by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Nate Weber got his faced mushed by a cupcake on Saturday evening after helping the Rogers hockey team beat St. Cloud Cathedral 3-1 before an overflow crowd.
That’s the price you pay for coming up big in a crucial victory and getting interviewed by the local press.
Weber was munching on a cupcake himself, and he just grinned and didn’t miss a beat when a Royal fan sneaked up behind him and rubbed the pastry across his cheeks.
“It was fun. I’m really looking forward to playing Hermantown,” said the 6-3 sophomore forward while about a dozen kids observing the Q and A session, and the prank, had a good laugh.
In the Section 5A finals against No. 9 ranked St. Cloud Cathedral, Weber scored 17 seconds after the faceoff, and again at 8:34 of the first period.
“Nerves are a big part of it for both teams in a game like this, so that first goal was huge,” said coach Tim Marchand. “He just came right down and ripped it from the box and caught the goalie on one end of the net.”
Said Weber, ” I just kind of golfed that one. I just took a swing to see what would happen.”
The 2-0 lead stood for almost two periods. Austin Swingle gave Cathedral a big boost by swooping in for a goal with just seven seconds left in the second period.
However, Rogers kept foiling Cathedral power plays — seven of them — and got a two-goal edge back when Zach Hnath hammered home a big slap shot from down the middle 4:35 into the final period.
No. 2 seeded Rogers (18-6-1) beat the No. 3 Crusaders (20-5) for the second time in two weeks, and earned a section finals rematch against Hermantown on Friday evening at Heritage Arena in Duluth. Hermantown, the lone unbeaten hockey team in the state at 25-0, pounded Proctor 7-0 in the other semifinal.
Hermantown beat Rogers 5-1 in the section finals last year and went on to place second in the state tournament. This year, Rogers scheduled the Hawks for the first time and lost to them by only 2-1 at home on Dec. 17. Only five of Hermantown’s 25 wins have been by one goal (including 2-1 over Cathedral).
“These guys have wanted that game bad, all year,” said Marchand. “Now we’ve got another shot (at Hermantown) and we hope we can take them down, up in Duluth.”
Cathedral was 12-2 in its last 14 games, with both losses against Rogers, the other one 4-3.
The main reason is Rogers penalty kill crew going 11-for-11 in the two Cathedral games, led by Neal Smith, Hnath, Bryan Jungles and Andrew Smith.
“They work it so well, they do exactly what we want done,” said the coach. “They are so fast, and so quick, and they close up the lanes, and feed off each other so well.”
Goalie Robby Vukelich made 28 saves for Rogers and Connor Amundson made 21 for Cathedral. Neal Smith assisted on the first Weber goal, and Jungles assisted on Hnath’s goal.
Cathedral had just one penalty in the game.