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Benilde-SM wins second straight title

By Loren Nelson, MN Lax Hub Editor and Amelia Rayno, Star Tribune, 06/09/11, 11:00PM CDT


Red Knights complete perfect season with 9-3 victory over Eden Prairie

Benilde-St. Margaret's goaltender Thomas Gilligan made 16 saves against Eden Prairie in the state title game. Photo by Adam Crane

Thomas Gilligan received fair warning.

“We said, ‘Thomas you are going to see a lot of shots tonight. These guys have got lot of offensive weapons,’ ” Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Colin Mulcahy said about buildup to the Red Knights’ Minnesota State High School League state championship game against Eden Prairie.

Gilligan, a junior, figured the best way to prepare for a barrage of shots was to ... face a barrage of shots.

Benilde-St. Margaret's senior Taylor Topousis unloads a shot as Eden Prairie's Riley Boehm gives chase. Photo by Helen Nelson

Mulcahy said Gilligan, “probably faced a thousand shots today” while warming up before the Thursday, June 9, title game at Chanhassen High School.

Gilligan put the pregame shot total at closer to 300, including about 200 at the Red Knights’ home field before busing over to Chanhassen.

Whatever the number, it was enough to leave assistant coach and designated warmup shooter Mike Evans with a balky back.
“Actually, he pulled his back muscle doing so many shots,” said Gilligan, who made 16 saves – at least 10 of which could be classified as spectacular -- in the Red Knights’ 9-3 triumph over Eden Prairie.

The victory clinched an unbeaten season and back-to-back titles for Benilde-St. Margaret’s (18-0). Gilligan also was the Red Knights’ starting goaltender last season.

“Just nerves of steel,” Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior Taylor Topousis said about Gilligan, who was brilliant in the early going when he turned aside repeated close-range blasts. “They have some good shooters and he stopped them all. He was stopping everything tonight.”

Eden Prairie (15-3) controlled play in the opening minutes and forged a 2-2 tie at the end of the first quarter when all-state standout Mitch Hugdahl scored on a 20-yard blast with 9 seconds remaining in the period.

The Eagles didn’t score again until there was 1:56 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Topousis, in particular, was dominant force during the Red Knights’ 7-0 run. He scored twice and added an assist during that 34-minute, 13-second span of dominance.

“He’s our general out there,” Mulcahy said. “You see it every game. You see him leave it out there no matter what, no matter who we are playing, he pushes it.

“He wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a state championship this year.”

Benilde-St. Margaret's Will Hoesley, left, works against Eden Prairie's Connor Gnazzo. Photo by Helen Nelson

Gilligan said Topousis’ fingerprints were all over the championship, pointing out that it was the senior midfielder who was organizing weight room workouts and on-the-field shooting sessions long before the season.

“He was amazing,” Gilligan said.

Added Red Knights junior Will Hoesley, "When we need a goal, he gets us a goal. He came up big in this tournament especially."

The superlatives could be passed out like Halloween candy after such a dominating performance for Benilde-St. Margaret’s. But the conversation keeps coming back to Gilligan.

“He’s a wall,” said Hoesley, who scored twice. “He’s the best goalie in the state, for sure. I can’t believe we have him again next year, too.”

Is it too early to talk about next season? The Red Knights, the first team to repeat as MSHSL state champions, will return Gilligan, scoring phenom Hoesley, star attackman Christian Horn, face-off wizard Dominic Burg, defenseman Joe Pettingers and a host of other standout players.

Yes, for Mulcahy it is too early to think about the possibility of a three-peat. But not by much.

“I think we’ll take the night,” Mulcahy said, “and then tomorrow we’ll think about next year.”

-- Loren Nelson, MN Lax Hub editor

Benilde-St. Margaret's is the first team to win back-to-back titles in MSHSL tournament history. Photo by Helen Nelson

Statistics, Summary

1. Thomas Gilligan, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
The junior goaltender was superb in the early going, when the outcome still was in doubt. He made at least a half-dozen stops on point-blank shots in the first half alone, stuffing Riley Boehm, Davis Snyder and Mitch Hugdahl, among others. Gilligan, who was credited with 16 saves, now has two state titles on his resume.

2. Taylor Topousis, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
The senior midfielder and co-captain simply refused to be stopped, as he scored two goals and added two assists in his second command performance (he had three goals in a semifinal win over Burnsville) in as many state tournament games.

3. Will Hoesley, Benilde-St. Margaret’s

An ultra-quick junior attackman, Hoesley scored two highlight-reel goals, both of them coming in similar fashion on scintillating dodges from behind the net. Hoesley finished with 65 goals in 18 games.

-- Loren Nelson, MN Lax Hub editor

Benilde-St. Margaret's coach Colin Mulcahy. Photo by Helen Nelson

Game Recap

No. 1 seed and defending champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s completed its perfect 18-0 season on Thursday night, igniting in the third quarter and getting scores from six different players to completely overwhelm No. 2 Eden Prairie at Chanhassen High School, winning 9-3 and storming the field as the seconds ticked off the clock, tossing their sticks in the air and collapsing in a pile at midfield.

“It feels fantastic,” Red Knights standout Will Hoesley said.

Added head coach Colin Mulcahy, as he watched his team celebrate: “It really hasn’t sunk in yet that we’ve gotten two in a row.”

Two nights after both teams barely scraped by their opponents in the semifinals – each claiming a one-goal win to stave off the upset – the squads seemed positioned to endure another close contest as they each scored two in the first quarter.

But in the second, the Red Knights were able to create some distance, getting the first of two goals from Taylor Topousis, who led the team with three goals in the semifinal.

Then with 3 minutes remaining in the half, Hoesley – who was basically shut down in the semifinal – got the ball, and after being chased around behind the net by a defenseman, was able to find a hole and poked one in the left corner to make it 4-2. He added to the padding in the third, sinking a second to put the Red Knights up by three.

“It was more about the team working together tonight,” he said. “But I got my chances. It felt great to be able to put them away like that and expand the lead.”

Meanwhile, although Eden Prairie had plenty of opportunities – outshooting the Red Knights 18-10 in the first half and 32-26 overall – many of their offerings sailed wide or fell victim to goaltender Thomas Gilligan, who had 16 saves.

“We were getting to the net left and right … We were like five feet from the goal and we didn’t put the ball in it,” Eagles coach Ryan Ward said.

From there, BSM simply took off, notching four more in the final two quarters and shutting out the Eagles through the final three.

–- Amelia Rayno, Star Tribune

Benilde-St. Margaret's goaltender Thomas Gilligan. Photo by Adam Crane

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