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

February 1, 1998

Class A vs. Class AA. I've read a few comments in publications recently, to the effect that there really isn't much difference between the quality of the teams playing in Class A versus Class AA. I thought it would be interesting to research this claim. I learned a long time ago not to accept conventional wisdom just because someone says it's true.

I researched the outcome in games since the 1996-97 season between the two classes, and what I found was very revealing. In the 680 games played between Class A and Class AA, the Class AA team has won 64% of the time (428-237-15). The average goal differential was 1.52 (4.47 to 2.95). I'm not surprised, but I didn't expect the disparity to be this striking. It leads to two conclusions:

  • The average Class A team is markedly worse then the average Class AA team. There may be a few Class A schools (Red Wing and Warroad come to mind) that could hold their own against the best Class AA teams, but those are likely exceptions.
  • Class AA teams which play a large number of games against Class A schools will generally have a distorted W/L percentage. I don't know if the folks who do the media ratings realize this, but it should be taken into account. The reverse is true for Class A teams which play a lot of games against Class AA schools.
  • I came away from this result with another question: How many teams have had a significantly worse record when playing Class AA teams as opposed to Class A schools? For how many teams has the reverse been true?

    I found that, since the start of last season, 75 teams have played at least seven games against each Class. I ignored the records of the rest with the assumption that playing less than seven games against a given Class would result in too low a sample for the results to be very meaningful. The definition of "significantly worse" I chose was a difference of 30%. In other words, if a team has a W/L percentage of .700 against Class A, but only .300 against Class AA, it meets the criteria for "significantly worse". The reverse holds true for "significantly better".

    I found there were 22 teams which had significantly worse records against Class A teams. The teams, ranked in order of the disparity, are: Cloquet (.656), Fergus Falls (.583), Willmar (.543), Grand Rapids (.506), St Cloud Tech (.502), Park of Cottage Grove (.487), St Cloud Cathedral (.470), Duluth Denfeld (.469), Winona (.451), Woodbury (.442), Sauk Rapids (.436), Virginia (.425), Owatonna (.401), Bemidji (.372), Little Falls (.367), Austin (.363), Duluth Central (.351), St Paul Central (.344), Hibbing (.328), Greenway (.321), Buffalo (.319), and International Falls (.311).

    It strikes me that the vast majority of these teams reside outside the Twin Cities Metro. Every one of these teams (except Duluth Denfeld and Austin) has a winning record against Class A schools, while the only teams with winning records against Class AA schools is Bemidji and Hibbing.

    I want to focus on Cloquet and Grand Rapids, since these were near the top of the list in disparity, and also two of the better teams which made the list. In Cloquet's case, they have only lost one game in 16 to a Class A school. However, their record is less than stellar (.281 W/L pct) against Class AA teams. Grand Rapids has had somewhat better success against Class AA teams (.417), but it is still far worse than their record against Class A teams (.923). In both schools case, they are required to play a certain number of games within their own conference. Cloquet is in the Lake Superior Conference which has only one other team besides them in Class AA (Duluth East). Grand Rapids plays in the Iron Range Conference, where the majority of teams are in Class A (Grand Rapids, Greenway and Hibbing being the only exceptions).

    What about the other side of the coin? Only 11 of the 75 teams playing at least seven games against each Class enjoys a better record against Class AA than Class A. No team meets the criteria for "significantly better", and only two come close; Fairmont and St. Paul Academy. Both teams have poor records over the past two seasons, and both teams are 4-4 in games against Class AA schools. Not a very telling statistic.

    How this (the ratio of games played against Class A to Class AA teams) affects PageStat2 is obvious; certain teams have a higher ranking than they deserve, and a few have lower rankings than they deserve. How to adjust the ratings system to reflect this isn't known. I suspect it would be a messy process and possibly requiring more time than I can realistically devote to it. Let's just say it's on the back-burner for next season, if then. Besides, the calculations are based mostly on what teams have done against their opponents compared to how other teams have done, so it might not show much of a change.

