Elation and relief showed on St. John Vianney High School goalie Nicholas Niemeier’s face after his team narrowly won the Mid States Club Hockey Association Challenge Cup championship March 11, his team’s first title since 1996.
After teammates mobbed him with congratulations, he skated to the student section of the Enterprise Center in Downtown St. Louis, proudly holding the team’s trophy aloft. The smile wasn’t going away. It’ll be there “the rest of my life,” Niemeier said. “This is going to stay with me forever.”
Vianney’s players gathered for a Mass at Vianney to start the day, he said. “It was just our team. We just wanted to make sure we always knew that even if this game wasn’t going the right way that God is with us and He’s going to lead us toward the right path,” Niemeier said.
The parishioner of St. Simon in south St. Louis County played goalie since he was age 5. He said his fellow seniors set a goal freshman year “to come on top and turn this organization around.”
The players knew their role “and stuck with it this entire game, and it came out in our favor,” he said after stopping 31 shots, many of them in acrobatic style.
Vianney jumped out to a 3-0 lead against a tough Christian Brothers College team and hung on for a 3-2 victory, with goals scored by Blake Kern, Alex Fendler and Joseph Peters. Vianney was playing in the Challenge Cup for the first time since 2001. CBC, which won four titles in a row between 2014-17, sought its 17th title.
Vianney coach Brian McGlynn said the win is a reward for the school “which does so much for these boys through education and other activities.”
All 30 players on the team were an important part of the championship season, he said, even those who didn’t play in the game. “And now they get to celebrate together,” said McGlynn, whose team finished with a 20-8-1 record.
He said his team “sat back after we built a little bit of a lead, and we explained to them that we weren’t going to win that way if we gave them too much space. We took the attack back to them and put them back on their heels.”
The team showed character, McGlynn said, because they didn’t panic after Thomas Ramer and Riley MacInnis scored for CBC.
Vianney defeated Lafayette to reach the finals, and CBC defeated Kirkwood. CBC finished the year 27-2.
In a semifinal game that St. John Vianney won in shootouts, Joseph Peters took a detour before the team’s on-ice celebration.
He went directly to Lafayette goalie Konner Canova to console him and tell him he played a great game. A local TV station had the video and carried a story about it.
Other students and teachers let Peters know they were proud of what he did.
“I played with the kid before,” Peters said. “He was a great kid, and I loved it when I played with him. He deserved every bit of (credit for) that game and what he did for his team. It was just kind of a sign of respect.”
He credits his sense of sportsmanship from his grandfather and his freshman leadership teacher at Vianney, Kevin Walsh.
The sophomore said Vianney’s students and faculty provide an atmosphere that “makes you want to come to school every day.”
A defenseman, he said the team’s goal was to make it to the finals.
His actions after the semifinal game attest to the Gospel teaching to love your neighbor and your enemy, Peters said. That idea of showing your faith is reinforced at Vianney, he said.
Duchesne over Oakville
Duchesne’s Trevor Begley broke a 1-1 tie with 1:40 left in the Mid States Club Hockey Association Wickenheiser Cup final at the Enterprise Center in Downtown St. Louis. He added an empty-net goal with 10 seconds left to complete a hat trick and defeat Oakville High School.
His emotions showed afterward as he celebrated with his teammates, then skated over to the penalty box area and got a big hug from his mom.
Derek Cagle, a defenseman who set up Begley on his first goal, said the win honors former coach Dan Rupp, who died Jan. 9, 2018, of cancer. “After everything this team has been through after Coach Rupp passed away, we just wanted to get the win for him. That’s all that matters to us. We were on a mission all year,” Cagle said.
Cagle said it was hard to describe the feeling “to do it for the guy who put so much into this program.”
Rupp’s son Joe took over as coach after his father’s death.
Cagle, a senior, said he’s made friends for life at Duchesne and “my faith has really stuck with me throughout high school and really kept me in line.”
Duchesne goalie Jack Boschert made 23 saves for Duchesne, which ended its season 19-7-3.
Duchesne defeated Fox High School to reach the finals.
Duchesne lost in the Wickenheiser Cup final last year 4-2 against Lafayette. Cagle scored one of the goals in that game for Duchesne.