Even after his hockey team won a tight game with a late goal against a conference rival, Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner gave the performance a mixed review.
The Pioneers (13-3-1) and St. Thomas Academy (10-5) entered Thursday’s game at Aldrich Arena ranked No. 1 in their respective classes by the Minnesota Hockey Hub website. Hill-Murray scored three times in the second period to build a 3-1 lead, and then found itself on the defensive as the Cadets answered with two unanswered third period goals. Jake Guentzel’s goal with 1 minute and 13 seconds remaining allowed Hill-Murray to escape with a 4-3 victory and first place in the Classic Suburban Conference.
“It was a disappointing win,” Lechner said, “I thought we backed off and played soft in the third period.”
A scoreless first period gave way to a four-goal second period. Hill-Murray’s Ryan Holler opened the scoring by tapping in a nice pass from Luke Voltin at 4:52. It took the Cadets less than one minute to respond, tying the game on Peter Krieger’s goal at 5:46.
Then the Pioneers’ Bobby Bruski scored twice in final five minutes of the period, including a power-play goal with 15 seconds remaining, to build a 3-1 lead. But the game was far from finished.
“We talked in the locker room about what we needed to do in the third period then we came out and didn’t do any of it,” Holler said.
The Cadets’ A.J. Reid matched Bruski with two goals of his own in the third period. His first came at 3:35 and gave his team a lift. His tying goal at 8:44, coming after an ill-timed Pioneers line change, put St. Thomas Academy on the offensive.
Cadets’ co-head coach Greg Vannelli said he was “proud of how we came back. I liked our effort. It the kind of thing the kids can take with them going forward.”