For Tanner Skaja, this was scrapbook material, something to savor.
The senior forward’s goal at 4:25 of overtime lifted St. Cloud Tech to a 5-4 win over St. Cloud Apollo on Tuesday night.
The victory at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center helped Tech improve to 1-0 in the Central Lakes Conference and 2-0 overall.
But, it was more than that, of course. Apollo (0-1, 2-2) is the other public high school in town, the stuff of which rivalries are made.
“It was like a dream,” said Skaja, who also had four assists. “It’s nothing better, coming against Apollo.
“It definitely feels good. I will remember that one for a while.”
Tech rallied from a 4-2 deficit after two periods, scoring three straight goals, to beat the Eagles, who held a 37-26 shot advantage for the game. It was 27-13 in shots, favoring Apollo, through two periods.
“Pete’s teams just work so darn hard,” Tech head coach Joel Heitkamp said of his coaching counterpart at Apollo, Pete Matanich. “They keep coming at you.
“They had nearly 30 shots in goal after two periods and were up only 4-2. That kind of felt like a win for us at that point.”
Riley Bates, who had two goals and three assists, said there was discussion between the second and third periods about it in the Tech locker room. The Tigers were getting out-played and not liking it very much.
“They were winning all the races to the puck,” Bates said of the Eagles. “In the second intermission, we were saying that if we could win those races good things will happen.”
Senior defenseman Connor Wendt got his first of two power-play goals 1:45 into the third period. His next one came at 13:30 to tie it and eventually send it into overtime.
All that is some scrapbook material for Wendt, too. Those were his first two varsity goals.
“We kind of started slow,” said Wendt, who was a regular on the blue line for the Tigers as a junior. “He got jacked up in the second (intermission) and just out-hustled them.”
Wendt was easy to spot this night. His skate was all wrapped up. He lost rivets that attached the skate to the shoe. It was quite the fashion statement, but it worked this night.
“It’s amazing what a little athletic tape will do,” Tech assistant coach Jerry De Gagne said.
Heitkamp credited De Gagne with having the Tigers change their fore-check in the third period. Tech has three basic ones. They went with the third and it seemed to knock Apollo off its game.
“Disappointed,” was how Matanich described his feelings. “There was some selfish play down the stretch, some dumb penalties.
“It says a lot about how Tech didn’t give up. They were resilient. They took their opportunities and buried it.”
Apollo got a pair of goals from sophomore defenseman Tanner Breidenbach, including a pretty unassisted one at 6:17 of the second period.
“He’s got great hands,” Matanich said.
Jacob Kemp and Jason Omann also had goals for the Eagles, who got a pair of assists from Paul Kenney and single assists from Dallas Haugen, Hunter Simons and Brandon Baker. Sophomore Nick Althaus made 21 saves for Apollo.
Tech senior Austin Althaus, Nick’s older brother, had 33 saves. Joey Mendel, who plays on the first line with Skaja and Bates, had two assists.
Bates called it a great team win, noting the good play of the second and third lines. Matanich called it a learning experience for the Eagles, who are host to Princeton at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at Dave Torrey Arena. Apollo plays Friday at Orono.
“Hopefully, this is one of those games where you bounce back from and learn a lot from,” Matanich said.
Tech plays Sauk Rapids at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at Sports Arena East. The Storm lost to Sartell 3-2 in overtime Tuesday.
The Tigers agreed they are evenly matched with the Eagles. That’s why Tuesday’s win was a confidence booster.
“It’s all about who wants it and who’s ready to play,” Skaja said. “We definitely didn’t want it the first two periods ….
“It’s all about our team believing in each other. If we can do that, we can do anything.”