    Games this week. Five games to see this week: Hibbing at Grand Rapids on Tuesday night, Duluth East as Cloquet on Thursday, Greenway at Moorhead on Friday, and on Saturday there are two; Roseau at Cloquet and Eveleth at Greenway. If you can get to the Hibbing-Grand Rapids game, it should be a great one to see! (I'll be watching East take on Denfeld that night). The East-Cloquet game should also be very interesting, as Cloquet has run off six straight wins (including one over Greenway), since a close 4-3 loss to Grand Rapids. They always play tough in their own building.

    February 3, 1998

    East 10, Denfeld 0. I was called to task earlier this season when I reflected in my review on the Marshall game that is was "a night to pad the stats". Despite the absolute accuracy of that statement, I won't repeat that phrase. How about this; there was plenty of scoring to go around?

    There was. The only surprise in the game was that Denfeld kept the shots on goal fairly close, at 25-18. Credit this to two factors; a number of East defensive breakdowns in their own zone, and playing a style of working for a lot of close-in shots. The Hunters' two goalies, Tom Downs and Darren Greene, really had no chance on several of the goals the Hounds scored.

    The scoring was well-balanced, as nine different players scored goals. 12 players tallied at least one point in the game, and it was nice to see the "fourth line" of Justin Patterson, Nick Serre and Jesse Hagadorn get considerable playing time and play quite well. It was one of those games where the outcome is no longer in doubt after the first period. For anyone expecting a letdown after their emotional win over Grand Rapids last Saturday, there was no letdown to be found. Another solid win against a team which used to be very competitive with the Hounds, but lately has fallen on difficult times.

    DECC. If you have ever been to a place such as Wessman Arena in Superior, the Hermantown Arena, or the Pine Valley Ice Shelter in Cloquet, you know the minute you walk in the place who the home team is. The excitement is intense; when Hermantown takes the ice, a siren goes off. These places do a lot to promote their home teams (as they should ), and it adds an immeasurable atmosphere to the experience of attending a game there.

    Then, you go to the DECC to see a game. The DECC (Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center) plays the role of "home ice" to the four Duluth schools; East, Denfeld, Central and Marshall. But when a team from out of town comes to play, you wouldn't necessarily know just who the home team in, except for the color of the jerseys.

    I'm not sure if this is going to change once the section playoffs begin, but there are no goal judges at the DECC during regular-season games. I just figured this is the way it is elsewhere, until a reader from Coleraine wrote me expressing her dismay at the situation. You mean they use goal judges and the red light for scoring elsewhere??? Amazing!

    It's a sterile, dull place to watch a game. The seating is comfortable, the place is kept warm, and the sight lines are fairly good regardless of where you sit, but that's it. It's almost as if the DECC hosts these games as an afterthought, and goes through the motions of hosting the event. In my opinion, they should be embarrassed. A few ideas:

  • First, get some goal judges behind the goals and let's start using the goal lights!
  • Do away with this assinine rule that, if you leave the DECC, you won't be readmitted. Okay, that's not exactly true. You can get back in....just buy another ticket! I battled with two poor employees working the doors before the Elk River game, and was told "sorry, there's nothing we can do about it". They were right, they couldn't do anything about it, but DECC officials should!
  • Let's get some home-team excitement when the opposing team is from out of town. The DECC has the siren (ever been to a Bulldog game?); it's time to start using it!
  • I realize this is a pipe dream, but when the playoffs start, how about using the spotlights when introducing the players? Again, take in a Bulldog game sometime and you'll understand what I mean. It adds excitement to the event! At least do it when the section final is played at the DECC next month.
  • Folks, we pay four dollars to get in, and if you have the misfortune of not knowing where the free parking is downtown (or don't want to walk a bit), another three dollars for the "right" to park at the DECC's lot. Not to mention the $2.50 I pay for my "victory Polish" LOL.For this, we deserve better! Ever wonder why the fans are so uninspired at most of these games? Well, take a look sometime at the uninspiring atmosphere the DECC provides for these games.

