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

December 3, 1998

East 6, Duluth Marshall 3. I received the most severe flames of the season when I did the write-up of last year's East-Marshall game, when I started with "a night to pad the stats". The flames were deserved, in spite of the fact that East won that game easily.

Marshall has come a long way with their program, and tonight they proved it. After two periods, trailing 3-2, the Hilltoppers acted like they could still win the game, and they had every reason to act that way. A few breaks here and there, and East could have lost that game. Forget the final score, forget the final shot advantage for East of 42-25. Take away the Zach Burns shot-handed goal created by a weird puck bounce off the end boards that took Marshall's goalie, John Banks, by surprise, and it's 5-3. Add a few missed opportunities created by East defensive breakdowns that could easily have resulted in Marshall scoring, and you have what some folks would have said was the biggest upset loss in recent East history.

My point is, it would not have been that big an upset. It's time for me and everyone else in Duluth to give Marshall the credit and respect they deserve. They might not end up with a winning season (I suspect they will), they might not be a major factor in the Section 7A playoffs next February (I think they very well could), but they are on the verge of becoming a very good hockey team. East played like they weren't in danger of losing, and it showed. Too many attempted cute plays. Too many "one extra pass". Too many defensive breakdowns. Too many penalties. And on the second goal Marshall scored when East goalie Dan Hoehne looked to be caught napping; what was that??!!

Some will say "so what? East still won the game, didn't they?", and my only response is that this type of attitude is a set-up for future disappointment. They continue to have defensive problems. Mark Anunti will help solve that problem when he returns, but will it help enough? Dumb penalties almost killed them again, and they need to find some discipline in their play. The better teams they will play (like Hill Murray next Saturday) will capitalize on the power play eventually and will win. I thought the five power play goals Elk River scored last Saturday would drive that lesson home. It apparently has not....yet.

If the overall tone of this report sounds negative, it's intended to be. I won't pretend otherwise. They should be playing better. Or maybe a lot of people simply overestimated how good East is this season. The next several games will tell a lot more about how good this team is this season. I'm hopeful that they'll still get it together and start playing like they should.

We sat near the Marshall side during the second period, and despite my East bias, I couldn't help smiling at the reaction of Marshall fans. They showed a lot of class, something the East student section could learn from. Last week, when East played Central, the first few Central players to be introduced brought the cheer "(so-and-so), you suck!!". Bad taste, folks, and immature. It puts the entire program in a very negative light.

Three stars for the game for East? 1. Zach Burns 2. Nick Licari 3. Jon Hedberg. All three played with a lot of enthusiasm. Zach was flying all over the place tonight. Nick continue to shows a huge amount of talent and ability for being just a freshman. Jon continues to be the focus of their defense, and it's needed at this point.

So it's on to Aldrich Arena to face Hill-Murray Saturday night. Hill-Murray will be ready. I hope East is.

December 6, 1998

Hill-Murray 5, East 1. Since I wasn't at the game and didn't hear the radio broadcast, I solicited this review from someone who attended the game:

East had three quality scoring chances - two of them were from Carlson in the slot, the other was a breakaway by Licari where Hill was caught on a line change. Many of East's shots were harmless perimeter shots. Hill had twice as many quality shots and seemed to capitalize on all but a couple.

The first period was pretty lackluster for both teams. Hill took an early lead on a nice even-strength goal by Koalska. East came back near the end of the period with a nice power-play goal by Carlson. The rest of the period looked like you'd expect of an early season game - nothing spectacular.

The second period started out like the middle of the first. Then, about half way through it, Hill started taking the body and scored two quick goals. That seemed to take the life out of East. The heavy checking continued through the rest of the game and really seemed to wear on East.

Final shots on goal were even at 18-18. You can read into this what you want. The loss isn't very surprising, but it still remains to be seen how they'll do as the season progresses. East has the makings of a very good team, but their inexperience at defense and goalie is showing, so far. Let's see what happens after Anunti gets back. I'm hopeful that the bottom has been hit and that things will turn around for them.
December 10, 1998

East 5, Superior 4. East built up a 4-1 lead after two periods, and then "let" Superior back into the game with three third-period goals to tie the score. Eventually, it took a short handed goal by Chad Roberg to ice the game for the Hounds. It was an ugly game due to two factors; general incompetence by the officials, and a display of classless behavior on the part of Spartan fans. More on that later.

