Sabres' playoff run blunted by Cards

Sabres' playoff run blunted by Cards

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Sabres' playoff run blunted by Cards

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SARTELL

For nearly the whole game Tuesday, the Sartell boys hockey team lacked offensive pressure.

With each Alexandria goal and the Sabres’ inability to create scoring chances, a comeback seemed more unlikely.

Sam Zweiner finally scored with 3:54 remaining in the game, but it was too late to spark a Sabres rally as fifth-seeded Alexandria defeated No. 4 Sartell 4-1 in Section 6A quarterfinal action Tuesday at Bernick’s Arena.

“We didn’t do a good job of driving the middle lane,” Sartell coach Ryan Hacker said. “We settled a lot for outside shots instead of driving the net and when we finally did that, we scored.”

The Cardinals will face top seed Little Falls in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Municipal Athletic Complex. The Sabres finish the season 10-12-4.

Sartell tied Alexandria 2-2 and beat the Cardinals 3-2 during the regular season, so Tuesday’s loss was a disappointment.

“We knew (Alexandria) had a good team coming in, but I thought we were going to play a lot better,” said Sartell captain Matt Worzala. “We just didn’t come ready to play and they did.”

Alexandria got on the board first when Ryan Marciniak danced around a couple of Sartell defenders as he brought the puck into the zone. Marciniak fired a wrist shot from the left circle that beat Sartell goaltender Elliott Brookins gloveside to the far post with 5:56 left in the first period.

Toby Helgeson scored for the Cardinals 3:55 into the second period and Matt Resch added another Alexandria goal four minutes later.

Sartell faced a three-goal deficit going into the third period and had 12 shots on goal after 34 minutes.

The Sabres sustained most of their offensive pressure on two power plays in each of the first two periods with nothing to show for it.

“I don’t think we had many Grade A opportunities (on the power play),” Hacker said. “There were a lot of outside shots but nothing too tight. We can usually work the puck down in there but Alexandria took that away from us tonight.”

Sartell had its best offensive chance with three minutes left in the second period when Worzala connected on a long pass with Aaron Randall waiting on the opposite blue line.

Randall had a clear breakaway to the Alexandria goal but his shot hit Cardinals goalie Ben Allen’s right shoulder and landed in the crease.

“I just saw (Randall) cutting across and I saw an opening,” Worzala said. “Aaron can make a play if the puck is within 20 feet of him. You just have to give him a chance but the goalie made a great save.”

Patrick Leary delivered the knockout punch for the Cardinals with 9:25 to go in the third period when he brought the puck from behind the net and backhanded it over Brookins’ shoulder to make it 4-0. Brookins, a junior, finished with 26 saves.

Allen had 21 saves for Alexandria and his lone blemish was Zweiner’s goal when the Sartell senior went hard to the net on a rush and tipped the puck through Allen’s five-hole.

Tyler Minkel and Worzala had the assists.

“Tyler did a good job driving the puck wide, I drove the center ice and he made a nice pass,” Zweiner said. “We weren’t able to establish the forecheck we were going for all game. (Alexandria) deserves the credit.

The Sabres ended the season with five losses going back to Feb. 5 and played Tuesday’s game with five players injured — two have broken arms, two have concussions and one has an injured back.

“We had to battle and play with what we had but that’s no excuse,” Hacker said. “I’m proud of the way our guys battled. Obviously, it’s not the way we wanted to end our year.”

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