Totino-Grace junior Jack Bonfe had two goals in a 3-1 victory over previously undefeated Luverne on Dec. 22 at home. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine
After graduating 16 seniors from a season ago, Totino-Grace had just one skater that saw significant varsity minutes return to its roster. Add in first-year head coach Brian Murphy, and there wasn’t much similarity for Luverne to recognize from last year’s loss to Totino-Grace.
The end result remained the same Friday night as the Eagles scored a trio of goals in the third period to mount a 3-1 comeback upset over Luverne, ranked No. 12 in the Class 1A coaches’ poll.
“We’re pretty young, so it was a good character win for us to come back late,” Murphy said. “It was good for us to go through some adversity and find how to win a hockey game.”
Totino-Grace’s youthful lineup is exemplified by freshman goalie Will Larson, who played Bantam B1 for Cambridge-Isanti last season, before transferring and moving straight into the varsity lineup.
Larson and the Eagles (4-7-1, 2-2-0) were put to the grindstone early in the season, suffering losses to some of the state’s top teams in No. 1-1A Mahtomedi (4-3 OT), No. 5-1A East Grand Forks (7-0), No. 13-2A Elk River (8-2) and No. 17-2A Maple Grove (6-1).
Larson allowed 13 goals in his first two varsity starts, but put together three strong performances since last Saturday, capped by a 27-save outing against the Cardinals. He stopped 77 of 82 shots in that span.
“Will’s done well. He’s played tough teams, but came in with some clutch saves tonight,” junior forward Jack Bonfe said about Larson’s first career win.
Bonfe was a journeyman defenseman last season for Totino-Grace. He played mostly junior varsity and saw limited varsity ice.
His move to forward this season has paid dividends as he leads the team with nine goals and is tied for a team-best 14 points with Branden Lee. Bonfe has tallied two points in each game this week where the Eagles have gone 2-0-1.
After Nick Harder broke a scoreless tie with 18 seconds left in the second period, Murphy told his team he wanted a complete effort in the final period.
Bonfe netted the tying goal early in the third period of a textbook wrist shot from the point that had just enough hangtime to sail over Luverne (7-1, 7-0) goalie Daniel Tofteland’s leg pad to the ring the right post in.
“It gave me a big sigh of relief and put a big smile on my face,” Larson said of Bonfe’s first goal.
Bonfe’s second goal required some grinding as he tipped a shot in front of the net and beared down on two rebounds before scoring on his third swing.
Totino-Grace has already played half its scheduled games this season as the young lineup has learned on the fly. Over the holiday break, the Eagles will take to practice with no games scheduled until Jan. 6.
Murphy coached Minnetonka’s Bantam AA teams to back-to-back state titles in 2015 and 2016. In those years, his team’s also took down Tier I AAA juggernauts in Shattuck-St. Mary’s and the Chicago Mission.
After taking No. 1-1A Mahtomedi to overtime and having a win against a ranked opponent slip through their grasp, the Eagles’ win over the Cardinals was paydirt for what’s been a foundational year for the program under Murphy.
“We played with a lot of energy in the third, we deserved the win today,” Murphy said. "It's not about winning hockey games, its about developing character on the ice and off the ice, but I felt our efforts showed today."
With Luverne goaltender Daniel Tofteland searching for the puck, Totino-Grace's Jack Bonfe (left) found it on his stick, with an empty net, for his second goal of the game, taking a 2-1 lead. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine
Jack Bonfe netted a pair of goals in the final period to help Totino-Grace upset previously undefeated Luverne 3-1 at Brooklyn Park Community Center Friday night.
Coy Gonnerman broke a scoreless tie with 18 seconds left in the second period as Luverne, ranked No. 12 in the Class 1A coaches’ poll, took the lead into the third period.
Bonfe fired a shot from the point that rang the post and rattled in to tie the game. The junior forward added another goal with under five minutes remaining to give the Eagles (4-7-1, 2-2) their first lead of the game. Branden Lee scored an empty-net goal in the final minute to seal the victory.
Totino-Grace freshman goaltender Will Larson stopped 27 shots in net, while Daniel Tofteland made 28 saves for the Cardinals (7-1, 7-0).
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Luverne's Nick Harder celebrates his second-period goal that broke a 0-0 tie. Totino-Grace went on to score three unanswered goals in the Eagles' victory. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine