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

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.

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

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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