Section Playoff Preview: Apollo [AUDIO]
The St. Cloud Apollo Eagles take on the Little Falls Flyers Thursday for the Section 6A boys hockey title and a trip to the Xcel Energy Center.
The Eagles are 15-10 on the season and have stormed their way to the section final by outscoring their opponents by a combined 17-3 margin through two games. Little Falls boasts a strong goaltender with the Flyers outscoring opponents 8-3 in their first two games.
Apollo and Little Falls met once during the regular season with the Flyers coming out on top 4-2. Apollo head coach Pete Matanich talked says the Eagles will need to tighten up a bit on the power play to reverse the outcome.
Hear Coach Matanich's full thoughts below and read on for a preview of Thursday's game.
How they got here:
#2 seeded Apollo began the postseason with a 10-0 victory over #7 seed Wadena-Deer Creek at the MAC.
Senior forward Jared Christen set the tone early for Apollo with a goal just :29 into the opening period. Christen would score four goals over the game's first two periods to lead the way in the big win.
Freshman goaltender Nick Althaus made 25 saves to earn the shutout in his postseason debut. Matanich said Althaus has been stepping up his game for the last couple of months for the Eagles.
"He's come around for us especially in the second half of the season," Matanich said. "Since the second game against Tech in January he has stepped up huge."
#1 seed Little Falls defeated #8 Morris-Benson 5-1 at Exchange Arena in a quarterfinal matchup. Luke Majerle scored on a penalty shot for the first period's only goal, then scored again early in the second period for a 2-0 Flyer lead. The Storm would get a goal thirty seconds later, but would not score again in the loss.
Senior goaltender Michael Stumpf made 18 saves for the Flyers in the win.
Fergus Falls played Apollo close in the semifinal through two periods before the Eagles pulled away. A Christen goal sandwiched a pair of Paul Kenney goals to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead 8:24 into the first period.
The Otters got on the board just :19 later with a shorthanded goal before the two teams traded tallies with the score 4-2 after one. Fergus Falls got the only goal of the second period to make it a one goal game through two, then Apollo notched three goals in the third period to seal the win.
"For our young guys to battle through some playoff victories is a huge step for them," Matanich said.
Little Falls took only four penalty minutes to Alexandria's 22 in a 3-2 win in the semifinals at the MAC in St. Cloud.
The Flyers and Cardinals were tied at one after one period. Little Falls got goals in the second period from Ben Newman and Spencer Fenske for a 3-1 lead. Alexandria got a goal in the third but could not find the equalizer before time expired.
Apollo Players To Watch
Senior Forward #10 Jared Christen
Sophomore Forward #9 Jason Omann
Freshman Goaltender #32 Nick Althaus
15-9, 3.18, .864 (3 SO)
2-0, 1.5, .935