East was dominating at times, and for a while it seemed it would be a question of how soon the game would be put into running time rather than who would win the contest. Superior had other ideas, however. Charlie Norris got the Hounds on the board first with his first goal of the year at 7:32 of the first period. Tommy Kolar followed with his first goal of the year on a power play four minutes later, and East seemed to be on their way.

The second period was marred by penalties on both teams. Nick Licari made it 3-0 on a power play goal at 4:03, but Superior finally responded while on a two-man advantage at 7:30, with Andrew Nelson getting the tally. Licari got his second goal of the game and sixth of the year five minutes later. East could have pulled further ahead but was stymied on a two-man advantage of their own.

East was in the driver's seat going into the third period, but a general lack of attention combined with a Superior resurgance let the Spartans back in the game. Three goals scored in the first 6:51 of the third evened the score, and when Superior went on the power play just after that, there was a feeling that East could be letting this game slip away after having it basically won. At that point, Roberg stepped up, and with East playing with a fury and precision I hadn't seen them display earlier in the season, dominated while short-handed. Roberg got the goal, with Jon Hedberg getting his second assist of the game.

The game also featured the return of Mark Anunti, senior defenseman who had been looked upon to play a leading role in the East defense this season. He generally played well and helped hold the Spartans to 16 shots. East outshot Superior 39-16, indicating that the game should never have been this close.

Another "interesting" facet of this game was the penalty calling by the officials, who acted at times like they didn't have one working eye between them. Hedberg was blatantly pulled down in the Superior zone in the second period, and I don't know what the official was looking at (perhaps his watch?), but no call was made. At least twice, the puck was laying loose next to the Superior goalie, but the official on the far side lost sight of it, and blew the play dead. I don't remember so many quick whistles being blown, and I'm fairly certain I haven't witnessed a game since the 1995 Section 7AA quarterfinals against Forest Lake where officials let the play get so out of hand. These might be part-time referees, but the way they called the game tonight was an absolute disgrace. East, for the most part, didn't retaliate against Superior's thug tactics, but when they got a little physical in the third period, now the officials decided to take control? Too late, guys! You blew it in the second period!

Superior's so-called "fans" were a real treat, also. I know I came down hard on the East student section for their actions during the introduction of the Central starting lineup in their opening game, but this was relatively tame compared to how Superior students acted. When a Spartan was sent to the penalty box for a blatant penalty, they stood and cheered him. Uh, getting cheered for going short-handed? I get it; if you can't beat your opponent, then beat up on him; something like that. Now, I understand the frustration over in "Bar Town". They've fallen from the top of the Wisconsin high school hockey ranks to a team which didn't make the state tournament last year, and from all appearances, has little chance of having anything remotely resembling a successful season this year. But this kind of slope-headed, 500 cc brain-pan reaction is uncalled for, and juvenile.

My three East stars are: 1. Nick Licari 2. Ross Carlson 3. Jon Hedberg, with a nod to Mark Anunti who played very well considering this was only his first game back in the lineup.

Anyway, with this win out of the way, the Hounds travel up Hwy. 2 Saturday night to face Grand Rapids. East hasn't won on the road this year, but it's important to realize who they've played on the road this year; Elk River and Hill-Murray, two of the four top-ranked teams in Class AA as of this week. A solid 45-minute effort will be needed to pull off a win in a very tough place for opponents to play.

First five games. The results are mixed. Not neccesarily what I had hoped for or expected, but I don't think there is anything served by comparing this team to previous teams. It's a different team with different strengths and weaknesses. There is a lot of youth and a level of inexperience this season so far, and it has shown at times. This team certainly has promise; a number of young forwards who are crafty with the puck and have some speed, but get pushed around due to their lack of size. I've been impressed with the play of Tom Allen, sophomore defenseman, at times. The jury is still out on Dan Hoehne. It's argued that his saves percentage is not good, but a lot of that has to do with the way the defense has played in front of him. He's had to face an awful lot of breakaways and odd-man rushes. The blame can't be laid on his shoulder for some of those breakdowns. He's only a sophomore and will get much better.

Some seniors aren't getting much ice time, and there are two ways one can look at this. The first way is that they aren't as good as the underclassmen who are playing, and I really don't know if this is true or not. The second way is that there could be a certain commitment to a youth movement on the Hounds team, that of getting the younger players some experience in the hope it will pay off later this year and in the next couple years. Take your pick how you want to interpret what's happening.

