ST. PAUL - Ben Hanowski will see Ryan Walters again. It may not be for a couple of years, but the two will likely see each other during their upcoming days in the WCHA.
Until that day comes, Walters will hold the bragging rights between the two bright stars. The sophomore for the St. Thomas Academy Cadets scored three goals, leading to a 5-3 victory over the Little Falls Flyers Wednesday during the Class 1A state boys' hockey quarterfinals at the Xcel Energy Center.
Walters' third goal broke a 3-3 tie created by Hanowski 2:40 earlier. The first-line center came into the tournament with 30 goals on the season for the top-seeded Cadets.
Ben Hanowski of the Little Falls Flyers struggled for control of the puck before scoring at 15:44 in the first period of Little Falls' 5-3 loss to St. Thomas Academy. Hanowski led the Flyers with one goal and 13 shots on goal. Photo/John Pedersen
"He is a good player and he works really hard," said Hanowski. "He's got some good linemates. He's a really good player if he's going to the Gophers. He can move and get the puck in the net."
A bit of cross-rink passing set up Walters' second goal. He snuck open in front of the Flyer goal, accepted Rob Vannelli's pass and nailed it home for a 3-2 second period lead. Conor Rooney set up the scoring play with a crossing pass to Vannelli.
Joe Schreiner waited as long as he could on a first-period two-on-one break before passing the puck over the crease and into the waiting stick of Walters, who fed the net for his first goal and a 2-0 lead with less than five minutes elapsed.
"The penalties were frustrating," said Flyers' head coach Tony Couture. "Just the way that they went and the time that they came."
Ben Hanowski will not be going to West Point when he graduates from Little Falls next year, but the way he infiltrated the St. Thomas defense on his first period goal, he may be recruited for special operations later in life.
The junior center stormed through four Cadet defenders to bury the puck past goalie Kurt Altrichter to tie the game 2-2 at the 15:44 mark of the first.
The future St. Cloud State University player used the same approach to score in the third. Hanowski, who entered state with 41 goals on the season, barreled through three defenders and popped the puck in from his knees.
St. Thomas Academy 5, Little Falls 3
Key: Sophomore Ryan Walters netted a hat trick to advance the top-seeded Cadets to the state semifinals.
Overall: LF 25-4, STA 24-5.
Next: Little Falls vs. St. Cloud Cathedral/Blake loser, noon Thursday in Class 1A consolation semifinals at Mariucci Arena, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
"I just moved to the middle and then the goalie went down and I went around and snuck right by him," said Hanowski about his first goal. "The second one, Beau (Hanowski) made a nice pass to me in the neutral zone. I pulled it through the defense. Another guy tried to step up and the puck came off my stick and I got just a little piece of it and it went in the net."
Little Falls' Michael Sperl saved 26 shots as the Cadets outshot the Flyers 31-27, including 9-5 in the second period.
"I was a little worried at first because he was scrambling all over," said Couture. "It was almost as if he wasn't picking up the puck very good. He got better as the game went along and I thought he gave us an opportunity to win the game. We had some chances in the third. We missed the net a couple of times and you can't do that against that team."
St. Thomas' first goal was set up when the Flyers' Wesley Waytashek was called for hooking 15 seconds into the game. Christian Isackson then bounced the puck off of Joe Rydeen's skate and past Sperl to score at 1:36.
Also scoring for the Cadets in the first was Ben Nelson. While sandwiched between two Cadet defenders, Nelson secured a Zak Laird rebound and slammed it across the threshold for a power-play goal and a 2-1 score.
"They're one of the better teams we've faced all year," said Hanowski. "It would have been nice to come out on the higher end of things, but we gave it almost everything we had and lost to a pretty good opponent."
Little Falls 2 0 1 - 3
St. Thomas Academy 2 1 2 - 5
First Period: STA-Christian Isackson (James Saintey, Rob Vannelli) 136 ppg; STA-Ryan Walters (Jon Schreiner) 4:03; LF-Ben Nelson (Zak Laird) ppg 5:37; LF-Ben Hanowski (unassisted) 15:44
Second Period: STA-Walters (Vannelli, Conor Rooney) 14:55
Third Period: LF-Ben Hanowski (Beau Hanowski, Izaak Berglund) ppg 5:04; STA-Walters (Saintey) ppg 7:44; STA-Saintey (Rooney, Schreiner) 10:25
Shots on goal: LF 11 5 11 - 27, STA 12 9 10 - 31
Power-play Attempts - Goals: LF 5-2; STA 5-2
Saves: LF-Michael Sperl (26 saves): Kurt Altrichter (24 saves)
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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