Holy Family didn’t deploy a multi-pronged, meticulously constructed, diagram-filled plan Thursday night for engineering one of biggest upsets of the young season.
They didn’t have a simple, three-stepper for shocking Prior Lake, either.
No, the Fire, unranked in Class 2A and mostly an afterthought in Section 2AA, had decidedly modest expectations. Which is to say they had none, really.
“I mean, going into this, we were just trying to make it through,” said sophomore goaltender Kam Hendrickson, who was brilliant in earning his first varsity victory in his second varsity start in the Fire’s 3-1 shocker over the Lakers.
First-year Holy Family coach Erik Westrum, who lives about three blocks from the Dakotah! Ice Center, Prior Lake’s home rink, has a pretty good grasp on the caliber of talent the Lakers, ranked No. 6 in Class 2A, have assembled.
“I know some of the kids from training them and doing different things,” Westrum said. “The expectation was just to stay in the game and see what happens.”
A whole lot of good things happened for the Fire, starting with junior Parker Osborn’s first-period swipe at the puck while on his knees. That unlikely goal — the puck somehow knifed through Prior Lake goaltender Trevor Boschee’s pads — came with 25 seconds left in the opening period and put Holy Family ahead 1-0.
Osborn didn’t as much score a goal as he planted a seed. Winning suddenly became an altogether plausible notion for the Fire, who last season went 11-5-1 and lost 6-0 to eventual state champion Eden Prairie in the section semifinals.
Holy Family graduated 10 of its top 13 scorers and workhorse goaltender Jack Olson. Also gone is Noel Rahn, the architect of the program’s rise from a middling Class 1A squad to a consistent state tournament contender (Holy Family appeared in section title games in 2017 and 2018). Rahn resigned after 11 seasons as the head coach.
Westrum, who oversaw Southwest Christian/Richfield’s emergence as a varsity program before taking the Holy Family job, inherited two more-than-capable forwards in Osborn and senior Nick Blood and, after that, a whole bunch of unknowns, questions marks and undecideds.
“I thought, originally coming out of the gate, that we could compete for anything from the three to seven seed in our section,” Westrum said. “You could probably throw a dart at the dartboard to figure out those teams, they’re so even.
“I think two teams will probably rise to the top, whoever those two teams are. I would put my money on Prior Lake as being one of them.”
Mr. Hockey candidates Alex Bump and Will Schumacher lead Prior Lake’s talent laden senior class that also includes fellow forward Sam Rice, defenseman Jackson Anderson and Boschee in goal. Bump, Schumacher and Rice all played junior hockey this fall while Anderson and Boschee competed in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League.
“I know Bump and (Schumacher), and those guys are great players,” Westrum said. “I told our guys the hardest thing when you come back from junior hockey is that adjustment period. Give them one, two, three games and they’ll be clicking all cylinders.”
Maybe the Holy Fire caught Prior Lake, making its season debut at the right time, at a good time. Maybe the Fire are just this good. After a season-opening 3-2 loss to Blake on Nov. 27, Holy Family beat Rochester Mayo 5-2 on Tuesday night. And now this.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys just starting out and getting a feel for this level,” said Blood, who scored what proved to be the winning goal in the second period on a feed from Osborn. “So this is huge for them, especially beating a team that's ranked super high. So there’s a lot of confidence with these guys after tonight.”
The biggest confidence boost belongs to Hendrickson, who played just a handful of minutes last year after transferring from Minnetonka. He allowed three goals on 40 shots in the loss to Blake, then played out of his mind against the Lakers on Thursday. Prior Lake outshot the Fire 30-13.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been this tired,” Hendrickson said. “But it’s cool. The boys had fun. And that’s my first win on varsity, so it’s all new for me.”