Sunday, March 11, 2007

My All-Tournament Ballot

Here's who I voted for for the Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team.

Class A

F-Drew Leblanc,Hermantown
F-Jack Connolly, Duluth Marshall
F-Bob Gutsch, Duluth Marshall
F-Jared Festler, Little Falls
F-Aaron Marvin, Warroad
F-Joe Krause, Hermantown
D-Dano Jacques, Duluth Marshall
D-Chad Huttel, Hermantown
D-Ian Stauber, Duluth Marshall
D-Matt Englemeier, Hermantown
G-Aaron Crandall, St. Thomas Academy
G-Clay Casanova, Albert Lea

In my defense on the goalie pick, my ballot had to be in before I found out that Casanova struggled in the 5th place game, and before Hermantown's Nathan Hardy played outstanding in the last two periods of the championship game. I think the only other one I didn't have was STA's Jon Schreiner in place of Englemeier.

Class AA

F-Pat White, Grand Rapids
F-Kurt Weston, Roseau
F-Tyler Barnes, Burnsville
F-Jake Hendrickson, Burnsville
F-Joe Faupel, Rochester Century
F-Zach Morse, Grand Rapids
D-Aaron Ness, Roseau
D-Joe Stejskal, Grand Rapids
D-Chris Franks, Burnsville
D-Sam Carr, Roseau
G-Reidar Jensen, Grand Rapids
G-Mike Lee, Roseau

Faupel was listed as a defenseman, even though he played forward, so that messed up the final team up a little bit. I think Franks would have been the fourth defenseman selected. Dustin Moser and Garrett Grimstad were the two forwards that made the team that I didn't have.

Credit to the Officials

Of all the stories in the high school tournament this season, one that I never heard was about the officials. Yes, there was the occasional call or two that a coach wasn't pleased with, but for the most part, I thought the officiating was excellent.

It's been my experience that officiating at the high school level can be pretty hit or miss, but credit the MSHSL for finding the top guys for this tournament. I can't think of any games that were really affected by the officials, which is a good thing. They let the players decide the game. Probably the best call I saw came in the Rochester Century/Hill-Murray game. That game may have never went to overtime had it not been for Century's goal to tie the game at 4 early in the third period. There was a scramble in front of the Hill net, and while most officials probably would have blown the play dead, the official was in perfect position and was able to see that the puck was still laying in the crease uncovered. Century was able to score and tie the game, helping them to the win.

Of course it also helped that the teams made the officials' job easier. At the beginning of this season, the MSHSL adopted USA Hockey's new rules calling for stricter enforcement of the rules, and there was a lot of complaining around the state about how many penalties were being called. But by the end of the season, teams had adjusted and I thought the style of play was just fantastic. The game was fast, wide open and exciting. I'd love to see college hockey become more like that.

Quotes from the Tournament

Here are a few quotes from the tournament that I thought were worth sharing:

“When I applied for this job, it was made very clear to me that we would playing in Class AA, and that we would always be playing AA.” Roseau coach Scott Oliver on Roseau’s decision to play up in Class AA.

“I didn’t want to rub it in, because then if they score after that, you look like a jerk”-Hermantown goalie Nate Hardy on the glove save he made in the third period of the state championship while laying on his back.

“I’m sure there’s some deep meaning and significance to it. I’m just glad they picked something old enough that I’ve heard of it, and that it has words that I can actually understand.” Rochester Century coach Bruce Frutiger on his team’s tradition of playing “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond and “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson after a win.

“I thought he hooked our defenseman, so I didn’t think we had to make an adjustment so much as the official had to adjust.” Hermantown’s Bruce Plante on whether his team had to adjust after Jared Festler’s first period goal on Wednesday.

“He’s got more moves than a barrel of worms.” Warroad coach Bruce Olson describing senior forward Bryce Ravndalen.

“That game right there is the best example of why I came back” Grand Rapids’ Pat White, on why he chose to play for Grand Rapids for his senior season.

“This is for all the dads that went out with hoses and put ice on the rinks.” Hermantown defenseman Chad Huttel after winning the state title.

