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Sooooo... we meet again

City finalists Crusaders, Kodiaks have another date

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A city final rematch for high school boys hockey is set.

The No. 1 St. Paul's Crusaders blanked the No. 8 Kelvin Clippers 3-0 in one Milk Provincial AAAA Hockey Championships semifinal at Gateway Recreation Centre on Saturday afternoon, while the No. 4 River East Kodiaks dispatched the No. 3 Oak Park Raiders in similar fashion, securing a 2-0 victory in the other semi.

The victors will meet in Monday night's one-game title fight at the St. James Civic Centre at 7:30 p.m.

A few weeks ago St. Paul's downed River East for the Winnipeg High School Hockey League title, completing a best-of-three sweep with a 5-1 victory on March 3.

In the early game, Kelvin controlled the opening moments, as Ian Wiens' low shot was blocked by the right pad of St. Paul's goalie Ben Thorlakson, who also stymied Payton Boguski on a breakaway after defenceman Spencer Ferbers misplayed a high Kelvin clearing attempt.

Kelvin goalie Nathan Dickson was strong early on, robbing Crusader David MacDonald point blank.

St. Paul's got on the board late in the frame, as Zach Sackett deflected a point shot from Xander Tachinski with exactly a minute to go. St. Paul's was without Sackett's services immediately afterward, though, as he was assessed a 10-minute misconduct on the play. Head coach Andrew Harder said after the game the misconduct was assessed because of a problem with Sackett's mouthguard.

The Crusaders took a 2-0 lead in the second stanza as MacDonald got his revenge. Shortly after St. Paul's killed off the first penalty of a five-on-three, and with Brandon Paradoski off for holding, MacDonald weaved through a pair of Kelvin defenders, pushed the puck into the empty slot, and wired a wrister underneath Dickson's glove.

"Scoring short-handed goals is always nice," said MacDonald, a Grade 11 student. "I've tried to become more of a defensively-minded player, so a short-handed goal is nice to get."

Kelvin pushed late to get on the board, pressuring Thorlakson on a power play, but rang attempts off the post and tipped deflections just wide.

Tachinski sealed the deal into the empty net with a slider to shot from Thorlakson's right.

"Their goalie stood on his head -- kudos to him. Our goalie stood on his head," Harder said. "They played really well, it was a really good hockey team."

The Raiders and Kodiaks matchup was a tighter-checking affair that saw the teams go back and forth in a scoreless opening frame.

Kodiaks head coach Ben Zajac said the choking defensive style worked well to shut down a high-flying Raiders side.

"Yes, we had very good goaltending, but we also had our kids backcheck, forecheck -- we played hard," Zajac said. "We didn't generate much (offensively), because they (Oak Park) played hard."

River East opened the scoring 3:01 into the second when Craig Caine's wraparound popped over Oak Park netminder Ben Cockwell's shoulder from in tight.

"We sat back for most of the game, and we knew if we got a couple goals, we'd have the lead and hold in there," said Caine, who is in Grade 12. "We got some shots on net and we buried a couple."

Oak Park pressed to even the score late in the second with Caine off serving a too-many-men minor, firing from all over the ice. Rearguard Max Smith had the best opportunity to tally with the advantage, but his wrister from the point went off the inside of Kodiak goalie Myles Piche's pad.

The point shot worked for the Kodiaks 3:46 into the final frame, as Tristan Beach Ducharme unloaded a cannon that eluded Cockwell's glove.

Oak Park sought to halve the River East lead moments later while short-handed, as Alex Peterson found himself on a breakaway with Shane Kustra-Nelson in the box.

Piche's blocker denied Peterson's snapper, however.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 16, 2014 B5

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