High-flying Rogers caravanned its Barnum & Bailey cast of characters from one end of the metro to the other Saturday and then shocked the Hasse Arena crowd with something of a new routine: a stifling defensive performance in a 3-1 triumph over Lakeville South.
The Royals, capable of scoring in bunches with senior Sam Ranallo filling the role as offensive ringmaster, got a goal from Ranallo and another from super sophomore Parker Deschene. But it was the play of defenders such as senior Chase Cheslock and goaltender Cade Chapman that helped clinch the victory.
“That’s definitely part of our identity,” Ranallo said about the team’s renewed commitment to defense. “Every guy in that locker room is an absolute competitor and all they want to do is win. So just whatever that takes is what they are going to do.”
Rogers led 2-1 after the first period and neither team scored again until Matt Lomen deposited the puck into an empty net with 10 seconds left. The Royals (3-0-0) generally kept Lakeville South’s forwards to the perimeter. And a large percentage of Cougars shots from the point were blocked by Rogers’ defenders.
“It’s a little different this year in that we have so many young, talented forwards that can put the puck in the back of the net from anywere,” said Cheslock, who ranked among the state’s top-scoring defenders last season. “That’s taken a little weight off my shoulders in that now all I have to do is focus on keeping the puck out of my net.”
Rogers limited Lakeville South (1-1-0), which has appeared in each of the last four state Class 2A tournaments, to just four shots on goal in the third period.
The Royals scored a combined 13 goals in their first two victories this season. Last season Rogers scored an average of 4.3 goals per game. Ranallo had a team-best 28 goals and Cheslock chipped in 10 among his 39 points (third most among the state's returning defensemen).
"This week in practice we only worked on defense," fourth-year Rogers coach David Brown said. "At the end of the day, that's going to win championships."