Wednesday, March 07, 2007

St. Thomas 5 Orono 2

Orono High School gave St. Thomas Academy a scare in the first round of last year’s Minnesota State High School Tournament by taking the Tommies to overtime. Midway through their quarterfinal game on Wednesday, it looked as though Orono would give St. Thomas another run for their money, before a two-goal burst in the second period helped lead St. Thomas to a 5-2 victory.

St. Thomas controlled the play early, and looked as though they would easily cruise past the Spartans. St. Thomas started the game by taking 11 of the first 12 shots, and got a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from junior Nick Larson and senior James Saintey.

Despite the early disparity in play, Orono hung in the game. Senior goalie Taylor Peterson helped his team stay in the game by making a number of outstanding saves. Peterson finished the game with 31 saves on 36 shots, with three of St. Thomas’ goals coming off rebounds. Senior Alex Pacovsky beat St. Thomas goalie Aaron Crandall down low at 15:14 of the first period to bring the Spartans within one goal, on Orono’s second shot of the game. Orono would catch another break early in the second period when they were given a 5-on-3 powerplay. It took just 8 seconds of powerplay time for senior Pat McClure to fire a slap shot from the point that beat a screened Crandall, on just the fourth shot of the game for Orono.

“There was a little tension and a little frustration,” said St. Thomas forward Anders Lee, referring to the tie score, despite St. Thomas holding a huge advantage in shots on goal.

“It helped that we got off to a good start,” said St. Thomas co-head coach Rob Vannelli. “If we hadn’t gotten out to that 2-0 lead, it might have been different”

St. Thomas regained their lead at 13:18 of the second period when James Saintey scored his second goal of the game, this time on the powerplay. Teammate Anders Lee added another goal just 31 seconds later to close out the period.

St. Thomas added a fifth goal early in the third period on a powerplay goal from Christian Isackson, but mainly relied on stellar goaltending from Crandall. After making 4 stops on just 6 shots in the first two periods, Crandall stopped all 15 shots he faced in the third period.

With five minutes to play in the third period, Crandall’s blocker came off during a scrum in front of the net, and his right index finger was cut with a skate.

“They couldn’t give me stitches because the skin peeled off,” said Crandall, after visiting the training when the game was over.

Luckily for St. Thomas, the injury should not force Crandall, who has started all but two games this season for the Tommies, to miss any time.

“I’m sure he’s going to play,” said coach Vannelli.

The Tommies will advance to the state semi-finals where they will The Marshall School of Duluth as they try to defend their Class A state title against the team they beat in last year’s final.

“There’s been a bullseye on our back all season and I think we handle it well,” said Saintey.