Irish skaters go 2-1 against high-powered competition in St. Louis Park tourney

Rosemount's Jake Ratzlaff (left) tries to drive past Andover defenseman Wyatt Kaiser during a first-round game at the Tradition at the Park tournament in St. Louis Park.

Rosemount boys take 10-2 record into 2020

Rosemount went to the Tradition at the Park tournament hoping to show it was competitive against the best boys hockey teams in the state.

After three games over three days, mission accomplished. They went 2-1 in the holiday tournament last week at St. Louis Park Rec Center, including a 3-2 victory over fifth-ranked Maple Grove and a 5-4 loss to No. 3 Andover in a game Rosemount led until the Huskies scored twice in the final 3 minutes, 9 seconds.

Without specifically mentioning the state tournament, Rosemount coach Rick Saintey made it clear that was why the Irish signed up to play in one of the state’s most competitive holiday events.

“The best part about this tournament is it prepares you well for the end of the season, three games in three days,” Saintey said following the Irish’s opening-round game against Andover in St. Louis Park.

Typically, there are only two times during the season a high school hockey team would play three consecutive days. One is over the holiday break. The other is during the state tournament, for those that advance.

The end of the season is “when we want to play our best hockey,” Saintey said. “The way we get to that point is all these games right now.

“We want them to understand how to win shift by shift, period by period. When you play three games in three days, you take it little by little. You try to prepare the kids for tough games, tough situations, so they can manage their emotions, how they handle things at the rink and away from the rink. We especially talk about controlling emotions in a game so they understand what we’re trying to do tactically.”

The Irish, ranked fourth in Class AA, have more tough games in their future. They play three-time defending Section 3 champion St. Thomas Academy at 7 p.m. Thursday, followed by Eagan in a South Suburban Conference game at 7 p.m. Saturday and 13th-ranked Lakeville North on Jan. 9. All three games are at the Rosemount Community Center.

Two of the best games of the Tradition at the Park tournament were Rosemount’s one-goal duels with Andover and Maple Grove. Trailing Andover 3-2 in the third period, the Irish took the lead on even-strength goals by Jake Ratzlaff and Connor Kenefick. Andover, however, scored on a power play with 3:09 left and got the game-winner with 1:34 to play.

“The biggest thing for us is we got better as the game went on,” Saintey said. “I talked to their head coach and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to exploit each other’s weaknesses today.’ We found theirs, they found ours, and now we’re going to figure out where to go from here.”

Luke Levandowski scored twice and Mason Campbell once in the Irish’s victory over Maple Grove, with Will Tollefson making 20 saves.

Tollefson stopped all 26 Elk River/Zimmerman shots as the Irish won 3-0 in the final round of the tournament Saturday. Kenefick had two goals and one assist, while Owen Hendrikson scored once and assisted on both of Kenefick’s goals.

Levandowski, the Irish’s junior forward and University of Wisconsin commit, has 19 goals. He has scored at least once in nine of Rosemount’s 12 games. Kenefick has 10 goals and six other Irish players have at least three.

“We’re starting to show other guys can play, which is good,” Saintey said. “We want scoring from all three lines and all the defensemen, as much as possible.”

Even the loss to Andover had some benefits for the Irish, Saintey said, because it gave them a chance to process what went wrong, then put it in the past because they had games the next two days.

“Like our (assistant) coaches said, we’re not losing, we’re learning. That’s the goal,” Saintey said.

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