St Thomas Academy's Chase Foley (17) battles an Eden Prairie skater on Dec. 27 in a semifinal game of the Schwan's Cup tournament. Foley ended the game with an overtime winner, giving the Cadets a 5-4 victory. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine
Coaches typically aren’t thrilled when they see their defensemen cheating down from the blue line, getting closer and closer to the net and farther and farther away from their primary responsibility -- playing defense.
Especially not in overtime, when a single mistake can mean the game is over.
But there was St. Thomas Academy senior Chase Foley, a defenseman playing the role of a forward, creeping down the slot and gliding closer and closer to the Eden Prairie goal.
“He must have saw something,” St. Thomas Academy co-head coach Greg Vannelli said. “I don’t know why he was that low, but thankfully he was.”
That, “No, no, no … yes!” moment for Vannelli ended with Foley firing the puck past Eagles goaltender Andrew Dietrich, a goal with 1:40 left in the extra period that boosted the Cadets to a 5-4 victory in the Schwan’s Cup Gold Division semifinals on Wednesday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
St. Thomas Academy (8-1-0), ranked No. 3 in Class 2A in the latest state coaches’ poll, on Thursday will be making its fourth Gold Division championship game appearance in six years. The Cadets lost 4-2 to Edina in last year’s title game. They beat Burnsville 3-0 to win the championship in 2014.
A former center who was converted to a defenseman two years ago, Foley’s job is to play solid defense first and provide an offensive spark whenever possible. That might mean rushing the puck out of his defensive zone. That might mean joining the Cadets’ forwards on a rush. That might mean picking the most opportune of times to be attracted to the opposing goal like a moth to a flame.
“You have to be smart, pick your spots on when to go,” The 5-foot-9, 154-pound Foley said about managing his offensive forays. “Especially in overtime when you are tired. So you have to pick your spots, maybe just one or two times in overtime.”
Foley’s goal -- his second of the season -- goes along with six assists. Last season he had nine goals and 20 assists for 29 points in 30 games.
“He’s just really solid,” Vannelli said. “He’s an offensive defenseman, he gets a lot of ice time … we kind of go as he goes.”
It was an up-and-down game for the Cadets, who led 2-0 early but saw Eden Prairie (5-4-0) seize the momentum for long stretches of the second and third periods (the Eagles outshot the Cadets 38-25). And just when it looked like St. Thomas Academy was going to eke out a 4-3 victory, the Eden Prairie’s Carson Jones scored with 2:22 left in regulation to force the overtime period.
“The kids never quit, they played great all the way to the end,” Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said. “They showed a lot of character.”
So, too, did St. Thomas Academy. At least that’s the way Foley saw it. He said his Cadets’ teammates were never discouraged despite the repeated Eden Prairie comebacks.
“Nah, that is what is so special about our team this year,” Foley said. “We never get down on each other, we are always positive.”
Senior defenseman Chase Foley scored with 1:40 left in overtime on Wednesday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis to vault St. Thomas Academy past Eden Prairie 5-4 and into the Schwan’s Cup Gold Division championship game.
Foley fired a shot through the leg pads of Eden Prairie goaltender Andrew Dietrich to give the Cadets (8-1-0), ranked No. 5 in the state Class 2A coaches’ poll, the victory over the No. 11-2A Eagles (5-4-0) in the semifinal matchup.
Eden Prairie’s Carson Jones forced the overtime period by scoring with 2:22 left in regulation. Jones’ goal marked the third time the Eagles rallied to tie the score, and they never held the lead.
Brendan McFadden and Luke Herzog scored in the first period to give St. Thomas Academy an early 2-0 lead, but Eden Prairie rallied with goals by John Mitttelstadt and Jack Jensen in the final 1:31 of the opening period to tie the sore at 2.
St. Thomas Academy’s Cade Huntley and Eden Prairie’s Chris Konin exchanged goals in the first 2:30 of the second period to tie the score at 3, and power-play goal by the Cadets’ Ryan O’Neill made it 4-3 entering the third.
Eden Prairie controlled play throughout much of the second and third periods and finished with a 38-25 advantage in shots on goal. Senior Atticus Kelly made 34 saves for the Cadets, while Dietrich had 20 saves for the Eagles.
The Gold Division title game appearance in the state’s most prestigious holiday tournament will be the fourth in six years for St. Thomas Academy. The Cadets lost 4-2 to Edina in last year’s title game. They beat Burnsville 3-0 to win the championship in 2014.
Cadet goaltender Atticus Kelly (30) warms up among circling Eden Prairie players. Kelly faced 37 shots in the 5-4 overtime win. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine
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