St. Thomas Academy is heading back to the state boys hockey tournament for the second time since opting up in class four years ago thanks to a dominant 7-0 win over Bloomington Jefferson in the Class 2A, Section 3 final Thursday night at Ridder Arena.
“It is really special,” Cadets coach Greg Vannelli said. “It’s a bigger challenge to do it (in Class 2A). Just to win sections feels a little bit like winning the state championship because there are so many good teams.”
A half-dozen St. Thomas Academy players scored goals in the matchup, while goaltender Atticus Kelly recorded 15 saves in the shutout.
Bloomington Jefferson hung around for much of the first period, until St. Thomas Academy (23-4-1) netted a couple goals in the 60 seconds, paving the way for the blowout.
It started when sophomore Brendan McFadden tapped in a pinpoint pass from senior Carter Winkler with 28 seconds left in the first period, and a mere 24 seconds later, the Cadets took a two-goal lead when senior Robbie Stucker finished off a pretty feed from sophomore Rob Christy.
“I feel like it gave us confidence more than it took confidence out of them,” Kelly said. “As soon as we scored that first goal, it felt like it was one after another.”
Well, the floodgates opened from there, as St. Thomas Academy started to pour it on with second-period goals from sophomore Ryan O’Neil and junior Chase Foley, and third-period goals from Rob Christy, and older brother Ray Christy, and Stucker.
It was the latest blowout for St. Thomas Academy, which has awakened in a big way since losing 2-1 to Mahtomedi on Jan. 14. Since that game, the Cadets have outscored opponents 77-12.
“I feel like every team needs an awakening like that,” Vannelli said. “We cruised to the Schwan’s Cup with like one loss. We needed something like that. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Goaltender Evan Redepenning kept Bloomington Jefferson (11-16-1) in the game with 25 saves, though he couldn’t stand out long enough for his team to complete its Cinderella run through the playoffs, a run that featured wins over Eastview and Burnsville.
“It was really a lot of fun,” Jaguars coach Jeff Lindquist said of the run. “Those games were super efforts by the kids. … It was really nice that they stepped up at the right time. I’m very proud of them for that.”
As for the Cadets, after winning five Class A state titles, they will now try to bring home their first Class 2A state title in the history of the program.
“We definitely have what it takes,” Kelly said. “We just have to come out and play our game.”