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Woodbury seizes control of SEC

The defending Suburban East Conference champions are back in the league's catbird seat as the Woodbury boys hockey team kept its 2010 winning streak alive with a 3-2 victory over Cretin-Derham Hall at the Highland Arena in St. Paul on Saturday night.

Forward Jason Eddy got the Royals on the board with a goal assisted by Scott Carlson at 4:16 of the opening period, yet the hosts would tie it at 1-all headed into the first intermission with a late tally at 16:41.

Woodbury took control of the spirited affair with two quick strikes to open the second period as Max Gaede put the Royals ahead to stay with an unassisted goal just one minute, 22 seconds into the frame before Ben Konrad increased the visitor's lead to 3-2 with a goal assisted by Eddy and Mike Mezzano at 2:54.

Konrad's score would prove to be crucial as after more than 26 minutes of scoreless play, the Raiders finally solved Woodbury goaltender Mike Ness, slotting home a goal at 12:37 to pull to within 3-2.

Cretin nearly evened the count less than a minute later with a shot that appeared headed for the upper stick-side corner, but a late swat by Ness and an unidentified Woodbury defenseman kept the puck out of the net and preserved the Royals' narrow margin that would prove to be the winning margin moments later.

With Cretin desperate to pull goalie Joe Schnieder for an extra attacker in the final minute-plus remaining in regulation, Woodbury efficiently gummed up the puck in the Raiders zone, forcing the hosts to keep Schnieder between the pipes until it was too late.

Cretin did manage to break from their zone with just seconds to play, but a desperation shot from the blue line with 0.9 remaining on the clock went for naught as Woodbury clinched the one-goal victory with Ness being credited with 23 saves on the night.

The win lofted the Royals, who began the week in third place in the circuit standings, into first place in the SEC race with a 7-1-1 league mark following consecutive triumphs against White Bear Lake and Cretin -- teams that entered the week slotted first and second in the conference, respectively.

It was also the fourth victory in a row for Woodbury, with all four victories coming in SEC play. After entering January with a sub-.500 record, coach Wes Bolin's club has improved to 9-6-1 overall.

With a half-game lead over Cretin in the conference chase, Woodbury takes on a pair of intra-district rivals this week. The Royals host East Ridge at the Bielenberg Sports Center on Thursday night, before traveling to Cottage Grove to take on Park on Saturday.

The Royals soundly defeated the Raptors, 5-1, on Dec. 5 at the Cottage Grove Ice Arena, yet owe their lone SEC defeat to the Wolfpack, who bested Woodbury by a 4-2 count on Dec. 10.