Benilde-St. Margaret's senior forward Grant Besse fires a shot toward Wayzata goaltender Jens Vaughan Ahrens. Photo by Katherine Matthews
Five days after Wayzata embarrassed the Red Knights by six goals in the championship game of the Sports Authority Holiday Classic, the teams met again in their lone regular season matchup.
The scheduling gods might have been laughing about the timing of the rematch, but Benilde-St. Margaret’s players and coaches most certainly were not.
Jocularity was kept to a minimum during Red Knights practices this week, practices that were filled with drills designed to instill a higher degree of toughness -- one-on-one battles that emphasized physical play.
“They were pretty tough,” Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior forward Dan Labosky said about the workouts leading up to the Thursday, Jan. 3 rematch with the Trojans at the St. Louis Park Rec Center. “It was just battling and things like that. Because we didn’t really battle with them, they controlled the whole game and all the ice. So we battled through one-on-ones.
“We came out tough, and that kind of helped us tonight.”
Benilde-St. Margaret's senior Grant Besse, right, scored twice and had two assists despite the best efforts of Akash Batra and the rest of Wayzata. Photo by Katherine Matthews
Benilde-St. Margaret’s raced to a four-goal lead en route to a 5-2 triumph over the Trojans in a game that only loosely resembled the teams’ first meeting.
Besides unleashing a more physical style – yes, that was Red Knights’ scoring standout Grant Besse dishing a huge check – the Red Knights ran a more controlled, patient forecheck (third forward stays high) and unveiled a power play that featured Besse at the point drilling one-timers toward the Wayzata goal.
The most noticeable difference for Wayata was in goal, where sophomore Jens Vaughan Arens got the start over senior standout Aaron Dingmann.
Otherwise, the Trojans were pretty much the same Trojans as before.
“We didn’t shut their top line down tonight, which was obvious.,” Wayzata coach Pat O’Leary said. “When you don’t do that, and you’re not ready to play … ”
Besse scored twice and linemates Labosky and T.J. Moore also added a goal as one of the most prolific scoring lines in state history racked up 12 points. The trio has been held in check three times this season, all three games ended as Red Knights losses.
“Besse had a great game, and T.J. gave me a great pass at the end,” said Labosky, whose third-period goal completed the scoring. “I just put it in. It was way too easy.”
Also in the third period, Labosky set up Besse for a gorgeous one-timer with a cross-ice pass at the top of the circles. The goal was a replica of the one Besse scored when the teams met last week.
“Yeah, it was like Saturday,” Labosky said. “It’s not too hard to get assists when you are playing with one of the best players and one of the best goal scorers in the state. It’s pretty easy.”
In the end, Saturday’s game might have come easier than the practices leading to it.
“We have a lot of respect for Wayzata and the way they play, they play hard,” Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Ken Pauly said. “We thought we needed to play harder so we had a little battle practice of our own and got a little more physical.”
Benilde-St. Margaret's senior Dan Labosky celebrates his third-period goal. Photo by Katherine Matthews
Grant Besse scored twice and had two assists, and linemates T.J. Moore and Dan Labosky combined for eight more points as No. 5-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret’s eased past No. 2 Wayzata 5-2 on Thursday, Jan. 3 at the St. Louis Park Rec Center.
The Red Knights’ victory comes just five days after the Trojans routed Benilde-St. Margaret’s 7-1 in the championship game of the Sports Authority Holiday Classic at the same venue.
Wayzata had won nine straight entering the rematch.
After a scoreless first period, Benilde-St. Margret’s (9-3-0) too control with a three-goal second period. Moore scored 36 seconds into the period, Besse added a power play goal about 4 minutes later and Spencer Naas scord with 29 seconds left.
Besse, a likely Mr. Hockey finalist, scored again just 37 seconds into the third to put the Red Knights ahead 4-0.
Wayzata (10-3-0) made the game interesting early in the third when Chad Olson and Chase Haller scored 15 second apart as the Trojans pulled to withing 4-2.
Seconds after Benilde-St. Margret’s goaltender Andrew Sprang made a difficult save on a shot from the low slot, the Red Knights went the other direction and closed the scoring on a goal by Labosky.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s finished with a 30-19 advantage in shots. Sophomore Jens Vaughan Arens, making a rare start, stopped 25 shots for the Trojans. Sprang finished with 17 saves.
1. Grant Besse, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
The Red Knights switched up their power play, putting Besse on the point, and it paid big dividends. Wayzata was forced to expand it’s normally packed-in-tight defense to pressure Besse, and the dynamic senior forward still found a way to rocket a shot past a defender into the upper reaches of the net for a power-play goal. The Wisconsin recruit finished with two goals and two assists.
2. T.J. Moore, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
Considered the playmaker on the Red Knights’ top line, Moore lived up to the billing with a four-assist night. Just as importantly, he scored the opening goal on a laser over Wayzata goaltender Jens Vaughan Ahrens’ catching glove to get the Red Knights off to a fast start.
3. Dan Labosky, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
Why not give a star to each member of the Red Knights’ top line? Shadowed, hacked, chirped and whacked at all season, the trio combined for four goals and 10 assists against a normally airtight Wayzata defense. Labosky, a Colorado College recruit, contributed a goal and two assists to the cause.