TROJAN BOYS HOCKEY: Top-seeded Luverne advances to semifinals with dominate win over WorthingtonLUVERNE — Scoring nine goals in the second period, the No. 1-seed Luverne Cardinals broke apart a 2-1 contest after 17 minutes, earning a 12-1 Section 3A quarterfinal win over the eighth-seeded Worthington Trojans Thursday night at Blue Mound Arena.
By: Lance Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Scoring nine goals in the second period, the No. 1-seed Luverne Cardinals broke apart a 2-1 contest after 17 minutes, earning a 12-1 Section 3A quarterfinal win over the eighth-seeded Worthington Trojans Thursday night at Blue Mound Arena.
Jonny Solma recorded a hat trick (three goals) to lead the Cardinals, while Skyler Wenninger added five points (two goals, three assists). Toby Sengvongxay (one goal three assists) and Gunnar Olson (one goal, three assists) each totaled four points, while Logan Norman (two goals, one assist) and Austin Maxwell (one goal, two assists) each had three points for Luverne.
“We started off slow and then we picked it up in the second period and scored nine goals,” Solma said. “We just had to keep putting (the puck) on goal. It was frustrating for a while there (in the first period).”
Luverne dominated the time of possession early and assaulted the Worthington net with shot after shot only to be denied by Trojans’ goalie Rylan Scholtes (55 saves).
“We knew Rylan (Scholtes) is a really good goalie,” Luverne co-head coach Derrick Brown said. “He really played well in that first period. We weren’t moving the puck as well as we would’ve liked.”
Worthington killed off two Luverne power plays that resulted in a 5-on-3 advantage for the Cardinals 6 minutes in. The Trojans nearly killed off another pair of penalties minutes later, but the Cardinals finally broke the seal when Maxwell scored from the high slot off a Chaz Smedsrud assist at 11:56. Fourteen seconds later, Solma backhanded in a rebound for his first goal with Wenninger and Connor Hoffman recording the helpers.
Worthington, which didn’t record a shot on goal through the first 12 minutes, finally fired a shot on Luverne’s Kendall Meyer (10 saves) when Andrew Johnson shot with 4:13 left in the frame. Luverne attempted to clear the zone, but Levi Leach gathered a steal off a Cardinal defender and rifled the puck between Meyer’s pads to cut Luverne’s lead in half at 12:57.
“That first period was a little slow and we had to figure out that we needed to make (Scholtes) move or he’s hot otherwise,” Wenninger said. “So we had to make (Scholtes) move and we ended up putting some home and shutting (Worthington) down.”
With a 2-1 lead after one period, Luverne held a 23-3 shots on goal differential with WHS. The Cardinals outshot the Trojans by a 67-11 margin in the game.
“We weren’t nervous, but we were getting a little frustrated,” Brown said off the Cardinals’ slim lead. “So it was good to see the second period with us coming out and burying some pucks.”
Luverne came out of the first intermission and extended the lead to 3-1 49 seconds into the second when Hoffman scored right after a Cardinals’ penalty expired with an assist to Sengvongxay.
A 5-minute major penalty was assessed to the Trojans 4 minutes into the second and the Cardinals capitalized by scoring four goals to extend the lead to 7-1. Wenninger, Sengvongxay, Olson and Solma all potted goals during the advantage.
“We’ve been working on the power play a lot,” Wenninger said. “That 5-minute major really helps you out this year. After you score those goals, it’s really a momentum shift.”
Luverne used that momentum to add three more goals before the end of the second period as Wenninger scored his second goal at 13:21, Norman was set up on a power play by Sengvongxay and Olson at 14:07 and Jordan Dingmann lit the lamp to make it 11-1 with 22 seconds left before the second intermission by tipping in a Ryan Krueger shot.
“We started moving the puck around better on the power play in the second period,” Coach Brown said. “When we are moving the puck and finding corners of the net, good things are going to happen. That’s just our kids getting their head up and finding those places in the net.”
Norman finished the game’s scoring with 6 ½ minutes left in the third with Olson and Smedsrud each notching assists.
Worthington, which was limited in its chances throughout the game, managed to put five pucks on goals in the final period, with most of shots coming from its own end.
