After carrying the heartache of losing a section championship game for an entire year, the Mankato West boys hockey team hoped it could finally put that pain behind it on Thursday night at the Rochester Recreation Center.
“So many of us were here last year,” senior captain and defenseman Max Mettler said. “We have 12 seniors who know that feeling and have had that feeling since the final buzzer last year.”
But the Scarlets couldn’t exorcize those emotions, as they fell 3-2 to top-seeded New Prague in this year’s Section 1A final.
West, the tournament's second seed, outshot New Prague 34-15. But, for two periods, they simply couldn’t get the puck past junior goaltender Conner Wagner, who stopped all 27 shots he faced over the first 35 minutes as his team built a 3-0 lead.
The Scarlets mounted a furious comeback in the third period, scoring both of its goals, including one from Mettler, but they couldn’t get the equalizer.
“It sucks, but I can honestly say that my team, coach (Curtis) Doell’s team, left everything out on the ice,” Mettler said. “I’m proud of how this team played.”
Senior forward Cole Filler scored the West’s other goal. Junior goalie Conor Wollenzien stopped 12 shots on the loss.
“It’s a special group of kids,” Doell said. “They’ve battled hard for three, some guys four, years. They wanted nothing more than to represent Mankato and Mankato West hockey at the Xcel Energy Center. They gave everything they had to try to get to the big dance. ...
"It's a hard pill to swallow."
New Prague led 1-0 after one period, getting a power-play goal from Austin Kilian at the 11:00 mark.
The Scarlets outshot the Trojans 11-6 in the period, but Wagner was on his game from the first minute.