Duluth East Hockey
Jottings and Notes on the 1998-99 Season
June-November 1998

June 21, 1998

Patrick Finnegan. The biggest story so far during this off-season pertains to Patrick's decision to leave East and play for the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League. While I was looking forward to watching Patrick play for the Hounds this season, it's a very intelligent decision in my opinion. Given the limitations imposed on high school hockey players on the number of games they can play by the Minnesota State High School League, he will gain a lot more experience with this move. Best wishes to Patrick in the OHL; he's given East fans some great moments during the past few years!

As far as I'm concerned, the MSHSL isn't interested in player development. Their decision to strike down a proposal that would have added three regular-season games this past spring is evidence of that. It also points to why many of the blue-chip players are going elsewhere to further their development. Why should this surprise me, in light of the mess they've made with other sports in Minnesota? (the four-class sham of a basketball tournament being a prime example). It seems obvious to me that changes are in order. The consequences of maintaining the status quo in hockey will be that more players leave before they have a chance to finish their high school careers with their respective schools. I'm not holding my breath that the state League will wake up and smell the coffee, either.

Finnegan's departure presents East with a problem on defense. There are three major questions marks on defense heading into next season:

  • Will Ryan Michela be able to play?
  • Will Jon Hedberg play at East next season?
  • If the answer to the first questions is "no", then the third question is, who the heck is going to step up? Somebody could come out of nowhere, or a couple JV'ers could have an impact, but I'm skeptical at this point. If the answer to those first two questions is "yes", then they'll be okay on defense. Perhaps not as good as last year, but likely good enough to have a very successful season.

    August 1, 1998

    From the Mailbag: The Right Wing writes:


    Last year ninety-two (92) guys tried out for Hill-Murray hockey. They ended up with two very young hockey teams. Last year was considered a rebuilding/get acquainted year - with Bill Lechner as the new varsity head coach, Pat Schafhauser as the new JV head coach, and so many spots open from the year before (16). Winning the TCSE conference wasn't too bad for a rebuilding team, but losing to White Bear in the section 3AA final stung after beating them twice during the regular season!

    Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported in May that Mike Engstrom will be leaving Hill early to play juniors with Patrick Finnegan of East. While this is true, Engstrom is not the "star" loss Mr. Walters led everyone to believe. Engstrom was a second line center at the start of the season - by the end of the year he was in the "dog house" and was playing every other third line center shift - he was seen as a likely cut this coming 98-99 season because of Hill's strength at the forward position. Look for first line center, Matt Koalska, to lead the TCSE in scoring this year, and for the TCSE leader board to be filled with Hill-Murray forwards.

    Hill lost, what was considered, four (4) very good players from last years squad: two first line wings (Shillings, Bassett), a first line defenseman (Graham) and the TCSE leading goalie (Maher). As always, though, they were able to replace them with four (4) players who have the potential to nullify that effect. The first is a top ten scorer from the TCSE last year, the second is a top sophomore varsity defenseman in the TCSE last year, the third is the #1 goalie from the Tri-Metro last year, and the forth is the leader and top forward from last years JV.

    EDINA - 6AA

    Loaded with seniors last year (13), they'll have a tough time returning to the form of 96-97 when they won it all. Their JV was very successful but the majority of the team will have to make the jump to varsity because of graduation. That's a lot of inexperience for a varsity team - much like Hill had to do last year with some sixteen (16) open positions. Look for them to start slow and sneak up on people toward the end of the season.


    I know Duluth will be a force again this year even with the high caliber players they are losing - their JV team was great and young - the only question will be how the "rookie" goalie plays without getting much varsity time after Coole played virtually every game last year? [Ed. note: Coole did play every game last season. Tyler Olson came in late in several games and has a little experience but no full-game experience at the varsity level] Duluth was both very young and was very successful at the JV level; a rather good combination! They are again the team to beat in 98-99.


