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Park boys hockey: Wolfpack beat Woodbury; season ends against Eastview

Park senior goalie Kyle Strand makes a save during the Wolfpack’s 1-0 win over rival Woodbury in the Section 3AA tournament. (Submitted photo by Steve Rooker)

Park senior goalie Kyle Strand earned his first varsity career shutout as the Wolfpack advanced past their heated rival, the Woodbury Royals, in the Section 3AA tournament.

“It feels amazing,” Strand said. “We played excellent. Probably one of our best games all year.”

Strand made key saves late, and the Wolfpack skated away with a 1-0 victory over the Woodbury Royals on Monday, Feb. 17.

“He shut them down tonight, so that was very key for us,” Wolfpack forward Eric Stoffel said.

Strand stopped 25 shots against the Royals, which had the home ice advantage at Bielenberg Ice Arena. He needed make multiple saves in the waning seconds of the contests as Royals players collided with Wolfpack defensemen into the net, jarring it loose. The Royals took another shot seconds later off a face-off, but they could still not get the tying goal.

“That’s just part of the way the game goes,” Wolfpack coach Jay Moser said. “We held our own and did what we needed to do to keep them off the board.”

After a 10-6 edge in shooting through the first period, the Wolfpack had to tangle with a Royals team that heated up offensively. The Royals out-shot the Wolfpack 19-16 in the final two periods.

Brent Wallace put the Wolfpack up 1-0 in the second period at 7:30. Alex Kielsa and Nick Lucas both assisted on the goal.

“Woodbury’s always been a rival, so to come to their house and take it to them was our main motivation,” Stoffel said.

A large crowd of Wolfpack fans gave the team an extra lift too. They filled up about half of the stands at Bielenberg.

“They had our backs the whole way,” Strand said. “Without them, we couldn’t have done it.”

The win put Park up against No. 2 seed Eastview. Against the Lightning, shots and goals came as quickly as the snow falling outside on Thursday, Feb. 20.

The Wolfpack’s season ended in a 7-1 loss at the hands of the Lightning in the quarterfinals. A 17-shot first period by Eastview put the Wolfpack in a quick 2-0 hole at the Apple Valley Sports Arena.

“They played hard and battled despite being without two players on our top two lines,” Moser said.

For the game, the Wolfpack went out-shot 44-22 along with a 1-5 power play. Penalty killing also hurt the Wolfpack as they went 3-6.

“Eastview is a very good team that plays solid defense,” Moser said.

Bryce Solberg scored a power play goal for the Wolfpack as the visitors from Cottage Grove got on the board with a 1:10 remaining in the game. Kielsa and Eric Stoffel assisted on the goal.

“Missing two top forwards also made it tough to sustain any offense,” Moser said.

Matt Palmquist and Strand both split time in goal for their final games as senior goalies. Palmquist had six saves in 13 minutes, 51 seconds of playing time. Strand stopped 31 shots in 37:09 of playing time with an .886 save percentage.

Despite the blizzard conditions, many Wolfpack fans made the trek to Apple Valley after a strong showing at Woodbury. Wolfpack fans filled half of Bielenberg Arena in the win over the Royals.

“We had a pretty good crowd, especially the student section,” Moser said about the Eastview game. “Our crowd was the same size as Eastview’s.”

The Wolfpack end the season at 4-22-1 overall and 1-17 in the Suburban East Conference.

—Matthew Davis