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Boys hockey: Looking to make a run

Luke Meade skates with the puck for the Irish during a recent home game.

For Rosemount hockey coach Brad Stepan, the two games that most represent his team's progress over the last three months were both losses -- a 4-2 loss to 12th-ranked Prior Lake and another setback by the same score in Saturday's regular-season finale against No. 14 Bloomington Jefferson.

"Prior Lake pounded us (8-0) earlier in the year and Jefferson beat us 9-1, so we feel like we're getting better," he said. "The kids have bought into what we're trying to do. Hopefully we're ready to make some noise in the playoffs.... Five of our last six games have been pretty good."

Of those last six games, the Irish won three and lost the two to ranked teams Prior Lake and Jefferson. The one game that was far from "pretty good" was a 6-0 loss to Eastview last Saturday, and that's who the Irish find themselves matched up against in the opening round of the Section 3AA tournament tonight in Apple Valley. The Lightning finished 15-9-1 and earned the No. 3 seed, while the Irish enter as the No. 6 seed with a record of 10-15.

"We know they are a very well-coached team with a lot of skill. We have to get pucks behind their defense and be physical, but we have to make sure the refs are allowing us to play that way and we're not getting in the penalty box," said Stepan, whose team also upset the Lightning 3-0 on Jan. 8 in Apple Valley. "They had three power-play goals on us last time, but we've made some adjustments on our penalty kills. Hopefully the kids come ready to play and come prepared (tonight)."

The Irish couldn't hang with Jefferson on the offensive end on Saturday and ended up getting outshot 45-24 at Rosemount Community Center.

It was 2-0 when Ryan Foley scored on the power play late in the first to get the home team on the board (assists to Lukas Gillett and Anthony Winters). The Jaguars followed with two more in the second before Evan Weiand converted on another power play midway through the third (assists to Winters and Gillett).

Austin Leslie finished with 41 saves for the Irish.

It took a late rally to avoid a home loss to ninth-place Apple Valley last Tuesday. Rosemount trailed 4-1 in the second period, but Gillett scored three late goals, including the game-winner at 13:07 of the third, to lead the Irish to the 5-4 come-from-behind victory.

The Eagles took advantage of Rosemount's penalties with three power-play goals in the first 20 minutes of the game. Tyler Frank got the home team on the board with an unassisted goal at 12:28 of the first, but it was 4-1 by the time Gillett scored his first goal five minutes into the second.

Gillett scored again 2:09 into the third and at 6:42 Evan Weiand scored to tie the game at 4-4. Gillett and Justin Crowell assisted on the equalizer.

Tom Fraune allowed three goals on 14 shots before giving way to Leslie, who held Apple Valley to one goal while stopping 17 shots over the final 32:59.

"That game was a good lesson for the boys, but we know we aren't going to run and gun Thursday,"Stepan said. "We want it to be 2-1 or 3-2 and be a defensive game."