Duluth East Hockey
Jottings and Notes on the 1997-98 Season
November 1997

November 19, 1997

It was reported in this morning's Duluth News-Tribune that Proctor and Hermantown had been reseeded in Section 2A. This places them with central Minnesota schools such as Mora. I also learned that Duluth Denfeld has dropped from Section 7AA to Section 7A

First, about the Proctor move to 2A. I realize that this is the same section they were in prior to 1995 (?), but I still think it's a blow to 7A. They were building a fairly decent rivalry with Eveleth, not based so much on geography but rather on talent. I'm sad to see this move take place.

Now, about Duluth Denfeld. I think this move was overdue. Based strictly on enrollment, they should have done this last season. From the Denfeld perspective, it gives them a much greater chance of competing for a State Tournament bid. Let's face it, Denfeld fans, the glory days of the late 80's and three State Tournament appearances are gone, and quite frankly, I don't think those days would ever be relived out in West Duluth. By making the move, they no longer have to go through East, Grand Rapids, Greenway and Hibbing to get to state. Now, their main roadblock will be Eveleth. Still a very tough road for Denfeld, but at least now they have a chance of making the big show, even if it will be in Class A.

The season is nearly upon us. Hopefully, there will be a good turnout for the jamboree at the DECC Thursday night. I'm looking forward to seeing what Denfeld and Cloquet can show at this early stage in the 7:30 game. East takes the ice to face Proctor at 8:30; an odd seeding except for that it matches the Section 7A and 7AA champions from last year. From my memory, I think this may be the first time the two schools have met in the pre-season expo. I know Proctor will be down this year after losing Talarico and Hoffbauer, but they still have a recent history of playing East tough. I saw their matchup at the DECC last year, and the thing that struck me about Proctor was their hustle. They didn't appear to have an abundance of talent, but they played extremely well as a team. As an East fan, I'm well aware that teamwork is much more important than individual effort. It seemed to be the thing that plagued East teams in the pre-Randolph years.

November 20, 1997

There is just something about walking down that hallway from the Northwest Passage skywalk through the DECC complex towards the Arena that brings it all back the first night each season. The smell of the popcorn hits, and so many memories resurface. Remember when the DECC was still called the Arena-Auditorium, before Pioneer Hall, before the Convention Center, before the Omnimax? Back when East and Cathedral (now Marshall) was the high school hockey event of the year in Duluth? I remember all these things. Although I was still too young to remember the old East-Cathedral rivalry in detail, the smell brings back memories of past East teams. Such as the one that beat Cloquet 2-1 in the 1975 Section 2 final. Not to mention all those games before the Randolph years when you were sure East would/should win, but they would come up short.

I remember the frantic energy on the East side when Rusty Fitzgerald's goal (again versus Cloquet) in overtime put East into the State Tournament after a 16 year absence back in 1991. Little did we know at the time that there would be (so far) four more State appearances for the Greyhounds after that one!

So, I'm excited yet apprehensive. What will this year's team look like after losing Mills and Ryan Coole and all the others? I realize the success their JV team had last year (and the year before that, etc); maybe it's just something inbred from years of disappointment that even these past four years hasn't totally erased.

The Lake Superior Conference Jamboree is a great opportunity to watch the ten local teams play, and to get a bit of a feel for what one can expect during the upcoming season. I got there too late for the first two games, but caught most of the Duluth Central-Hermantown tilt. It was hard believing that Duluth Central had gone to State in Class A just two years ago; they looked so flat and disorganized. Granted, Hermantown has the potential to go to State this year, but Central looked baaaad.

Cloquet and Duluth Denfeld was more interesting. I think that if anyone in the Duluth area (besides possibly Superior) has a chance of upsetting East this year, it could be Cloquet. Denfeld obviously misses having Gunderson, but a few decent players still remain.

A word about the "program". They were handing out sheets showing the rosters for the ten schools in the jamboree at the door. Much to my dismay (and a bit of irritation), the only team who didn't submit a roster was East! What's going on out there on Hawthorne Road??? I was disappointed. Luckily, I met a guy at the game who's an uncle of two of East's players and was able to fill me in on a few of the new faces on the ice.

