Boys Hockey: Wingers conquer Lourdes in OT, reach section finals
ROCHESTER — If nothing else, Tyler DeFore is persistent.
During Saturday’s Section 1A semifinal against second-seeded Rochester Lourdes, DeFore’s attempts to score through the five-hole on Eagles’ goaltender Adam Renn came up unsuccessful.
In overtime, tied 3-3, DeFore tried to give it the ol’ college try one more time.
“The goalie kept saving me on the five-hole and I decided, ‘Why not,’” DeFore said. “And sure enough, I got another bounce.”
The puck finally snuck through and for the second straight game, DeFore was the hero for third-seeded Red Wing in a 4-3 victory, sending the Wingers to the section finals for the first time since 2010.
“The pressure he feels to excel and to be a leader doesn’t make him nervous. It makes him excited,” Wingers co-head coach Anthony Boser said of DeFore. “And that’s exciting for me as a coach to work with a kid like that in those situations, he wants the puck. He wants the puck on his stick and he wants to be the guy that’s counted on to make it happen. I haven’t met a lot of kids in my day that can manifest something that they want on the ice, and Tyler has a way of making things magically happen when we really need him.”
Now, the Wingers will try to punch a state ticket for the seventh time in school history and the first time since reaching the state finals in 2002 at 7 p.m. Wednesday against top-seeded Northfield. The Raiders reached the section finals after beating fifth-seeded Mankato East in overtime Saturday, 3-2.
“Everyone’s confident in each other and we know we can come out and beat any team,” said Red Wing goalie Zach Harding, who had 39 saves on Saturday.
The first period went nearly perfect for the Wingers after building a 2-0 lead. Seth Cushing got the scoring going at 5 minutes, 36 seconds, with an assist from DeFore. DeFore popped in his first goal of the game at 13:35, with Jack Maroushek adding a helper.
But Red Wing knew that lead probably wouldn’t last. The Eagles came into Saturday’s game outscoring opponents 40-23 in the second period this season.
“We knew they were going to come really hard in the second,” Boser said. “They were going to put up a big push.”
Lourdes tied the game early in the second, with a Jared Anderson goal at 2:07, followed by a power-play goal from Joe Macken after Ryan Swanson was sent to the penalty box for slashing.
Cam Blue gave the Wingers a short 3-2 lead after an unassisted goal at 8:50 before the Eagles tied the game again at 12:34 thanks to a Collin Williams goal.
Lourdes outshot Red Wing 28-8 in the second period, and that total could have been higher had the Wingers’ defense come up with a few blocks along the way.
In a way, Harding liked the Eagles’ onslaught. After Lourdes got five shots off in the first, he was finally able to get into a groove. Harding did not give up a goal the rest of the way.
“I actually kind of liked it. First period, I didn’t take too much. Then the second period, I kind of got into a zone,” Harding said. “They kept throwing pucks at me and let me get a feel for the puck. … For example, I see Drew Bjorngaard over there, and he’s banged up and he was blocking shots all day for me. As a goalie, I can’t thank my teammates enough.”
Along with Harding’s impression of a concrete wall, Red Wing’s penalty kill was vital on Saturday as the Eagles were 1-for-6 with the man advantage.The first time the two teams met on Feb. 2, Lourdes was 3-for-4 on the power play en route to a 9-2 victory.
“Honestly, we got a big of a wakeup call during that first Lourdes game,” Boser said. “We saw their power play and how good they were, and our guys took a real serious look at what they needed to do both individually and in our system to be successful there. Our guys rotated well and communicated even better so that if one guy was a little late getting back, we had another player who could fill that position until we could make that up. Our penalty kill was about grit and perseverance and communication.”
The Wingers caught a break early in the third when a Lourdes goal by Montana Streit was waved off. After the scoreless third period, the season came down to sudden-death overtime. After the three-goal, two-overtime comeback in the quarterfinals, Red Wing had a familiar confidence return before the start of the extra period.
“It was very relieving that we were in the same situation the other night,” DeFore said. “We had confidence going into this overtime period that we could do it again. We’ve been through it. Everyone bought in and we were successful.”
The Wingers got another stroke of luck when Lourdes’ Stephen Benner was sent to the box for interference. Seventy-one seconds later, DeFore’s five-hole goal sealed a section finals berth.
“Tyler is really clutch. He’s a heck of a player and he’s got a motor like no other,” Harding said. “As a senior, he didn’t want to give up.”
Boser added, “Here’s the deal: It wasn’t a big shock that we were going to be in a dogfight here. I didn’t think anyone in the building had a feeling that we were even going to be tied 3-3 going into that third period. But we did. I was very proud of our effort and our persistence to, honestly, hang on tooth and nail. It doesn’t always have to be pretty. … I thought our guys did a good job keeping their heads and staying cool under pressure.”