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Young goalie backstops Lourdes to big victory against Dodge County

Jan. 9—ROCHESTER — Anton Ackley remembers his first varsity start like it yesterday.

Because it almost was.

"I was shaking," Ackley said Tuesday night, recalling his nerves just 39 days ago, in his first start in goal for Rochester Lourdes' boys hockey team. "It was challenging at first, but I'm getting the hang of it now. And we're getting better as a team."

Whatever nerves Ackley might still have don't show on the ice.

The sophomore has displayed the calm and poise of a veteran over the past six weeks while learning from and sharing the net with a battle-tested veteran, senior captain Xander Carter-Kleven.

"It's been really cool to practice with someone so experienced and to be able to learn from him every day," Ackley said.

Tuesday, Ackley showed he's a quick study, backstopping the Eagles to their biggest win of the season so far. The 16-year-old made 34 saves in a 5-3 win against Dodge County at Graham Arena I in a matchup of Section 1, Class 1A rivals.

"Xander is a great goalie, he really is," Lourdes coach Jeff True said. "Sometimes you just need to see the game from a different perspective and get your bearings a little bit. Xander has been a great tutor for Anton. He's showing up and working hard in practice and he's going to get his time again soon.

"And Anton's really shown how talented he is. He made a couple of saves tonight where, it's a different game if one of those slips in."

Ackley was outstanding throughout Tuesday's game, but never more so than in the third period, when he made 17 stops — exactly half of his saves in the game — as Lourdes improved to 5-9-0 overall.

"It's effort. It's always effort with him," said Eagles senior captain Peyton Loeslie, who scored two goals Tuesday. "He's a guy who, when he sees a shot, he's always going to track the rebound, even if it's a simple (practice) drill. He's really poised and that's one of the main things you need in a goalie, is not to fold under pressure."

In front of Ackley, the Eagles played their game to a T, getting points from eight players and picking their spots to create offense. For 51 minutes, Lourdes was relentlessly in shooting and passing lanes, clearing the puck from its own zone and allowing Ackley to find the puck.

Lourdes and its young goalie didn't allow an even strength goal, as Dodge County's Bronson Freerksen and Brett Ludvigsen scored on power plays, and Caeden Smith scored in the final minute of the game with goalie Jackson Roethler (17 saves) pulled for an extra attacker.

"He tracks the puck really well," True said of Ackley. "I'm not a goaltending guru, but I watch them and I know from trying to score on them, I know what he does really well. He reads plays and can see what the offense is trying to do. He tracks the puck through screens very well and gets low when he needs to.

"He's ... a hockey player playing goalie."

Loeslie led the Eagles offensively with his two goals — his 10th and 11th of the season — including the game winner with 7:06 to play in the third period. Lourdes also received goals from Jack Roe, Colin Quimby, and an empty-netter from A.J. Ritter in the closing seconds.

It was the defensive effort, though, that had Lourdes coaches and players fired up after the game. It's been a slow build to get to this point, but the Eagles feel they're finally at the point where their young players and veterans have jelled into a team that is very tough to play against.

"It's been a lot of film sessions and a lot of conversations with our players just about trying to buy in and then playing hockey the right way," True said. "A big part of it, too, is when you have success, you can start buying into the things that we preach.

"You know, when we're losing games and some of the ways that we were losing games earlier in the year and we're trying to preach something, the boys were wondering, 'they're telling us to do a certain thing, and we're losing games badly.' Well, now we're seeing some of the success."

Ritter's empty-net goal in many ways exemplified the selfless attitude that the Eagles have embraced in recent weeks. Freshman forward Alex Monosmith passed up a chance to shoot for his second goal of the season on the play, instead passing the puck to Ritter, who buried it into the open net with 4 seconds remaining.

"This team has a lot of depth," Loeslie said, "and no one is selfish. If it's a two-on-one, you're always looking to make the pass ... and just playing as a team is the main thing for us."

Dodge County (9-6-0 overall) is back in action Thursday at Waseca, another Section 1A opponent, at 7 p.m.

Lourdes faces another tough test at 3 p.m. Saturday at 10-4-0 Two Rivers.

LOURDES 5, DODGE COUNTY 3

Dodge County 1-0-2 — 3

Lourdes 1-1-3 — 5

First period — 1. DC, Bronson Freerksen 4 (Gideon Ellinghysen 6, Gryffon Funke 16) 4:12 (pp). 2. RL, Peyton Loeslie 10 (Colton Rich 5) 16:39.6.

Second period — 3. RL, Jack Roe 4 (unassisted) 5:27.

Third period — 4. RL, Colin Quimby 3 (Sam Kleinschmidt 2) 1:13. 5. DC, Brett Ludvigsen 18 (Jeremiah Peterson-Gordon 13, Funke 17) 6:12 (pp). 6. RL, Loeslie 11 (Jack Phillips 5) 9:54 (ex). 7. DC, Caeden Smith 1 (Dylan Klomps 5) 16:25 (ex). 8. RL, A.J. Ritter 7 (Alex Monosmith 4) 16:56.0 (en).

Shots on goal — DC 10-8-19 — 37; RL 5-10-7 — 22.

Goalies — DC, Jackson Roethler (L, 9-6-0; 17 saves-21 shots); RL, Anton Ackley (W, 4-4-0; 34 saves-37 shots).

Power-play opportunities — DC, 2-for-3; RL, 0-for-2.

Penalties — DC, 2-4 minutes; RL, 3-6 minutes.