It doesn't appear at though East has lost anything. On defense, the loss of Mills and Coole doesn't appear to have affected them. Outshooting a team 27-2 will do that, which is what East did to Proctor. Two new players, Ross Carlson and Rheese Carlson, show a LOT of promise. I'm hoping that they will help provide some of the offensive spark East will need this year.

Overall, East was overwhelming, and it alleviates a lot of questions I had prior to this. It looks like another great season.

November 25, 1997

Duluth East 6, Duluth Central 0. No surprise here. Central's goalie, Brandon Mireault, played very well, otherwise the score might have been 10-0 or 12-0. I wasn't looking for East goalie Adam Coole to be tested, and he wasn't. East outshot Central 54-7, and I don't recall any of Central's seven shots being from close range. Adam wasn't screened and had a good look at those shots, and they were easy saves.

Surprisingly, coach Randolph had Finnegan and Angell on the same defensive tandem. I thought he would split them up to even out their defensive pairs somewhat, as he had done last year with Mills and Coole. When they were on the ice, they were dominating. Angell made a couple nice end-to-end rushes, and I was taken with how much faster he is this year. Maybe I just didn't notice his speed last year, but it was sure apparent last night.

The second defensive pair of Jon Hedberg and Mark Anunti played very well, also. Hedberg, just a freshman who is already 5'11" and 205 lbs, scored East's second goal of the night. This kid shows some serious potential.

The main line of Gabe Taggart, Dan Roman and Kevin Oswald accounted for four goals. Taggart ended the night with five points (2 G 3 A). This line was adequate last year, but is downright impressive this year. The second line, with Chad Roberg centering Ross And Rheese Carlson, didn't do much except keep the puck in Central's zone constantly and generate a lot of scoring chances. They didn't score, but still looked good. They'll get their goals during the season; count on it.

The third line consists of Jesse Hagadorn, a senior, centering two underclassmen wings, juniors Mike Marshall and Nic Serre. I get the feeling that at most other area schools, this would be the top line. Getting considerable playing time, especially late in the game, was their fourth line that is an interesting mix. Eighth grader (!) Nick Licari centers senior Jesse Hagadorn and freshman Andy LeTourneau. It looks like Licari and LeTourneau could be headed for long successful careers at East.

I didn't pay much attention to different mixes Randolph used, if any, later in the game. Jesse Karich did get a little playing time. If I missed anyone, my apologies! It's tough to stay focused on a game where the outcome isn't in doubt after the first few minutes, and I'm afraid I fell victim to a bit of complacency in the second and third periods.

In summary, their first game's result is of little surprise to me. We'll see how they handle Elk River this coming Saturday. Elk River was moved from Section 8AA to 7AA this season. If they're thankful they no longer have to get past Moorhead to get to state, I wonder how they'll feel by season's end having to get by East...and Grand Rapids...and Greenway...and Cloquet? Section 7AA may not be the toughest section in Minnesota, but there is no subjective evidence to suggest that they aren't miles ahead of 8AA in top-to-bottom talent.

November 27, 1997

The two-class system. There are a few significant moves up here in NE Minnesota this season. First, Denfeld moved from 7AA to 7A, opening a slot. This slot was filled by Elk River (moving from 8AA), made possible due to Roseau moving up from 8A to 8AA. The main (possibly only) saving grace of this two-class system is that smaller schools have the option of moving from Class A to Class AA, and playing against the larger schools. How many of us remember the David vs. Goliath matchup of Warroad against Edina so many years ago? Roseau did the right thing and moved up.

There is a small problem with Roseau's move, however. Warroad decided to stay in Class A, and it has tainted what was likely the best rivalry (in terms of talent and longevity) in Minnesota hockey. My personal opinion on Warroad's decision to stay put is that it was a chickens*** decision. Warroad deserves to be in Class AA, based solely on talent. Roseau's move has left Warroad as a virtual write-in for representing Section 8A in the State Tournament each year. Is this what motivated them, to take place in what is still basically a second-rate tournament each season? Hey, don't get me wrong, I think the two-class system is great for the most part...it gives schools which would otherwise have no chance of being in the State Tournament a chance to still participate. Without a two-class system, do you really believe that schools such as Hutchinson, Lake Of The Woods and Proctor would have a chance?

