John's Journal
The Underdog Hounds Of Duluth East Do It Again3/6/2015
It was clear that Mike Randolph wasn’t telling a lie. After the Duluth East Greyhounds continued their postseason underdog journey with a shocking upset of Edina in Friday night’s Class 2A boys state hockey semifinals at Xcel Energy Center, the Hounds coach said simply: “I didn’t think it was an upset.”

He will not find a lot of company in that thought. Consider …

--Edina was the two-time defending state champ.

--The Hornets had defeated Duluth East 7-1 on Dec. 30.

--Edina was seeded second in the eight-team field and East was one of three unseeded teams.

--Edina came into the semifinals with a record of 25-1-2. East was 15-10-4.

Not an upset? OK, coach.

“I’ve been here 17 times and I’m kind of used to it,” Randolph said of the state tournament hoopla. It’s rare that he shows much emotion, but as the horn sounded Friday he raised both arms as well as a big grin.

“Did you see me on the bench after the game,” he said in the postgame press conference. “I’m already thinking about watching this game as soon as you guys let me go.”

He was referring to the second semifinal between Eden Prairie and Lakeville North.

“All we do is worry about us,” Randolph said. “And if we’re playing our game and we’re on our game, we’ll have our peaks and valleys as you can see, but we’ll find a way. That’s what’s important.”

The theme in the Hounds’ prior two games went like this: fall behind by three goals and mount a tremendous comeback. That didn’t happen against Edina, which made East goaltender Gunner Howg happy.

“For me it did feel a lot better going into the game and not being down three right away,” he said, smiling. “That was a big weight off my shoulders.”

Edina opened the scoring when Patrick Haug got a goal 10 minutes into the first period. It was all East after that; Luke Dow scored later in the first period, Nick Altmann scored 31 seconds into the second and Ash Altmann finished it off with less than three minutes left in the third.

Who called them underdogs?

“It takes a lot of pressure off us and puts it on the other team,” Nick Altmann said. “We have nothing on the line and we just go out and play.”

LAKEVILLE NORTH 6, EDEN PRAIRIE 2

Top-seeded North (30-0) broke open a close game with two third-period goals and moved into the title game against Duluth East. The score was 2-2 after two periods, but the Panthers’ Max Johnson, Chaz Dufon, Jack Poehling and Luke Seper scored in the third. Eden Prairie (19-10) will face Edina in Saturday’s third-place game.

SIXTH TIME THE CHARM FOR HERMANTOWN?

Turn back the clock to the 2014 Class 1A state tournament. And keep turning that sucker back all the way through 2013 and 2012 and 2011 and 2010. And then look at the Hermantown Hawks as they prepare for Saturday’s state championship game.

This is a very familiar perch for the top-seeded Hawks (27-2-1), who will face third-seeded East Grand Forks (25-4) in the title game at noon. The same two teams met for the state championship last year, with East Grand Forks winning 7-3. Hermantown was also on the low end of the score in the previous four title games. So Saturday’s game will be their sixth title game in a row, and they enter with renewed hopes of finally taking home the big trophy.

“There’s not really pressure,” senior Nate Pionk said after the Hawks beat St. Cloud Apollo 2-0 in Friday’s semifinals. “What happened in the past is in the past. We’re going to come out with open minds, we’re going to look for a way to win this one.”

East Grand Forks, which advanced with s 5-2 win over Mahtomedi, lost to Hermantown 3-0 on Dec. 31. That’s hopefully a positive omen for the Hawks, but after going donut-for-five in five straight title games, you still have to wonder if there’s an angry ape on your back.

“I just try to get ‘em to play our game,” Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said. “And if our game is good enough we’ll win. If we don’t, we won’t. We want to play without nerves or fear and we try to play the best we can.

“In four of those (previous title) games we played really well, maybe some of the best hockey all year. And we didn’t win. We want them to play as good as they can.”

Two days after an 8-0 quarterfinal win over Spring Lake Park, the Hawks played a workmanlike game Friday. Jesse Jacques scored in the first period and Cole Koepke did the same in the third. Plante called Koepke’s goal the key moment in the game.

