Orioles hockey ends season with 18 wins

Sports Editor

Park gets past Benilde before ending season against Edina

St. Louis Park boys hockey opened play in Section 6AA with a 5-3 win over its crosstown neighbor, Benilde-St. Margaret’s on the same ice one week earlier they came up short 4-1 in the regular season finale.

“That was an exciting moment for the kids and obviously a great win for our program,” first-year Orioles head coach Colin Hohman explained as they composed an 18-8-1 record this season and won a Class AA section game for the first time in a long time. “We were looking forward to the challenge on Saturday and I give the kids a lot of credit, they tried the entire game and left it all out there.”

Park junior Johnny Sorenson, left, tries to keep his edge on Edina defenseman Ben Brinkman during a third-period rush Saturday. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Olson)
Park junior Johnny Sorenson, left, tries to keep his edge on Edina defenseman Ben Brinkman during a third-period rush Saturday. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Olson)

Hohman said the thrill of victory and agony of defeat is a good lesson for the group that returns several contributors next fall.

“It’s also a great lesson to have that feeling of success on Thursday then also learn where we need to improve to keep moving forward.”

Park fans were hoping that strong play continued Saturday in the section semifinal against top-seed and state-title favorite Edina. The Hornets handed the Orioles a 5-2 loss in the second game of the season on Dec. 3 and added a 7-1 defeat on Saturday in front of an energetic section tournament crowd at Bloomington Community Ice Gardens.

The only orange-and-black goal came off a hard-working play by junior Jonathan Sorenson at the 9:35 mark of the second period. Willy Basil took a two-minute tripping minor to put the Orioles on the penalty kill but that didn’t deter Sorenson from attacking the puck in the Hornets end of the rink.

After regaining the puck along the boards and tangling with an Edina player near the left face-off dot, he walked the puck out in front of Garrett Mackay before snapping off the scoring shot.

Park senior Bauer Neudecker was one of the states leading scorers this season finishing with 74 points as a fourth-year varsity veteran skater. Sun Sailor photo by Jason Olson
Park senior Bauer Neudecker was one of the states leading scorers this season finishing with 74 points as a fourth-year varsity veteran skater. Sun Sailor photo by Jason Olson

“We had a lot of kids step up this year which is why we had success,” Hohman said as Sorenson finished the season with 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists) including four points in two section games. “Johnny’s done a great job all season and he’s a very good competitor. He shows up by simply trying to do his best every shift.”

Sorenson had a goal and two assists against Benilde on Thursday, capping off a three-goal third period. He set up the eventual game-winning goal by Willy Basil at the 10:35 mark after Neudecker tied it up at 8:32.

Park junior Blake Neudecker tied the game at 2-2 at 7:28 of the second period.

Benilde scored three times in the middle period to carry a 3-2 edge into the third period, outshooting the Orioles 18-11 in the period.

Hohman said the difference from the previous week was how the Orioles played as a team instead of individually trying to do all the work.

“They did a good job of taking it shift by shift and doing the little things right,” the coach said, which has been a common theme all season.

In the first meeting with Edina, both Orioles goals came off the stick of junior Luke Mobley. He added two assists in the section win over Benidle to finish with 18 goals and 22 assists on the season.

St. Louis Park won five more games this season and returns a big junior class ready to build on this season’s success. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Olson)
St. Louis Park won five more games this season and returns a big junior class ready to build on this season’s success. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Olson)

The atmosphere inside the arena for both section games was infectious and is something Hohman said was greatly appreciated. “Ultimately, to see the younger kids come out to our games, as far as the big picture goes, that’s how programs get bigger,” he added. “Hopefully seeing the win on Thursday and seeing us compete on Saturday gives them something to look forward to and inspire them to be part of this one day.”

Before the third period, a group of Park youth program players flanked both sides of the walkway from the visiting locker room onto the Rink 1 ice sheet to give the Orioles high fives and chant “SLP” as they left the ice for intermission and returned to the ice for the start of the third period.

Look to next season, the Orioles will be without the services of one of the premier scorers in the state, Bauer Neudecker, who closed out his fourth and final varsity season with 39 goals and 34 assists for 73 points over 25 games. That’s 2.92 points per game. He scored once in both games against Benilde before being shutout on the score sheet on Saturday, snapping an 11 game points streak. It was only the third time this season he didn’t post a goal or assist.

Look ahead, Hohman said the hard work put in by everyone in the association and players to consistently improve is paying off now. “A lot of our kids have been working really hard for a number of years now,” he added after the Orioles won 13 games in 2015-16. “If they can all do it a little bit more than they did last year to prepare for the season, hopefully we’ll continue to push forward.”

Mobley, Sorenson, Riley Dvorak, Basil, Brenton Ryan, Shea Pekarek and Conor Schubring make up the top returning scores and will be a formidable senior class next season along with goalie Atticus Raasch who posted a 2.92 goals against average and .905 saves percentage with a 10-4-1 record in 18 games as a junior. Freshman William Pinney was 7-3-0.

Contact Jason Olson at [email protected]