After St. Paul United’s last trip to the state tournament, then sophomore Catherine Johnson was named to the All-Tournament team. On Wednesday, now a senior, Johnson gave ample evidence as to why she should return to that list. Johnson had a 23 save gem, leading United to a 2-0 win over Alexandria. The win puts United into the Class A semifinals on Feb. 19 at 11 a.m. against Warroad at the Xcel Energy Center.
For United, the win wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t perfect, but they did what they wanted to do, and continued down the RTS. RTS, the phrase that United has used all season as “Road to State”, has been rebranded now that United has found the end to the Road to State on Kellogg Boulevard at the Xcel Energy Center. RTS now means “Road to the ‘Ship” and United took a big step down that road and now are just two victories away from being the first MSHSL team champion since the 2008 boys tennis team*.
Johnson made big save after big save to keep Alexandria off of the scoreboard and was able to make up for risky play from defenders.
“I think that our defenders were a little too aggressive,” United coach Nate Mauer said, “I don’t mind if [a defender] reads the third forward coming back to cover them and then pinch, but they were just going.”
The defenders coming forward left Johnson all alone to defend against a breakaway early on in the first, and just like every other shot Johnson faced, she stopped it. In addition to the breakaway, it seemed as if the Cardinals were on a 2-on-1 every time they came into the United end.
“We are very lucky to have such a great goalie back there,” junior Joie Phelps (Vis) said, “She really covers a lot of our mistakes that we make in the offensive zone.”
While United was being “too aggressive” in the eyes of Mauer, this aggressive play resulted in opportunity after opportunity in an uncharacteristically strong first period from United in which they outshot Alexandria 17-7. Phelps used the safety net that Catherine Johnson provides on her goal late on in the first period as she was aggressive by going into the zone by herself and making a terrific move on the Cardinal defender. Then she was able to follow up her original shot, which left the puck lodged on the top of the Alexandria goalie, Amy Jost’s pads, and knock the puck behind her.
Watch Phelps’ goal here:
United 1-0 pic.twitter.com/P3KbHt5anx
— The Rubicon (@TheRubiconSPA) February 17, 2016
“[We knew] it was not gonna just take one shot,” Mauer said, “It was gonna take a rebound, it was gonna take some other possibility to score.”
Phelps’ goal was just that, a random goal in the “other” category.
“It was a good garbage goal,” Amy Jost said.
In a way the goal really encapsulated the game for United. It was not pretty, it was aggressive, and it was gritty, but in the end it got the job done, and now United is off the semifinal and one step closer to the championship.
Sophomore Sam Burke (Vis) netted an empty net goal that sealed the win for United with 30 seconds to play in the game and made the final 2-0.
The win sets up a semifinal matchup between United and Warroad on Friday at 11 am at the Xcel Energy Center. For SPA, classes will not be cancelled and there will not be transportation to the game, however, students can still fill out a planned absence form and attend the game if they get transportation.
Day One Wrap-up
A recap of the other three games played on the first day of the MSHSL girls’ hockey tournament.
Warroad vs. Northfield
Warroad won the game 3-0 to advance them to the semifinal where they will face St. Paul United at 11 am. Northfield played a strong defensive game, but Warroad’s forechecking was too much for the Raiders during the second period and Warroad was able to put three goals past Northfield goalie, Mallory Tidona, in a six minute time frame.
The Blake School vs. Luverne
The Blake School Bears took advantage of being able to play a team not present in the final Let’s Play Hockey rankings and did not allow a shot on goal by Luverne for the first two periods. The Bears also filled the net with 10 goals on 60 shots to win the game 10-0.
Procter/Hermantown vs. New Prague
The Mirage from Procter/Hermantown outshot New Prague 30-9 but only managed to outscore them 2-1, but they still advanced on to the state semi-final to play The Blake School. All three goals from the game were scored in the second period with New Prague getting on the board first. The Mirage took control of the game from there, scoring two unanswered goals and closing the game out.
Update 2/20/16: St. Paul United faces Blake in the finals at 4 p.m. on Feb. 20 at the Xcel Energy Center.