Duluth East Hockey
Jottings and Notes on the 1997-98 Season
January 1998

January 3, 1998

East 6, Apple Valley 1. These two teams met in what is arguably the greatest game in State Tournament history in March 1996, with Apple Valley winning 5-4 in FIVE overtimes. Since then, the two teams have met twice; last season at the DECC where East pounded out a 9-2 win, and tonight, where East took advantage of power plays four times on their way to an impressive win. Some line juggling was necessary due to "circumstances", and the lines clicked. Patrick Finnegan moved up to forward with Kevin Oswald and Gabe Taggart and had two goals and an assist. After Finnegan was moved back to defense in the third period, Nick Licari was teamed with Oswald and Taggart. The Carlson brothers scored twice, Rheese and Ross each scoring, adding more scoring balance as linemates on the second line.

January 6, 1998

East 6, Greenway 4. Make no mistake about it; Greenway is a serious contender in Section 7AA. Any doubts about this were erased if you attended the game tonight. They have some big, strong, quick forwards who put a lot of pressure on in the East zone. During the power plays (of which Greenway had several), they kept the puck in East's zone better than any opponent I've seen this year. I'll stop short of saying East "escaped" with a win and instead I'll say that East could have easily lost that game. Coole made a few key saves when he had to. Also, once East had a 3-1 first period lead, they never let Greenway tie the game. The teams traded goals back and forth from that point. Greenway may have shown the rest of the state that a big, strong team with a bit of quickness that can knock East off the puck, can win. Even though they didn't, but a few more breaks Greenway's way, and it could have been a different outcome.

This is the type of competition that East needs from here on to get ready for the playoffs. I don't believe easy 6-0 or 8-1 wins makes for a better team. Hopefully, East will learn from this game, and keep the intensity up from here on through the playoffs. They'd better; talent alone won't get you to state. At least not in this section.

After Greenway scored the first goal of the game on a power play, Rheese Carlson evened it up on a nice spin-move directly in front of Greenway's goalie, Nick Ossefoort. The Hounds added another on a Gabe Taggart unassisted goal, then Mike Marshall, after getting control of the puck in front of Ossefoort, put it away for a 3-1 lead, and this was how the first period ended.

Greenway scored early in the second period to cut the East margin to one, and then Taggart scored again, this time assisted by Nick Angell and Patrick Finnegan to reestablish the East lead at two goals. The teams traded goals again, before Greenway scored in the first half-minute of the third period to close to 5-4. Momentum appeared to be in the Raiders favor, until Chad Roberg's goal from Finnegan at 10:45 closed the scoring at 6-4. A great game!

January 8, 1998

East 7, Denfeld 0. Every now and then, amongst teams such as Greenway, Hill-Murray, Edina and the other tougher games East has on a very tough schedule, I like to kick back, chomp my Polish and enjoy a game where East has it in hand after one period. I was expecting this was going to be one of those games, and I wasn't wrong. I have mixed feelings about Denfeld. On the one hand, I enjoy watching East beat them as much as anybody; this comes from growing up with that cross-town rivalry thing. On the other hand, the Hunters are down as much as I can remember in recent memory. During these past couple weeks, I've been researching games from past seasons, and there have been so many great games played between these two teams before huge audiences at the DECC. In a ways, I miss that. These two teams don't draw nearly as well as they used to, for obvious reasons.

You can point to Denfeld's 2-0 shocker over East in January 1995 and say that anyone is capable of beating anyone else, and you'd be right....sort of. First, Denfeld had a pretty decent team that year. They had Mark Gunderson, Bucky Burliegh and others and this team played with a lot of enthusiam. In that game, Mark Zapp was in the nets for Denfeld, and he played what might have been the game of his career. He shut down Spehar, Locker and company. But other than that, since the 1993-94 season, the Hounds have not lost to Denfeld. In their last nine meetings, including that 2-0 Denfeld win, East has averaged over seven goals a game, while allowing less than two goals a game. It's been a dominating stretch for the Hounds, and tonight's game continued that domination.

The shots on goal were 38-5 in favor of East; only the Central and Marshall games featured a more one-sided stat in terms of ratio. Once again, all three main lines were productive; Mike Marshall added two more goals, Patrick Finnegan buried two, and the "Brothers Carlson" connected twice, one each for Ross and Rheese.

It's tough to draw a bead on the quality of a team from a game such as this. East played well enough to maintain total control throughout. It has to be tough to stay focused when the game is in running time in the third period, and East still managed to.

