Rochester Lourdes senior goaltender Nick Heimer has a .914 save percentage this season. Photo by Helen Nelson
Mankato West senior Ville Rantanen led the state with 48 goals in the regular season. Photo by Helen Nelson
Welcome to the goal-scorer’s paradise that is Section 1A.
Over here, we have Ville Rantanen, Mankato West’s super sniper. The Finnish foreign exchange student finished first in the state with 48 regular season goals.
Over there, we have Eric Carlson, Albert Lea’s ace marksman. The speedy junior tied for fifth in the state in the regular season with 37 goals.
With Rantanen and Carlson igniting their teams’ offensive fireworks, it would be reasonable to expect every playoff game in the section to be a run-and-gun 9-8 affair.
Reasonable, but wrong.
Rochester Lourdes also resides in Section 1A, and the Eagles do not play a barnstorming style. Mostly they play defense. Tough, tight defense.
The two-time defending section champion and the top seed again this season, Rochester Lourdes enters the playoffs with a 21-3-1 record and No. 3 state ranking in Class 1A.
Rochester Lourdes allowed more three goals just twice this season, including a 6-5 overtime loss to St. Thomas Academy in Inver Grove Heights on Feb. 8.
Sophomore Jason Samuelson is Rochester Lourdes' leading scorer with 35 points. Photo by Helen Nelson
“Usually defense is our bread and butter,” second-year Eagles coach Josh Spaniol said after the loss to the Cadets. “I don’t think we’ve allowed six goals in a game in two years.”
Still, Spaniol wasn’t upset with the Eagles’ performance against St. Thomas Academy. They led for long stretches of the game and repeatedly used their speed to create breakaways and other prime scoring chances.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Spaniol said after the loss.
Sophomore Jason Samuelson leads the Eagles with 21 goals and 35 points. Fellow sophomore Alex Funk has 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) and junior Landon Farrell also ranks second on the team in scoring with 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists).
Propeled by Carlson’s scoring, Albert Lea (18-6-1) won the Big 9 Conference title and earned the section’s No. 2 seed.
No. 3 New Prague (12-11-2) leans heavily on junior goaltender Joe Morris, who had a 2.75 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in the regular season.
Mankato West (15-7-3) finished with the No. 4 seed in the section while No. 5 Red Wing (8-17-0) is always dangerous in the postseason no matter its record.
With a solid corps of defenseman, a veteran goaltender with state tournament experience in Nick Heimer and a group of forwards with speed to burn, the Eagles have all the elements required in a section champion. They also played an ambitious schedule that should pay dividends right about now.
The Scarlets gave top-seeded Rochester Lourdes a scare on Jan. 11 in Rochester, scoring twice in the third period before losing 3-2. State goal-scoring leader Ville Rantanen (48) will assuredly give opposing defenses fits.
2010 – Rochester Lourdes
2009 – Rochester Lourdes
2008 – Mankato West
2007 – Albert Lea
2006 – Mankato East
2005 – Albert Lea
2004 – Albert Lea
2003 – Rochester Lourdes
2002 – Rochester Lourdes
2001 – Rochester Lourdes
2000 – Rochester Lourdes
1999 – Red Wing
1998 – Red Wing
1997 – Red Wing
1996 – Red Wing
1995 – Red Wing
1994 – Farmington