WILLMAR -- They knew this match would be a trial, but the Cardinal defense rested in the first half anyway -- and lost the case early.
St. Cloud Tech's talented forward Ian Knafnick tallied three times -- a pure hat trick -- in the match's first 30 minutes allowing the Central Lakes Conference leaders to crunch Willmar 4-2 on Thursday in boys soccer.
"We talked about Ian before the game," said Willmar coach Richard Courtney. "He's a foreign exchange student and he's very good, but that was our worst half defensively this season.
Down 4-1, the Cardinals played much better soccer in the second half and blanked the Tigers over the final 40 minutes.
Abshir Ahmed scored for Willmar in the first half. Landon Peterson, assisted by Abdinasir Abdi, got his first varsity goal with just over two minutes left.
St. Cloud Tech had a 12-6 advantage in shots on goal. It was the third straight loss for Willmar (6-7, 9-8).
With two games left, Tech (10-1, 11-2-2) has all but statistically sewed up the Central Lakes title. Willmar plays at St. Cloud Apollo on Saturday to end the regular season.
SC Tech 4, Willmar 2
SC Tech 4 0 -- 4
Willmar 1 1 -- 2
FIRST HALF - SCT: Ian Krafnick 8:38 ... SCT: Krafnick 11:45 ... SCT: Krafnick (Ryan Feeny) 29:26 ... Wil: Abshir Ahmed (Trent Fader) 30:47 .... SCT: Josh Godding 31:55
SECOND HALF - Wil: Landon Peterson (Abdinasir Abdi) 77:47
Shots on goal - St. Cloud Tech: 12 ... Willmar: 6
Goalie saves - St. Cloud Tech: Ryan Feeny 4 ... Willmar: Steve Kluver 8