Rochester Lourdes and Faribault meet tonight (7:30 p.m.) at Four Seasons Centre in the Section 1A girls hockey championship game. A preview story can be found here.
The winner moves on to the Class A state tournament, which begins Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
This is the third consecutive season in which Lourdes and Faribault (19-5-0) have met in the Section 1A playoffs, and the second consecutive season they’ve met in the section final.
Lourdes (16-10-0) has never lost to the Falcons in six all-time meetings, including a 7-1 win last year in the section final, and a 4-0 win earlier this season.
Here are 3 keys for each team in tonight’s game:
3 KEYS FOR FARIBAULT
• Stay out of the box: In a 4-0 loss at Lourdes on Jan. 10, Faribault allowed three power-play goals. The Eagles outshot the Falcons 60-14 in the game, but Faribault hit a post twice in the first period. The three consecutive power-play goals by the Eagles turned a tight 1-0 game into a comfy 4-0 win for Lourdes.
• Big game from Bohner: Falcons senior goalie Mikayla Bohner was one of 10 semifinalists for the state’s Senior Goalie of the Year Award, and rightfully so. She’s 17-5-0 with a 1.68 GAA and a .934 save percentage. She stopped 56 shots in the first meeting with Lourdes this year, allowing just one goal at even-strength. She’s allowed more than two goals just once in her last six outings. She’ll likely have to hit that number tonight if the Falcons are to win.
• Put the ‘O’ back in Olivia: Falcons senior forward Olivia Williamson — a Brown University commit — was fourth in the state in scoring during the regular season with 69 points. But in six career games against Lourdes, Williamson has just one point — a goal in a game during the 2017-18 season. The Falcons will need offense out of their best player if they hope to earn a trip to state.
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3 KEYS FOR LOURDES
• Sustain pressure: The Eagles are at their best when they’re rolling three lines and working to wear down their opponent. They showed that in the second and third periods against Albert Lea in a 3-0 section semifinal win on Saturday, limiting the Tigers to a total of four shots over the final two periods. If Lourdes forechecks relentlessly, it’ll be quite difficult for Faribault to generate scoring chances.
• Score first: Here’s quite a stat about the all-time series between these teams: In six meetings, Faribault has never held a lead against Lourdes. Eagles coach Jeff True said it this week in the lead-up to the game: Lourdes is a tough team to play against. It’s even tougher to play against when it has the lead. The Eagles play a heavy game; they’re fast, they’re physical and they’re skilled. And they’re tough to come from behind against.
• Draw on experience: Yes, Faribault has been to a section final before. But this is Lourdes’ third straight season playing in Owatonna, with a state berth on the line. The Eagles blew out the Falcons last year. The Eagles showed a few weeks ago against Chisago Lakes and at state last season they have the ability to come back late in a big-game situation (scoring a late tying goal against Proctor/Hermantown to force OT in the quarterfinals). Lourdes needs to draw on that experience in order to stay poised, but don’t overthink it or get overconfident — past success against Faribault is no guarantee of what will happen tonight.
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PB’s Pick: Faribault is a deep team, though it hasn’t played the quality of schedule that Lourdes has. The Eagles are built for this time of year. They’re battle-tested and confident. It won’t be easy, but their depth will win out and they’ll be the fresher team in the third period and they’ll get an empty netter late to seal it: Lourdes 5, Faribault 2.
— JASON FELDMAN, email@example.com