    February 5, 1998

    East 5, Cloquet 0. Adam Coole had another strong performance in goal, and the Hounds cranked up the offensive pressure, putting 50 shots on goal on their way to their tenth shutout of the season. The victory wrapped up their third consecutive season of Lake Superior Conference play without a loss. In fact, you would have to go all the way back to 1/10/95 to find the last time East lost a conference game (2-0 to Denfeld). It was also the ninth straight victory over the Lumberjacks, who haven't defeated East since 2/5/94.

    The game was marred by many penalties, and while East didn't make the most of all their power play chances, the Cloquet power play was very ineffective. Adam Laaksonen, Cloquet's goalie, had a very strong game. Without him, the score could have been more like 10-0. But Coole made some great saves to keep Cloquet off the board until three third period goals assured the win.

    Chad Roberg scored the sole goal of the first period at 2:36, and it looked like the Hounds were going to blow the Jacks off the ice. Despite a 20-9 edge in shots in the first period, Laaksonen held firm after the first tally. Nick Angell's unassisted goal 2:47 into the second period put the Hounds up 2-0.

    Until the third period, even with the overwhelming advantage East had in play, the outcome was still in doubt. Had Cloquet managed to get a goal, it could have made the outcome more interesting. But they didn't, and when the third period started, East's offensive power could no longer be denied. The Carlson's made their presence felt during that period, with Ross scoring at 3:14. Rheese followed that with a power play goal at 8:48, and the suspense as to who would come out on top was essentially over. One last goal, by Patrick Finnegan at 10:31 while East was short-handed, completed the scoring.

    The News-Tribune had some very interesting area ratings in this morning's paper, putting both Cloquet and Eveleth ahead of Grand Rapids, Greenway and Hibbing. I understand how whoever does their ratings likes to react; the Thursday after Grand Rapids beat East in December, Grand Rapids was rated number one in the area by the Trib, while East was rated #1 in the state in both major media polls. It would be nice if the Trib would look beyond what has happened during the last week, and pay more attention to what's going on in games rather than assume a team should be rated #2 just because they had a winning streak going. Besides Greenway, Cloquet had beaten Central, Marshall, International Falls, Denfeld and Superior. Not to take anything away from Cloquet; they are a fine team, but I have my doubts as to whether you could say they are better than Grand Rapids, Greenway and Hibbing. So Cloquet beat Greenway...so what? They have lost to Superior, East (twice), Hermantown and Grand Rapids. I think the media needs to open its eyes a little and realize that (especially) Grand Rapids is a lot better than their record indicates. I doubt Cloquet is.

    February 12, 1998

    East 5, Hibbing 1. This game was a rematch of last years Section 7AA final, a 3-2 thriller won by East. There were expectations that this game would feature the same excitement, and the expectations held true for the first half of the first period. Hibbing held their own and had a good amount of the play in the East defensive zone, until...

    ...East scored the first goal of the game when Kevin Oswald scored the first of his three goals at 10:24. Something happened after that; it was as though a switch was turned on, and East simply dominated the remainder of that period, the second period and most of the third period. It took 35 seconds for East to increase the lead to two, when Ross Carlson scored assisted by Rheese Carlson and Chad Roberg.

    From the point of the first goal, East played what I believe was their best hockey of the season. They showed non-stop intense hustle, stifling defense in the typical Hounds style, and Adam Coole made the saves when he had to. They were backed by probably the most vocal East crowd of the season as well, and the players simply responded. Oswald scored his second goal at 2:20 of the second period, going in alone on Hibbing goalie Dave VonderHaar, and switching to his backhand to bury his chance. At 9:41, he completed his hat trick to make it 4-0, and Nick Angell ripped a shot in only 17 seconds later to put the game out of reach.

    They showed something I hadn't seen much of this season; when they scored, they turned up the pressure another notch and went for the kill. Those two pairs of goals scored closely together are evidence of that. Hibbing scored a mainly meaningless goal late in the third period on a power play, and the scoring was complete.