To become the type of team that can make a serious challenge in the playoffs (remember, there are still 17 games left to play before them, so it's too early to speculate), the defense will need to get better. Mike Randolph is experimenting quite a bit with the forward lines, and I think Licari and Carlson should play together more to see if this clicks. It looks so far to have an explosive potential. Once the lines get more set, I think they'll be okay. They might become good enough to return to state for the sixth straight year, they might not.

December 12, 1998

East 2, Grand Rapids 1. East got their first road win of the season tonight against a tough opponent. Likely the best effort in all areas so far this year, from the pressure they put on the Thunderhawks in their zone (especially during the second period), to supurb goaltending by Dan Hoehne. Also of note was that the Hounds won this game without the services of Jon Hedberg who is expected to miss a couple weeks with an injury. Sophomore Weston Tardy played very well in Jon's absence.

In a penalty-free first period, the Thunderhawks opened the scoring when Jeff True scored at the 10:28 mark. It took East less than two minutes to even the score when Chad Roberg netted his fourth goal of the season, assisted by Mark Anunti and Casey Gillman.

There was no scoring during a second period in which East put strong pressure on Grand Rapids. In the third period, Grand Rapids had a few outstanding chances while on the power play, but Dan Hoehne came up with a few very good saves. Mike Marshall got the game-winner for East with 2:10 left to play, assisted by Tom Kolar and Nick Serre.

This game could prove to be a turning point in East's season. The IRA Civic Center is never an easy place to play, and East came out of there with a much-deserved win. It should serve as a confidence builder going into some critical games during the next few weeks.

Three East stars: 1. Dan Hoehne, 2. Chad Roberg, 3. Mike Marshall.

Other local action. Andy Sacchetti scored two goals and assisted on another as Eveleth-Gilbert defeated Hermantown 4-2. Five different Duluth Marshall players scored, and they outshot St Paul Academy 39-13 on the way to an easy 9-2 victory. Minneapolis Southwest scored four times in the first period and went on to beat Duluth Central 8-1.

December 15, 1998

East 6, Cloquet 1. Their best overall game played so far this season, as East outshot the Jacks 16-1 in the first period while taking a 3-0 lead on their way to an easy victory. The emergence of players such as Weston Tardy (filling in for an injured Jon Hedberg) highlighted an outstanding effort on both ends of the ice. It was the closest reminder I've seen this year to the defensive form they showed last year; for the most part, Hound defenders were able to keep the play in their zone to the outside. It took a power play for Cloquet to get on the board, as Dan Hoehne turned in his second consecutive strong effort in the nets.

It took East 5:16 to notch the first goal, as Casey Gillman got his first goal of the season, assisted by Chad Roberg. The Roberg-Gillman-Norris line has been looking better and better as of late. A quick barrage starting at 7:12 of the first gave the Hounds a three goal cushion. First it was the Roberg line clicking again, with Norris scoring his second goal of the season assisted by both linemates. Only 11 seconds later Nick Licari notched the first of his two goals on the nite, assisted by Zach Burns and Tom Allen.

Licari scored again at 4:54 of the second period with an assist going to Ross Carlson, and then Nick Serre converted on a power play chance at 11:09 with assists going to Mike Marshall and Weston Tardy. Cloquet closed the gap to four goals on a Mia Snesrud power play goal with under a minute to go in the period, but then the outcome was little in doubt. Chad Roberg scored another power play goal for East in the third period (assisted by Nick Serre and Mike Marshall), and the scoring was complete. East outshot Cloquet 41-16; this was a good indication of how one-sided the play was.

The younger players are really stepping it up, and established players from last year such as Chad Roberg are making excellent contributions as of late. A good sign going into a stretch where East will be playing three straight road games in the next week; at Silver Bay, Moorhead and Edina.

December 17, 1998

East 6, Silver Bay 4. Anybody who tells you this game was an example of how East has slipped this season, doesn't know what they are talking about. It's a slap in the face of Silver Bay to contend anything along the lines of "how could East only win this game by two goals?". Let's remember that Silver Bay is in the top ten in Minnesota in Class A, according to Let's Play Hockey. They're obviously a very good team.

They certainly gave East all the Hounds could handle. Nic Johnson opened the scoring for the Bay just 45 seconds into the game, serving notice that the Mariners wouldn't be rolling over and playing dead. Chad Roberg tied the score with seven seconds left in the period, assisted by Weston Tardy and Casey Gillman, and the teams hit the locker rooms tied at 1-1.

