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The last five minutes of Hill-Murray's hockey practices is reserved for players to sharpen moves that could result in goals.
Willie Brown has used the time wisely. Brown's deft shootout goal clinched a 4-3 victory against St. Thomas Academy (No. 1, Class 1A) in Friday's Schwan Cup Gold Division championship game at Ridder Arena. The game will be officially recorded as a 3-3 tie but that did not damper Brown's excitement.
With the teams tied 1-1 in the best-of-three shootout, Brown went to his backhand and made Cadets goaltender David Zevnik "bite a little bit," then switched to his forehand and blistered a shot into the upper corner.
"Especially since we suffered that loss to them earlier it was a really good way to end this game," Brown said, referring to the Cadets' 2-1 victory Dec. 15. "Scoring the game-winner tops it off."
Hill-Murray (No. 2, Class 2A) jumped to a 2-0 second-period lead Friday on goals from Zach Mills and Mitch Slattery. It was the first time in seven games the Cadets gave up more than two goals.
"When you play a team that's as good as they are defensively, you want to keep getting pucks to the net," said Pioneers assistant coach Pat Schafhauser, who filled in for head coach Bill Lechner. He flew to Colorado on Friday to meet a new grandchild.
The Cadets showed grit in coming back. Goals from Alex Johnson and Alex Broetzman tied the score 2-2 at the second intermission.
Hill-Murray defenseman Sam Becker broke the deadlock on a shot from the point at 6:08 of the third period. But the Cadets rallied to tie it 3-3 at 9:54 on a rebound goal from Gunnar Regan.
The teams did not score in the eight-minute overtime period, forcing a shootout.
Slattery scored for the Pioneers, and Henry Hart got the Cadets on the board. But Brown got the final word.