Boys Hockey: Lourdes surges past Wingers in semifinalsThe ending seemed all too familiar for Red Wing.
By: Nick Gerhardt, The Republican Eagle
ROCHESTER - The ending seemed all too familiar for Red Wing.
The Wingers lost 5-3 Saturday in the Section 1A semifinals to ninth-ranked Rochester Lourdes at the Rec Center for the fourth consecutive season despite controlling stretches of the game.
Two turnovers in the defensive zone allowed the Eagles to capitalize in the third period and move on to the section championship game.
“It’s just hard to take right now because it was right there for us to take,” Red Wing senior Mike Stegora said.
At times it was right there for the Wingers, but Lourdes forward Jason Samuelson slammed the door in the third period.
Samuelson scored twice in the third period for the Eagles (19-8) and Ryan Nicolay added an empty-net goal. Samuelson scored with 4 minutes, 35 seconds left to play to make it 3-2 and added another goal with 2:16 left after a turnover right in front of the Red Wing goal.
Samuelson’s goals came because of defensive lapses and marred an otherwise stout defensive effort for the Wingers, who made playing the body a priority.
“Something we stressed was putting the body on them because it’s not a team that likes physical play and that top line’s as fast as they come,” senior defenseman Jack Strusz said. “So you put a body on them as much as you can and you slow them down as best you can.”
Preston Blaney made 24 saves for Red Wing (13-13-1) and stopped a number of point-blank shots and a breakaway. Blaney’s elevated play was a big reason the Wingers reached the semifinals and his effort wasn’t lost on teammates.
“Preston’s come a long ways,” Stegora said. “At the beginning of the season you could tell he was pretty shaky, he wasn’t very confident in himself. After this season he’s going to be a very good goaltender. He stepped it up a lot.”
Strusz scored two goals and had an assist for Red Wing while Alex Rezanzoff added another as the Wingers made the first meeting between the team seem like eons ago.
“We came ready to fight until the bitter end and that’s what we did – there’s no question about it,” Red Wing head coach Mike Belisle said.
In the second game of the season Lourdes pounded Red Wing for an 8-0 win, in a game where the Eagles’ speed proved too much for the Wingers to handle. Red Wing found a way to deal with speed and much more through the course of the season and turned in a remarkable effort in the second meeting.
“That’s what it comes down to – that you’re your best when sections hits,” Strusz said. “That’s what we strive for every year and we were there, it’s just our best wasn’t good enough today.”
The Wingers took a 2-1 lead in the first period on Strusz’s first goal of the game at the 13 minute, 26 second mark. But Lourdes rallied to tie the game with a power-play goal from Karl Krecke with 11 seconds left in the period.
Red Wing had a chance to take a lead in the second period when it went on a 5-on-3 power play for 45 seconds but the Wingers failed to convert. Red Wing finished 0-for-2 on the power play but outshot the Eagles 9-5 in the period.
Twenty-two seconds after Samuelson gave Lourdes a 4-2 lead, the Wingers brought pulled Blaney for an extra attacker on a faceoff inside the Eagles’ zone. Strusz connected on a shot from the top of the left circle to cut it to 4-3. Nicolay’s empty-netter came with 16.5 seconds left in the game.
Lourdes outshot Red Wing 29-27 but the Wingers had several missed opportunities on pucks through the slot.
“We were just throwing shots from all over and a few of them went in,” Strusz said. “We just weren’t there at the right time to get a stick on the puck.”