The game did feature a first, at least from my perspective. While East was working away in the Denfeld end, my brother and I were stunned to see Adam Coole drop onto his front side and do two pushups! What was that about?! He's a lot of fun to watch when he isn't getting much action, but this was the last thing I had expected, and this was while the puck was in play. God, we laughed. Some Central players sitting nearby were amused as well. I guess you gotta do what you can to stay in the game when it's like this. And I never doubted that you need to have a different mind-set to face pucks flying at you at high speeds. Adam always appears loose, and I think it helps his game a good deal.

Central 2, Hermantown 1. Central did what they had to. Going all out, throwing their bodies at pucks laying loose dangerously, they kept Hermantown from evening the score in the third period, and pulled out a nice upset. They worked hard for it, and they deserved it. Congrats to the Trojans! It was neat watching them tear onto the ice after the game was over as though it was a sectional playoff win. Hermantown had been rated #2 in the Let's Play Hockey media poll and #7 in the latest PageStat2 rankings. They'll drop somewhat in both polls as a result.

January 13, 1998

Rheese Carlson. The Minnesota State High School League board of directors has reinstated Rheese's eligibility, allowing him to play out the remainder of the season. This was a long, drawn-out process, and the end result puts to an end constant uncertainty over his status.

Rheese's absence would not have made a great difference in how East played; indeed, they beat Hill-Murray and a few other teams without him. He simply makes a very good team even better. That isn't what this has been about in the first place. It's been about a player's desire to play his senior year on the same team as his younger brother, Ross. It's been about an honest misinterpretation of rules that are oft times complicated and obscure. Rheese and his parents did what they felt was right in the belief that they were in compliance with regulations covering transfer students.

Kudos to the MSHSL for realizing that sometimes there is a difference between the rules, and what it right and just, and following the latter in this case. Now that this is behind everyone, Rheese can relax and show the hard-working talent that we've seen in him this season. Congratulations, Rheese!

East 10, Superior 2. You would have thought that this was a section final game, from the way East started off tonight. Six goals in a first period while outshooting the Spartans 20-1. It only took 1:57 for Zach Burns to put in the first of an avalanche of Hound goals. Patrick Finnegan netted his first of three goals at the 7:14 mark, and East would follow up with four more goals in the next six minutes to put to rest any doubt on what the outcome would be. Rheese, playing like he had a major weight off his shoulders (see story above), buried a feed from Ross at 8:15, Finnegan got his second goal at 9:50, Chad Roberg followed up less than two minutes later, and then scored again at 13:10

The onslaught continued in the second period. Finnegan completed his hat trick 44 seconds into the period. Then it was the first line's turn, after being held off the board in the first period. Kevin Oswald scored at 3:43, and got his second goal of the night three minutes later. Mike Marshall completed East's scoring at the 9:54 mark. Superior added two meaningless goals after Tyler Olson replaced Adam Coole in the net.

After the smoke had cleared, East had come away with a 45-7 advantage in shots on goal. It was the second straight game that East had held their opponent to under ten shots on goal, and also the second straight game they had outshot their opponent by a margin higher than 30. Their goals per game is now over 5.5, while allowing an average of 1.14. Their average shots allowed per game is under 13.5, even better than the stinginess they showed last season.

Four players had at least three points in this game; Rheese Carlson (1 G 3 A), Finnegan (3 G), Ross Carlson (3 A), and Nick Licari (3 A). Four more players added two points; Roberg (2 G), Oswald (2 G), Marshall (1 G 1 A), and Nick Angell (2 A).

The season-to-date stats show the difficulty in keying on one player or on one line. Four players have 10-11 goals; Taggart, Oswald, Roberg and Ross Carlson. If you somehow stop them, then you get Finnegan (9 goals) and Mike Marshall (8 goals) to contend with. I thought the team had some nice scoring balance last year, but this year that balance seems even more pronounced. Even if you stop the first two lines, there's still the third line to contend with. This line is looking very strong, and will be a force next season, if not already.

Next up for the Hounds is at Proctor this Thursday

January 15, 1998

East 8, Proctor 1. The Hounds continued with another strong offensive showing; starting with the Silver Bay game, they've now averaged over six goals in the last eight games. Rheese Carlson had three goals, and Gabe Taggart and Patrick Finnegan added two goals each; Finnegan now has seven goals in the last three games. The shots on goal were once again lopsided, with East enjoying a 48-16 advantage. The 16 shots they allowed, however, were more than East's two previous opponents (Denfeld and Superior) had combined.

