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Boys hockey: Cardinals lose (and win) in two OTs

MINNEAPOLIS — On paper, it’s a loss. But it almost feels like a win.

The Luverne Cardinals boys hockey team lost its consolation championship contest 4-3 in two overtimes Saturday morning in the Class A state tournament at Mariucci Arena. But even though they came up a goal short against Totino-Grace, they skated off the ice with a feeling of accomplishment.

The Cardinals, unseeded in the tournament and appearing in their first state tournament in school history, played three teams tooth-and-nail. They defeated Chisago Lakes Area 5-2 on Thursday to become the first Section 3A team ever to win a state tournament game. Their goal was to put Luverne hockey on the map — and southwest Minnesota hockey, too — and when it was all over head coach Derrick Brown called it mission accomplished.

“We’re the small-town USA kids coming from basketball country. And it was kind of scary how so many people were following us all year long. Lots of people became aware of us as we kept up that undefeated record. As we got closer to the tournament, literally we had people driving here from all over just to watch us play,” Brown said.

The Cardinals, who entered the tournament with a 27-0-1 record, lost their opener 6-3 Wednesday to a Hermantown team that finished as the Class A runner-up the previous four years. Their victory over Chisago Lakes Area made history, and their double overtime loss to Totino-Grace — though disappointing — further solidified the fact that the Cards, despite hailing from a section of the state never before respected for its high school hockey, clearly belonged with the best the state had to offer.

Luverne did not come home without hardware. Senior forward Gunnar Olson was named to the all-tournament team. LHS team captain Logan Norman won the Herb Brooks Award for leadership. And Brown was named the Class A Hockey Coach of the Year.

Totino-Grace, making its fifth state tournament appearance but first since 2005, gave up the game’s first goal Saturday as LHS junior Connor Hoffman found net, assisted by Olson, at the 12:21 mark of the first period.

Totino-Grace scored the next two goals, both in the second period, by Joey Brey and Kai Barber.

Luverne bounced back to tie the game at 2-2 when junior Andrew Verhey, on an assist by Jaxon Nelson, scored at 5:19 in period three. Following a Nick Tandeski goal at 11:41, Olson made it 3-3 at 12:23 assisted by Hoffman and Norman.

Luverne out-shot Totino-Grace 6-3 in the first overtime but neither team could break down the other’s defenses. Finally at the 4:04 mark of the second overtime period, Brey, assisted by Brennan Swan and Kyle Brodt, ended the game.

Kendall Meyer, as he has done all year for LHS, tended net. He made 40 saves Saturday.

Altogether, Totino-Grace out-shot Luverne 44-35. The Cardinals out-shot the Eagles 11-10 in the first period, were out-shot 18-6 in the second and were out-shot again 10-9 in the third. Both teams put three shots on goal in the second overtime.

For the game, both clubs were 0-for-1 on power play opportunities. Both teams were penalized two minutes on one infraction.

Brown thought his Cardinals applied good pressure in the first overtime. “A few times the puck was just laying there. Literally, you could see it from the bench. ... But there were no red guys there, and (Totino-Grace) would kick it out before we could get to it,” he said.

The game-winner was scored after the Eagles won a face-off and a defenseman took a shot whereupon Meyer made a save. “It kind of squirted away, and then they put it in on the rebound,” Brown recalled.

“It was a great game. One of the top 10 teams in the state and we skated right with them,” said the LHS mentor, who described Totino-Grace as the stronger team but the Cardinals as the quicker team.

Next season Luverne will be without many seniors who displayed both leadership and talent. But many other talented skaters will return to the program.

“The seniors laid the building blocks, but they’re going to continue to lay the foundation,” Brown said.

Totino-Grace 0 2 1 0 1 — 4

Luverne 1 0 2 0 0 — 3

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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