By Maren Angus
Center Ice Magazine
Hendersonville entered the Tennessee state high school hockey tournament as a huge underdog. The Commandos had lost six of their last eight regular-season games and had been the sixth seed for the Greater Nashville Area Scholastic Hockey (GNASH) tourney.
During the last six games of the season the Commandos had four players on suspension and one sidelined following an appendectomy. “They made a huge difference in our lineup,” says coach Tim Rathert. “When they came back, we juggled some people around and have been playing rock solid ever since.”
After the Commandos lost to the Ravenwood Raptors in their tournament opener, they battled through the loser’s bracket to earn one of the four spots in the Predators Cup championship round.
Against Ravenwood, the Commandos had a 1-0 lead with 28 seconds left in the second period, when A.J. Konrad tied the game. The Raptors took the lead for good with 12:42 remaining in the game when Jake Pastorius found the back of the net for a 2-1 win.
Hendersonville faced Ravenwood again in its second game. This time the Commandos got a hat trick from Alex Jacobsen and won 3-2. “He has a good nose for the puck and is a good finisher,” says Rathert. It was the first win for the Commandos against Ravenwood in four tries this season.
In their final preliminary round game, the Commandos took on the Knoxville Warriors. With the score tied after two periods, Alex Jacobsen tallied on a one-timer from Seth Goosetree to give Hendersonville the lead, and the Commandos never looked back. They went on to score the last four goals of the game and won 6-2.
Next up for the Commandos will be a March 21 Predators Cup semifinal date with the defending state champion, Pope John Paul II, winner of the GNASH Cup with a lopsided 10-2 victory over Father Ryan in which the Knights outshot the Fighting Irish 56-9.
The Irish got another shot at JPII in the state tournament, but came up short again when Ryan Sterrett scored twice and assisted on two other goals in the Knights’ 6-1 win.
JPII tallied four goals in the first period. Matt McCann scored the only goal for the Fighting Irish when he took a pass from Michael Wasyliw with 4:32 left in the game.
The win earned Pope John Paul II one of the coveted four spots in the state tournament’s championship round and a shot at another Predators Cup.
Among the non-Nashville teams in the state tournament were the Metro Pirates (Knoxville) and Collierville Dragons (Memphis). The Pirates are comprised of players from all over East Tennessee: Roane County, Blount County, Loudon, Johnson City and Chattanooga. The two teams met in the preliminary round, with Collierville dominating for a 9-1 win.
The Pirates gave JPII trouble in their first game of the tournament, with each team firing more than 20 shots on goal. “They played really well against us,” says Knights coach Bjorn Svedin.
JPII took the lead when Max Rasmussen set up Sterrett at 1:38 of the first period. The Pirates answered 36 seconds later when Zach Makimaa scored off a Knights turnover. The Knights scored two goals in the second period and held the Pirates to just one the rest of the way for a 3-2 victory.
“I think our boys were not prepared,” says Svedin, “They hadn’t seen them before. They came out and put us on our rear ends.”
In their second game, the Pirates beat Father Ryan 5-4. Scott Englert of Father Ryan scored the lone goal in the first period. Both teams erupted offensively in the second period, scoring six times between them. Makimaa tied the game for the Pirates with 8:45 left in regulation, and Jeremiah Gibbens secured the win.
Germantown In Cup Final Four
The Pirates’ next opponent was the Germantown Devils. The Pirates got the first three goals of the game, from the sticks of Michael Meredith, Matt Allen and Makimaa.
Germantown responded with three of their own. Charles Reviere tallied with 1:38 left in the first periord, and Ryan Badgely scored twice in the second to draw the Devils even at 3-3.
At 2:34 of the third period, Makimaa and Allen teamed up to give the Pirates a one goal lead, but the Jared Scharfetter countered for the Devils and Reviere scored with 6:59 left in the game to give the Devils a 5-4 win.
The last team to earn a final four slot was Collierville. The Dragons finished their regular season 16-0-0 and are the only team to have qualified for the state tournament every year in the event’s brief history.
Collierville’s first game was against Hendersonville. The Dragons emerged with a 2-1 victory. Jacobsen scored the only goal for Hendersonville in the first period, while Collierville got both of its — from AJ Konrad and Jake Pastorius — in a span of 1:46 at the end of the second period and the beginning of the third.
Behind Tom Nelson’s four points (hat trick and an assist), the Dragons then overwhelmed the Knoxville Warriors 9-1.
Faced with a trip home if they lost their final preliminary round game, the Dragons topped the Ravenwood Raptors 3-1 to advance to Predators Cup play.
The Predators Cup semifinals are scheduled for March 21, with Hendersonville taking on its crosstown rival JPII and Collierville meeting the Metro Pirates.
The heavily favored Knights expected to be bolstered by the return of their leading goal scorer, Daniel Adams, who had been sidelined with a broken hand. “He is a tough kid,” says Svedin. “I think he will play no matter how much it hurts.”
The semifinal winners will play for the Predators Cup
after the NHL Nashville Predators’ game against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks on March 22 in the Sommet Center.