Another game in which East solidified their offensive prowess while remaining solid on defense.

January 22, 1998

East 10, Two Harbors 1. The score was close to what I had predicted (12-1 East). It took the Hounds most of the first period to get going. After Nick Licari opened the scoring just 1:35 into the game, East played for most of the rest of that period as though they were on auto-pilot. Two Harbors did a decent job defensively, and East helped them out a bit by simply not clicking as well as I'm used to seeing.

The Agates had a real chance late in the first period when East was two men down, but Gabe Taggart scored a short-handed goal to make it 2-0, and that was how the first period ended. Until that goal, Two Harbors was very much in the game; indeed, the first period shots were only 8-5 in favor of East.

East got it going in the second period. Ross Carlson, Nick Angell, Patrick Finnegan, and Kevin Oswald all buried chances, and frustration set in on the Two Harbors side. As Kevin Oswald was slapping in East's sixth goal from directly in front of the Two Harbors net, he was immediately hammered by a Two Harbors player. Oswald got up and returned the favor with some gusto and anger, and the two players were sent to the box; the Agates' player for two minutes for roughing, and Kevin for five minutes for high sticking. It was a rough moment, but Two Harbors got themselves into more penalty trouble, negating their chance to capitalize on the man advantage they would have had for three minutes.

Tyler Olson replaced Adam Coole in goal for the third period, and Two Harbors finally got a goal when Ryan Theros fed Andy Rietan for a breakaway chance. By that time, the game was well in hand. The third period was played in running time.

A few personal observations on the game; first, East did what they had to do to win, and the shots were 30-10 in their favor. Other than that, I've seen the Hounds play better against more skilled teams. They didn't put together three great periods, and they didn't have to, but their penchant for taking penalties is somewhat troubling. It's a trend that they've been able to get away with, but if this happens against skilled teams such as Grand Rapids and Anoka, how will they respond?

Taggart had game totals that some players would like to have in an entire month; three goals and three assists, adding to his totals as the leading point getter in the Lake Superior Conference. I was happy to see the first line step it up a bit in this game, but the second line also contributed a great deal, as did the third line with two goals. It was an overall decent performance in a game they should have won...and did win. The defense was also solid save for the brief breakdown in the Two Harbors zone that allowed the breakaway.

Tony Sarsland In case you didn't already know, he's the head coach of the Elk River boys' team. In case you didn't also know, he's currently serving a four game suspension imposed by the Elk River superintendent. In the midst of a game last Saturday against Champlin Park (a game which became very chippy), he tore into Joey Bailey for a retaliation against a hard check. Bailey didn't take a penalty for going upside the Champlin Park's player's head with his hand, but Sarsland saw it, and he exploded. On the bench, he told Bailey he'd like to take him out behind the building and "break your nose".

It didn't end there. After the game, in the dressing room, Sarsland held up his fist in front of Joey's face and told him that if he ever did something like that again, he'd break his jaw.

I find this episode particularly disturbing. Sarsland is known as a disciplinarian, but there is a difference between that and a total loss of emotional control both during and after a game. Let me ask you; if a coach puts on such a display, what type of message is there for the kids he's coaching??

He was apologetic afterwards (how else could he react?), but in my opinion, the four-game suspension isn't enough. It reminded me just a bit of the Minneapolis North/Henry incident, but this affair has one major departure in parallel; in the North/Henry incident, it was a player who went berserk. In this one, it was the coach. I would only hope that Mr. Sarsland will learn a valuable lesson from this. These are teenage kids we're talking about... nothing justifies this type of behavior towards any player. I say, suspend him for the season...at least.

Other news. In a scrimmage last week, East edged out Jefferson on the Olympic size rink at the Bloomington Ice Garden. I don't have a detail report on what the play was like; if anyone has info on this, I'd like to hear it! Local scores tonight include Hermantown and Superior battling to a 0-0 tie, Denfeld defeating Proctor 3-2 at the DECC , Marshall beating IRC punching-bag Chisholm 7-3, and Silver Bay continuing a fine season by defeating Duluth Central 6-3, the sixth goal being an empty netter in the final half minute of the game. You can see all the Minnesota scores, both boys' and girls', in a new page I've initiated this week.

January 25, 1998

PageStat2 view of Sections. Before the season started, I did a review of how PageStat2 rated each section according to their 1997-98 alignment and how the teams did last year. I thought it would be interesting to do something similiar to that now, with the section playoffs coming up in a few weeks.