“We’re young. We’re here and we’re not making any excuses, but we have 15 new jerseys from last year, and some of those new guys didn’t quite know how to handle that. If all goes well, all those 15 guys will be back, and better, and maybe we’ll be here too.” Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner on Hill-Murray’s inexperience.

“They’re going to continue to do great things in hockey, but I’m confident that they’re all going to make a difference in life, wherever they go. When you have that type of group of guys, it makes you thrilled to see them succeed.” Frutiger talking about his team after their 6-5 OT victory over Hill-Murray.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hermantown 4 Duluth Marshall 1

They didn’t need a third straight third period comeback, but that didn’t make capturing a first ever state title, and putting the finishing touches on an undefeated season any easier for top ranked Hermantown High School(29-0-2). The Hawks defeated the second seeded Marshall School of Duluth(24-5-2) 4-1 in the championship, backed by 32 saves from senior goaltender Nathan Hardy.

The two teams met earlier this season, in a game that ended in a 1-1 tie, and the championship game picked up where the last game left off, with both teams being tied at one after the first period. Hermantown started off the scoring at 3:40 of the period, when a collision behind the net caused the puck to bounce in front of the net, where Hermantown’s Brett Granmo put it in the net. Marshall responded 33 seconds later when Bob Gutsch took the puck off a face-off and fired a high shot that was gloved by Hardy. Hardy was unable to keep the puck in his glove, however, and Jack Connolly was able to knock the puck into the net. That would be Hardy’s only error of the day, as he proved unbeatable for the rest of the game.

The turning point of the game occurred just after the 10 minute mark of the game, on a Hermantown powerplay when Connolly and Gutsch came down on Hardy on a 2-on-1. Connolly made a pass across the net to Gutsch, but Hardy slid across the crease to make the pad save. Hermantown’s Justin Baker pick up the rebound and skated down the ice, where he made a drop pass to defenseman Kyle Lonetto, who fired a shot into the upper corner of the net. Even Hardy was surprised by his game-changing save.

“I was ready for the shot, he got the pass the across, and I was kind of surprised that I got it,” said Hardy.

Hermantown added to their lead seconds before the second intermission, when Tommy Engseth took a shot from the goal line that deflected off the Marshall goalie and into the back of the net. Hermantown would keep that lead throughout the third period, despite Marshall firing 10 more shots on Hardy. The Hawks iced the game when Ryan Schmidt pick up a loose back with 30 seconds left and scored an empty-net goal, setting off a celebration among the team, and their fans.

For Marshall, it was the second consecutive season that they lost in the Class A championship game.

“I told our kids that there are 140 teams that don’t even get a sniff at the state tournament,” said Marshall head coach Brendan Flaherty. “I’m really proud of our kids.”

The Hilltoppers could not find an answer to Hardy, however.

“He’s the most under-rated goalies in the state of Minnesota,” said Hermantown’s Joe Krause.

The title is Hermantown’s first in 7 appearances at the state tournament. The team will have an official coming home celebration on Monday, but parties in the small town will start tonight.

“[It’s going to be] nuts. We’re going to be going crazy,” said Krause.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Individual Player Thoughts

I haven't had much of a chance to talk about the future college players and prospects playing in this tournament, so here's my thoughts:

Ryan Walters from St. Thomas Academy caught my eye immediately in the first game. He's tremendously talented for only being a freshman. He made some very nice passes and showed great hockey sense. He easily could have had 3 or 4 assists in the first game.

Aaron Crandall got off to a slow start on Wednesday, but played an exceptional third period. I think he'll be the state's best goalie next season.

Orono's goalie, Taylor Peterson maybe isn't as talented, but he's a battler that made some great saves. He was also a recipient of the High School Character Award. Hopefully he'll have an opportunity to play some hockey after high school.

Last year, I noted that Duluth Marshall's Bob Gutsch was a big hitter. This year, he still has that physical edge to his game, but he's also developed into more of a top line scorer. He showed great hands on Marshall's first goal Wednesday. I could see him following a path like his teammate last year, Rob Bordson, who went to the USHL, played well, and earned a college scholarship.

Also last year, I heard Grand Rapids' team talking about Jack Connolly during DM's game, but I wasn't overly impressed with him. This year, he looked outstanding. He's incredibly quick, and makes a lot of things happen.