    It was a great mix of offensive pressure and very strong defense, as Hibbing was held to seven shots on goal. Randolph mixed up the defensive pairings a bit, and it worked extremely well. They will be heading into the playoffs with three excellent defensive pairs, and four forward lines who can play with anyone.

    Section 7AA Seedings. The seedings are as follows: 1) Duluth East, 2) Elk River, 3) Greenway, 4) Hibbing, 5) Grand Rapids, 6) Cloquet, 7) Forest Lake, 8) St. Francis.

    There wasn't much suspense there. I wholly expected East, Elk River, Cloquet, Forest Lake and St. Francis to be seeded where they were. I wasn't sure about Greenway, Hibbing and Grand Rapids, although I expected that the two wins Greenway had over Grand Rapids would play a large part in their seeding. I wasn't wrong. What did surprise me a bit was that Hibbing was seeded ahead of Grand Rapids. This surprise wasn't alleviated by comparing how East played against those two teams this year. True, you can't go much by how two teams compare when playing just one team, but Grand Rapids looked like the stronger of the two teams.

    I think, with the exception of the East-St Francis game, we could have three very good quarterfinals. Elk River also has to be a clear favorite over Forest Lake, but I have to wonder how much the turmoil on their team this year will play a part in how they can focus on the game. Forest Lake has a pretty good record, accumulated against a less than stellar schedule. My prediction is Elk River 4, Forest Lake 1.

    Cloquet has been beaten very convincingly by East and Roseau lately. Their defense is very suspect, and they don't look too deep on the forward lines. Having to travel to Greenway for their quarterfinal game will likely be too much for Cloquet to handle. Greenway 6, Cloquet 2.

    The best matchup has to be Grand Rapids at Hibbing. Hibbing won earlier in the season 5-3 despite being outshot by a 2-1 ratio by the Thunderhawks. Grand Rapids won the rematch less than two weeks ago by a convincing 4-0 decision. The winner will play East (likely) in the semi-finals, and I would really rather see East play Hibbing than play Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids only possible weakness will be in a goalie (Kyle Olson) who hasn't been battle-tested in the playoffs. Despite that, I predict Grand Rapids 4, Hibbing 2.

    It's tough to predict the East-St Francis game. Not from a standpoint of who will win, but whether the Hounds will score in double-digits. I say they will, and you can likely pick a random number between 10-16 and be as close as my prediction of East 13, St. Francis 1.

    February 14, 1998

    East 6, Anoka 5. I only have one report from the game and it sounded like one of those games I would have crawled on my hands and knees over broken glass to attend. But....Valentine's Day? What, I'm going to take the wife to a hockey game to celebrate the second most romantic day of the year? Yeah, suuuure LOL.

    Anyhow, the report was that it was a big character-builder coming from behind when Anoka had a first period 3-0 lead. I don't know what transpired before or after that, but it was a very unusual position for East to be in. They hadn't been down by three goals all season. The only time they had been down by two, in fact, was in the first Grand Rapids game, which they subsequently lost 7-5. So it was great to see they would find their backs against the wall, and respond so well.

    Kevin Oswald continued his scoring surge (six goals in the last four games), but it was Patrick Finnegan's goal with just 13 seconds left in the game that avoided overtime and sent the Hounds home with their 16th straight win. He and Nick Angell were once again huge contributors to the offense, with each getting a goal and two assists.

    The final shots on goal were tilted 38-27 in East's favor. Whether this stat is indicative of the way the game went, I really don't know (yet). I've learned a long time ago that the shots on goal don't necessarily mean much, and this could well have been one of those instances.

    It was a game that I would have said beforehand "flip a coin to see who wins". East has to come out of that game with a huge amount of confidence entering the Section 7AA playoffs next Thursday night.

