It was a third place finish for the third-seeded team in the 2016 Minnesota boys Class A state high school hockey tournament Saturday morning as Thief River Falls closed out a memorable 24-7 season with a 4-1 win over St. Paul Academy and Summit School. The fourth-seeded Spartans finished with the same record.
"It's an accomplishment said Thief River Falls coach Tim Bergland, who also guided the Prowlers to a third place showing in 2011. "A great way to finish – with a win."
With both teams trying to shake off the disappointment of Friday semifinals losses when Thief River Falls fell to No. 2 seed Breck School 4-0 and St. Paul Academy and Summit School was roughed up by top-seeded Hermantown 7-1, early success in a 9 a.m. next-day match-up can go a long way in determining the final outcome, acknowledged Bergland, and the Prowlers garnered that edge by grabbing a 2-0 first period lead.
Ethan Johnson took a pass at center ice and scored on a breakaway at 5:36 for goal No. 1. Linemate Lucas Magnusson got the second one on a point-blank rebound at 9:31.
"It can be tough," said Bergland about playing in the third place game. "It's an emotional letdown losing in the semifinals the day before. It's good to get those first goals."
Defenseman Brendan Bushy scored from the point for a 3-0 scoreboard cushion at 4:56 of the second period.
The Spartans stayed in the game, however, when Will Kelly stuffed a rebound inside the left post at 9:19 of the middle stanza.
Thief River Falls wasted little time getting that one back as Kris Joppru notched a goal with a quick shot from between the offensive zone face-off circles at 11:57.
That was all the scoring in a spirited contest that included 14 penalties – eight called on the Spartans and a half-dozen against the Prowlers.
"It was very competitive," noted Bergland. "Both teams took some big hits."
Thief River Falls senior goalie Kade Nelson stepped forward to accept the third place trophy from tournament officials during the post-game awards ceremony on the Xcel Energy Center ice after making 22 saves in his final high school hockey game. Spartans netminder Andrew Beran stopped 26 shots.
"We did some good things," said Bergland. "We played as a team. I was happy."
First period – TRF, Ethan Johnson (Michael Johnson), 5:36; TRF, Lucas Magnusson (Michael Johnson, Brendan Bushy), 9:31.
Second period – TRF, Bushy (Ethan Johnson), 4:56; SPA, Will Kelly (Jack Johnston), 9:19; TRF, Kris Joppru (Ethan Johnson) 11:57.
Goalie saves – TRF, Kade Nelson 10-5-7-22; SPA, Andrew Beran 6-5-15-26.