OAK PARK HEIGHTS — The Stillwater boys’ soccer team bolted out of the gate on Thursday with a 3-0 victory over Spring Lake Park in the semifinals of the Minnesota Cup at Stillwater Area High School.
The Ponies (1-0) advance to face Wayzata, a 3-0 winner over St. Paul Central, in Saturday’s championship game at 7 p.m. Spring Lake Park and Central will face off for third place at 5 p.m.
“It was a good night,” Stillwater coach Phil Johnson said. “No rain, we got the game in, and it was good. Everybody that hadn’t played on that field before experienced the jitters, so it was a good adjustment to feel good about. This is the game they’ve played all their lives, so just go and play.”
Patrick Roth opened the scoring for Stillwater midway through the first half after taking a through pass from Sam Rasmussen and getting behind a defender. Roth also assisted on Ryan Dopkins’ goal with just three minutes remaining in the half for a 2-0 advantage.
“Patrick went to the line on the left side and crossed it over,” Johnson said. “It just went right to the far post on the ground and the senior Ryan Dopkins kicked it in.”
Stillwater remained in control throughout and goalkeeper Ben Wilhelm was not required to make a save while earning a shutout.
Sam Keran scored with eight minutes remaining in the game for a three-goal margin. Alex Jurcoi helped set up the tally with a long dribble down the left side before finding Keran in the middle of the field where he booted it into the net with his left foot for a goal in his first varsity game.
“It was a fast game and we showed our speed,” Johnson said. “It was an early onset of cohesion and they really worked on connecting. We have some team speed in a lot of positions and we did what we normally try to do.”
The Ponies are seeking their second straight title at this event after defeating Central in the finals a year ago. Stillwater is seeking its fifth championship in the 14-year history of this tournament.
“I learned that without a lot of direction, they played a pretty smart, instinctive game of soccer,” Johnson said. “Everybody that went in from the bench made great adjustments and a couple of players were quite outstanding.
“Kevin Meads covered a wide range in center back and was very instrumental in re-winning balls. Roma (Devine) and Nathan (Purdie) played well in the middle — Roma went tenaciously to win a ball and hung into and gave his team a chance for possession. It was also the speed of Sammy and Patrick, who worked together up top. We’re very pleased with the start.”
Spring Lake Park 0 0 — 0
Stillwater 2 1 — 3
St — 20:00 — Patrick Roth (Sam Rasmussen)
St — 37:00 — Ryan Dopkins (Roth)
St — 32:00 — Sam Keran (Alex Jurcoi)
Shots on goal — SLP: 0; St: 9.
Corner kicks — SLP: 1; St: 10.
Fouls — SLP: 8; St: 7.
Goalie saves — SLP: NA 6; St: Ben Wilhelm 0.