Marshall defenseman Dano Jacques had a nice game on Wednesday, and then a huge game in the semifinals against St. Thomas. He's only a junior and he looks like he could definitely play college hockey some day.

Blake's Mike Louwerse(Minnesota State commit) played a pretty good game. For the second straight year, Marshall really keyed on him and forced Blake's other players to beat them. While he isn't particularly flashy at the high school level, I think his game will translate very well to college, because one of his best attributes is that he can make plays without a lot of time and space, which is the way you have to play in the WCHA.

Hermantown's Drew Leblanc was the star of the first day. He's got pretty good size, and was an all-conference football player, so he's strong and tough. He uses his size to his advantage as well. He's got very soft hands in front of the net. He should be a very good college player, wherever he ends up.

This was the most impressive performance I've seen from Jared Festler(St. Cloud commit) in the handful of times I've seen him. His ability to see the ice is just amazing. He made some jaw-dropping passes. He's not super-fast or very big, but he's stronger than he appears and is such a smart hockey player that he is able to compensate.

Ben Hanowski played a nice game for Little Falls. Since this is his third state tournament, and he's so skilled, it's easy to forget that he's only a 10th grader. His goal against Hermantown was a beautiful finish.

Sophomore defenseman Izaak Berglund played a very nice game for Little Falls. He does a nice job of stepping up and taking the body. He plays a lot of minute for LF, and should be a good college prospect.

In the final game on Wednesday, Aaron Marvin(St. Cloud commit) picked up two nice assists off of face-off wins. I've seen a lot of people being critical of his play, but there are also rumors that he's fighting an injury which is hurting his skating. When he gets the puck, he was sensational. He's an above average passer for someone his size.

Roseau was very impressive in their first round win against Woodbury. Aaron Ness drew the most praise from people in attendance. Roseau's Nick Oliver scored two very nice goals. I heard some scouts saying they were impressed by Tyler Landman. It's just amazing to see so many quality hockey players come from such a small town.

Joe Faupel was the hero for Rochester Century, but a lot of the credit really should to his senior linemates, Garrett Grimstad and Joe Knoepke. They're both excellent playmakers that see the ice so well. Faupel just has to go to the net and they find a way to get him the puck. Grimstad is going to the USHL after the season, and I wouldn't be surprised if Knoepke joined him in the USHL next year. Not only are they talented players, their coach couldn't have been more complimentary about them as hockey players.

Hill-Murray really struggled. Nick Larson wasn't noticeable at all on the ice, though it sounds like he was suffering from an injury. Given what I've seen him do in the past, I'm inclined to believe he wasn't 100%. Hill coach Bill Lechner talked about how many new, and young players Hill had on this year's team, and it was obvious that the nerves affected them. A lot of those talented young players should be back at the state tournament some day, and this experience should help them.

Grand Rapids/Edina was the biggest game of the day, and I saw a lot of scouts at the game.

Pat White(Minnesota commit) was easily the best player on the ice. He's incredibly strong, and a smart hockey player. I was very impressed.

I was just as impressed with Grand Rapids defenseman Joe Stejskal(Dartmouth commit). He was a solid defensive defenseman and has a huge shot. He played a big role in keeping Edina's talented players off the board.

Edina's Zach Budish impressed me again, even though he probably didn't have his best game. All 5 sophomores on Edina's second line could end up playing college hockey some day. The three forwards get a lot of press, but I was also impressed with defenseman Patrick Regan, who played a nice physical game.

In the final game on Thursday, I was impressed with the Blaine duo of Ben Lynch and Joe Beaudette. Lynch is small, but very fast. The duo made a lot of nice plays happen. They're both legitimate college propsects.

Tyler Barnes of Burnsville played a very nice game. He's small, but extremely quick. Defenseman Chris Franks is another good player. He reminded me a lot of St. Cloud commit Tyler Kieffer in the way that he played.

Grand Rapids 3 Edina 1

On paper, it looked like an upset. On the ice, it was anything but. Unseeded Grand Rapids(18-7-4), with a senior-heavy roster that made it to last year’s state championship game defeated Class AA #1 seed Edina(25-3-1) 3-1 in the first round of the state tournament.

