Boys Hockey Section 1A | Lourdes vs. New Prague preview
Pressure situations are nothing new to Nick Heimer.
The Rochester Lourdes senior goaltender has been through plenty in his three-year varsity career. Considering the challenging schedule the Eagles play on an annual basis, Heimer has learned to thrive on those situations.
Having a goalie like Heimer has given the Lourdes coaching staff one less thing to think about this season. Heimer has played every minute in goal for the No. 3-ranked Eagles, who bring a 23-3-1 record into Thursday's 7 p.m. Section One, Class A boys hockey championship game against New Prague at the Rochester Recreation Center.
Heimer leads the state with 23 victories and his 1.85 goals-against average ranks 10th among goalies in the state who have played in 12 or more games.
"Having a veteran goalie like him is 10 times better than having a rookie at this time of year," Eagles head coach Josh Spaniol said.
Heimer is one of five Eagles who will play in their third consecutive section championship game and, with a victory over the third-seeded Trojans (14-11-2), will make a third consecutive trip to the Class A state tournament.
"That experience is a big thing," said Heimer, who has a 52-16-5 career record at Lourdes. "Most of our guys have at least one year under their belts. But even the guys who are new to this are respected by the players and coaches. We expect them to come out and play just as hard as the veterans."
Heimer and New Prague junior goalie Joe Morris will likely have a big say in which team advances to the Xcel Energy Center. Heimer has allowed a total of two goals in two playoff victories, while Morris has stopped 55 of 56 shots he has faced in two playoff games.
"We have to get a lot of shots on him, try to get in front of him and make it hard for him to see," said Lourdes sophomore defenseman Karl Krecke, who had three assists in a section semifinal victory against New Prague last season. "The goalies will be a huge factor. (For us), it comes down to our defense and our goalie being strong. If we can do that, we'll be fine."
As Adam Bartels, the sports announcer for KCHK radio in New Prague, put it, Lourdes has been "a ball-peen hammer to New Prague's playoff hopes" since coming back to Section 1A from Section 3A in the 2007-08 season.
The Eagles and Trojans have met nine times since then. Lourdes holds a 6-2-1 record in those games, including 5-0-1 in the past six meetings. Lourdes has ended New Prague's season in the section semifinals each of the past three seasons.
No Eagle has been a bigger thorn in the Trojans' side in recent meetings than sophomore forward Alex Funk. The Eagles' second leading scorer (13-23—36), Funk has recorded a goal and an assist in each of the past three games against New Prague.
"It will be a tough, grinder-type of a game," Lourdes sophomore forward Alex Funk said. "We have to stay tough the whole game if we want to play with those guys. We know we have talent and can do something special. It's in our hands."
New Prague has never qualified for the state hockey tournament. Lourdes has played in the state tournament six times, including the past two.
"We have to be disciplined and stay out of the box," Spaniol said. "We don't want to wear ourselves out. It's a matter of who's going to show up and play 51 minutes."