St. Thomas Academy's Ray Christy (15) went airborne over Minnetonka's Grant Docter in his attempt to score in the closing seconds of regulation. The Cadets eventually prevailed in a shootout. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
It is one thing to stop pucks. That’s what goalies do.
But human flesh and bone? St. Thomas Academy senior Atticus Kelly was confronted with lot of that on Thursday night, too.
Minnetonka threw everything it had at Kelly, including a parade of hard-charging players intent on making themselves at home in Kelly’s crease. The Skippers’ 6-foot, 180-pound Joe Molenaar, in particular, wasn’t shy about invading Kelly’s personal space.
As part of one of the numerous collisions, Kelly’s facemask went flying in the air.
“I was talking to the refs about that, but they weren’t really listening,” said Kelly, who made 30 saves in regulation, two more in overtime and stopped three of four attempts in the shootout to lead the Cadets to the Schwan’s Cup Gold Division championship.
The game ended in a 3-3 tie, and that’s how it will be recorded per Minnesota State High School League rules. The shootout determined who got the championship hardware – not a small thing.
“It’s awesome,” Kelly said. “Looking at all the great teams in the tournament, it feels really good to come out on top.”
“It was good to get a little revenge on those guys,” said St. Thomas Academy junior Rob Christy, who scored the decisive goal in the shootout.
Minnetonka (10-0-2), ranked No. 2 in Class 2A in the latest state coaches’ poll, beat St. Thomas Academy 5-4 in overtime back on Nov. 24 in the season opener for both teams. The No. 3-ranked Cadets (8-1-1) haven’t lost since.
Kelly, who missed that first game against Minnetonka with an ankle injury, is a major reason for the Cadets’ success. He has a 5-0-1 record, sparkling 1.91 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. He’s widely considered one of the top senior goaltenders in the state.
“When Atticus is behind us, it is going to take a wrecking ball to get the puck behind him,” Christy said.
Kelly could breathe easy in the shootout because, by rule, players aren’t allowed to use crashing into him as a scoring technique. Minnetonka sophomore Bobby Brink, who scored twice in the third period, was the only Skipper to beat Kelly in the shootout.
“I was really confident,” Kelly said. “I was trusting my teammates to score, and I was trusting myself to make the saves.”
St. Thomas Academy co-head coach Greg Vannelli saw the same shootout scenario unfold back in 2012, when the Cadets lost to Hill-Murray in the Gold Division championship after the teams were tied 3-3 through overtime.
“Even though there is no win or loss in that deal, you do feel disappointed in the moment that you lost,” Vannelli said. “Then you kind of get over it after a week or so.”
This time Vannelli was most pleased that his Cadets proved, yet again, they could go toe-to-toe with one of the state’s elite teams.
“At this time of year you want to show that you can play with anybody,” he said. “And we confirmed that.”
Minnetonka coach Sean Goldsworthy had pretty much the same take on the outcome.
“If we play them 10 times I would imagine we are probably going to go to overtime eight or nine times,” Goldsworthy said. “That’s a good team, and that’s what we expected.
“We feel like we have played the toughest schedule in the state to date, and we’re undefeated. I’m really proud of my kids, there’s nobody looking at their shoes tonight in Minnetonka.”
Kelly, at some point, might take inventory of his bumps and bruises. Not that any of the rough stuff bothered him.
“It happens, I guess,” he said with a shrug. “It’s part of the game. You have to be able to adjust and stand your ground.”
St. Thomas Academy's Rob Christy (11) flipped the puck over the pads of Minnetonka goalie Charlie Glockner to clinch the Cadets' shootout victory in the Schwan's Cup Gold final. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Junior forward Rob Christy scored the decisive goal in a shootout, and senior goaltender Atticus Kelly was spectacular in stopping three of the four shooters he faced (not to mention 29 combined shots in regulation and overtime) as St. Thomas Academy won the Schwan’s Cup Gold Division championship on Thursday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
The teams skated to a 3-3 tie through regulation and an 8-minute overtime session, forcing the shootout that started with three shooters per team. St. Thomas Academy’s Payton Matsui and Minnetonka’s Bobby Brink each scored in the shootout, which then went to a sudden-death format.
That meant that when Kelly stopped Minnetonka’s Luke Loheit and Christy beat Minnetonka’s Charlie Glockner, the Cadets (8-1-1), ranked No. 3 in the Class 2A coaches' poll, had secured not only their second Gold Division championship but a measure of payback for a season-opening overtime loss to the No. 2-ranked Skippers (10-0-2).
Brink, a sophomore, scored twice in the third period, including the tying goal with 1:54 remaining in regulation, to help Minnetonka dig out of a two-goal deficit and force the overtime period. Matsui, a senior, also scored in regulation and added an assist for the Cadets.
Glockner finished with 26 saves for the Skippers.
St. Thomas Academy killed a penalty for too many men on the ice in the overtime period and had a 5-2 advantage in shots in the extra session.
Minnetonka's Joe Molenaar (10) battled a pair of St. Thomas Academy defenders to put this shot on goalie Atticus Kelly. Kelly won this time, but Molenaar did score in the game. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
St. Thomas Academy goalie Atticus Kelly batted away a shootout attempt by Minnetonka's Luke Loheit to set up Rob Christy's game-winner on the Cadets' next attempt. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
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