“That really gets rid of some of the ulcer juices right there, when you get that second goal.”

EAST GRAND FORKS 5, MAHTOMEDI 2

Grant Loven had a hat trick for the Green Wave and Trevor Selk and Austin Monda also scored. The score was 2-2 in the second period after the first two goals by Loven and Mahtomedi scores by Joe Forciea and Tim Kuivinen. But East Grand Forks did the rest of the scoring, finishing with a 33-20 advantage in shots on goal.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Friday night's Class 2A state hockey attendance was 21,609. That's the largest crowd for an indoor hockey game in Minnesota ... ever. Another hockey attendance note: Every session except Wednesday evening has set an all-time record for that session.

--Getting to the state tournament can be simple or not so simple. For example, fans from East Grand Forks and Mahtomedi faced much different journeys. East Grand Forks High School is 327 miles from Xcel Energy Center; Mahtomedi High School is only 14.6 miles away.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Class 1A
Fifth place: New Prague vs. Breck, 10 a.m. (Mariucci Arena)
Third place/ Mahtomedi vs. St. Cloud Apollo, 9 a.m.
Championship/ East Grand Forks vs. Hermantown, noon

Class 2A
Fifth place: St. Thomas Academy vs. Blaine, noon (Mariucci Arena)
Third place/ Edina vs.Eden Prairie, 4 p.m.
Championship/ Duluth East vs. Lakeville North, 7 p.m.


BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 412
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,905
Never Give Up On The Duluth East Greyhounds3/5/2015
The most dangerous lead in hockey is a three-goal margin over Duluth East. That’s the lesson for teams who have faced the Greyhounds in recent days, including St. Thomas Academy in Thursday’s Class 2A state quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.

The Cadets held a 3-0 lead after the first period and were in front 5-2 heading into the third period. But here came the Greyhounds … tying the score 5-5 with two goals in the last three minutes of regulation and winning on a goal by Ryan Peterson – his second of the game -- 91 seconds into overtime.

“No matter what happens, if you stick with it you’ll get good looks,” East coach Mike Randolph said. “The guys stuck with it, we got our looks and they buried it.”

A big rally is nothing new for the Greyhounds, who are unseeded at state and have a record of 15-10-4. In last week’s Section 7 championship game against Elk River they came back from a 3-0 first-period deficit to win 5-4 in double overtime.

Their victory over third-seeded St. Thomas Academy (24-5) was a shocker, but the Greyhounds did control some aspects of the game. The most glaring example was their 30-21 advantage in shots on goal.

“I’m looking up at the scoreboard and thinking we’ve got ‘em under 20 shots in the third period,” Randolph said. “We didn’t play that bad. We played the way we needed to play to give us a chance to win. That’s the way we’ve been playing and that’s the way we have to play.”

Nick Funk, Luke Dow, Brian Bunten and Evan Little also scored for East; Peter Tufto had two goals and three assists for the Cadets.

St. Thomas Academy co-coach Greg Vannelli said, “Once momentum starts going the other way and you can’t stop it, that’s what happens sometimes. It happened really fast.

“You can control the effort but not the outcome sometimes.”

In the postgame press conference, the first question posed to Randolph was basically this: How does your team keep winning these games?

He nodded toward the Greyhounds captains, Nick Altmann and Brian Bunten, who were sitting near him.

“See those two guys right there? They drive the bus and everybody’s jumped on. They’re two of the hardest-working captains we’ve ever had.”

Peterson, he of the two goals scored, explained the East magic like this: “We know we have to work every game. We’re used to coming back and working hard from the first minute of the period to the last minute. And it pays off.

“On the bench we kept saying, ‘Keep believing, keep working, stick to the systems.’ It works every time.”

EDINA 6, BEMIDJI 4

This game was much like the Duluth East-St. Thomas Academy contest, but Edina held off a late onslaught by the Lumberjacks. The Hornets led 3-0 after one period after outshooting Bemidji 12-2, but the team making its first tournament appearance since 1986 never went away.