I rated each team on a plus/minus scale. They received +1 for each team in their class they were rated higher than, and -1 for each team they were rated lower then. After determining the plus/minus for all teams, I then determined an average for each section.

I then took this a step further, and did a review on the top teams in each section, and how PageStat2 saw their chances of going to the state tournament. A "favorite" is determined to be a team within one rating point of the top in their section. "Good Chance" indicates a team within two points of the top; "You never know" is reserved for teams within 3.5 points of the top.

The sections are reviewed in order of strength, with Class AA being reviewed first. The +/- in parenthesis after the section name is the average for that section.

  • Section 7AA (+32.0) Favorite: Duluth East; You Never Know: Elk River, Hibbing, Greenway, Grand Rapids.
  • Section 8AA (+11.5) Favorite: Roseau; Good Chance: St Cloud Apollo, Bemidji; You Never Know: Moorhead
  • Section 5AA (+7.1) Favorites: Bloomington Jefferson, Holy Angels Academy; Good Chance: Lakeville; You Never Know: Eagan, Burnsville
  • Section 3AA (-2.4) Favorites: Centennial, Hill-Murray, Roseville Area; Good Chance: White Bear Lake; You Never Know: Tartan, Irondale, Woodbury, Stillwater
  • Section 4AA (-6.5) Favorite: Anoka; You Never Know: Osseo, Blaine
  • Section 1AA (-7.8) Favorite: Rochester John Marshall; Good Chance: Rochester Mayo, Albert Lea; You Never Know: Owatonna
  • Section 2AA (-12.0) Favorite: Hastings; Good Chance: Cretin-Derham Hall; You Never Know: St Paul Johnson, South St Paul
  • Section 6AA (-14.8) Favorites: Edina, Eden Prairie; Good Chance: Wayzata; You Never Know: Mpls South, Mpls Southwest
  • Section 8A (+32.0) Favorite: Warroad; Good Chance: Lake Of The Woods, East Grand Forks; You Never Know: Red Lake Falls
  • Section 3A (+11.8) Favorites: Mahtomedi, Farmington; Good Chance: St Bernard's, Simley, Northfield; You Never Know:St Thomas Academy
  • Section 6A (+10.6) Favorites: Hutchinson, Mound-Westonka, Breck; Good Chance: Blake, Buffalo; You Never Know: Prior Lake
  • Section 2A (+7.7) Favorites: Hermantown, Mora; Good Chance: Pine City; You Never Know: Proctor, Chisago Lakes
  • Section 7A (-6.4) Favorites: Eveleth, Silver Bay; Good Chance: International Falls; You Never Know: Virginia, Duluth Central, Mesabi East, Duluth Marshall
  • Section 5A (-9.8) Favorite:Benilde-St Margaret's; Good Chance:Totino Grace; You Never Know: St Louis Park, Spring Lake Park
  • Section 1A (-11.6) Favorite: Red Wing
  • Section 4A (-6.2) Favorites: Sauk Rapids, Fergus Falls; Good Chance:Detroit Lakes, Little Falls; You Never Know: Wadena, Benson, Crosby-Ironton, Long Prairie
  • I doubt that any of those teams shown as "You Never Know" will actually make the State Tournament, but stranger things have happened. It's entirely possible. I would venture a guess and predict that no fewer than three teams shown as "Good Chance" will make it to St. Paul. There's only one way to know for sure, and that's to play the games! Good luck to all!

    January 28, 1998

    East 4, Hermantown 1. The last time I saw Hermantown play, they were less than impressive in a 2-1 loss to Duluth Central at the DECC. While understanding that tonight's game would be played on their home ice, I still figured East would have little trouble disposing of the Hawks.

    I was wrong. The 4-1 outcome was very misleading. After Hermantown tied the game 1-1 early in the second period on a Chris Baron goal, East realized they were in a game with a team that wasn't going to go down easily. The Hawks showed why they are rated in the top 10 in Class A in Minnesota, with a very strong defensive effort. Their passing, at times, was very crisp and quick, and they showed me more speed on the forward lines than I witnessed in the Central game. East had periods where they dominated in Hermantown's zone, but it wasn't as strong an offensive showing as I was used to seeing. The final verdict was somewhat in doubt until Gabe Taggarts empty net goal with 69 seconds remaining.

    Shots on goal were tilted in East's favor 27-15, but it didn't tell the entire story. Hermantown played better than that. The flow of the game was smooth at times; then there were times such as the skirmish near the benches in the second period that sent six players (three from each team) off into the penalty box on double-minors. It took Hermantown's best player, Jon Francisco, off the ice, and when J.R. Bradley took a penalty during those four minutes, East capitalized on a Kevin Oswald power play goal.