    Last year, Forest Lake had seven (7) top players who played in their feeder system, playing for another school in their conference. This year, with the additional loss of three (3) of their top four (4) scorers to graduation and their top scorer, Bryan Peltier (40pts) to USA hockey in Michigan, they will have a very tough go of it in the TCSE. The only player of note remaining is defenseman and coaches son, Aaron Forsythe, who will most likely be playing USA Hockey for next year's new Minnesota team.


    Blaine will be young except for their goaltender who is in his forth year as a starter varsity. This group has had very good success at the peewee and bantam levels and more of them received the playing time last year vs. the seniors. Look for them to seriously challenge for TCSW conference and 3AA section titles. Anoka was a senior laden team last year and had a suspect JV while Osseo and Maple Grove lost Jake Fleming (50pts) and Dave Ianozzo (45pts) respectively to USA Hockey in Michigan.

    And also wrote in a subsequent email:

    Patrick Finnegan is having second thoughts about joining his new junior hockey team. After spending some time with the team he said he doesn't feel as comfortable with his decision as he first did. He is contemplating a return to Duluth East for his senior season. He is still leaning toward the juniors but it is only a 60-40 margin now. The next couple of weeks will be big for him and Duluth East.

    In other news, Virginia is gaining two good foreign players for the upcoming season. One is a Canadian who played at Lake of the Woods and the other is a talented Swede. They should be a team to watch this year after finishing last season very strong.

    Hill-Murray has already been practicing hard for two weeks and will get a gauge of where they're at with three games this weekend. It seems as though the coaching staff at Hill is using the new summer practices allowed by the State High School League this year, as a sort of "unofficial" player tryout. On a side note: Hill recently lost a solid senior defenseman, Josh Singer, to Holy Angels, but gained one back with another great transfer from Park Cottage Grove.

    No doubt in my mind that Hill-Murray will be tough this year. I regarded last year as being a rebuilding year for them also, and they still made it to the section finals. They could have easily went to the State Tournament. I would say they should be one of the five top teams in Minnesota this season.

    As for East, this is the first I've heard the rumor concerning Finnegan. I've heard a few others besides this one. It's important to point out that these are rumors. Until I see it happen in person..... If you believe the other rumors I've heard about East, they could have a very interesting look this year. No doubt they'll have a very strong team once again, regardless of the voracity of these little tidbits that keep coming out from various sources.

    October 14, 1998

    1998-99 East Schedule I've received an unofficial schedule for the 1998-99 season; it'll be posted here in a day or two. The only change in opponents is that the Hounds have dropped one of their games with Duluth Denfeld and have substituted a matchup against Hastings.

    It appears to be an extremely tough schedule. Road games are scheduled at Hill-Murray, Edina, Moorhead, Silver Bay, Two Harbors, Greenway, Elk River and Hibbing. They'll face Apple Valley, Anoka, Hastings, Proctor, Hermantown, Duluth Central, Duluth Denfeld and Duluth Marshall at home (DECC). Two games (home & home) are scheduled against Superior, Cloquet and Grand Rapids.

    Their philosophy of scheduling the toughest possible opponents is apparent once again. However, they're still shackled by having to face certain Lake Superior Conference teams which, in my opinion, won't push them as far as they could be otherwise pushed. Personally, I'd like to see other teams such as Roseau, Bloomington Jefferson or one of the Rochester teams on the slate. But it is what it is.....this season.

    Ryan Michela I've received word that Ryan Michela has recovered better than expected from his baseball injury last spring. Expectation here is that he will be playing for the Hounds this season, helping a good deal to fill the gap left by Angell and Finnegan's departure. Great news for Ryan and his family, considering the seriousness of the injury he had suffered. On a far less important note, good news for the East "D".

    November 6, 1998

    Dissolution of the Lake Superior Conference After the 1999-2000 school year, the Lake Superior Conference will cease to exist. Member schools are given the option of leaving the LSC after this school year and making other arrangements. East and Cloquet have already decided not to play hockey in the LSC in 1999-2000.