“They’ve got a good hockey team,” Edina coach Curt Giles said of the Lumberjacks. “We knew they were going to battle, knew they weren’t going to quit.”

Two goals by unseeded Bemidji (23-4-2) in the second period made it a 3-2 game, Edina (25-1-2) got two for a 5-2 score and the Jacks’ Josh Lusby scored with 55 seconds left in regulation to make it 5-4. Edina’s Casey Dornbach ended the scoring with two seconds to go. Matt Masterman scored twice for the second-seeded Hornets.

Bemidji coach Wade Chiodo, asked about his team’s first trip to state in nearly three decades, said “It’s been absolutely awesome. It’s been 29 years. People are excited and they should be. We have a good hockey team and that’s the bottom line.”

LAKEVILLE 4, HILL-MURRAY 1

Jack Poehling scored two goals and Max Johnson and Henry Ebenak each scored once as the top-seeded Panthers (29-0) advanced to Friday night’s semifinals. North outshot the unseeded Pioneers 29-17. Jacob Olson scored the goal for Hill-Murray (21-8).

EDEN PRAIRIE 5, BLAINE 3

Michael Graham and Casey Mittelstadt each scored two goals for the fifth-seeded Eagles (19-9), who will meet Lakeville North in Friday’s semifinals. Fourth-seeded Blaine fell to 22-6-1.

CLASS 1A
Mahtomedi vs. East Grand Forks, 11 a.m.
Hermantown vs. St. Cloud Apollo, 30 minutes after end of first game

CLASS 2A
Edina vs. Duluth East, 6 p.m.
Lakeville North vs. Eden Prairie, 30 minutes after end of first game

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 412
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,865
A Big Win, A Pink Helmet And A Vow To Stay In 1A 3/4/2015
There is one big question swirling around the Class 1A boys state hockey tournament: Can the Hermantown Hawks, losers in the last five state championship games, finally take home a first-place trophy?

The top-seeded Hawks opened the 2015 tournament in grand style Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center, scoring three goals in the first period and cruising to an 8-0 victory over unseeded Spring Lake Park, which is at state for the first time. Nate Pionk and Ryan Kero each scored three goals for Hermantown.

But there has been another question about Hermantown: Are the Hawks considering opting up to Class 2A in future seasons? To that question we have an answer.

“No, we’re not going up to double A,” coach Bruce Plante said after the game. “We only had 37 kids come out for the team this year. Last year we had 32 come out. We happen to be one of the best teams in single A and we’re proud of that.”

Now, moving on to a pink bicycle helmet that joined Plante, Pionk and Kero at the postgame press conference. Pionk carried it into the room and placed it on the table in front of him. Obvious question: What’s the deal with the bike helmet?

Nate explained that someone on the team picked it up in St. Cloud (he thinks) and it has become a lid that signifies the MVP of each game. His teammates decided Pionk had earned it Wednesday, but he said, “It got passed to me, and I said, ‘Ryan and I should share this one.’ ”

MAHTOMEDI 6, NEW ULM 3

New Ulm came into the state hockey tournament with an 0-8 record in four previous appearances, but the unseeded Eagles gave second-seeded Mahtomedi all they wanted. Mahtomedi came out on top 6-3 but it was a struggle.

The score was 1-1 after the first period and Mahtomedi’s lead was 4-3 early in the third before the Zephyrs’ Jack Gunderson scored his second goal and Jack Becker completed a hat trick to secure the victory.

Colin Huffman scored for New Ulm only 40 seconds into the third period, making it 4-3. Ethan Kraus, who had scored the Eagles’ first goal, said, “Oh yeah, it was game on. That was when we knew we had a pretty good chance of winning that game. We hung in there until the end.”

Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl said his team played poorly with the puck and has some work to do if they want to win in Friday’s semifinals.

“I thought (New Ulm) battled real hard and to be perfectly honest I thought we really struggled,” he said. “We fought it all night long.

“The guys in the room know we’re a good hockey team, a much better team than we showed today. I think it’s a matter of making a commitment to stay the course and play our game. I think it’s a matter of conviction; we’re not going to leave the tournament with regrets and we’ll leave everything on the ice Friday when we come back.”

