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Boys' Hockey: Royals run into top-ranked Stillwater

Woodbury goaltender John Conlee makes a save on Stillwater's Luke Manning during the third period Thursday. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)1 / 3
Woodbury's Max Meyer carries the puck up ice Thursday. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)2 / 3
Lucas Erickson tries to skate around the check of Stillwater defenseman Jack Mapstone Thursday. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)3 / 3

Woodbury had the opportunity to see exactly why Stillwater is the state's top-ranked Class 2A boys' hockey team in a Suburban East Conference matchup Thursday.

Stillwater controlled play right off the bat by outshooting the Royals 15-1 in the first period and scoring twice. The Ponies continued the attack the rest of the way in a commanding 5-0 win.

Woodbury did not have an answer for the Ponies’ skilled forwards in the first period.

Although the Royals were able to get a few more shots in the second period, the Ponies continued to control the play.

“We’ve got to be better with the puck," Woodbury head coach Wes Bolin said. "We’ve got to be stronger on the puck, and we’ve got to play defense with a little more confidence. That’s team defense, not our defensemen per se.”

While the Ponies controlled the puck early, goaltender John Conlee made saves to keep the game scoreless through most of the first period. That changed as Matthew Stanton scored with five minutes left in the first period. Noah Cates added another goal about two minutes later to give the Ponies a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Austin Murr and Luke Manning each scored in the second period as the Ponies increased their lead to 4-0, and TJ Sagissor capped the scoring with one more goal in the third.

Stillwater led in shots 41-7.

The Ponies’ defense kept the Royals from carrying the puck through the neutral zone for most of the game. The Royals credited the defensive pressure for forcing turnovers and not allowing them to skate the puck into the offensive zone.

“Their D have really good gaps,” forward Lucas Erickson said. “They don’t give you much time in the neutral zone. They don’t give you any line -- red line, blue line. Anything. They make you chip and chase.”

Stillwater improved its season record to 13-0 with the win, including an 8-0 mark against conference teams. Woodbury dropped to 10-5 overall and 4-3 in the SEC.

The Royals plan on taking some lessons away from the 5-0 loss Thursday. Not only do they still a game at Stillwater on the schedule Feb. 4, but both teams belong to Class 2A, Section 4.

Woodbury hopes to keep the future matchups a little closer.

“You have a chance to play an undefeated, number one team in the state,” Bolin said. “We kind of played a little bit afraid them, I thought. That’s too bad because I think we can give them a better effort. Hopefully, we will next time.”