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Cretin-Derham Hall forward looks to stay close to home, picks St. Thomas

With roots on the east side of the Twin Cities, and a sister playing college hockey at St. Thomas, Attila Lippai's recent commitment to play for the Tommies post junior hockey should not have surprised too many.

Attila Lippai.JPG
Attila Lippai was a standout forward in the Midwest High School Elite League in 2022 and committed to St. Thomas prior to his senior season of prep hockey at Cretin-Derham Hall.
Sydney Wolf / The Rink Live

ST. PAUL – Since he made the switch from Gentry Academy to Cretin-Derham Hall in 2019, forward Attila Lippai has gotten used to making the trek from his home in Woodbury into St. Paul for school. Recently, he decided that would be the best route for post-juniors hockey as well.

Lippai, who will be a senior for the Raiders as they look for a return trip to the Minnesota state high school tournament in 2023, announced via Instagram that he is headed to St. Thomas, likely after a year of junior hockey.

The announcement capped the summer season in which his game grew immensely while playing in the high school elite league.

“Highly-skilled forward and he’s got a little bit of edge to his game. He’s found another gear to his game this year,” said Cretin coach Matt Funk, who will have Lippai as a senior this season. “He had a tendency in prior years to take nights off. Some nights he’d be the best player on the rink and other nights you wouldn’t see him. He’s turned into a more consistent two-way player.”

Lippai, who turns 18 later this month on Black Friday, jokes that he’d like to believe he’s 5-foot-9 but he might not be that big. Still, he has learned to love the “gritty” part of the game, thriving in traffic.

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“I’d like to say I’m a skill guy, but as you level up in hockey you’ve got to be a little grittier, so I’m trying to infuse a little bit more grit in my game,” he said. “You can get away with just the skill stuff in high school but as you keep going you’ve got to be grittier.”

Funk said that grit manifests itself in a valuable player when the Raiders are a man up, and compares him favorably to another Cretin standout now skating at Colorado College.

“I call him a little bit of a bowling ball. He’s tough, he’s hard to knock off the puck, he’s a little bit like Matt Gleason was in terms of size and stature and the way he controls the play. But he’s definitely got some grit to his game,” said Funk. “He’s a guy that likes to go to the dirty spots. On our power play, he’s the guy that’s down low and moves to the front of the net. He can create plays from behind the net but he’s willing to muck it up too with those bigger defensemen.”

Attila’s father Csaba came to this country from Hungary when he was 20 to study at the University of Minnesota. Attila had a very typically Minnesotan upbringing, learning to play and love hockey on the outdoor rinks in Woodbury, starting out in youth hockey there, then transitioning to Minnesota Made, Gentry and eventually Cretin. His older sister Isabel skates for Joel Johnson’s Tommies women’s program , so St. Thomas was a comfortable fit when he made his college choice.

Prior Lake vs Cretin-Derham Hall_0451.jpg
Cretin-Derham Hall forward Jake Sondreal (16) and Cretin-Derham Hall forward Attila Lippai (15) try to poke the puck past Prior Lake goaltender Trevor Boschee (1) during the first period Thursday, March 10, 2022, in the State Hockey Tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Funk got to know Tommies assistant coach Leon Hayward when Hayward was at CC and recruited Gleason there. So when the Tommies inquired about Lippai, they found a familiar face at Cretin, which is less than a 10-minute drive from the St. Thomas campus.

“It’s kind of fun to have two of my guys going there,” Funk said, after Raiders defenseman Colton Jamieson committed to St. Thomas a year ago. “It’s going to be a place where a lot of the metro kids are going to want to go to. And it will be fun to have them just down the road be able to watch my guys play so close to home.”

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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