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Boys hockey: Schneider’s hat trick leads Cards past Sartell

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SARTELL — Perhaps the Cardinals went into Bernick’s Arena Thursday with a chip on their shoulder.

In Section 6A voting earlier in the day, coaches dealt Willmar the No. 6 seed despite 6 section wins (now 7) and a 1-0-1 record against Fergus Falls, which got the nod at No. 3.

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In any case, Hunter Schneider finished with 4 points and Joey Benson 28 saves in a 4-2 win over Sartell in the regular-season finale.

Schneider made some big plays to have a hand in the game’s first three goals that provide Willmar a 3-0 lead with 3:50 remaining in middle frame. The senior center pulled the trigger 2:26 into the game with winger Zech Streed on the set-up. Buzzy Tollefson made it 2-0 just 27 tics later with a single assist to Schneider.

Schneider connected again at 13:10 of in the second but the Sabres finally solved Willmar goalie Joey Benson with just over a minute left to trail 3-1 at the second break.

The score didn’t change until a climatic final minute of the third.

Sabres junior forward Matt Bakken scored on a power play at 16:18 shaving the Willmar lead to 3-2.

But the Sabres cage was now unguarded and Schneider rifle in another for the hat trick with 19 seconds left and the win.

The Sabres topped the Cards 3-1 on Jan. 10 at Willmar.

“It was a playoff atmosphere,” said coach Dan Tollefson. “They tied for the three seed in our section. I thought we played really well. We’re playing some good hockey.”

The Cardinals travel to  Fergus Falls (12-10-3) where the teams tied 5-5 on Dec. 4. Willmar trapped the Otters 5-1 at home Jan. 17.

Fergus upset No. 2 seed St. Cloud Apollo last night at the MAC 5-4, though outshot 36 to 22.

Willmar 4, Sartell 2

Willmar (3-10-1, 13-11-1)    2  1  1 — 4

Sartell (5-9-2, 11-10-4)    0  1  1 — 2

FIRST PERIOD – Wil: Hunter Schneider (Zech Streed) 2:26 … Wil: Trey Tollefson (Schneider) 2:53

SECOND PERIOD – Wil: Schneider 13:10 … Sar: Kyle Erickson (Aaron Randall) 15:38

THIRD PERIOD – Sar: Matt Bakken (Spencer Zwiener) 16:18 pp … Wil: Schneider 16:41 empty net

GOALIE SAVES – Willmar: Joey Benson 6-11-11-28 … Sartell Sabres: Elliott Brookins 8-10-5-23

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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