    What will East and Cloquet do? This would seem an ideal opportunity to create a new hockey conference. What I would like to see is a new six-team conference, with three teams from the old LSC and three from the Iron Range Conference. How about East, Cloquet, Hermantown, Greenway, Hibbing, and Grand Rapids? Each team would play two games against the others, and there would be twelve games left over for non-conference foes.

    East may or may not decide to continue scheduling games against Central, Denfeld, Proctor, Hermantown, Marshall and a few others. Some people may say it would be a good idea to play one game against the other Duluth schools, and this argument has some merit. I am not one of those people.

    I personally would like to see East cut one of their games against Superior out, keep playing one game each season against Denfeld, Proctor and Hermantown, and rotate Central, Marshall, Silver Bay and Two Harbors, playing each of those teams every other season. This would leave six games where they could schedule the best possible opponents from other areas of Minnesota. They currently have seven games scheduled from outside the LSC and IRC.

    It would result in a much tougher schedule, and would help all the schools of this new conference prepare for the season that really counts....the playoff season.

    Failing that, another idea would be to have East, Superior, Cloquet, Hermantown and Proctor create a small five-team conference. Any other ideas?

    November 19, 1998

    Lake Superior Conference Jamboree First look at nine of the ten teams in the Lake Superior Conference tonight. The first game pitted non-conference member Moose Lake against Two Harbors. Moose Lake looked very good at times, getting two goals from Matt Hillbrand on the way to a 3-2 win, even though Two Harbors outshot them 16-13 in the two 11-minute period matchup.

    The next game featured Duluth Marshall against Duluth Central. The Hilltoppers shut down Central completely, allowing only four shots, coming out on top 1-0. Ex-East JV'er Jake Desanto made his debut in a Marshall uniform; he'll make a good contribution to their offense this season. Marshall has made good progress in the past two years. I expect them to make a pretty decent showing this season in Section 7A.

    Proctor and Silver Bay played perhaps the most entertaining mini-game of the night. A lot of end-to-end action, which ended in a 3-3 tie. Jay Dardis scored all three of Proctor's goals, assisted on each one by Damon Slattengren. Tanner Paulseth, John Conboy (a UMD recruit for next season) and Andy Martinson countered for the Mariners, and showed why they received votes in the Minnesota Class A poll by Let's Play Hockey magazine.

    The fourth game was a chance to see the Minnesota Class A runner-up when Hermantown took on Duluth Denfeld. I expected an easy win by Hermantown, but they only edged the Hunters 2-1, with Jon Francisco getting the game winner. The shots were 14-9 for Hermantown, but they made some serious mistakes clearing their zone which, had Denfeld capitalized on them, would have resulted in a different outcome. Overall, however, Hermantown at times showed the type of play that could make them the team to beat once again in Section 2A.

    East took to the ice against Cloquet with a lot of new faces. I counted 12 players who had been on their JV last season. Also featured was a new goalie, Dan Hoehne, a transfer student. Their top two lines of Ross Carlson-Chad Roberg-Zach Burns, along with Mike Marshall-Nic Serre-Nick Licari, looked extremely good. The two other forward lines looked okay, and show promise.

    East missed Mark Anunti, out with an injury expected to sideline him for 4-6 weeks. I was very pleased with the play of Tom Allen-Ryan Michela on defense, somewhat less so with Jon Hedberg-Seth Amadio, although Hedberg is just a sophomore and Amadio a freshman. Cloquet forechecked well at times and kept East bottled up in their end, particularly when East's third and fourth forward line were on the ice. The final score was 3-0 East; it could have been a much larger margin. Shots were somewhat close, tilted 12-8 in favor of East.

    Overall, it was a good showing going into their season debut against Duluth Central next Tuesday at the DECC. If the teachers don't strike, that is. No word yet on whether any progress is being made in negotiations going on today and tonight. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

    November 24, 1998

    East 9, Duluth Central 0 No big surprise there. You have to go back to December 1991 to find the last time Central had beaten the Hounds on ice. Sure, there was the forfeit last season due to Rheese Carlson's eligibility problem, but, so what? This was East's 13th win in a row in the series, and one in which the outcome was decided in the second period when they scored five times to gain a 7-0 advantage and put the game into running time for the third period.