    February 17, 1998

    Sectional Playoffs. Last night's state-wide games produced a few upsets. Eastview pulled off a minor upset against Apple Valley in a Section 5AA first round game. Cambridge upended Princeton 7-3 in Section 2A, and Monticello beat St Cloud Cathedral 3-1 in the same section. The upset of the night, however, was reserved for Section 8AA where Willmar, the seventh seed, shocked Bemidji, the second seed, by a 5-3 margin. Bemidji was considered (at least by virtue of their seeding) to have had the best shot at knocking off top seed Roseau. St Cloud Apollo and Moorhead are the only remaining teams that have a reasonable chance at doing that now.

    In local games, Proctor got scoring from everyone but the cheerleaders in breezing past North Branch 20-0. Duluth Central got goals from six different players as they advanced to the Section 7A quarterfinals by defeating Two Harbors 6-2.

    February 19, 1998

    East 10, St. Francis 0. East entered the Section 7AA playoffs with a full head of steam, capped of with a 6-5 win over Anoka last Saturday. The outcome wouldn't be in doubt tonight. East was flying from the first drop of the puck, Patrick Finnegan scoring at the 5:24 mark. It was the first of four first period goals for the Hounds, and you sort of had to feel for St. Francis. They were in way over their heads tonight.

    Kevin Oswald continued his scoring tear, getting another hat trick. Finnegan had two goals and three assists, Rheese Carlson had two goals and three assists....well, the entire team contributed. The shots on goal were proportional to the final score, with East having a 47-6 advantage. I don't believe the Saints had a shot on goal during the final period and a half. That's how dominating the Hounds were.

    Due to the DECC having prior commitments, the game had been moved to the new Pine Valley Ice Shelter in Cloquet. This is a great place to watch a game, and it's even better if you don't mind standing on the upper level which overlooks the ice sheet. An alcove of sorts on one end gives you a very nice birds-eye view of the entire rink. There isn't a blind spot from this vantage point. Cloquet should be proud of their new facility. Now, if only East had a facility of their own in which to play their home games.......but we're "stuck" with the DECC. That is, when the DECC isn't committed to things they would rather host than high school hockey.

    February 21, 1998

    East 2, Grand Rapids 0. This was a classic section semi-final game played at the Hibbing Memorial Arena. It was also the rubber match between the two teams, with each team winning on their home ice during the regular season.

    The buildup was intense, the place was packed, and the game lived up to it's billing as a battle between two top-rated teams. I'm still shaking my head over how the state pollsters could have ignored Grand Rapids this season. Zero votes? I mean, come on! They're better than that, and they've certainly showed it when they've played East this season.

    Today's game was no different. Grand Rapids had several excellent chances early on; Adam Coole stood his ground, and got a little help from Patrick Finnegan on one flurry when the Thunderhawks were putting on all kinds of pressure. Grand Rapids had the edge on shots on goal, as they have in nearly every game they've played this season; it proves that shots on goal only sometimes tell the whole story of a game.

    Two of East's shots were on Grand Rapids breakdowns. The first goal, in the opening period, was when Mike Marshall skated in on Kris Olson and snapped a wrist shot past him for a 1-0 East lead. Marshall is going to be a sniper next year. He has a hard, accurate wrist shot, and this goal reminded me a lot of a goal he scored from a similar angle against Edina's Jeff Hall earlier in the season.

    Grand Rapids had several chances on power plays, and they were able to get set up well in East's end, but they couldn't manage to bury their chances. It was the difference between East going home the victor, and Grand Rapids moving on to the Section 7AA finals next Thursday. East had serious problems getting the puck out of their zone in the second period, and it was more luck than anything that Grand Rapids couldn't tie the game.

    In the third period, East responded. Rheese Carlson was sent in on Kris Olson, and blew a shot past him, sending the East side of the Arena into bedlam. After that, East picked up the pace, meeting Grand Rapids more in the neutral zone and not allowing the Thunderhawks to gain the offensive zone as easily as they had earlier in the game. They also improved their forechecking substantially, and got good defensive play when they needed to. I was very impressed by the play of players like Mike Salmela who don't usually get a lot of ice time. Mike has shown himself to be a quality blue-liner lately, and it's a welcome addition to the four regulars East have on defense.

