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Boys hockey: Card boys clinch SWC title

WORTHINGTON — Already holding a 5-1 lead midway through the second period Tuesday night, Luverne’s deep and talented high school varsity boys’ hockey team left no doubt about who is this year’s premier squad in southwest Minnesota.

Aggressively attacking the net, four different Cardinals scored goals in the last 6:45 of the second period, giving LHS a 9-1 lead heading into the final 17-minute period.

Utilizing mostly its third and fourth lines in that third period, Luverne scored two more late goals and left the Worthington Ice Arena with an 11-1 victory over the Trojans, who battled well during most of the game’s first 27 minutes.

Luverne’s victory was the undefeated team’s 19th of the season and improved the Cardinals (19-0-1) to a perfect 9-0 in the six-team Southwest Conference, clinching the league championship as leading contender Marshall (11-8) finished its conference schedule with an 8-2 record.

“This was a good effort by us,” exclaimed fifth-year LHS head coach Derrick Brown, a native of Princeton. “It means a lot because it clinches the conference title for us, in what is the last season of the Southwest. We had solid play from the whole team, as all four of our lines scored goals.”

Worthington scored its lone goal early — at the 3:13 mark — in the second period when junior Andrew Johnson pushed the puck into the net off of assists from Nick Newman and Kody Honius.

That play made the score 5-1, which held up for the game’s next seven minutes.

But then, Luverne’s game-winning surge began with a goal by Cardinal senior Jordan Dingmann at 10:15 —off an assist from senior Travis Frakes, who had his shot deflected by Worthington goalie Alex Purdy.

The Cardinals increased their lead to 7-1 at the 13:55 mark when senior Logan Norman scored a quick goal following a face off in the right circle near the goal. Connor Hoffman and Gunnar Olson —who had scored two first-period goals —were credited with assists on Norman’s 18th goal of the season.

Hoffman made it 8-1 (15:57) with a breakaway goal, after taking assists from Chaz Smedsrud and Frakes.

Just 58 seconds later, Olson completed his hat trick (three goals), taking an assist from Connor Sandbulte and scoring with only five seconds left in the second period.

“Luverne is a talented team from top to bottom,” praised Worthington head coach Nate Grimmius about the Cardinals. “They have a big roster and with four lines, they keep their kids fresh and that makes a difference late in the game.”

Grimmius was pleased with how the Trojans competed early.

“We played well in the first period and most of the second,” he said. “Our kids did a nice job of disrupting Luverne’s rushes in the neutral zone, getting in the passing lanes and disrupting some of their puck movement.”

Grimmius was also pleased with the Trojans only being whistled for one penalty all night.

Luverne did score on the power play during that penalty, as Jackson Frankenhoff —assisted by Erik Tofteland — gave the Cardinals a 4-0 lead late in the first period.

Olson (assist Norman), Smedsrud (unassisted) and Olson (assist Hoffman) had scored Luverne’s first three goals.

The Cardinals two third-period goals were scored by Andrew Jelken (9:33, assist Toby Sengvongxay) and by Smedrud (11:42, assist Andrew Verhey).

Smedsrud’s goal gave him a hat trick for the game and increased his team-leading season goals’ total to 33. He also had an assist Tuesday, giving him 37 for the season, as his total of 70 points tops Luverne’s overall scoring list.

The Cardinals, who have a total of 30 players on their varsity roster, have outscored Southwest Conference opponents by an amazing 86-7 spread, including 6-0 and 3-0 victories over Marshall.

The Trojans, who were defeated by LHS 11-1 at Luverne Dec. 19, have scored two of the seven goals allowed by the Cardinals in nine conference contests.

Purdy made several outstanding stops in the goal for Worthington Tuesday, as the Cardinals peppered 58 shots on goal, compared to just 15 by the Trojans.

Purdy finished with 47 saves.

Worthington (4-14, 1-7) hosts Morris/Benson Saturday.

Luverne 4 5 2 — 11

Worthington 0 1 0 — 1