by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Rogers Royals are not likely to extend their string of conference titles this year, and will probably finish under .500 as well, but they are picking up some steam late in the season.
The Royals pummeled Monticello-Annandale-Maple Lake 4-1 at home Saturday, their fifth win in the last seven games, against a team that beat them 4-2 earlier.
The Royals, who were 2-6-1 at one point, are now 10-11-2 overall, and 4-3 in conference. MAML is also 4-3 in conference. Buffalo is 5-2 with only Cambridge-Isanti (1-6) left so the Bison are likely to end Rogers’ string of three conference titles.
“We’ve finally got our full lineup back,” said coach Tim Marchand. “After our first game, when we had everybody, we haven’t had a full lineup … We’ve had the most injuries I’ve ever experienced (as coach).”
The Royals were also breaking in a new lineup this year, learning on the job, with 11 guys graduating last year.
“You have to be able to get up to speed on the pace of the game and physically of the game and transition of the game,” said Marchand. “But mostly it was all the injuries.”
He listed Kyle Ellis, Travis Brown, Jake Good, Spencer Marchand, Nate Weber and Blake Timm as players who’ve missed multiple games due to injury or illness.
Against Buffalo, the Royals failed to hold a two-goal lead both times, losing 4-2 and 6-4. “We had some turnovers late in both games that unfortunately caused us the game. We have been the better team in every Mississippi 8 game, in my opinion, and we lost three of them.”
The home game vs. MAML was more like Marchand envisioned the whole season.
The Royals outshot the Moose 28-11 in the first two periods and took a 3-1 lead as Nate Weber scored in the first period, and Travis Brown and Jason Roberge (power play) in the second period.
“In the first two periods we were limiting their shots and keeping them out of their prime scoring areas. We executed nice defensive zone coverage. We played defense first and executed in the offensive zone when it needed to be done.”
MAML outshot Rogers 10-6 in the third but the Royals got the lone goal on a breakaway by Alexander Lorman. Birk Olson had the MAML goal in the second period.
Rogers goalie Blake Ternus stopped 20 of 21 shots. Darien Jones of MAML stopped 30 of 34. Lorman also assisted on two Rogers goals. Spencer Marchand, Matt Hellickson, Blake Timm, John Stanley and Branden Cecil had an assist each.
When the Royals were 2-6-1, they had lost four straight to teams still ranked in the top 10 — Breck, Totino-Grace, Little Falls and Hermantown— by a combed 32-9.
“The kids don’t like to lose,” said Marchand, “but they understand we have been playing some really, really good teams, especiallu those first nine games, and that’s when we had a lot of injuries, too.”
Rogers section will have different dynamic this year with perennial champion Hermantown probably relegated to No. 2 seed due to a loss to St. Cloud Cathedral, and with Princeton having the best team they’ve fielded in years probably slipping ahead of Rogers in the seedings as well. Rogers is a likely four seed after getting No. 2 in recent years.
The Royals will play St. Cloud Cathedral on Tuesday, then close the regular season and conference schedule hosting STMA on Thursday.