    It was a hard fought game, although it appeared the officials were watching the crowd more than the game at times. A lot of chippy stuff went "unnoticed". For an East-Grand Rapids game, I would say it was a relatively cleanly played affair, and the bad blood between the two teams didn't seem to surface as I expected it would.

    For Grand Rapids, it's home to what I've been told is an unappreciative community, one which expects them to go to State every year. (Note: Grand Rapids hasn't appeared in the State Tournament since 1990) I sympathize with their players, and hope that their community realizes that they gave it their all, and shows the support the team deserves. For East, it's on to their fifth straight Section championship game against an Elk River team that has saved their best hockey for the playoffs. Next Thursday night at 7:30 at the DECC, the two teams will do a gut-check and we'll likely see the type of game they're capable of playing. Good luck to both teams! Whomever emerges the victor will represent Section 7AA very well in the State Tournament in two weeks.

    February 25, 1998

    DECC response. On February 3, I wrote an analysis of the DECC, and I wasn't too kind towards them in that analysis. Out of fairness to the DECC, I did receive a response to my comments; these follow:

    I am writing in response to your views that the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC) is not doing enough to support Duluth's hockey program. The first thing that I would like to relay is that there will be a "lights off" spotlit starting lineup in tomorrow's matchup between East and Elk River. As for the other things such as goal judges, sirens and readmission, these are all ISD 709 and State Hockey League policies. I too graduated from East and know how dry the atmosphere can become. I would also like to see some improvements done with the games that come to the DECC. What I am driving at is that the DECC does not hold the hockey games. The State Hockey League and their representative, Frank Johnson, are the policy makers. I sympathize with their predicament as well. They do not have enough funding to staff all of the games to the extent of an organization such as UMD and the WCHA. I apologize that the DECC isn't as warm as an environment as it could be, but the fact is that it is a rented space to hold hockey games. Thank you for your concerns and time.

    Sincerely, Jeff Stark DECC Technical Services

    First, I think it's great that they'll be using the spotlight on the lineups tonight. Second, his comment about those things lacking being the policies of ISD 709 and the State Hockey League, since those things such as sirens, goal judges, readmission are not an issue at places like the Pine Valley Ice Shelter and the Hermantown Hockey Arena, I'm left to conclude that the problem is with ISD 709. If this is the case, then ISD 709 should reexamine those policies. In any event, I appreciate Jeff's taking time out to respond in defense of the DECC.
    February 26, 1998

    East 7, Elk River 1. It struck me as I was taking the long stroll down the Northwest Passage skywalk from downtown to the DECC tonight; it seems like just yesterday I was heading down to watch the Lake Superior Conference jamboree and wondering how and who would replace all the great players East had lost to graduation the previous season. Players like Dylan Mills, Ryan Coole, Andy Wheeler, Matt Mathias, Brandon Johnson, Jon Toftey, Nick Anderson, etc etc. It seemed like an impossible task. And here we were, three months later, and all those questions had been answered. The answers had come in names Nick Angell, Patrick Finnegan, Dan Roman, Gabe Taggart, Mark Anunti, Chad Roberg, Kevin Oswald and Adam Coole. Names that were familiar the season before but had to step it up and contribute; and contribute they did. Then there were the ones who I never figured would make such an impact, such as Ross and Rheese Carlson, Jon Hedberg, Jesse Hagardorn, Nick Serre, Mike Marshall, Nick Licari, Jesse Karich, Mike Salmela and a few others. It all came together as a team, and here they were once again in the Section 7AA finals against a team that was capable of shutting down anyone. Just ask Greenway. Just ask Bloomington Jefferson. Just ask anyone that had come up against Elk River's defense this season. Very few teams had been able to crack it. How close would this game be? I figured the Hounds were in for a battle that could well be decided in overtime.

    It wasn't to be decided in overtime. In fact, the Hounds sent the game into running time in the third period; I don't recall that a Section 7AA final had seen that before. It was a triumph of speed, heart and a surprising amount of power against a team that should have been more physical to offset East's speed. The promise of Elk River battering the Hounds never came to pass. As it turns out, the age-old adage held true. You can't hit what you can't catch.