“When we drew the number one seed, a lot of people were disappointed up in Grand Rapids, but our team, personally, looked at it as a big test. We knew that if we could beat the number one seeded team in the tournament, we could beat anyone. I think we’ve proved ourselves now,” said senior forward Pat White.

Grand Rapids got off to an early lead when White, a finalist for Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award, bounced off two checks and fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Edina goaltender Derrick Caschetta.

Grand Rapids was able to use their experienced defense, and stellar goaltending to shut down the Edina offense. Senior goalie Reidar Jensen finished the game with 28 saves, including a spectacular save on Edina’s Matt Leer off of a one-timer while Grand Rapids was shorthanded in the second period.

“Our coach always tells us that defense wins championships. We’ve got a star goalie back there, standing on his head, and winning us hockey games,” said White.

Grand Rapids extended their lead in the third period when Pat White poked a rebound from a Zach Morse shot past Caschetta. Brett Cone added an insurance goal with a pretty shot to the top shelf at 10:40 of the period.

“The second goal took the pressure off our shoulders a little, but I’d definitely say the third goal did even moreso. I don’t feel too confident sometimes with a two goal lead. I didn’t want us to sit back and just try and play good defense,” said White.

While Edina’s offense was kept quiet most of the night, their talented line of sophomores was able to strike late. Marshal Everson fired a shot on Jensen, which was kicked away, but Gaarder was able to score on the rebound. But it was too little, too late for the Hornets, and while they pressured the Grand Rapids goal, they weren’t able to close the gap.

“Experience is what gets you through games like this,” said Jensen. “Last year definitely helped us [tonight].”

Grand Rapids win means that they will advance to the state semifinals on Friday to play Burnsville, who beat Blaine later in the evening.

Burnsville 4 Blaine 2

Burnsville High School(18-10) is no stranger to upsets. To earn their way to the Xcel Center, they had to defeat the state’s top team, Academy of Holy Angels in the Section 5AA final. The Blaze got their second consecutive upset win when they defeated fourth seeded Blaine High School(21-7).

Burnsville took an early 1-0 lead when junior Tyler Barnes, the hero in the Holy Angels win, took the puck on an end-to-end rush around a Blaine defender and beat the goalie. Blaine responded 2:36 later when Ben Lynch scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway to tie the game, with less than thirty seconds left in the period.

Blaine’s Luke Bayer gave Blaine the lead at 6:11 of the second period when he finished off a rush with a pretty move to his backhand. Burnsville responded at 10:18 of the second period when defenseman Chad McDuff fired a slap shot from just outside the blueline that was tipped, and handcuffed Blaine goalie Brent Hollerud.

Jake Hendrickson scored the go-ahead goal for Burnsville early in the third period when he took a drop pass from Barnes and fired a one-timer past Hollerud. Burnsville iced the game later in the third period when Hollerud came out of his net and played the puck out to the blueline, where it was picked up by Burnsville defenseman Zach King, who fired a slap shot to the far side of the net before Hollerud was able to get back in position.

Burnsville will advance to the state semifinals to play Grand Rapids, who knocked off top seed Edina in the earlier quarterfinal.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Roseau 7 Woodbury 2

The first day of the Class AA state tournament started off with something old, and something new. The Roseau Rams(27-2), were making their record 31st appearance in the state tournament, while their opponents, the Woodbury Royals(21-6-1) were making their first ever appearance in the state tournament.

But it was the Royals who looked more comfortable in the early going, jumping out to a 1-0 lead when Nick Jarrett scored an unassisted even strength goal at 4:31 of the first period.

“You have to give credit to Woodbury. They didn’t look tight. They played like they usually play to make it a real good game to start,” said Roseau head coach Scott Oliver.

Roseau was able to tie the game before the period ended, however, with Roseau’s Dustin Moser scoring his 12th goal of the season. Roseau added two more goals in the second period from Nick Oliver and Nathan Voll to take a 3-1 lead.

Roseau looked to be in control of the game at that point, until Woodbury answered back 13 seconds later on a goal by Dane Erickson.

“I thought we were going to put some distance between ourselves and Woodbury until they got that second one,” said Oliver.