EAST GRAND FORKS 4, NEW PRAGUE 0

The defending state champion Green Wave outshot the Spartans 32-17 and Dixon Bowen led the way with two goals.

The game was scoreless through the first period and Bowen got on the board in the second period. Third-period goals were scored by Cooper Jerome, Nick Derrick and Bowen into an empty net.

“We hit two posts at critical times. A call here, a call there, you have to take momentum or get it back,” said New Prague coach Chris Lonke. “I can’t ask any more of our guys. They were focused and played to win the hockey game. It just wasn’t meant to be today.”

ST. CLOUD APOLLO 1, BRECK 0

Brandon Bissett scored the game’s only goal in overtime, lifting the Eagles into Friday’s semifinals against Hermantown. Breck had 25 shots on goal to 14 for Apollo.

STAYING WITH YOUR COACHES AND TEAMMATES

East Grand Forks' Bowen made an important decision before the season began. He played 10 games with the Fargo Force of the U.S. Hockey League before the high school season began, and he will return to the Force after this weekend.

But nothing was going to keep him from his senior season with the Green Wave.

“I was loyal to my coaches and my teammates and I said I was going to stay,” Bowen said after Wednesday’s game. “I haven’t regretted that decision at all.”

He has a bright future in hockey. He is a Mr. Hockey finalist and he will play collegiately at the University of North Dakota. Some players choose to leave high school early, but many don’t.

“I think some people started to worry about it a little bit,” Bowen said. “I had to make the decision for me. I thought it was a good decision and I wanted to come back and accomplish something here.”

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Quote of the day/ New Ulm’s Jon Kopacek, who got a goal in the second period: “It was pretty cool scoring here. … when you play here you have a little extra step.”

--Wink of the day/ Mahtomedi’s Jack Becker, sitting on the bench after his third goal and seeing himself on the big screen at Xcel Energy Center, winking at the camera.

CLASS 2A BOYS STATE HOCKEY
Thursday’s Quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center
Bemidji (23-3-2) vs. #2 seed Edina (24-1-2), 11 a.m.
Duluth East (14-10-4) vs. #3 seed St. Thomas
Academy (24-4), 30 minutes after end of first game
Hill-Murray (21-7) vs. #1 seed Lakeville North (28-0), 6 p.m.
#5 seed Eden Prairie (18-9) vs. #4 seed Blaine (22-5-1), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 404
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,825
Wrestling State Championship Matches Are Set2/28/2015
Tonight’s championship matches are set at the MSHSL state wrestling tournament. Third- and fifth-place matches will begin at 4:30 p.m, followed by title matches in all three classes at 7 p.m. Here are the championship matchups…

CLASS 1A
106/ Jake Nohre, West Central, vs. Ethan Cota, Kenyon-Wanamingo
113/ Noah Bauer, Pine Island, vs. Tanner Pasvogel, Sibley East
120/ Tanner Reetz, Frazee, vs. Michael Suda, Pipestone
126/ Cameron Sykora, Border West, vs. Austin Anderly, LeSueur-Henderson
132/ Blane Tschida, Kimball, vs. Louie Sanders, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial
138/ Ryan Keach, Dover-Eyota, vs. Quinten Berres, Kimball
145/ Jared Willaby, Windom/Mountain Lake, vs. Hank Friederichs, Chatfield
152/ Dietrich Balsbaugh, Trinity, vs. Shane Siewert, Lake City
160/ Paden Moore, Jackson County Central, vs. Brad Kroll, Royalton-Upsala
170/ Gage Thom, St. Clair/Mankato Loyola, vs. Luke Nordland, Jackson County Central
182/ Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central, vs. Jake Wentzlaff, Sibley East
195/ Garrett Pemelton, DGF, vs. Nathan Brinker, Holdingford
220/ Dillon Card, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale, vs. Manuel Garcia, BOLD
285/ Garrett Malstrom, Frazee, vs. Logan Nibbe, Prairie Valley

