by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Rogers hockey team opened its bid for state tournament trip with a 3-1 victory over Legacy Christian, whose goalie made the task much more difficult than the Royals anticipated, on Thursday evening.
Despite raining 62 shots on goal, the Royals didn’t score for the first 31 minutes. Zach Hnath, Travis Brown and Andrew Smith finally broke through, while goalie Keaton Mumm had a leisurely evening with 15 stops.
“We put a lot of shots on net but he kept them in the game,” said Royal coach Tim Marchand about Legacy’s senior netminder Nick Stolarczyk, who finished with 59 saves. “If you don’t get to guy like that right away, he gains confidence … We hoped to jump on him right away but the puck didn’t go in.”
Hnath scored at 13:19 of the second period with a wind-up-and-fire missile from out front, assisted by Brandon Spah and David Miller.
Legacy, which finished 13-11-1, tied the score just 34 seconds late as Brandon Leier got one past Mumm sweeping past the net.
The sudden flurry continued as Travis Brown scored 31 seconds later, at 14:26, drilling one while swooping in from Stolarcyzk’s right, assisted by Bryan Jungles.
The 2-1 lead stuck through most the third period — including a five-minute penalty-kill for Rogers due to a major cross-checking called on Neal Smith. With one other penalty on each side mixed in, Rogers skated 3-on-4 and then 4-on-5 and held on.
Andrew Smith made it 3-1 at 12:11 of the third period with a shot from right in front of the net set up by passes by Nate Weber and Neal Smith. The Royals could finally breathe easy against the Lions after that.
“They are a scrappy club, but we did our job, and didn’t allow many shots on net,” said Marchand.
Elsewhere in Section 5A, unbeaten Hermantown shelled Moose Lake Area 11-1, Proctor nipped Sauk Rapids-Rice 6-5 in overtime, and St. Cloud Cathedral knocked out Princeton 7-2.
In Saturday’s semifinals, No. 2 seed Rogers (19-6-1) will host No. 3 Cathedral (20-5), while Proctor (12-12-1) plays at No. 1 Hermantown (25-0), both 2 p.m.
Cathedral’s only loss in the last 12 games was against Rogers 4-3 in Rogers on Feb. 14, which earned the Royals the right to host the all-important rematch.
“That was a great game — two teams battling very hard for 51 minutes,” said Marchand. “Everyone knew going in that we were playing for the No. 2 or 3 seed. We fortunately came out on top. We earned. It’s very nice to have this game at home.”
Hnath is Royal scoring leader
Hnath, senior forward, has become Rogers all-time point leader and his next goal or assist will put him at 100. He has 46 career goals and 53 assists for 99 points, surpassing the record of 92 points held by Nick Jensen and Josh Provo. Jensen still has the goals record with 53.