Roseau’s Ben Nelson got the Ram’s two goal cushion back by scoring at 14:54 of the third period. The Rams extended their lead early in the third period with a goal by Kurt Weston. Moser and Oliver each added their second goal of the game to close out the scoring.

While it was far from a perfect effort from Roseau, there was some relief to get through the first round of the tournament, after losing both games they played in last year’s state tournament.

“It’s a lot more fun winning. It’s one step closer to hopefully winning the whole thing,” said sophomore defenseman Aaron Ness, who assisted on Roseau’s first three goals and was named player of the game.

The Rams will take on Rochester Century tomorrow in the state semifinals after Century upset third-seeded Hill-Murray.

Rochester Century 6 Hill-Murray 5 (OT)

When Joe Faupel walked out of the Rochester Century locker room and onto the Xcel Energy Center Ice prior to Century’s quarterfinal game against Hill-Murray, few people outside of the city of Rochester knew his name. After the game, Faupel’s name was on the lips of nearly all of the 15,693 spectators at the Xcel Center, and it took Faupel 15 minutes, and three renditions of “Sweet Caroline,” Century’s favorite post-game victory song, from his teammates before he was able to return to the locker room due to the barrage of questions he received from print, radio, and television media.

Faupel scored his team’s final four goals and added an assist in Rochester Century’s(24-5) 6-5 overtime upset win over 3rd seeded Hill-Murray(23-5-1). Century became the first team to knock off a seeded team this year, in the first year that the MSHSL has seeded teams for the state tournament.

The Panthers jumped out to a surprising 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Colin Briscoe and Joe Knoepke, but Hill-Murray was able to even the score by the end of the first period, and scored twice more to take what looked like a commanding 4-2 lead.

“They didn’t go away. At 4-2, we needed to get that next goal and we didn’t. Maybe if we make it 5-2, they start to go away a little bit, or change their game plan”

15:36 of the second period, Faupel scored the first of his goals by tipping a shot from defenseman Bryan Frischmann past Hill-Murray goalie Joe Phillippi. Faupel then tied the game 1:25 into the third period when he was able to jam home a loose puck that had settled behind Phillippi during a scrum in front of the net.

With the game tied, Hill-Murray looked to score the winning goal when Dan Checka stuffed in his second goal of the game off a rebound with just under 5 minutes to play in the game. But 1:16 later, Faupel responded by finishing off a pretty passing play from linemates Joe Knoepke and Garrett Grimstad. That sent the game to overtime, where Knoepke found Faupel alone in front of the net with a pass that Faupel buried to win the game. Grimstad also assisted on the overtime winner to give him five assists for the game.

“Joe Knoepke and Garrett Grimstad are both seniors and both handle the puck extremely well. They see the ice better than most players do. They’re making some beautiful passes for [Faufel] to finish.”

For Faupel, the thrill of scoring an overtime goal in the state tournament was almost indescribable.

“I can’t even describe it. It’s a great feeling. I was there at the right time, got a nice pass, and put the puck in the back of the net. It’s definitely the number one moment [in my hockey career. State tournament, four goals, it just feels great.”

The elation of the victory will be short lived for the Panthers. A little over 24 hours after pulling off the major upset, they will have to pull off an even bigger upset to beat number two seeded Roseau, who has played in the state tournament a record 31 times, compared to just 2 appearances for the Panthers.

“There’s a lot of teams at the tourney with huge tradition, and our traditions have been made in the last 9 years. In a short time, these boys have built a tradition of their own, said Frutiger.

Beating Roseau would be even more improbable than the win over Hill-Murray, but Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner thought that Century had a chance.

“Roseau is going to be in for a game tomorrow, because Rochester has grit and they’ve got grind, and strong defense and if their goalie stays hot, they’ll give them a run.”

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Warroad 3 Albert Lea 1

Only in the world of Minnesota high school hockey could a team from a town of approximately 1700 people be considered a hockey giant, while a town with more than 10 times the population be considered an underdog. But such was the case in the state tournament’s most geographically diverse match-up between hockey powerhouse Warroad, hailing from the northernmost reaches of western Minnesota and underdog Albert Lea, who was representing southern Minnesota.

It looked as though Albert Lea had a chance to pull off the day’s only upset until a third period powerplay goal was Bryce Ravndalen, followed by an empty-netter from Ravndalen dashed the Tigers’ hopes.

