Somewhat to the surprise of Eric Johnson, the St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders have worked their way up the state Class A boys hockey poll, moving into the fourth spot in the latest rankings.
Johnson, the Cathedral head coach, isn’t taking it too seriously.
“We’re overrated,” he said.
The Crusaders are, however, undefeated.
They survived Sartell 3-2 Thursday at Bernick’s Arena in a matchup of Section 6A teams.
“That was a definite battle,” said Cathedral senior Will Hammer said, who wound up playing some on the point in the penalty kill because of injuries and sickness to the Crusaders’ blue line. “Both teams went at it very hard and we were fortunate to come out on top.”
The Crusaders (6-0) got goals from Hammer, Matt Fritz and Brady Johnston on a night when both teams played physically and possible penalties might’ve been overlooked.
“They let us play tonight,” Cathedral senior defenseman Dan Bailey said. “It was an intense game, very intense.”
Cathedral led 3-1 heading into the third period with the Sabres getting a goal from Aaron Randall to tie it early.
It became 3-2 when Sartell senior Kyle Erickson scored a short-handed goal at 7:03.
From that point on, it was very entertaining in front of a loud, enthusiastic crowd at Bernick’s. Play went back and forth with both goalies making outstanding saves.
Cathedral’s Zach Fritz wound up with 26 saves. Sartell’s Carter Kasianov had 30. The Crusaders played the final 1:40 shorthanded. The Sabres had plenty of chances, pulling their goaltender for a 6-on-4, but couldn’t tie it up.
“That was fun,” Sartell head coach Ryan Hacker said. “There was a little energy in (the arena) tonight.
“It was a good game. Losing is awful. I hate losing …. But I was proud of my guys. They worked hard.”
Johnson said the Sabres’ forecheck gave them issues.
But he praised his senior leaders for battling on a night when defensemen Peter O’Neill (sickness), Jordan Maetche (knee) and Jake Bastien (foot) all were ailing.
“It was a gritty, gutty game, gutty for our guys,” Johnson said. “We came through with a lot of adversity thrown at us.”
That’s of course one way to get state-ranked. Cathedral takes a 6-0 record into a road game with Alexandria at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Runestone Center.
Like their coach, Hammer and Bailey aren’t too worked about the rankings, saying they’re more worried about improving and getting better as the season goes on.
“I’m fine with them,” Johnson said of the rankings. “It gives people something to talk about.”
Sartell fell to 2-3. Hacker said his team showed good signs after disappointing losses to St. Cloud Apollo and Alexandria.
“We feel like we’ve got a good team,” Hacker said.
Cathedral took a 1-0 lead on Hammer’s goal at 1:28 of the first period. It was assisted by Matt Fritz.
The Sabres tied it up on Randall’s power-play goal at 7:40 of the first. Spencer Zwiener and Ben Rengel were credited with assists.
In the second period, Matt Fritz scored an unassisted goal at 8:57. The Crusader then went up 3-1 on Johnston’s goal at 14:45. Erik Gadbois and Matson Courier got assists.
Each team was called for five penalties, with Cathedral getting called for three in the final 5:17.
“We’re a pretty tired group,” Johnson said. “It (the Alex game) is going to be a challenge.”