New Prague pushes back Albert Lea rally, heads to ‘The X’ – Reuters
Charlie Turnberg was in fifth grade the last time New Prague played in a men’s hockey tournament.
All New Prague seniors were.
Turnberg and his teammates are hoping that current fifth-grade students at New Prague won’t have to wait so long between state tournament appearances.
For Turnberg and the current group of Trojans — who have spent the past four seasons battling in one of the toughest sections in the state, Section 2AA — every second of the wait was worth it.
Now a senior who scored two goals in Wednesday’s Division 1A championship game for the Trojans, Turnberg will help lead the team to where every young Minnesota hockey player dreams of one day playing – the Xcel. Energy Center in St. Paul.
“You know what you’re going to get out of Charlie every time,” New Prague coach Brad Drazan said. “He plays hard, has a good stick and is an emotional leader. He worked in there. He worked hard, did the right things and I couldn’t be happier for him.
With a 5-2 win over Albert Lea in Wednesday night’s Section 1A Men’s Hockey Championship game at the Rochester Recreation Center, the Trojans earned the program’s third trip to Minnesota’s most sought-after sporting event – The Tourney, the state’s top schoolboy hockey tournament.
New Prague will play a state quarterfinal game at X next Wednesday against an opponent to be determined and at a time to be determined after the end of the eight section championship games around the state.
“It just means the world,” Drazan said. “I’ve been with this group since they were freshman Pee Wees. They were young children – squirts or mites – when our team first went to the state and they could see that. They got to see the fun and excitement that comes with it, so it means the world.
The Trojans, seeded fourth in the division, improved their record to 11-15-2 with Wednesday’s victory. Their previous two appearances came in back-to-back seasons, in 2014 and 2015, when they were also Section 1A champions.
New Prague’s best result at the state came in 2014, when it placed third.
Wednesday’s victory also marked the first time this season that the Trojans — who ranked seventh in the nine-team Metro West Conference — have put together a three-game winning streak.
“We thought if we could drive the puck deep and keep the puck under the dots, we’d have a good chance,” Drazan said. “This group, there is no selfishness, everyone is fighting for each other here.
“We had to work our way here. We struggled in (Class) AA and now to come back here and fight like we did, I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.
Wednesday’s win was a bit of a mental balm for a school and community that has come under fire in recent weeks after racist incidents occurred in New Prague’s cheer sections during women’s basketball games and men’s hockey.
Drazan said his team did a good job staying focused on the task ahead.
“It’s been a tough few weeks,” Drazan said. “We got better thanks to that. We have learned hard lessons, but they are lessons we had to learn.
“In our locker room, we talk about controlling three things in life: our attitude, our efforts and our actions. This is what we fell back on. We retreated to our core values, and here we are.
Albert Lea closes his season 19-9-0. The Tigers fought hard against season-ending adversity. They lost starting goaltender Dakota Jahnke to a season-ending injury just before the start of the divisional playoffs. Sophomore guard Tanner Nelson more than held on, supporting the Tigers in the division title game despite never having played a minute of college hockey before the playoffs.
The Tigers also played Wednesday’s championship game without head coach Matt Erickson, who suffered a concussion after being knocked down during practice this week.
Albert Lea was seeking his fourth trip to the state, and his first since 2007.
• New Prague 1, Albert Lea 0: New Prague created a quick 2v1 deep in Albert Lea’s area. John Schmidt, the Trojans’ first-line center, feeds Max Hanzel, the team’s fourth-line right winger, and Hanzel beats Tigers goaltender Tanner Nelson high from the glove side with 5:07 left in the period. .
• New Prague 2, Albert Léa 0: Schmidt showed off his playmaking skills in the ensuing shift, finding teammate Will Andersen for his ninth goal of the season, just 1:18 from the opener.
• New Prague 2, Albert Léa 1: While the teams are playing 4 on 4, Albert Lea defender Joseph Yoon shoves a Trojans player towards a puck in the New Prague game. Yoon spots Tim Chalmers rushing into the slot and puts a pass to his tape. Chalmers shoots high past Trojans goaltender Carter Puente at 3:37 of the start of the period.
• New Prague 2, Albert Léa 2: Chalmers feeds Yoon into the right circle and Yoon fires a hard shot past Puente just 8 seconds into the power play, for his 30th goal of the season, with 12:01 left in the period.
• New Prague 3, Albert Léa 2: Charlie Turnberg recovers a loose puck in the slot, with a little time to set up, and he fires a shot in front of Nelson, high on the blocker’s side, at 8:35 of the period.
• New Prague 4, Albert Léa 2: The Trojans put a good pressing in the area of the Tigers and Luke Portner finds Peyton Becker alone at the top of the fold. Nelson stops Becker’s first attempt, but Becker hammers the rebound with 4:18 left.
• New Prague 5, Albert Léa 2: Turnberg beats an Albert Lea player for the puck on a forecheck and stuffs it into an empty net with 2:06 to play.
• No. 3: Joseph Yoon, AL: The junior defenseman has been sensational throughout the playoffs. He set up the Tigers’ first goal on Wednesday and scored their second, his 30th of the season.
• #2: John Schmidt, NP: The senior center got an assist on the first two goals for the Trojans and his line constantly possessed the puck in the zone of Albert Lea.
• No. 1: Charlie Turnberg, NP: The junior striker scored a pair of goals, including the winner.
NEW PRAGUE 5, ALBERT LEA 2
New Prague 2-1-2 — 5
Albert Lea 0-2-0 — 2
First period — 1. NP, Max Hanzel 3 (John Schmidt 16) 11:53. 2. NP, Will Andersen 9 (Schmidt 17) 13:11. Second period — 3. AL, Tim Chalmers 19 (Joseph Yoon 27) 3:37 (4×4). 4. AL, Yoon 30 (Chalmers 20, Josh Behrends 4) 4:59 (pp). 5. NP, Charlie Turnberg 8 (unassisted) 8:35. Third period — 6. NP, Peyton Becker 4 (Luke Portner 13) 12:42. 7. NP, Turnberg 9 (unassisted) 14:54 (en).
Goalkeepers – NP, Carter Puente (F; 15 saves); AL, Tanner Nelson (L, 32 saves). Shoot to the net — NP 11-15-11-37; AL 4-6-7—17. Power play opportunities — NP 0-for-4; AL 1 for 3. Penalties — NP 4-8 minutes; AL 5-10 minutes.