H.S. Hockey | Tuesday night playback (or, look who's leading the Big Nine)

FELDY: We'll get to the big game up in Mendota Heights in a bit, but first, after Rochester Mayo beat Owatonna, 4-2, tonight at Four Seasons Centre, guess which team is in first place in the Big Nine Conference?

That's right, a Mayo team that started the season 3-7-0 has rebounded dramatically and now finds itself tied with Albert Lea and Mankato West, all with 22 points, at the top of the conference standings. Mayo is 7-4-1 in its past 11 games, with a tie against West, and losses to conference co-leader Albert Lea, and three teams ranked in the top 12 in the latest Class A state poll — South St. Paul, Virginia and Hibbing.

Even if Mayo wins out, though, it is not guaranteed even a share of the conference championship. The Spartans have three games remaining all against conference opponents. Mayo can earn a total of eight points in those games, which would give it, at most, 30 points.

Rochester Century is still very much in the Big Nine title hunt, too. It has 12 points to play for. If the Panthers win out, they'll finish with 30 points.

Albert Lea has 10 points to play for, so the Tigers control their own destiny in terms of the conference title (they'll have 32 points if they win out). West has just six points left to play for, so it needs to win out (which would give it 28 points) and get some help.


Rochester John Marshall is a long shot. The Rockets can finish with a maximum of 24 points if they win out. While JM's 12-0 win against Mankato East on Tuesday surprised no one, it was a 4-point win. That leaves JM with 20 points and alone in fourth place.


I didn't get to go up to Mendota Heights for the big Class A matchup between No. 11 Lourdes and No. 1 St. Thomas Academy, but was able to watch and listen to it on I have a longer-than-usual article ready for Wednesday's print edition about STA's 6-5 OT win. Well, longer than we usually put together when we're not actually at the game.

I had a chance to talk with Eagles coach Josh Spaniol, and junior forward Landon Farrell— who took over the game at times with his speed — over the phone following the game.

One comment from Spaniol really stuck out to me. After Lourdes beat Breck at the Rec Center on Saturday, I wondered how focused the Eagles would be going into Tuesday's game. They were more focused than I've seen them all year, and probably played their best 51 minutes of hockey.

So, I asked coach Spaniol exactly that: Just how focused was the team on this game tonight? In the grand scheme, it's just one more regular season game, but how important was it to the boys. His response:

"I've never walked into a locker room and seen 20 guys crying."

That pretty much tells the story. It was an emotional, back-and-forth, roller-coaster game. A tremendously fun game to watch.


Knowing the Lourdes players, my guess is they'll bounce back fine by practice today and come out with good jump against Owatonna on Thursday, which happens to be Senior Night for the Eagles at Graham Arena.

Some other thoughts/comments from the game:

• Spaniol, when asked about the flow of the game (there was a total of 34 penalty minutes): "I thought we played a full 51 minutes tonight. The referees kind of took control too much. If we played more five-on-five, it would've been a better game."

• Spaniol, on opening some eyes around the state over the past four days: "Hopefully, this earns us some respect."

• Farrell, on his short-handed goal in the second period, making it 5-3 in Lourdes favor: "I was just going to forecheck (the puck carrier) and he turned it over, so I grabbed it and threw it at the net. They screened their goalie just right and it went in."

• Spaniol, on his team's ability to bounce back for Thursday's home game against Owatonna: "I told the guys right after the game, the worst thing we can do is come out and lay an egg on Thursday. Let this one soak in for five minutes, then we have Owatonna coming in Thursday. We have to play hard for our seven seniors on Senior Night."

Hats off to Lourdes for surprising a lot of people around the state over the past four days — but not themselves. If they keep playing like they did against Breck and STA, they'll accomplish another goal on their list: To play more than one state tourney game at the Xcel Energy Center this year.

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