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ALEXANDRIA – The Alexandria boys hockey team made a late push in its season-opening game against rival Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday after trailing 3-1 to begin the final fame and 4-2 with a minute left.

The Cardinals cut its deficit to one with a goal by senior forward Nicholas Peterson with 48.5 seconds left and they did put the pressure on the Sabres in the final seconds, but the Sabres held on to win 4-3.

“We fought back, which is always something you want to see,” Alexandria head coach Josh Meyers said. “ I thought we had a really good scoring chance to tie it 3-3, but then we missed on that. Then they came down and made it 4-2 and we still battled back. So in that regards that was good to see from our team.”

Before the game, it was announced that Jack Albert, a youth Alexandria hockey player who was diagnosed with Stage IV Burkitt lymphoma back in January, is now cancer free and he was back out on the ice as one of Alexandria’s flag carriers.

Alexandria created several scoring opportunities in the final 48 seconds of the game and did have a power play after a Sartell player was called for boarding (a five-minute penalty) with 17 seconds left in the game. But Sartell held on to win and start the season 1-0 and drop Alexandria to 0-1.

Sartell got the early jump on Alexandria with goals by Jack Schmitz and Sterling McCabe midway through the first frame.

“I don’t know if it was nerves, over excitement or whatever the case was, but we were just sloppy with the puck for most of the game,” Meyers said. “ I feel like we are a good puck possession team. We can make good passes, we can play for each other. And we just didn’t do that to the same caliber that we can.”

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Alexandria goaltender Elijah Rasmusen (1) and defender Jack Lamski (2) try to keep the puck away from the crease during it’s season-opening 4-3 loss to Sartell-St. Stephen on Dec. 1, 2022.

Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Period two was scoreless for the most part but the Sabres’ Anthony Colaterra found the back of the net and put the Sabres up 3-1 with two minutes left before the next intermissions. The Sabres held a 25-17 shot on goal advantage heading into the final frame.

“We’ve got some little things that we need to correct,” Meyers said. “We’ve got to stop and start more often, I don’t think we were as physical as we’d like to be as far as taking the body and just controlling the puck a little bit more. We’ve got to work on the defensive zone and be a little bit better.”

Alexandria clawed back to down one goal with a Peterson goal two and half minutes into the third frame, but Sartell responded with a goal by Baylor Stebbins midway through the third frame before Peterson cut the margin back down to one in the waning seconds of the game.

Alexandria got its first score of the season with an unassisted goal by senior forward Tyler Kludt in the first frame. Peterson led the Alexandria attack on Thursday with two goals. Junior defenseman Jack Lamski, senior forward Gavin Olson and Kludt each had an assist on the night.

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Alexandria senior Tyler Kludt celebrates scoring the first goal of the season in the first period of Alexandria’s season-opener against Sartell-St. Stephen on Dec. 1, 2022.

Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

The Sabres finished with a 30-25 shot on goal advantage on Thursday.

Thursday’s matchup featured the top two finishing teams in the Central Lakes Conference from last season, as Alexandria finished with a 9-2 conference record and Sartell won the conference with an 11-2 conference record (15-11 overall, Class AA).

The Cardinals and Sabres met twice in the 2021-22 season and the Sabres won both games (one game 6-5 and the other 3-2).

“Our schedule is tough as a whole,” Meyers said. “We have a lot of tough games. I told the guys after the game, ‘this is what most of our games are going to be like, and we got to learn how to win these games. Because towards the end of the year and playoffs, whatever it is, if we want to get to the goal that we want, we have to win these games. That’s what they’re going to be like.”

Three out of the last four meetings between the Cardinals and Sabres have been decided by one goal.

Alexandria was one of Class A’s best teams last season as it finished with a 20-8-2 overall record, it won the Section 6A title and placed fourth in the state tournament.

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The Alexandria Cardinals celebrate after a Nicholas Peterson (29) goal in the third period of Alexandria’s season-opener on Dec. 1, 2022, against Sartell-St. Stephen.

Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

This season the team goals were established by the senior class and they want to repeat as section champions and make another run in the state tournament.

“It’s something that that they decided on, it’s what they want to achieve and think that they can achieve,” Meyers said. “I told them, ‘Us coaches will help steer but you guys are essentially the drivers of the bus. They all know that and we got a lot of experience. Everyone knows that this wasn’t good enough and that we’ve got to do better.”

Alexandria held a 10-8 shot on goal advantage after the first frame.

The Cardinals are back at home for a tilt against Orono on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Cardinals’ other regular season game against the Sabres this season comes on the road on Jan. 10, 2023.

Alexandria last faced Orono on Nov. 23, 2019, which was a 4-1 win for Orono in Orono. Orono finished with a 12-14-1 record in the 2021-22 season.

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