The game was scoreless through the first two periods, due in part, to some nerves on both sides of the ice.

“We had a lot of young kids that haven’t been here before, and they were as white as my sheets at the hotel, so it took them a while to get into the game and get some rhythm going,” said Warroad coach Bruce Olson.

“I think we came out in the first period and we were very tentative,” said Albert Lea coach Roy Nystrom.

The scoreless tie did not last long into the third period, however. Just 27 seconds into the period, Warroad’s Aaron Marvin won a face-off to teammate Jeremy Hahn who fired a shot into the net, just 5 seconds into a Warroad powerplay. After Albert Lea tied the game on a scramble in front of the net, Ravndalen scored the game-winner, this time, just 4 seconds into a Warroad powerplay.

“I’ve coached 41 years, and I think I’ve seen just about everything happen. I’ve seen that happen, but not twice in a row like that,” said Nystrom, referring to Warroad’s 2 powerplay goals in a combine 9 seconds of powerplay time.

The Warriors will move on to face undefeated Hermantown in the semifinals on Friday, where this time, Warroad will be the team playing the underdog role..

“We watched Hermantown play, and they don’t have any weaknesses. Obviously we’re going to have to play a lot better,” said Olson.

Hermantown 6 Little Falls 3

Top-seeded Hermantown defeated Little Falls 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Class A state tournament. But it wasn’t the Hawks advantage in talent that helped carry them to the state semifinals so much as it was their advantage in experience.

Heading into the third period, Hermantown trailed Little Falls 3-2, but came up with four unanswered goals in the third period to win the game. The Hawks were led by junior Drew Leblanc, who scored three goals and two assists, including the game-winning goal at 6:05 of the third period and an empty-netter with 12 seconds left to close out the victory and his hat trick.

“ I had a couple bounces go my way and I wanted to make sure I hit the net on the [empty-netter]. My linemate last year, Karl Gilbert, got [a hat trick] last year, and I kind of know what he was feeling. It’s a great feeling,”said Leblanc, referring to the hat trick scored by Gilbert in the first round of the tournament last season against Thief River Falls.

The hat tricks weren’t the only common thread between Hermantown’s first round game this season and last season. Last year, Hermantown also trailed heading into the third period, before coming back to win the game. The experience of knowing they were able to come from behind in the state tournament was a huge boost to the Hawks.

“We’ve come through in the third period this year. They don’t give in and they don’t give up,” said Hermantown head coach Bruce Plante of his team’s comeback. “They were very comfortable”

Little Falls, on the other hand, seemed to struggle under the pressure of the third period. Despite this being the Flyers third consecutive trip the state tournament, the Flyers dressed 8 sophomores that were making their appearance in the state tournament.

“Anytime you get a good team like Hermantown on the ropes, you know that they’re going to battle back. I felt like there was a lot of panicking on our part,” said Little Falls head coach Tony Couture.

Little Falls top forward line showed why they were the highest scoring line in the state. Jared Festler started the scoring at 5:47 of the first period when he stole the puck from a Hermantown defender in the corner and walked in front of the net, where he beat goalie Nathan Hardy for a short-handed goal. Festler also assisted on Little Falls third goal, when he fed the puck to linemate Ben Hanowski, who skated in with Festler on a 2-on-1, but kept the puck and fired it over Hardy’s shoulder to give Little Falls the lead.

In the end, however, Hermantown’s play in the third period was too much for Little Falls to pull off the upset.

Hermantown will advance to the state semifinal on Friday, where they will take on Warroad, who defeated Albert Lea in the last game of the evening.

Duluth Marshall 4 Blake 3

A late surge by the Bears of the Blake School wasn’t quite enough to overcome the third-seeded Marshall School of Duluth Hilltoppers, as Marshall won 4-3 to advance to Friday’s semifinal game against St. Thomas Academy.

Bob Gutsch started the scoring for the Hilltoppers at 5:28 of the first period when he picked up a loose puck in front of the net and deked around Blake goalie Peter Johnson. Later in the first period, Marshall’s Derek Randall fired a slap shot from point that found its way into the back of net to give Marshall a 2-0 lead.

