St. Michael-Albertville boys’ hockey picked up its biggest hardware of the season over the holidays, cruising to a 3-0 record at the Schwan’s Cup Tournament and topping traditional powers Blake and Anoka en route to the Bronze Division Championship.
After a two-game losing skid in the middle of December – the Knights (8-2 overall, 3-1 in conference) dropped a conference tilt to rival Monticello-Annandale-Maple Lake and a Section match-up with perennial state tournament qualifier Duluth East 4-3 in overtime – STMA has ripped off four straight wins behind a newfound offensive punch and the steady play of sophomore Kyle Haden in net.
At the Schwan’s Cup, the Knights knocked off Champlin Park in the opening round, 4-1, to get things rolling. STMA moved into the Bronze Division semifinals with a convincing 4-2 win over Blake, with top scorers Logan Nelson and Tucker Bjorlin leading the way on offense.
The Knights opened the scoring in the first period behind Bjorlin, who scored with the Knights at even strength. They’d build the lead to 2-0 behind Connor Greenwood’s power play goal in the second period, before Blake answered to cut the game to 2-1.
Zach Erickson scored in the second period, again on the power play, to create the 3-1 margin, but Blake would answer, to cut the margin to 3-2, before Nelson capped the win in the third period with a goal at even strength to give the Knights at 4-2 lead.
That meant the Knights moved on to a championship game on the campus of the University of Minnesota, as STMA squared off with Anoka for the Bronze Division crown.
The Tornadoes would take the lead in the third minute of the first period, but a power play goal by Zach Erickson would even things up just moments later. Then, Nelson would strike in the second period, scoring the game winner on another power play, as the Knights capitalized all tournament with the man advantage.
Bjorlin would ice the game with a shorthanded goal in the third period’s opening minute, staking STMA to a 3-1 lead, and then Nelson would have his first multi-goal game of the tourney with a third period goal to create the final margin.
Coach Jerr Johnson’s club opened eyes prior to the Schwan’s Cup, taking Duluth East to overtime in mid-December before falling on the road. STMA has been hot ever since, with Hayes’ steady play – he had 38 saves in a win over Chanhassen and 23 more in the championship win over Anoka – leading the Knights’ defense. Nelson leads the Knights with 18 points on offense, with Bjorlin right behind with 15, but the Knights have put together two solid lines to lead their attack.
The Knights battle East Ridge at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3 at the STMA Arena in Albertville for their first game since the tourney championship. They’ll dive back into Mississippi 8 Conference with a Jan. 8 game at home vs. Princeton. The puck drops at 7 p.m. for that contest.