    Very strong performances, especially from the first two lines. Which of their two top lines is the best? At this point, flip a coin. Time may tell, but they look equally effective. Ross Carlson centering Chad Roberg and Zach Burns is an excellent line. Nick Serre centering Mike Marshall and Nick Licari looked explosive at times. Nick Licari is only a freshman, but has bulked up a bit during the off-season. He should have had a hat trick, but a goal he scored when the puck slid over the goal line just before the goal came off the post, wasn't seen by the referee. Maybe I can suggest a good opthamologist LOL.

    Twelve different players contributed to the scoring with goals and assists. The defense played well enough that Dan Hoehne only saw eight shots, and wasn't really tested. If you had to give out awards to the three stars, you'd be hard pressed to find three that stood out, but I'll give them out to: 1. Nick Licari 2. Chad Roberg 3. Mike Marshall.

    A very telling statistic was that five of the nine goals were scored by freshman and sophomores. They're getting big contributions from players who were either fringe players or played JV last year, and that is a positive sign.

    A better test of where East stands will come Saturday against Elk River. Elk River pounded Bloomington Jefferson 7-0 tonight, an outcome that surprised me somewhat.

    Other Local Action: In other area games, Cloquet got three points from Ryan Langenbrunner and outshot Denfeld 37-22 on the way to an easy 6-1 win. Hermantown only allowed three shots by Chisago Lakes en route to a 6-0 score. Duluth Marshall put 40 shots on goal while defeating Ely 7-1. Silver Bay won Round One of the "Battle Of The North Shore", defeating Two Harbors 5-3.

    November 28, 1998

    Elk River 7, East 3 You have to go back to the 1989 Section 2 Quarterfinals to find the last time East was defeated by more than three goals, when Cloquet drubbed them 6-1. That's how unusual this kind of outcome is.

    Surprising? Somewhat. I had to laugh, however, when I saw the headline in the News-Tribune after the game: "Elk River Stuns #2 East". This was the same team (Elk River), that had hammered Bloomington Jefferson 7-0 last Tuesday. Based on that, it wasn't totally out of the realm of possibility. Elk River is a lot better than some people had thought. I was one of those people, but a quick check of last year's roster should have told me that the Elks hadn't graduated many seniors. They were bound to be a top-notch team once again, and today they proved it.

    The main weakness of this year's Hounds squad was revealed; defense. After Elk River sailed to a 3-0 lead in the first period, East gained some momentum back when Mike Marshall closed the gap to two goals late in the period. But any momentum East could have gained from that was negated 15 seconds into the second period when John Brummer scored to regain a three-goal Elks margin. Nick Serre answered back 28 seconds later, but Kelly Plude answered back again four minutes later. Nick Licari closed the gap to two goals, but once again, East could get no closer when Trevor Stewart scored a power-play goal for Elk River for a 6-3 lead after two periods. Nick Droogsma made the final tally 7-3 midway through the third period on Elk River's fifth power play goal.

    If you want to beat a team of Elk River's calibur, you need to stay out of the penalty box. East didn't do that, and it cost them. Final shots on goal were tilted in the Elk's favor 39-16, indicating the score wasn't a fluke. It had been three years since East had allowed that many shots in a regular season game, a testament to how good East has been lately defensively.

    How this team will react to a defeat like that isn't known. They play Duluth Marshall next Thursday, and hopefully they'll come out with the kind of intensity they had last week against Central. Mark Anunti's expected return in a week or two will shore up a defense that is lacking in varsity experience. Will their defense be okay then? Time will tell.

    Other Local Action: Duluth Central pounded St Paul Academy 8-3, led by Lynden Medlin's hat trick. Five different Trojans scored as they outshot SPA 48-15 to even their record at 1-1.

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    last updated november 30, 1998