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Cadets march on to St. Paul

STA grinds out win over Eastview to head back to state

St. Thomas Academy’s Christiano Versich scores the game winner in the Cadets’ 3-1 win over Eastview in the Section 3AA final on Thursday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. (MHM Photo / Jonathan Watkins)

STA grinds out win over Eastview to head back to state

The St. Thomas Academy Cadets will make their return to the State Tournament. After a brief one season absence, the Cadets earned a trip to Xcel Energy Center with a steady 3-1 win over the Eastview Lightning at Ridder Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota on Thursday night.

The Lightning (14-13-1) were not impressed by the long resume the Cadets have built this season, ranked No. 3 in the rankings much of the season behind just Edina and Lakeville North.

Senior Tommy Hutsell opened the scoring at 8:08 of the first period taking a terrific behind the back pass from fellow senior Cole McDevitt and beat Cadet senior goalie Matt Snow for the 1-0 lead.

St. Thomas Academy (24-4-0) owns one of the better possession games in high school hockey and was taken out of it in the first period by the Lightning who displayed a passive yet equally opportunistic forcheck shutting down the high octane offensive producers of the Cadets.

Staying patient, the Cadets were rewarded late in the first period to even the game at one with just 1:07 remaining in the period by senior Alec Broetzman. It was his sixth goal of the section playoffs and 10th point.

The goal energized the Cadets who went work in the second period and took control of the tempo, pace, and scoreboard. After a number of near misses from offensive zone faceoffs in the second period, the Cadets delivered the eventual game winner from a terrific draw by junior Will Jerry.

He pushed the puck through traffic from the right faceoff dot as Colorado College recruit and senior Christiano Versich eluded his coverage and found a puck low in the slot to hammer home for the 2-1 lead beating junior goalie Andrew Stern at 2:45.

Eastview responded in the early going of the third period with a number of chances but Snow made some key and difficult saves from screens, back door, and deflections to preserve the lead. Peter Tufto, a high scoring senior for the Cadets was a benefactor of a loose puck at the Eastview blue line and accelerated past the defense and fired a shot through the five hole of stern for the 3-1 lead with just 3:36 showing on the clock.

Stern made 23 saves in the game and the Lightning delivered a game that forced the Cadets out of their comfort zone. In the process, the Cadets were able to change their game, adjust to the game plan that was being executed before them and deliver their ninth state tournament appearance in school history and first at the Class 2A level.

Pete Waggoner has covered hockey since 1989 and his work includes play-by-play and studio hosting. Currently, he hosts This Week in High School Sport on 1500 ESPN and hosts the Overtime Hockey Podcast at that posts every Monday. His past work has appeared on Sports Radio 105 The Ticket, KFAN Radio,, Fox Sports North Prep Zone, MNHockeyCenter, and to that, Waggoner developed along with Fox9 Twin Cities and was one of the original architects of the from concept to delivery.

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