Tribune Staff Report
ALEXANDRIA -- Senior goalie Derek Baker, facing the prospect of his final game, took care of the goal mouth while at the other end junior linemates Zech Streed and Hunter Schneider ignited the offense as the No. 7 Willmar Cardinals spilled No. 2 Alexandria 4-3 on Tuesday night in the Runestone Center.
Willmar (10-17) advances to the Section 6A semifinals against Fergus Falls (13-11-1) on Saturday evening at the MAC in St. Cloud.
Baker turned away 42 shots, including an Alexandria penalty shot in the second period that would have put the home team up 4-1.
Streed got the hat trick and got the puck off a turnover to feed Schneider for the game-winner near the middle of the third period. Schneider, the first-line center, had an assist on all three of his left-wing's goals.
Schneider's goal, his 22nd of the campaign, was the only time all night Willmar held the lead. Schneider nearly scored again, missing an open net in the final 30 seconds.
Willmar started slowly but Baker fended off shot after shot, allowing the visiting Cardinals to keep their dog in the hunt.
A powerplay goal at 15:05 of the first tied the score 1-all.
"That was a beautiful goal," said coach Dan Tollefson. "Preston Peterson passed to Schneider who passed it back to Peterson, back to Schneider who passed to Hunter Mottinger. He made the goal mouth pass to Streed for the score. Just the way you design it."
Alexandria goals by Tom Schmidt and Jake Smith put Alex back in front 3-1. After a tough call that went against Willmar, Baker rejected Jack Wensman 1-on-0 penalty shot. Streed, from Schneider, made it 3-2 and then Streed, tipping a Matt Eddy salvo from the point, tied it late in the second.
It was 3-3 in the eighth minute of the third when Streed got a steal, fed Schneider and he beat goalie Ben Allen down low.
"Allen is a fine goalie," said Tollefson. "Every goal was down low or at the goal mouth," Tollefson observed.
Allen has a 90.5 save-percentage; Baker came into the game at 88.4 percent.
"Baker was as sharp as we've seen him all season," said the head coach.
The win is partial payback for last year's section final at the MAC where No. 6 Alexandria upended No. 3 Willmar 2-1 for the trip to state. Willmar also won a one-goal game with all on the line after losing 6 straight 1-goal games in 2012 alone.
Willmar will meet the Otters at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Alexandria tipped Willmar 2-1 at the Runestone in December and 7-3 at Willmar in January.
Tollefson said one of the keys to the win was rotating 3 lines and 5 defensemen, led by senior Chris Odens, throughout the game while Alexandria shortened their bench early.
"Everyone contributed," said Tollefson.
Willmar 4, Alexandria 3
Willmar (10-17) 1 2 1 -- 4
Alexandria (12-12-2) 1 2 0 -- 3
FIRST PERIOD - Alx: Jordan Domine (Tom Schmidt, Christian Canavati) 12:34 ... Wil: Zech Streed (Hunter Mottinger, Hunter Schneider) pp, 15:05
SECOND PERIOD - Alx: Schmidt (Garrett Skinner) pp, 2:23 ... Alex: Jake Smith (Skinner, Charlie Wensman) 11:58..... Wil: Streed (Schneider) pp, 8:34 ... Wil: Streed (Matt Eddy, Schneider) 15:36
THIRD PERIOD - Wil: Schneider (Streed) 7:44
GOALIE SAVES - Willmar: Derek Baker 14-18-10-42 ... Alexandria: Ben Allen 9-7-4-20