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Simply unpredictable

By Loren Nelson, 04/10/20, 12:30PM CDT

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Loss of star goaltender and most of defensive corps makes No. 14 St. Thomas Academy tough team to handicap


Junior forward Jackson Hallum led St. Thomas Academy with 18 goals and 22 assists last season. Photo by Loren Nelson, LegacyHockeyPhotography.com


Our too-early look at Class 2A continues as we count down the top 25 big-school teams for the 2020-21 season.

14. St. Thomas Academy

2019-20 Record: 19-10-2
Playoffs: Lost 4-0 to Blake in state Class 2A third place game
Seniors lost: 11
Goals for: 99
Goals lost: 53 | Goals returning: 46
Goals against: 65
Goalie minutes lost: 1296:50 | Goalie minutes returning: 302:57
Power-play percentage: 19.2
Penalty-kill percentage: 81.7

A disheartening 5-1 home loss to Hastings in early January dropped the Cadets to 5-7-2 last season. This was rock bottom, a time for introspection. 

A players meeting was held. A commitment to defense was forged. And Tommy Aitken emerged from seemingly thin air as one of the state’s best goaltenders.

How a collection of all-stars from around the metro — and the country, even — went from unranked afterthought to a section championship as a No. 5 seed to a stunning state tournament quarterfinal victory over No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Andover was a captivating tale.

With 11 departing seniors — Aitken and six defensemen among them — it will be equally fascinating to see how the 2020-21 chapter unfolds for St. Thomas Academy. 

Is junior Carsten Lardy, who saw limited action as Aitken’s backup, the answer in goal? Can junior forward Jackson Hallum (team bests of 18 goals and 22 assists) elevate his already rarified-air play? Is junior forward Jared Wright (27 points), also an elite-level player, poised to pump up his production? Are returning defensemen Tristin Thilmany, a junior, and sophomores Thomas Stattine and Johnny Johannson ready for prime time?

Perhaps the biggest question of all involves who the Summer Santa might deliver to the Cadets’ locker room. Aitken, who arrived from Massachusetts by way of Omaha, and senior defenseman Noah Rauschenberger, out of Illinois, were one-and-done as Cadets. Are more veteran out-of-state impact players in the pipeline? 

And, as a private school with no designated feeder system, it’s impossible to know which top Bantams might be arriving this summer. Certainly last year’s remarkable turnaround and state tournament upset keeps the spotlight on a program that has appeared in five of the last six big-school state tourneys.

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