After three years of shedding tears and feeling empty, St. Louis University High senior forward Joe Winkelmann can smile after leaving the Scottrade Center Ice.
Winkelmann keyed a clutch two-goal outburst in the middle of the third period with 8:46 left, with a goal and helped the Junior Billikens notch a 4-0 victory over De Smet Jesuit to clinch the Mid-States Challenge Cup Championship on Tuesday.
SLUH (28-1) which obliterated three straight years of frustration and runner up finishes to CBC, won the title for the first time since 2013.
It was a wire-to-wire performance that left plenty of smiles on the Junior Bills faces.
“I can speak for the seniors in the last few years we’ve walked out of this building with tears on our eyes and (winning) this just makes up for all that,” Winkelmann said.
Leading just 1-0, SLUH broke the game loose with shorthanded goals from Winkelmann and Patrick Simoncic that came just 44 seconds apart.Prior to the quick shorthanded surge, De Smet Jesuit goalie William Oliver had the Junior Bills frustated as he turned away 25 of 26 shots.
Berger broke through on Oliver as he scored with 20 seconds left to give SLUH the first lead of the night.
“That was a great goal and it was a great pass,” Berger said. “It was all Patrick Simoncic. He made an unreal play chipping it out. It was all him.”
Simoncic followed Winkelmann’s goal with one with 7:45 left to make it 3-0.
While the SLUH offense was heating up by outshooting the Spartans 34-13, goalie Brendan Rasch dominated in goal.
Rasch made 13 saves and picked up his 14th shutout of the season.
Senior forward Kevin Einig finished iced the game, scoring a goal with 2:01 to go.
It was the ideal finish for SLUH first-year coach Jack Behan as the top-seeded Junior Bills finished in the winners circle.
“I just think we were relentless with our play and we just kept wearing them down and wearing them down and it was once the dam burst kind of thing,” Behan said. “That’s what we’ve done all year. Give their goalie (Oliver) credit, He hung in as long as he could.”
De Smet Jesuit (19-7-4) came up empty-handed in its first championship game appearance since 2010 but it was a still a strong season for the Spartans, who won five of the last six games to reach the title game. Included in that run was a semifinal round upset of four-time defending champion CBC that shocked the Challenge Cup bracket.
“We’re really proud of our team, especially our seniors and we wish them all the best of luck,” De Smet Jesuit coach Christopher Durso said.