“Hats off to Luverne, they are a good squad,” Worthington head coach Nate Grimmius said. “They have good depth, they’re quick, they’re good at moving the puck and they have a heavy forecheck.
“We knew that was coming and we knew that (Luverne) would cycle low with their nice, heavy forecheck. All we could do was try to protect the slot and keep the puck out and try to pick up guys in front of the net.
“I thought we were pretty successful with that and we got (Luverne) frustrated in the first period. However, a lot of calls didn’t go our way and we had a lot of penalties. That’s going to cost you — it cost us all year and, again, penalties caught up to us.”
Worthington was 0-for-2 on power plays, while Luverne capitalized on 4 of 9 man-advantages with the four goals coming on the major penalty in the second.
“We tried as hard as we could,” Scholtes said. “But (Luverne) is a pretty good team. If you shoot enough, you’re going to score. Penalties hurt us and (Luverne) took advantage.”
Worthington ended its year with a 4-16-0 record.
“It’s a tough one for the seniors to lose this way, but it was nice to get that last win (over Fairmont) on our home ice. I’ll miss our seniors (Isaac Kruse, Jacob Oberloh, Leach, Sam Mills, Mitchell Shreiner, Jacob Molden, Seth Meier and Scholtes).”
Luverne, which improved to 22-3-1 overall, advances to the Section 3A semifinals, where the Cardinals will meet the fourth-seeded Marshall Tigers (12-10-1), who topped No. 5-seed Windom Area 4-0 Thursday.
Luverne and Marshall were co-champions of the Southwest Conference with 8-2-0 league records this season. The teams split the season series with each squad winning on the road (4-1 Marshall in Luverne on Dec. 4 and 7-0 Luverne in Marshall on Jan. 3).
The rubber match between Luverne and Marshall will be played Saturday in St. Peter at Gustavus Adolphus College. Game time is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Section 3A championship on Wednesday, also at Gustavus Adolphus.
“Marshall plays really hard,” Brown said. “They have a couple of really good seniors on their team and they have a good top line. They have a battle-tested goalie. It’s going to be a battle. We would expect nothing less from (Marshall).”
Worthington 1 0 0 — 1
Luverne 2 9 1 — 12
First Period: 1. Luverne, Maxwell (Smedsrud), 11:56, pp; 2. Luverne, Solma (Wenninger, Hoffman), 12:10; 3. Worthington, Leach (Unassisted). Penalties: Shreiner, Worthington (Roughing), 6:02; Heidebrink, Worthington (Interference), 6:42; Oberloh, Worthington (Hooking), 9:08; Newman, Worthington (Tripping), 10:32; Maxwell, Luverne (Tripping), 15:39.
Second Period: 4. Luverne, Hoffman (Sengvongxay), 0:49; 5. Luverne, Wenninger (Frakes, Maxwell), 5:23, pp; 6. Luverne, Sengvongxay (Olson), 5:50, pp; 7. Luverne, Solma (Wenninger, Maxwell), 7:27, pp; 8. Luverne, Olson (Norman), 8:43; 9. Luverne, Solma (Sengvongxay, Wenninger), 11:14, pp; 10. Luverne, Wenninger (Unassisted), 13:21; 11. Luverne, Norman (Sengvongxay, Olson), 14:07, pp; 12. Luverne, Dingmann (Krueger), 16:38. Penalties: Kruse, Worthington (Interference), 3:07; Oberloh, Worthington, Major (Boarding), 4:06; Heidebrink, Worthington, Misconduct (Unsportsmanlike Conduct), 8:43; Baumhoefner, Worthington (Cross-checking), 10:41; Sterrett, Luverne (Interference), 11:50; Meier, Worthington (Slashing), 13:05.
Third Period: 13. Luverne, Norman (Olson, Smedsrud), 10:30. Penalties: Molden, Worthington (Roughing), 14:30.
Shots On-Goal: Worthington 3-3-5—11; Luverne 23-30-14—67.
Power-Play Opportunities: Worthington 0 of 2; Luverne 4 of 9.
Goalies: Worthington, Scholtes, 67 shots, 55 saves; Luverne, Meyer, 11 shots, 10 saves.