Benilde-St. Margaret's and Edina are no strangers to success, having met for a classic game in the 2008 state tournament. Star Tribune file photo
The last time Benilde-St. Margaret’s went toe-to-toe with a top notch boys’ hockey team – a Dec. 28 tilt with Eden Prairie – the Red Knights sputtered to a sloppy 8-5 loss.
“We blew it,” coach Ken Pauly said, referencing four goals allowed in the second period, including a shorthander. “And we can’t this time.”
“It’s probably more important for us than it is for them,” Pauly said of the 7 p.m. tilt. “I know Edina is going to bring it, and I know they want to win, but they have what I call the luxury of playing in the best conference in high school hockey. And we don’t. When we have these opportunities, it’s so important for us to come out and play.”
That hasn’t been a problem lately; The Red Knights have outscored their last two opponents 17-1.
“Let’s face it, we’re playing the defending state champs, the most storied high school hockey program in the state,” Pauly said. “These are the games you have to win if you want to call yourself one of the top two, three teams in the state.”
Though the loss to Eden Prairie is the only setback of the season, Pauly is far from satisfied with his team as the schedule reaches the halfway point.
“To be honest I don’t think we’ve played all that well,” he said. “To be 10-1 is a testament to our ability.”
Benilde-St. Margaret’s averages more than five goals per game, but until recently the team has had trouble putting teams away. And it is still struggling on the one area of the games coaches stress the most: special teams.
In addition to allowing 11 shorthanded goals, the Red Knights have just five goals in 37 power-play opportunities (13.51 percent). For a heavy comparison, every NHL team but one is connecting at a better power-play clip this season.
“Talent-wise we’re a 10-1 team,” Pauly said. “Performance-wise, we’re more like 8-3.”
For a midseason test, Tuesday’s game is about as good as they come.
“Everybody loves playoff hockey because it’s one and done but you tend forget all the good stuff that happens in the previous three, four months,” Pauly said. “This is exciting. Defending state champs in your building – how can’t you be?”