By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
ROCHESTER — The team that had done it four times before played like it. The newbies, well, they learned a thing or two about playing in a section final.
Rochester Lourdes defeated Mankato West 6-1 in the championship game of the Section 1A boys hockey tournament on Wednesday night at the Rochester Rec Center, earning a fifth consecutive trip to state.
“They had a gear we could not match,” West coach Curtis Doell said.
High-scoring senior Alex Funk had four goals an assist for the Eagles, who outshot the Scarlets 30-18. Defenseman Karl Krecke had three assists.
“They’re great hockey players,” Doell said. “They showed up today and played with a passion and a drive we need to find to make that next step.”
The Scarlets are a young team with just three seniors and have high hopes of being back in the final next season.
“I think this will help a lot,” said junior goalie Jake Spiess, who was brilliant in the first period and stopped 20 of 25 shots before he was taken out in the third, “maybe calm our nerves for next year and be able to capitalize right away and get on top.
“We hope to get to state next year.”
But Spiess and Doell felt for the three seniors — Ryan Jutting, Ryan Lindquist and Nate Krueger — who won’t have that chance.
“I’m sorry for the seniors who couldn’t experience the ultimate dream of playing in the state high school tournament,” Doell said.
Ryan Jutting scored West’s lone goal, which made it 5-1 with about five minutes remaining in the game.
“It’s always tough your senior year,” Jutting said.
The first period was scoreless with the shots even at six apiece. However, Lourdes had the better scoring chances, and Spiess had to be on his game, as he had been throughout the playoffs.
Within the first minute, he stopped a wide-open Jason Samuelson from point-blank range. He also had to track down a loose rebound behind him during a scrum and later make a tricky kick save early on.
The Eagles cranked things up in the second, outshooting West 14-3 and scoring three goals.
Funk, Lourdes’ leading goal scorer, fired in a power-play goal at 5:38. Less than two minutes later, he circled around the back of the West net and threw the puck out front for Griff Slightam to shoot in for a 2-0 lead.
The Scarlets had a great scoring chance late in the period on what appeared to be a perfect set-up from Dylan Leivermann to Cole Filler. But Filler’s stick was lifted by a trailing Eagles player at the last second. Lourdes counterattacked and took the puck to the other end of the ice where Funk redirected a Jason Samuelson shot behind Spiess for a 3-0 lead.
“The second period kind of fell apart for us, which was unfortunate,” Spiess said.
Funk completed the hat trick just 63 seconds into the third period and added a power-play goal later. The senior now has 42 goals and 73 points, while Samuelson, who had two assists, has 74 points, including 48 helpers.
Lourdes (20-8) will advance to its fifth consecutive Class A state tournament.
Mankato West’s season ends with a 22-6 record.