St. Thomas Academy goaltender David Zevnik made 28 saves in the Cadets' 3-1 victory over Benilde-St. Margaret's. Photo by Adam Crane
David Zevnik isn’t the sort of kid who goes around boasting about his accomplishments.
Quietly confident. Calm, understated.
Those are the words teammates and coaches choose to describe the St. Thomas Academy senior.
Flamboyance really isn’t his thing.
So don’t let Zevnik’s Twitter handle -- @Got2rings30 -- make the wrong impression.
“It’s more of a joke than anything,” he said, cracking an uncomfortable smile as his face glowed red.
A goaltender, Zevnik wears the number 30. The Got2rings is a reference to the back-to-back state Class 1A titles he’s helped the Cadets earn each of the last two seasons.
Rest assured, Zevnik was not wearing championship rings, gold chains -- or any jewelry for that matter -- after he turned in another subtlety spectacular performance in a 3-1 victory over defending state Class 2A champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s (9-4-0) on Thursday, Jan. 11 at St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights.
“He’s the best goalie in the state,” Cadets junior defenseman Jack Dougherty said. “There’s not a doubt in my mind.”
St. Thomas Academy senior goaltender David Zevnik has helped the Cadets win Class 1A titles each of the past two seasons. Photo by Adam Crane
Zevnik stopped 28 shots against the Red Knights, including an array of blasts from Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior sniper Grant Besse. A Mr. Hockey frontrunner who has 23 goals this season and 138 for his career (sixth all time in the state), Besse tried shooting high, then low in his multiple attempts to solve Zevnik.
“He’s got a hard shot,” Zevnik said about Besse. “I remember playing against him in the Elite League, so I’m kind of familiar with how that goes.”
A standout in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this fall, Zevnik’s stellar play has continued into the high school season. He leads the state with a .948 save percentage, 1.16 goals-against average and ranks second in wins with 11.
If Besse is leading the campaign for Mr. Hockey (given annually to the state’s top senior skater), then Zevnik no doubt is out in front in the race for the Frank Brimsek Award that goes to the state’s top senior goaltender.
“We have talked about that a lot this year, how great it is to have David back again and how he has gotten better every year,” St. Thomas Academy co-head coach Greg Vannelli said. “He’s probably the steadiest goalie we’ve ever had as far as getting better a little bit every year. He’s down to one goal a game against these really good teams.”
Vannelli just shakes his head as he delivers that last line. Zevnik and the Cadets (11-1-1) have defeated powerhouses Hill-Murray and Edina by 2-1 scores. And, now, a 3-1 victory over the Red Knights.
"He’s a very good goalie," Benilde-St. Margaret's coach Ken Pauly said. "Look at what he is doing. He held us to one goal. He held Edina to one goal. He’s held a high-scoring Hill-Murray team to one goal. I mean, that’s not an accident. The percentages don’t lie. I’d put him right up there."
St. Thomas Academy has allowed more than one goal just three times this season. In one of those games, a 3-1 loss to Minnetonka, one of the goals was scored in the closing seconds into an empty net.
David Zevnik has notched victories over Edina, Hill-Murray and Benilde-St. Margaret's this season. Photo by Adam Crane
Zevnik said he doesn’t get upset if he allows more than a goal in single game. Opposing players crashing into him, or setting up camp in the crease, doesn’t blow his stack, either. On Benilde-St. Margaret’s lone goal, a blast from the high slot by freshman defenseman Peter Heimbold, Red Knights forward Dan Labosky was on the ice and part of pile of players crowding Zevnik.
The goal didn’t appear to bother Zevnik in the slightest.
“I don’t get rattled easily,” he said.
And that, more than anything, is the centerpiece to Zevnik’s success.
“Tonight you saw it in the first period, they were crashing the net trying to hit him,” Dougherty said. “It didn’t phase him, he just kept saving puck after puck, keeping us in this one.”
Added Vannelli: “Under pressure, it’s the calmness. Goalies are just like the forwards and defensemen. If they can have the game seem like it is a little slower they just don’t overreact to stuff.
“It’s really easy to play in practice, but when you get in a pressure game goalies tend to just overreact to saves, instead of being like they are in practice more. He’s just calmed down more each year.”
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
A fast start propelled St. Thomas Academy to a 3-1 victory against Benilde-St. Margaret’s Thursday at the Cadets’ rink in Mendota Heights.
Scoring two goals before the game was five minutes old gave the Cadets a favorable cushion. St. Thomas Academy (No. 1, Class 1A) has allowed more than two goals in a game just once this season.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s (No. 3, Class 2A), which averages 5.75 goals per game, could not consistently challenge the Cadets’ defensive corps or goaltender David Zevnik.
More than a meeting of reigning state champions, Thursday’s game showcased programs in different stages of their evolution.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s won Class 1A state titles in 1999 and 2001 then opted up to Class 2A beginning with the 2005-06 season. Placed in Section 6 – one of the state’s toughest – the Red Knights fell in the semifinals five times in six seasons before breaking through with a state title last season.
Winners of the past two consecutive Class 1A titles and four in the past seven seasons, St. Thomas Academy will join the 2A ranks starting next season. The Cadets' section placement will be decided by March but they will be one of the favorites.
St. Thomas Academy beat Class 2A powers Hill-Murray and Edina – stripping the latter of its No. 1 ranking – previously this season.
Critics mention those victories, plus the four Class 1A state titles, as reasons why St. Thomas Academy should spend the postseason jostling with the state’s largest programs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s used to hear those same arguments.
Going forward, the Cadets will try to mimic the Red Knights’ rise from multiple small-school champions to a team annually in the mix of Class 2A favorites.
Two early goals Thursday showed the Cadets meant business. St. Thomas Academy forward Alex Johnson gave his team a 1-0 lead just 49 seconds into the game. Defenseman Tony Bretzman made it 2-0 at 4:02.
Red Knights’ defenseman Peter Heimbold cut the lead to 2-1 at 3:49 of the second period. Cadets’ forward Tommy Novak answered with a tap-in rebound goal with 36.8 seconds to play in the second period.
The Cadets were without second-leading scorer Christiano Versich, a sophomore who participated in warm-ups but did not play because of an ankle injury he suffered Wednesday in practice.
-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune staff writer
1. Tommy Novak, St. Thomas Academy
The slick forward was missing his usual sidekick in fellow sophomore Christiano Versich (ankle injury), but Novak was his usual highly effective self. And by effective we mean splitting defenses, cycling the puck, working the corners and, oh yeah, scoring a crucial goal on a deflection in the final minute of the second period to put the Cadets ahead 3-1.
2. David Zevnik, St. Thomas Academy
The senior goaltender can add another notch in his stick after shutting down yet another high-powered offense. Zevnik, who had previously held Edina and Hill-Murray to a single goal turned the trick again by stopping 28 of 29 shots.
3. Grant Besse, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
The senior sniper scored a third-period goal, but it was disallowed because of a lightning quick whistle. He was involved in most of the Red Knights’ best scoring chances (he had an assist on their lone goal) and also dished out several hard hits – and absorbed several of them, too, while receiving his usual star treatment.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor