Alexandria’s Jack Westlund won’t forget this last week anytime soon.
It was his game-winner in the Section 6A championship that sent the Cardinals to the state tournament with a double-overtime win against fourth-ranked St. Cloud Cathedral.
During Wednesday’s state quarterfinals, the junior forward was at it again. This time it was a second-period goal from Westlund that propelled the Cardinals into the Class A semifinals on Friday after Alexandria beat Thief River Falls 1-0 at the Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s just been awesome,” Westlund said. “Obviously, I have to give some credit where credit is due to the people who assist me. Without them, I’d never score. It just feels great to be the one who scores, but obviously it’s not just me. It’s everyone.”
Alexandria sophomore Caleb Strong got a pass through to fellow sophomore Andrew Revering on that second-period goal. Revering went to the net and put the puck on Westlund’s stick as he shot it by Nick Corneliusen for the only goal of the game. It’s the first time in Alexandria’s five state tournament appearances that the Cardinals have advanced into the semifinals.
“We’ve been hot,” senior defenseman Jack Powell said. “And when you believe, amazing things can happen.”
After an even first period, the Cardinals started to control the puck in the second. Alexandria (18-10-1) outshot the Prowlers (16-11-2) 11-1 in the middle frame. The Cardinals then had to fend off a couple power plays early in the third, including 18 seconds of a 5-on-3.
“We just didn’t want to get frustrated or down,” Powell said. “Five-on-3, we practice that all the time. It starts with confidence and believing in one another. Knowing that each guy will get to their spot and get the puck out and that our goalie was back there doing what he does.”
Jackson Boline has settled in at goalie for this team down the stretch, and he was good again on Wednesday. Bolline had 19 saves in the shutout, including 10 in the third period when the Prowlers started to apply some pressure.
“Throughout the whole game you have to stay calm as a goaltender,” Boline said. “I had the same mindset from the first period to the second period when they had one shot to the third period. You have to credit our D. How many blocked shots do they have?”
The win for Alexandria means a shot at the back-to-back state champions. Hermantown (21-6-2) beat Monticello 4-2 in its quarterfinal game. The Hawks will try to add to their state-tournament record of eight straight trips to the Class A title game when they meet the Cardinals in the semifinals on Friday at 1 p.m. back at the Xcel Energy Center.
Boline said the Cardinals are a confident team right now and added that no team gets very far in this tournament if they aren’t playing confidently. They will take that same confidence into Friday’s semifinals with the top seed standing between them and a state championship game appearance.
“I love this opportunity,” Powell said. “We’re the underdogs in this and all the pressure is on them. If we come out and play our game, play with confidence, I believe we’ll be just fine. Everyone has to know their role on the team and come out strong until the last buzzer.”
ALEXANDRIA 0 1 0 - 1
THIEF RIVER FALLS 0 0 0 - 0
SHOTS - Alexandria - 7, 11; TRF - 8, 1,
SCORING - FIRST PERIOD - No scoring
SECOND PERIOD - Alexandria - Jack Westlund (Andrew Revering, Caleb Strong), 3:07
THIRD PERIOD - No scoring
GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Jackson Boline - W, 19 saves, 0 goals allowed; TRF - Nick Corneliusen - L, 20 saves, 1 goal allowed