CLASS 2A
106/ Kyle Cavanaugh, Caledonia, vs. Josh Tarum, St. Thomas Academy
113/ Keaton Schorr, Kasson-Mantorville, vs. Jake Gliva, Simley
120/ Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea, vs. Tyler Wagener, Waconia
126/ Tanner Vassar, Annandale/Maple Lake, vs. Paul Fitterer, Cannon Falls
132/ David Flynn, Scott West, vs. Jackson Sweeney, Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran
138/ Treyton Austvold, New London-Spicer, vs. Seoulec Gunvalson, Benilde-St. Margaret’s
145/ Griffin Parriott, New Prague, vs. Cody Ferris, Becker
152/ Devin Fitzpatrick, Mahtomedi, vs. Brady Berge, Kasson-Mantorville
160/ Andrew Fogarty, Scott West, vs. Nick Green, Waconia
170/ Carter Nielsen, Foley, vs. Jared Florell, Totino-Grace
182/ Jackson Striggow, Orono, vs. Isaac Florell, Totino-Grace
195/ Lance Benick, Totino-Grace, vs. Carson Hagen, Worthington
220/ Jack Ryan, Simley, vs. Kevin Kneisl, Delano
285/ James Huwe, Detroit Lakes, vs. Brent Riddle, Monticello

CLASS 3A
106/ Peyton Robb, Owatonna, vs. Victor Gliva, Farmington
113/ Tyler Eischens, Anoka, vs. Rylee Molitor, Sartell-St. Stephen
120/ Jamin LeDuc, Farmington, vs. Brent Jones, Shakopee
126/ Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville, vs. George Farmah, Eastview
132/ Austin Brenner, St. Cloud Tech, vs. Adam Hedin, Rosemount
138/ Ben Brancale, Eden Prairie, vs. Jake Allar, St. Michael-Albertville
145/ James Pleski, Forest Lake, vs. Miles Patton, Rochester Mayo
152/ Brady Nelson, Rochester Mayo, vs. Lucas Jeske, St. Michael-Albertville
160/ Matt Njos, Anoka, vs. Lucas Westrich, Lakeville North
170/ Evan Ronsen, St. Michael-Albertville, vs. Mark Hall, Apple Valley
182/ Jordan Joseph, St. Michael-Albertville, vs. Luke Dodd, Eastview
195/ Tristyn Hanson, Lakeville North, vs. Bobby Steveson, Apple Valley
220/ Jake Briggs, St. Michael-Albertville, vs. Gable Steveson, Apple Valley
285/ Jon Ziedler, Lakeville South, vs. Alex Hart, Prior Lake

The Hall Of Champions Adds Title Number Five 2/28/2015
Mark Hall is probably the biggest name in Minnesota high school wrestling, and the spotlight on the Apple Valley junior will only grow in the next 12 months.

Hall won the Class 3A title at 170 pounds Saturday night, capturing his fifth state championship at Xcel Energy Center and joining an elite club. Border West senior Cameron Sykora also joined the five-crown club with a title at 126 in Class 1A; he and Hall are only the fifth and sixth wrestlers to win five.

Next season Hall (pictured in gold) will have an opportunity to break new ground and become the state’s first six-time champion. That’s probably a pretty safe bet, too, considering that he hasn’t lost a high school match since his ninth-grade year.

Hall’s gold-medal victory Saturday came with a second-period pin against St. Michael-Albertville junior Evan Ronsen. Long before title No. 5 was in sight, however, he was being asked about being a six-time champion.

“All the time. It’s endless,” he said of the topic. “First and foremost, to be in this position is a blessing for me and my family. The way I respond to those people is I have to win my fifth one before I can win my sixth one. I have to stay focused, I can only win the state title that’s in front of me; I can’t go for my sixth state title this year. I’ll wait until next year for that.”

Hall said it can be difficult to maintain a one-match-at-a-time attitude, especially away from the wrestling room and wrestling season.

“It’s really hard. It’s really important for me to keep wrestling hard and keep a good mindset, not get off track and stay motivated. It can be hard; summer comes along, spring break, stuff like that. It’s hard to stay focused. But if I can keep wrestling one match at a time, that’s the most important thing.”

