Hockey: Meyers proud of all his guys accomplished after Alexandria finishes fourth at the state tournament
Mahtomedi used a flurry of three goals at the end of the first period to help secure a 4-2 win over the Cardinals in the third-place game at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.
ST. PAUL — The Alexandria boys hockey team wrapped up one of its best seasons in recent years with a fourth-place finish at the state tournament after falling to fourth-ranked and third-seeded Mahtomedi on Saturday morning.
It was Alexandria’s sixth time at the state tournament and first since finishing second in Class A at the 2018 tournament.
“For Alexandria hockey as a whole, it felt like we needed something to rebound from COVID and not having fans at last year’s games,” Alexandria head coach Josh Meyers said of this season. “Something for all of Alexandria to be excited about. That’s why I’m just proud of these guys. I thought we played a really good game today other than about two and a half minutes.”
The third-place game comes at 9 a.m. at the Xcel Energy Center and is a situation where players certainly have to bring their own energy compared to the atmosphere they came from during the semifinals .
Alexandria brought that early as senior Brycen Berg scored just 2:29 into the game to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. That was Berg’s third goal of the tournament and team-leading 30th of the season.
“They had to create their own energy,” Meyers said. “It was early morning. We were up at probably 6:30, and to some degree, that’s nice because they’re not sitting around all day. They can just go play some hockey. It was everyone playing for everyone this morning, and that’s what it came down to other than those 47 seconds, unfortunately.”
Those 47 seconds came at the end of the first period when Mahtomedi turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead with back-to-back-to-back goals from the 15:07 to 15:54 mark. Nicholas Beiersdorf, Cavanaugh Bruner and Jonathon Grove all scored to turn the tide in the Zephyrs’ favor.
“It’s something we’ve been battling as a team,” Meyers said. “As soon as we hit a little bit of adversity, our mood shifts. When we’ve been winning, it’s been easy, but we lose to Hermantown (Friday) and as soon as they scored their second goal, we felt that shift again. Today, as soon as they scored that second one, it shifted. That’s going to happen. Good teams are going to score some goals. You can just control what you can, and you can’t have that mood shift.”
The Cardinals did not fold in the second period. Sophomore Leo Kompelien got them to within 3-2 on a power-play goal at 9:29 off assists from Jack Lamski and Gavin Olson. But the Zephyrs got that goal right back with a Seth Nelson score a little over a minute later.
The Cardinals were unable to get any closer in the third as neither team scored. Shots finished with Mahtomedi holding a slight advantage at 27-23.
Alexandria closed out its season strong going into the state tournament with an 11-0-1 record over its final 12 games through winning the Section 6A Tournament . The Cardinals beat Minneapolis 4-1 in the Class A quarterfinals before falling to top-ranked Hermantown and Mahtomedi in the final two rounds.
This is a group that brought Meyers to his first-ever state tournament in his second year as the Cardinals' head coach, and these players showed all the trails that lead to winning programs.
“I will remember how close they were on and off the ice and how much they bought into the system,” Meyers said. “Not even our hockey system, just our system of what makes good teams. They hang out all the time. They’re really close, they’re having fun, joking around in the locker room and on the bus, but then at the same time, they also know when not to do that stuff. If they have a bad loss and they need to push themselves even more, they’ve accepted all the challenges that we threw at them.”
Meyers referenced how this group bounced back from a 7-6 overtime loss at Little Falls on Dec. 7 where the Cardinals held a 5-0 lead.
“The next day, we didn’t touch pucks at all,” Meyers said. “We absolutely bagged them for an hour straight. They accepted that. They responded and accepted that challenge. That’s kind of this group. They’re always understanding of what they need to work on and are up for the challenge.”
The Cardinals finished their season with a 20-8-2 overall record. That’s a big jump after a 9-10-1 mark during 2020-21 when COVID had made for a difficult offseason to get together and train leading up to last year’s season. Alexandria has to replace some talented seniors who helped lead the Cardinals to the state tournament, but Meyers is excited to see how this program builds on this year’s success.
“We saw big improvement from last year to this year. Hopefully we can see that same improvement with a lot of guys to next year,” Meyers said. “I’m excited because we have a summer workout program in place now that was finally in place last year. These guys are getting together and pushing each other all offseason. I think that was a huge difference in why this team had the success that it did. You throw another year on top of that with some of these guys being able to build on that, yeah there’s going to be some gaps to fill, but I know we have the guys to fill them.”
MAHTOMEDI (18-12-1) 3 1 0 - 4
ALEXANDRIA (20-8-2) 1 1 0 - 2
SHOTS - Mahtomedi - 27; Alexandria - 23
SCORING - FIRST PERIOD - Alexandria - Brycen Berg (Gage Castle, Tyler Kludt), 2:29; Mahtomedi - Nicholas Beiersdorf (Seth Nelson), 15:07; Mahtomedi - Cavanaugh Bruner (David Wolsfeld, Charles Drage), 15:36; Mahtomedi - Jonathon Grove (Brent Gulenchyn, Cavanaugh Bruner), 15:54
SECOND PERIOD - Alexandria - Leo Kompelien (PPG) (Jack Lamski, Gavin Olson), 9:29; Mahtomedi - Seth Nelson (Jake Hodd-Chlebeck), 10:42
THIRD PERIOD - No scoring
GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Teagan Pfeffer - L, 23 saves, 4 goals allowed; Mahtomedi - Ben Dardis - W, 21 saves, 2 goals allowed