    I've been harsh towards the DECC during the season, and I felt my comments justified. To see the lights go down and the spotlights go on for the player introduction, to hear each East player wildly cheered as they were introduced, it just had a way of giving you goose bumps. You felt that this event was going to be something special. It was easily the loudest East crowd I've ever heard, and with good reason! It was a very nice touch to do the intros the way the DECC did. They are to be given credit.

    The Roberg-Carlson-Carlson line came out strong on the first shift, Rheese getting a hard shot off in the first minute of the game. It sent a message to the Elks that their goalie, Marc Strange, would be tested early and often. He's a very good goalie, but I don't think anyone expected that he was in for the kind of barrage that would be coming his way tonight.

    East used their superior speed to very good advantage from the start. Hedberg nearly buried a rebound off an Oswald shot on their first shift. Strange would give up many more rebounds, and it would cost Elk River dearly.

    Elk River had the first power play of the game at the 2:03 mark, when Hagadorn took a tripping penalty. During this power play, the Elks had a few chances (which Coole handled), but they also iced the puck twice! Tony Sarsland (Elk River's coach) had to be somewhat upset over this development. East killed off the power play, and it gave them a big boost.

    East maintained their territorial advantage througout the first period, and kept getting good chances. Each time they did, Strange shut the door. I was concerned that East might get frustrated, but this was not to be. They kept throwing their lines out there and getting chances; you had a feeling it was just a matter of time before they started burying those opportunities.

    Marshall blasted a shot off Strange, but Hagadorn couldn't get his stick on the rebound. Just after that, East went on the power play for the first time. They managed only one quality chance, but Rheese couldn't get his stick on a rebound left from an Angell blast. Elk River was very effective on the kill, keeping the puck to the outside for the most part.

    East's pressure continued after they didn't convert on the power play. The play went back and forth for the next few minutes, with both teams having good plays in their offensive zone. Rheese barely missed a chance from just in front of Strange, and then the Taggart-Roman-Oswald line put huge pressure on the Elks, just missing putting the puck in the net. Strange was somehow keeping East off the board with save after save.

    East finally broke through when Oswald firing a pass to Roman flying through the shot. Roman chipped the puck in, and East led 1-1 with 1:15 to go in the first period. Finally! It took a great play to break the scoreless tie. But Elk River nearly answered right back with a big slap shot that Coole left for a rebound. While on his stomach, he reached up and gloved the second shot. Unbelievable! East took a 1-0 lead into the locker room, with a shots on goal advantage of 14-9.

    Things got very interesting in the second period, and it wasn't without some controversy. Rheese had another great chance with three minutes gone; Strange caught his quick wrist-shot with his glove. The first line had already scored. How much longer would the second line be denied?

    Finnegan took a feed from Roman but was too close in and lost the puck while trying to go to his backhand. The first line kept putting pressure on, and it was clear that, unless Elk River could somehow get some breakaways, East was going to score eventually and take a two-goal lead. The third line got East's second goal, on a very nice back-and-forth passing play from Marshall to Hagadorn. Hagadorn put his backhander past strange, and East had a very slight cushion at 2-0. The goal came at 9:36, and it was only Hagadorn's second goal of the season, but a very timely one at that.

    Elk River came right back with pressure in East's zone. Micek and Steward (a very good looking freshman) had chances but nothing came from in close. Finnegan took a penalty for high-sticking and the stage was set for Elk River to cut the margin in half. A blast from near the blue line resulted in a big rebound, but just before the shot could go into the net, Coole pulled the net forward off it's mooring, and the puck actually went under the goal.