Blake would cut the gap to one goal in the last minute of the first period on a goal by Erik Olson, but Marshall continued their dominance in the second period, getting two goals within 28 seconds from defenseman Dano Jacques and forward Zach Mausolf.

Momentum quickly shifted in favor of Blake in the third period, however. Stephen Steinhauser scored a powerplay goal 1:10 into the third period, and teammate Blake Dressen scored just seven second later to cut Marshall’s lead to one.

“I never felt comfortable when it was 4-1,” said Marshall head coach Brendan Flaherty. “My kids almost gave me a heart attack.”

Blake was unable to net the equalizer, though they came extremely close at 14:58 of the third period when Blake’s Mike Louwerse fed a puck to the front of the net that was tipped by teammate Josh Birkholz. The puck was trapped somewhere under Marshall goalie Jesse Behning whose body was partially in the net. The play was initially ruled as not a goal by the on-ice official, and a long video review provided no conclusive evidence that the puck had crossed the line.

“I was pretty confident that it didn’t go in,” said Behning, “but when the goal review took so long, I started to get nervous.”

“You believe it’s a goal, and you want it to be a goal,” said Blake head coach John Hamre. Though Hamre was disappointed in the final decision, he was extremely pleased with the effort showed by his team throughout the game. “You don’t play the scoreboard, you play the game. I’m proud of how our kids played; not just in the third period, but the entire game.”

On the other side, Coach Flaherty said his team will still have some work to do tomorrow before they face off against St. Thomas in a rematch of last year’s Class A state final.

“We didn’t play our best hockey. We had to win ugly. I think our kids know that they can play better.”

St. Thomas 5 Orono 2

Orono High School gave St. Thomas Academy a scare in the first round of last year’s Minnesota State High School Tournament by taking the Tommies to overtime. Midway through their quarterfinal game on Wednesday, it looked as though Orono would give St. Thomas another run for their money, before a two-goal burst in the second period helped lead St. Thomas to a 5-2 victory.

St. Thomas controlled the play early, and looked as though they would easily cruise past the Spartans. St. Thomas started the game by taking 11 of the first 12 shots, and got a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from junior Nick Larson and senior James Saintey.

Despite the early disparity in play, Orono hung in the game. Senior goalie Taylor Peterson helped his team stay in the game by making a number of outstanding saves. Peterson finished the game with 31 saves on 36 shots, with three of St. Thomas’ goals coming off rebounds. Senior Alex Pacovsky beat St. Thomas goalie Aaron Crandall down low at 15:14 of the first period to bring the Spartans within one goal, on Orono’s second shot of the game. Orono would catch another break early in the second period when they were given a 5-on-3 powerplay. It took just 8 seconds of powerplay time for senior Pat McClure to fire a slap shot from the point that beat a screened Crandall, on just the fourth shot of the game for Orono.

“There was a little tension and a little frustration,” said St. Thomas forward Anders Lee, referring to the tie score, despite St. Thomas holding a huge advantage in shots on goal.

“It helped that we got off to a good start,” said St. Thomas co-head coach Rob Vannelli. “If we hadn’t gotten out to that 2-0 lead, it might have been different”

St. Thomas regained their lead at 13:18 of the second period when James Saintey scored his second goal of the game, this time on the powerplay. Teammate Anders Lee added another goal just 31 seconds later to close out the period.

St. Thomas added a fifth goal early in the third period on a powerplay goal from Christian Isackson, but mainly relied on stellar goaltending from Crandall. After making 4 stops on just 6 shots in the first two periods, Crandall stopped all 15 shots he faced in the third period.

With five minutes to play in the third period, Crandall’s blocker came off during a scrum in front of the net, and his right index finger was cut with a skate.

“They couldn’t give me stitches because the skin peeled off,” said Crandall, after visiting the training when the game was over.

Luckily for St. Thomas, the injury should not force Crandall, who has started all but two games this season for the Tommies, to miss any time.

“I’m sure he’s going to play,” said coach Vannelli.

The Tommies will advance to the state semi-finals where they will The Marshall School of Duluth as they try to defend their Class A state title against the team they beat in last year’s final.

“There’s been a bullseye on our back all season and I think we handle it well,” said Saintey.