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Century/JM happy, not satisfied, to be in first section final in 15 years

Feb. 28—ROCHESTER — Bennett Pronk and Jonathan Burmester hadn't started Kindergarten yet the last time Rochester Century — or any Rochester team, for that matter — played in the Section 1, Class 2A boys hockey championship game.

The year was 2009, when Century beat Lakeville North to advance to Minnesota's premier high school event, the Class 2A boys hockey state tournament.

Burmester was 3; Pronk was still a month away from turning 3.

Growing up in the Rochester Youth Hockey Association, the now-seniors at Century saw team after team from Rochester come close, but not get over the hump to get back to a section final. Until now.

"It's been 15 years," Pronk said. "It'll be cool. It'll be cool to go play in that game and hopefully we can get that one more win and get to state, but it's definitely something cool that we haven't done for a long time."

Pronk and Burmester are two of seven senior leaders for the first-year Century/John Marshall boys hockey co-op, the team that beat Farmington convincingly, 6-1, on Saturday night, to earn a trip to Thursday's Section 1-2A championship game.

The No. 2-seeded Panthers (21-4-2) will face top-seeded Lakeville South (16-10-1) at 7 p.m. at the Rochester Recreation Center for the right to play in the state tournament.

"I think we just have to carry over the way we played in the game against (Farmington)," said Burmester, who co-coach Josh Klingfus called one of the top-five hardest workers he's coached. "We were doing a good job of getting pucks on net and finding the rebounds, so we just have to do the same thing on Thursday."

If Century/JM is to knock off five-time defending section champion South, the Panthers will need another strong game from their seniors. That includes Pronk and Burmester, a pair of heart-and-soul guys who don't like to get outworked. Pronk is tied for second on the team with 17 goals and is fifth with 31 points. Burmester is second in points (14-23—37).

"They're way more important to our team than I realized coaching against them last year," said Century/JM co-coach Matt Erredge, who coached against the Panthers for more than a decade before the programs joined forces this season. "Now I notice how they drive our forecheck.

"Bennett is ultra-skilled. He's willing to pass up scoring chances to make another play and that's rare at the high school level. 'Burmy' is just a workhorse, always first in on the forecheck, really good around the net. They're both so versatile. ... I didn't really realize how important they are to this group until this year."

Senior forward Doc Emerich leads the Panthers in scoring (22-30 — 52), while senior Brody Josselyn (10-24 — 34) leads the defensive corps. Junior goalie Kyle Lappi (19-4-2, 2.25 GAA, .899 save pct.) has played all but two games in goal this year.

They'll need those guys to be at their best against a South team that lost 13 seniors from last year's 21-8-1 team, including three who have committed to play Division I hockey — Tate Pritchard (MSU Mankato), Ashton Dahms (Minnesota Duluth) and Aidan Willis (Air Force). The Cougars' top scorers this season have been juniors — forwards Jackson Ernst (22-14 — 36), Will Kortan (11-18 — 29) and Brayden Olsen (8-16 — 24).

"It definitely helps," Burmester said of having played two good playoff games already, a 5-3 win against rival Mayo, followed by the blowout against Farmington, "and I think if we just stick to our systems, what we've been doing, and do the right things, we'll be just fine."

Century/JM and South did not meet during the regular season this year

"I think with last year, losing to South, that kind of lights a fire under our butts a little bit," Pronk said. "And with this being the section final, pretty much all of our seniors played a pivotal role in the varsity team last year, so I think it would be a big accomplishment if we could take them down."

Century/JM enters the game on a six-game unbeaten streak and is 11-2-2 since Jan. 1.

"We are our best when we're able to roll all of our guys, get everyone in the game," Erredge said. "Our power play has not been superb all year, but it's been timely for us lately. We've done a lot of our damage five-on-five and our top guys have scored a lot of even-strength goals.

"That's going to be key for us, to make sure we're able to play all 9-10 forwards and keeping everyone in the game."

A look at the numbers behind the teams in the Section 1, Class 2A boys hockey championship game:

STAT CENTURY/JM SOUTH

State Rank NR RV

Record 21-4-2 16-10-0

Top scorers Sr. F Doc Emerich 22-30—52

Sr. F Jonathan Burmester 14-23—37

Jr. F Ole Fevold 17-20—37 Jr. F Jackson Ernst 22-14—36

Jr. F Will Kortan 11-18—29

Top goalies Jr. Kyle Lappi 19-4-2, 2.25 GAA, .899 save pct. Jr. Carson Hauger 9-6-0, 2.37 GAA, .923 save pct.

Offense 4.67 goals / game 3.12 goals / game

Defense 2.26 goals alld. / game 2.77 goals alld. / game

Power Play 19-for-84 (22.6%) 23-for-87 (26.4%)

Penalty Kill 86-for-99 (86.9%) 69-for-79 (87.3%)