Alexandria senior Jordan Domine dropped to his knees before lying face down on the ice after the final buzzer rang on Willmar’s come-from-behind win over his team in the Section 6A quarterfinals on Tuesday night.
Domine was able to gather himself long enough to shake hands before making his way back to the bench. After everyone had left the ice, he and fellow senior Charlie Wensman remained, trying to figure out how a 3-1 lead slipped away.
“We played our best,” Domine said. “Things just didn’t go our way. We didn’t get a lot of bounces. Give credit to [goaltender] Ben Allen. He played well all year. He kept us in so many games; We just didn’t pick him up tonight.”
Alexandria did everything it could to put itself in a position to win. The home Cardinals dominated the pace of play in stretches, outshooting Willmar 42-20 on the night.
All that proved to be a moot point, though, because of Willmar’s ability to take advantage of a couple power plays. The visiting Cardinals had scored just four goals on Alexandria during the regular season, but three of those came on the power play. Alex players knew that and staying out of the box was a point of emphasis coming into the game.
They were able to do that for the most part. Alexandria committed just three minors all night, but it proved to be a few too many. Willmar’s Zech Streed scored just 10 seconds into his team’s first man advantage to tie things at one apiece in the first period. The junior winger then connected again, this time on a goal that gave Willmar life after Tom Schmidt and Jacob Smith had given Alexandria a 3-1 lead in the middle period.
That second power play goal felt like the turning point for Willmar. From there, it took just one bounce to even things up. Streed got that bounce with less than two minutes in the second period as he fired from the point on a shot that got through a crowd and past Allen to give Willmar all the momentum.
“We knew that they had a good power play,” Wensman said. “They scored four goals on us this season and three of those goals were on power plays, so we knew that we had to stay out of the penalty box.”
Alexandria came out aggressive in the third period and outshot Willmar 8-4. Hunter Schneider made one of those count, though, as he connected with a little more than seven minutes left in the game.
Alexandria’s final push yielded a shot off the stick of Garrett Skinner skating in from the right of the crease. Skinner tried to sneak it behind Willmar’s Derek Baker, but the puck deflected off the post and back along the boards before time expired.
“It’s tough,” Skinner said. “We got them last year in the section finals, and now we gave up two kind of squeekers. We just can’t take penalties. They have a great power play, and we did and they made us pay.”
It was a loss that left many of the seven seniors on this team fighting back tears as their careers came to an end far sooner than expected. Skinner, Wensman and Domine stayed on the ice long after the final seconds ran off the clock, searching for a way to put things in perspective.
“I’ve been really lucky,” Skinner said. “I got to go to the state tournament two years in a row. That’s more than most kids get to go. This season? It was a good season. It was a lot of fun.”