ST. PAUL — Rochester Lourdes is a better hockey team than it was three months ago.
The Eagles found out on Friday, Feb. 21, that Breck is also a much better hockey team than it was three months ago.
Breck, the No. 1 ranked team in the state, used its depth and speed to score twice on power plays and three times at even strength over the first 27 minutes of the game, building an early lead en route to a 9-1 victory against fifth-seeded and No. 8-ranked Lourdes in a Class A girls hockey state semifinal game at Xcel Energy Center.
"We play a very difficult schedule," Lourdes coach Jeff True said. "Don't take anything away from Warroad, but the depth of Breck, what they can do with their top two or three lines and top four defensemen is phenomenal, and they have a good goalie back there as well.
"They're the best team we've played this year, hands down."
Friday's result was a stark contrast to the regular season meeting between the teams, at Breck on Nov. 23. The Mustangs eked out a 6-5 win that day, scoring on a power play with 46 seconds to play in regulation.
This time, Lourdes (18-11-0) had its chances early, but it couldn't convert on four minutes of power-play time in the first seven minutes of the game, nor could it capitalize on close to three minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage late in the second period and early in the third. The Eagles finished the game 0-for-6 on power-play chances.
"They make a lot of good dangles," Lourdes senior center Sarah Dravis said of Breck's skilled lineup. "We were trying to angle them out, but sometimes it just didn't work. We were trying to put a focus on playing the body and sometimes (Breck's speed) led to us taking some penalties."
In much the same way as Lourdes' standout senior forward Emma Schmitz used her speed to get by defenders and score two goals in a state quarterfinal win against South St. Paul, Breck's Hannah Halverson (two goals) and Olivia Mobley (four goals, one assist) both used their quickness to elude Lourdes' defenders and break in alone for early goals.
Halverson, an eighth-grader, scored what held up as the game-winning goal, with 3:07 to play in the first period when she fired a slap shot from the top of the right circle. The goal gave Breck (24-6-0) a 2-0 lead.
"We were back on our heels in the first period, certainly," True said. "(Breck) has been here to I don't know how many championships and state tournaments. You can see they're used to playing in this environment.
"We have a great group of girls who work their butts off, but sometimes experience outweighs that."
Lourdes' lone goal came at the 10:40 mark of the second period and pulled the Eagles within 5-1. Dravis attempted to center the puck from the end boards behind the Breck goal. Her pass hit Mustangs goalie Sarah Peterson and deflected in.
Lourdes' talented senior class will close its high school career playing for third place at 9 a.m. Saturday against Warroad, at the Xcel Energy Center. Breck will face Cloquet-Esko-Carlton at 4 p.m. for the state championship.
"I've been playing with these girls since I was 4 years old," Dravis said, tearing up. "It's really hard to talk about. They've always been by my side. They've been my best friends since we were little. ... They've made me a better person not only on the ice, but also off the ice.
"They're incredible people."
BRECK 9, LOURDES 1
Lourdes 0 1 0 — 1
Breck 2 3 4 — 9
First period — 1. B, Ava Lindsay 22 (Sadie Lindsay 40, Emily Zumwinkle 23) 7:47 (pp). 2. B, Hannah Halverson 14 (Josie Lang 12, S. Lindsay 41) 13:53. Second period — 3. B, H. Halverson 15 (unassisted) :56. 4. B, Olivia Mobley 53 (unassisted) 7:16 (pp). 5. B, Ally Qualley 18 (Ashley Halverson 9, Zumwinkle 24) 9:20. 6. RL, Sarah Dravis 26 (Abby Wick 12, Emma Schmitz 34) 10:40. Third period — 7. B, Mobley 54 (unassisted) :49 (4x4). 8. B, A. Halverson 10 (Zumwinkle 25, Mobley 37) 8:54. 9. B, Mobley 55 (Isabella Brama 4) 9:32. 10. B, Mobley 56 (Shae Messner 10) 11:55 (pp).
Shots on goal — RL 3-8-5—16; B 10-21-15—46. Goalies — RL, Corrin Hanson (L, 18-11-0; 37 saves, 46 shots); B, Sarah Peterson (W, 15-5-0; 15 saves, 16 shots). Power-play opportunities — RL, 0-for-6; B, 3-for-5. Penalties — RL, 5-10 minutes; B, 6-12 minutes.