    Overall, the game seems to legitimize Hermantown as the leading team in Section 2A. They proved that they can play with anyone (at least on their ice), and it should serve to be a boost to their confidence for the remainder of the season.

    About Hermantown's arena; the place is cold (you can see your breath inside there), and the seating is mainly steel benches, which doesn't matter much because nearly everyone stands. Despite that, I found it to be a very enjoyable place to watch a hockey game. It lacks the comfort of the DECC, but it has an atmosphere the DECC really lacks. My brother commented on the siren that goes off when the Hawks hit the ice, and how it must pump up their team a bit. The DECC doesn't do this, and it should. That's not the only beef I have with the DECC, and I'll address this at a later time. I would liken it just a bit to the Pine Valley Ice Shelter, where Cloquet plays. The fans are very close to the rink, and it can really affect the emotion of the game. And this is exactly what home-ice should do! The ice surface seemed very good, also; I didn't notice the puck bouncing and rolling nearly as much as I did when visiting Wessman Arena earlier in the season.

    Other news. Chris Hood notched a power play, leading the Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers to a 7-2 victory over the Duluth Central Trojans at the DECC. Five different Hunters scored as Duluth Denfeld defeated the Two Harbors Agates 6-2. Adam Laaksonen was strong in goal, stopping 15 of 16 shots as the Cloquet Lumberjacks upended the Superior Spartans 5-1 at Wessman Arena. Dan Viola had a goal and an assist as the Silver Bay Mariners edged the Proctor Rails 3-2 in Proctor.

    January 31, 1998

    East 3, Grand Rapids 2. Talent alone won't win the real close games, the games where a lot is at stake, such as a sectional seeding. In games like this, you'd better bring some emotion to the game, or be prepared to depart on the losing end of the score.

    East brought their emotion to the game today, and it may have made the difference. It was the closest-matched, hardest played game I've seen this year at the DECC, and there have been several. The games against Elk River, Edina and Greenway were very good games, but there was something different about this one. You could say it was the revenge factor, of East wanting to repay Grand Rapids back for the loss they suffered earlier in the season. You could say it's that these two teams really don't like each other; that was evident as much after the game was over as it was during. You could say it was the fact that the Thunderhawks simply match up very well against East, despite an appearance from Grand Rapids' record that they would not necessarily match up well. You could say any of these and have a strong argument.

    Rheese and Ross Carlson continued making a strong contribution, each scoring a goal. Rheese's goal started the scoring at 11:35 of the first period. East got into penalty trouble just after that, and it cost them as Grand Rapids scored the first of two power play goals, Andrew Friberg scoring at 12:29 on a rebound left on an Andrew Downing shot.

    Neither team scored in the second period, setting up a climatic third period. East scored twice within a 73 second span to get some breathing room. Patrick Finnegan, left alone to the right of Grand Rapids goalie Kris Olson, took a perfect feed and buried it. Soon after, it was Ross Carlson's turn, assisted by Gabe Taggart and Dan Roman.

    Once again, East paid the price for taking a penalty when Patrick Finnegan drew a five minute major for slashing; Josh Edwards brought the Thunderhawks back to within a goal with just 14 seconds remaining. Too little, too late. East hung on for the victory.

    After the game, things got slightly out of hand while the teams were shaking hands, when Finnegan had words with one or more of the Rapids' players, and a minor scuffle ensued. The East crowd started a chant of "Go home Miskovich", and the Grand Rapids fans responded with a chant of their own; "Go home Cake-eaters". East's fans then started chanting "We're number one", to which the Grand Rapids fans obviously had no response. The East players then raised their sticks towards East's fans in a salute, and then , turned to face the Grand Rapids crowd and repeated the salute. I'm sure Grand Rapids took it as rubbing salt in the wound. Obviously, the bad blood between the two schools wasn't alleviated by the events of the game and afterwards.

    I believe this was only the second time Grand Rapids had been outshot this year (the first time being Thursday night against Eveleth), but the margin was very slight at 21-19. The game could have gone either way. A different bounce here or there, and the game could easily have gone into overtime.

    It was a hard-fought deserved victory for the Hounds, one which solidifies their claim to the number one seed in Section 7AA. Barring very weird circumstances (such as Hibbing thumping East when they play on February 12), a seeding lower than that will be a sham.

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    last updated january 31, 1998