Boys Hockey: Wingers post another shutout on way to semifinalsIt’s been all about how you play in the postseason for Red Wing boys hockey head coach Mike Belisle and on Thursday it appeared like his team got the message.
By: Nick Gerhardt, The Republican Eagle
It’s been all about how you play in the postseason for Red Wing boys hockey head coach Mike Belisle and on Thursday it appeared like his team got the message.
The fourth-seeded Wingers (13-12-1) picked up their third consecutive victory with a 4-0 win in the Section 1A quarterfinals over fifth-seeded Mankato West at Prairie Island Arena in Red Wing in a rematch of last year’s section quarterfinals. Red Wing beat the Scarlets 6-3 last season in Mankato, but this time it was never that close.
The Wingers got a shutout from junior goaltender Preston Blaney for the second consecutive game as he made 16 saves. Blaney made 29 saves Saturday against New Prague in a 1-0 win.
“Defensively it always starts from the net out and Preston’s really been playing well,” Belisle said. “I think that just shows the growth over the entire season with the group. Another part of it has been defensive zone responsibility.”
Red Wing has decreased the amount of opponent odd-man rushes, which has helped fuel its offense.
“That’s what’s paying off because those odd-man rushes killed us early in the season and now they’re not getting as many,” Wingers senior defenseman Jack Strusz said.
Red Wing scored two goals in the final 1 minute, 26 seconds of the first period when junior forward Taylor Hanson redirected a shot from the point at with 1:26 left in the period and sophomore defenseman Michael Bigelbach scored with 42 seconds left on a shot from just inside the blue line to make it 2-0.
In the second period Mankato West put itself behind further with two five-minute major contact to the head penalties. The Wingers, who finished with a paltry 12.9 conversion percentage on the power-play in the regular season, had a 5-on-3 advantage for 4:23 before scoring after the first penalty expired. Alex Rezansoff got credit for the goal off a shot from Strusz. Strusz finished with two assists and senior defenseman Dayton Johnson assisted on three goals. Senior forward Mike Stegora added an empty net goal with 26 seconds left.
“Coaches only ask for one (power-play goal) a game and we got that,” Hanson said. “We did what they wanted.”
Stegora’s goal came on a 5-on-3 power play after the Scarlets took two penalties during a scrum in front of Red Wing’s goal.
Mankato West had four penalties in the second period and two following the five-minute majors for a total of 14 minutes in penalties.
With the win Red Wing moves on to face top-seeded Rochester Lourdes in the semifinals Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Rochester Rec Center. The Eagles have ended the Wingers’ season the last three consecutive seasons. Lourdes beat Red Wing 8-0 in the second game of this season for the Wingers.
The turnaround for Red Wing came on the heels of a four-game losing streak where the team faced No. 1-ranked Hermantown and fourth-ranked Thief River Falls in that stretch. The Wingers also lost to Holy Angels and Chanhassen.
“The positives that come out of a four-game losing streak is groundwork that we laid out in November,” Belisle said. “You don’t see some of that come to fruition until you’re able to be challenged character-wise and locker room-wise with some adversity that really stings and I think you saw that with that four-game losing streak.”
Lourdes advanced to the semifinals with a 7-0 win over Faribault. Albert Lea defeated second-seeded New Prague 2-1 in triple overtime while Northfield won 3-2 over St. Peter/LeSueur-Henderson in the other quarterfinal games.