniper mentality to pick a corner from anywhere on the ice.
DEFENSE: "They might have the best defense in the state, regardless of what class they are in," Totino-Grace coach Mark Loahr said. St. Thomas Academy only allowed 32 goals this season, none in section play and have not been scored on in 183 minutes, 41 seconds of game time. Jack Dougherty, Wyatt Schmidt, Alec Broetzman and T.J. Samec anchor that d-corps.
GOALTENDING: David Zevnik has not lost in the postseason in his three-year career and will look to capture his third state title. Zevnik is a Frank Brimsek Award finalist for the state's top senior goalie. In six state tournament games Zevnik has allowed only six goals.
Greg and Tom Vannelli have been the co-coaches at St. Thomas Academy since the 2003-04 season. The school has won all four of its titles since the Vannellis joined the staff and have made it to the tournament for the seventh time. Tom served as a co-head coach at Cretin-Derham Hall prior to taking the same position with his brother Greg at St. Thomas Academy and was also a member of the University of Minnesota national championship teams in 1974 and 1976. Greg is a graduate of St. Thomas Academy and the University of St. Thomas and played hockey at both.
St. Thomas Academy has not lost to a Class 1A school since the Section 4A finals in 2010. The Cadets will go in as the heavy favorites and rightfully so in their final season in Class 1A.
Conference: Classic Suburban
2012-13 Record: 24-2-2
State trips: 1999, 2005, 06 Champs, 07, 08 Champs, 11 Champs, 12 Champs, 13
Coach: Tom and Greg Vannelli
Assistants: Mike Vannelli, Greg Monahan, Jerry Maybrey
Home arena: St. Thomas Ice Arena, Mendota Heights
Last season: Beat Hermantown in Class 1A final, 5-1