    Elk River's players raised a torrent of protest that Coole deliberately pulled the net forward. I had to go to the tape to see what happened; in person, it happened so fast that you didn't see it too well. Anunti checked an Elk River player into Coole and Coole went down. As he was going down, his glove hand was on top of the goal cage, and the momentum pulled the net forward. A goal? Well, when Coole was interviewed about the play after the game, he sort of smirked. It gives the impression that he pulled the net forward on purpose. On the other hand, he was held briefly (from what the tape showed) by the Elk River player. The first time I saw the replay I said "well, the Elk player was in the crease, so the goal shouldn't count anyways". But he had been checked there by Anunti. So, flip a coin. If you're an East fan, you applaud the official's decision to call off the goal. If you're an Elk River fan, you say "we wuz robbed!"

    After all that, there was still over a minute to go in the penalty, and Coole stopped a backhand shot from only a few feet in front of the net. It was one of several great saves he would make during the game, and Elk River had to wonder how often they would come up empty on good chances. Again Elk River iced the puck just before the end of the power play, and East had shut them down again.

    Elk River finally got a goal, with a feed to Steward who was so wide open he could've stopped to relace his skates before cruising in on Coole. He got close in, Coole committed to his bandhand side, and Steward flicked the shot low and to the left. There was 4:11 left in the second period.

    East got the two goal lead back immediately. Angell fed Ross Carlson, and after a great move on the Elk defenseman, he broke in free and put a shot past Strange. It took only 24 seconds for it to happen. Roberg took a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct during the celebration, giving Elk River a chance to cut the lead back to one. Despite several very good opportunities, Coole held his ground, and now Elk River was 0-3 on the power play for the night. Rheese helped out after losing his stick when he was able to swat the puck down into Elk River's zone with his hand.

    East had a 3-1 lead after two periods, having outshot Elk River 28-20. All they had to do now was hang on for fifteen more minutes, and they'd be repeating as Section Champions. What happened in the final period centers around Elk River deciding to take chances on offense, and not having the players back to stop an East attack that got downright fierce. But what choice did the Elks have? They had to do something to create some offense.

    Elk River had another breakaway early in the period, but Justin Micek got too close to Coole and Coole got his stick on the puck to prevent Micek's backhand shot from finding the net. East turned the puck back up the ice quickly, Roman making a pretty behind the back pass to Oswald who fired a shot off Strange. Finnegan pounced on the rebound and the first of four third-period goals was on the board.

    That goal lit a bigger fire under East than they'd been already playing with, and it wasn't long for them to extend their lead to 5-1. After Elk River had a flurry of chances in the East zone, the Hounds won the face off, and Finnegan hit Rheese with a long pass. Rheese went in, fighting off an Elk River defender on his back and put the backhand shot in for the breathing room East wanted. It was 5:06 of the third period.

    Licari, Burns, and Patterson made their first appearance as East's fourth line just after Rheese's first goal, giving the first three lines a breather. Rheese got another goal in a scramble in front of Strange, at the 6:53 mark. The only question left now would be whether or not East could put the game into running time.

    They did put the game into running time. Mitch Glines replaced Strange in the Elk River goal and Tyler Olson also replaced Adam Coole soon after, as Adam came off the ice to a chorus of cheers. Micek had another breakaway and this time it was Tyler's turn to deny the goal. It was a last gasp by the Elks. When Angell took a penalty for interference with 2:10 left, East finished off the scoring on a short-handed goal by Ross Carlson, skating around the defenseman and putting a shot in. The Carlsons had finished the game with four goals.

    I was impressed, not by Elk River's play, but by the fact that they didn't goon it up when the outcome was no longer in doubt. This always concerns me a bit, after watching Forest Lake's hack tactics in a 1995 sectional quarterfinal game which East won easily. I've seen the same in other teams since then; they can't beat East, so they try to beat up on East. Elk River deserves a lot of credit for keeping the game clean, and it says a lot about their discipline.

    Two things surprised me about this game. The outcome wasn't one of those surprises, but the number of shots East had on goal did (outshooting Elk River 43-25), and the physical style East played also did. They combined very hard skating, good passing and playmaking and checking all over the ice, and the outcome was the best I've seen them play all season. Maybe in the last two or three seasons. It's on to State for the Hounds now!

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    last updated february 28, 1998