By Nick Gerhardt
Northfield’s state tournament run came to a close Thursday with a 3-1 loss to St. Cloud Cathedral in the Class A consolation round at 3M Arena at Mariucci on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
The fifth-seeded and No. 8-ranked Raiders (23-6) made just the second appearance at the state tournament in school history but did not come away with a victory like they did in their first state tournament trip in 2017 when they upset Mahtomedi.
The No. 14-ranked and unseeded Crusaders (17-13) got a first-period goal from John Hirschfield 8 minutes, 52 seconds into the game and the game remained that way until the third period.
Andrew Dwinnell scored a power-play goal at 6:06 of the third period for a 2-0 St. Cloud Cathedral lead.
Northfield sophomore Brayden Olsen responded with a power-play goal at 12:08 to halve the lead with an assist from freshman defenseman Bridger Riley.
Hirschfield put the game away with an empty-net goal with 18 seconds remaining for the 3-1 final that sent the Crusaders on to the fifth-place game to meet Alexandria Saturday at noon back at 3M Arena at Mariucci on the University of Minnesota campus.
St. Cloud Cathedral held a 32-27 shots on goal advantage though Northfield outshot the Crusaders 13-9 in the third period.
The loss marked the conclusion of high school hockey careers for eight Raiders seniors, including standout goalie Keaton Walock, who made 29 saves in the loss. Walock finishes second on the career wins list in school history and exits with the state record for career shutouts with 22. Other graduating seniors include defenseman Mike Fossum, who made up one half of the top defensive pairing for Northfield and Brecken Riley, who paired with his brother Bridger on the second defensive pairing. Forwards Gabe Sawyer, Braden Brakke, Zach Paquette, Cullen Merritt and defenseman Parker Vogt also graduate this spring.
The top line of Jake Geiger, Kam Kaiser and Griffin Kennelly, along with Andrew Winter, who missed the final three games of the season due to injury, are slated to return. Kennelly, a sophomore, took Winter’s spot on the line following his injury. The second line of Cayden Monson, Olsen, and Will Cashin are expected back, too.
Editors Update: Keaton Walock is named to the All Tournament Team!