I agree that the Class A tournament usually features a few exciting teams each year, teams which would hold their own against the Class AA participants. But overall, the level of quality of play is lacking, and it is reflected in the attendance numbers at the tournament.

What really concerns me about having a two-class system is this; what is to keep the State High School League from expanding this once more to three...or four...classes? You don't think this is possible? Look at what they did to basketball. This sport also featured two classes for many years, and now they have expanded it to four. High School basketball in this state is a joke as a result. There is such a thing as overkill, a point at which a state tournament becomes a diluted product. High school basketball in Minnesota has become such a product. Let's hope they never repeat the same mistake with hockey.

Duluth 4, Hibbing 1. I had an interesting email a few months ago from a viewer, advising me that I was going to ruin a good web page by including Girls' High School Hockey. His opinion was that it was devoid of talent and excitement.

Hmm....his slope-head mentality aside, a few comments are in order. First, it's a given that the talent level isn't the same...so what? If you subscribe to the belief that only the most talented levels are exciting, we should all just quit watching everything except for the NHL, right? That belief is obviously flawed. Second, I saw a good part of the Duluth-Hibbing girls' matchup last Thursday, and it was one of the most exciting games I've seen in awhile, at any level. The effort is what provides the excitement, and the girls put out a very fine effort. I'm not one to expose a fragile male ego and turn my nose up at a sport which has been growing exponentially in participation and excitement during the past couple years. I'm not saying that the girls will ever be able to compete at the boys level, but that has nothing to do with it . Watching a game that will occasionally put you on the edge of your seat has everything to do with it, and Thursday's game had me doing that.

The 4-1 outcome is misleading. It took two very late open-net goals by Duluth to pull this one off. The two teams were very evenly matched throughout, and Hibbing could have easily tied the score if not for taking a penalty in the final two minutes. A great show!

Forfeit I saw in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune this morning that St. Paul Central-Highland Park defeated Minneapolis Henry/North due to a forfeit??? Anybody know something about this? I'm curious as to the circumstances surrounding something I don't recall seeing before in Boys' High School Hockey. Not to mention how to include this in my ratings system. I suppose I should just credit Central-Highland Park with a 1-0 victory? Best solution I can think of.

PageStat system. I've decided to post the first ratings this coming Sunday. This will be done with the knowledge that not all teams will have played their first game by then. For those of you who will be wondering how a team can be rated in a computerized system that hasn't even played a game yet, keep in mind that the system will be weighted to take last season's results into account. The weighting will be heavily on last season's results, and will gradually be factored out as the season progresses.

November 30, 1997

East 3, Elk River 0. Arriving late and missing the first period of the JV game, I was not very impressed with East's JV team. They had Elk River down 6-4, and then gave up two goals to let them right back into the game. The teams ended up tied 6-6 in OT and I came away with serious concerns about their defense and goaltending. They also didn't look very fast or strong either; however, this could have been from being used to seeing East's varsity team play.

Now, about the main game. I'm always nervous early in the season; it takes longer for East to convince me that they are deserving of a high ranking in the State polls than it does other people. Watching Elk River in practice, they looked big, strong, and appeared to have a high skill level. This didn't alleviate my anxiety much. I was wondering how East would hold up. How would they react to giving up an early lead to the Elks?

I didn't have to find out how they would react to being behind, because they never were. Once again, this looks like a team that is very strong on defense. Coole faced 17 shots, and was never in any serious trouble. Hedberg, the ninth-grader paired with Mark Anunti on defense, impresses me more each time I watch him. So, too, does Gabe Taggart. Maybe I never noticed him much last season, what with players such as Mills, Coole, Wheeler, Finnegan and Mathias in the spotlight, but he is turning into somewhat of a scoring machine, with six points in their first two games. They kept Elk River's offense at bay. What I thought was a team that would give East a very good game never turned out to be. It looks, at this point, as though Elk River will be the second or third best team, only in a different section this year.

[ Archives ]

last updated august 1, 1998