Cards capture section title
By John Rittenhouse
The Luverne Cardinals earned their first berth into the Minnesota State Class A Boys’ Hockey Tournament Thursday in Mankato.
Taking on third-seeded New Ulm in the championship game of the Section 3A Tournament, the Cardinals kept their undefeated season alive by running away with a 6-1 victory at the All-Seasons Ice Arena.
Senior Gunnar Olson registered a hat trick and eighth-grader Jaxon Nelson netted a pair of goals to lead the 27-0-1 Cardinals to victory.
“The guys played really well,” said LHS coach Derek Brown.
“This has been a really fun season, and now we’ll be playing again in St. Paul.”
Luverne will open the Minnesota State Class A Hockey Tournament at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The Cards play second-seeded Hermantown in the first quarterfinal-round game of the day.
Luverne’s depth proved to be the biggest difference in the section championship game against the Eagles.
After the teams skated to a scoreless draw in the game’s first period, the fresh bodies Luverne kept putting on the ice seemed to wear the Eagles down in the final two stanzas.
“Both teams were feeling each other out in the first period. It was the section championship game, so there were some nerves involved,” Brown said.
“Once we got going, we rolled. I think we did wear them down later in the game. We were using three lines and they were using two. You could tell they were getting tired at the end of the game. Really tired.”
Nelson and Olson seemed to gain strength as the game progressed.
Nelson scored Luverne’s first two goals and Olson netted the team’s next three tallies to give the Cards a 5-1 advantage.
Nelson opened the scoring 1:43 into the second period after being set up by Olson.
New Ulm answered the challenge 1:15 later when Brandon Helget knotted the score at one, but the rest of the game belonged to LHS.
Luverne scored two more goals before the second period was complete and added three tallies in the third period to complete a five-goal triumph.
Nelson put the Cards in front 2-1 with an unassisted tally during a short-handed situation with 12:07 remaining in the second stanza.
Olson made his presence felt for the first time with 8:25 remaining in the period when he netted a power-play goal to make it a 3-1 game.
Logan Norman and Toby Sengvongxay received assists for Olson’s tally.
Neither team could produce a goal in the first eight minutes of the third period, but Olson settled the issue shortly after that.
Olson scored his second goal of the game with 8:35 remaining in the game before completing his hat trick with 5:25 left.
Jackson Frankenhoff received an assist for Olson’s first goal of the final period, and Connor Hoffman set up his next tally.
Andrew Verhey added an insurance goal with 1:43 left to play with Nelson earning an assist.
Luverne outshot the Eagles 40-25 in the game.
Kendall Meyer stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced in net.