--Sykora defeated Austin Anderly of LeSueur-Henderson 4-3 in the championship match, ending Anderly’s quest for a third state title.

FOUR TIMES THE GOLD

Totino-Grace senior Lance Benick ended his high school career with his fourth state title, taking home a gold medal at 195 pounds in Class 2A. He beat undefeated wrestlers in his final two matches, outscoring Wyatt Richardson of Grand Meadow 13-1 in the semifinals and Carson Hagen of Worthington 17-7 in the title round. Benick finished the season with a 42-0 record and celebrating by performing a cartwheel and back flip on the mat.

Benick said his tournament experience has changed over the years.

“My freshman and sophomore years I was a little bit nervous, but now I’m taking it all in, spending as much time here as I can and making the most of it, just trying to remember it,” said Benick, who will wrestle at Arizona State University.

Jim Richardson, Wyatt’s father and the Grand Meadow coach, said there is no easy way to prepare for or compete against Benick.

“He’s so explosive in all areas. You have to try to turn it into a Greco match, and we got out of our stance twice and it was two takedowns, it was as simple as that. And that’s why he’s the best in the country and that’s why he’s a great wrestler and a great kid.”

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Two Class 1A seniors won their third state titles: Louie Sanders (132) of Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial and Quinten Berres (138) of Kimball. Brady Berge of Kasson-Mantorville (152) did the same in Class 2A.

--St. Michael-Albertville and Apple Valley each won three state titles in Class 3A, as did Jackson County Central did the same in Class 1A.

--Sight of the day: Lucas Westrich of Lakeville North noticed a contact lens slipping out of place during his semifinal match at 3A 152. During a stoppage, he handed the lens to one of his coaches, who placed it inside an overturned water bottle cap, poured a little water over it and set it on the floor.

--Total attendance over the three days of the tournament was 49,218.

HERE ARE THE 2015 STATE CHAMPIONS

106 State Champions
1A/ Ethan Cota, Kenyon-Wanamingo
2A/ Josh Tarum, St. Thomas Academy
3A/ Peyton Robb, Owatonna

113 State Champions
1A/ Noah Bauer, Pine Island
2A/ Keaton Schorr, Kasson-Mantorville
3A/ Rylee Molitor, Sartell-St. Stephen

120 State Champions
1A/ Tanner Reetz, Frazee
2A/ Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea
3A/ Brent Jones, Shakopee

126 State Champions
1A/ Cameron Sykora, Border West
2A/ Paul Fitterer, Cannon Falls
3A/ Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville

132 State Champions
1A/ Louie Sanders, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial
2A/ David Flynn, Scott West
3A/ Adam Hedin, Rosemount

138 State Champions
1A/ Quinten Berres, Kimball
2A/ Treyton Austvold, New London-Spicer
3A/ Ben Brancale, Eden Prairie

145 State Champions
1A/ Hank Friederichs, Chatfield
2A/ Griffin Parriott, New Prague
3A/ James Pleski, Forest Lake

152 State Champions
1A/ Shane Siewert, Lake City
2A/ Brady Berge, Kasson-Mantorville
3A/ Lucas Jeske, St. Michael-Albertville

160 State Champions
1A/ Paden Moore, Jackson County Central
2A/ Andrew Fogarty, Scott West
3A/ Matt Njos, Anoka

170 State Champions
1A/ Luke Norland, Jackson County Central
2A/ Carter Nielsen, Foley
3A/ Mark Hall, Apple Valley

182 State Champions
1A/ Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central
2A/ Jackson Striggow, Orono
3A/ Jordan Joseph, St. Michael-Albertville

195 State Champions
1A/ Nathan Brinker, Holdingford
2A/ Lance Benick, Totino-Grace
3A/ Bobby Steveson, Apple Valley

220 State Champions
1A/ Manuel Garcia, BOLD
2A/ Jack Ryan, Simley
3A/ Gable Steveson, Apple Valley

285 State Champions
1A/ Garrett Malstrom, Frazee
2A/ Brent Riddle, Monticello
3A/ Alex Hart, Prior Lake

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 396
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 7,785