John Conboy put Silver Bay ahead at 1:10 of the second period, and the lead stood until East got the equalizer at 7:14 with Roberg scoring his second goal of the game, assisted by Andy Letourneau. Then the Hounds pulled ahead 3-2 five minutes later when Nick Licari scoring, assisted by linemate Ross Carlson.

When East scored two more times in the third period, the game appeared to be out of reach. Licari scored at 5:39, and Zach Burns scored at 10:00, assisted by linemates Carlson and Licari. It was now 5-2 in favor of the Hounds, and it appeared all but over.

Appearances can be deceiving, and they were on this night. Silver Bay mounted a furious comeback, with Luke Mattila netting power play goal at the twelve minute mark, and 1:47 later the Mariners pulled to within one on an Andy Martinson goal. Silver Bay pulled their goalie, and East capitalized with one second left on a goal by Nick Serre.

Shots on goal were 38-25 in favor of the Hounds, but they barely escaped with their fourth straight win. A great effort by Silver Bay; they are worth keeping a close eye on this season, with a very legitimate chance of getting the #1 south sub-section seed in Section 7A come playoff time.

Other local action. Superior pulled off a mild upset of Duluth Denfeld with a 4-1 win at Wessman Arena. Duluth Central took a 3-1 first period lead and then held on to beat Two Harbors 6-4 at the DECC. Despite being outshot 33-24, Hermantown used three second period and three more third period goals to defeat Cloquet 6-2 up in Cloquet. Marshall continued their strong showing this season, celebrating the return of Tony Tomaino with a 5-2 win over Proctor at the DECC, despite a 2-0 Proctor lead early in the first period.

December 19, 1998

East 3, Moorhead 2. East wins another close one tonight, but a win is a win. Any time you can go out there to the North Dakota border and come away with a "W", you have to feel pretty good about it. The fiery play of players such as Zach Burns frustrated Moorhead, and it didn't hurt matters any that East managed to not play short-handed all night. Both teams had some very good chances in the first two periods (East having most of them), but the score remained 0-0 until Burns broke the deadlock 29 seconds into the second period, with an assist going to Ross Carlson. Moorhead only took nine seconds to answer back with Eric Paulson tying the game. East continued the pressure on Spuds goalie Jim Richards, and it paid off three minutes later when Chad Roberg, playing extremely well lately, put the Hounds up to stay at 2-1. Nick Serre gave the Hounds a bit of breathing room less than two minutes later with assists going to Tom Kolar and Andy Letourneau, but Moorhead made things interesting by pulling to within one with 4:30 left. East managed to repel further Moorhead attacks in their zone and secured their fifth straight win.

Final shots were 27-20 in favor of East, with pretty decent performances both by the forwards and by the "D". It gives them a 7-2 record at this point with a difficult game coming up next Tuesday against Edina down in the Twin Cities. They seem to be on the verge of putting it all together, and they found out tonight that staying out of the penalty box helps. If they can stay injury free on defense (Jon Hedberg was sidelined just as Mark Anunti returned to the lineup), they have a shot. A very good shot.

December 22, 1998

East 6, Edina 3. MSHSL rules are permitting teams to play 20-minute periods during the holiday season, and East took advantage of this by scoring five of their six goals tonight in the final five minutes of a period. Interestingly, if you go by what the teams did during the regular first 15 minutes of each period, Edina comes out on top 2-1. I'm not sure exactly what this means, but it appeared that each team's defense tired late in the extended periods.

The teams skated scoreless until 10:37 of the first period when Andy Letourneau connected to put the Hounds up 1-0, assisted by Trevor Marmon and Eric Johnson. It was Andy's first goal of the year. Edina came right back only 12 seconds later to tie the game, and then took their only lead of the game at the 18:05 mark. This lead would be short lived at Mike Marshall scored his fourth goal of the season 23 seconds later, and then Zach Burns netted his fifth goal of the season only 42 seconds after that to give East a 3-2 lead going into the first intermission.

East increased the margin to 4-2 at the 14:39 mark of the second period on Ross Carlson's fifth goal of the season (unassisted). The Hounds caught fire at that point, and connected again 31 seconds after Ross's goal when Mark Anunti got his first goal of the year with assists going to Nick Serre and Marshall. East had a 6-2 lead after two and made the lead hold up when only one goal was scored by Edina in the third period.

It was the fourth straight win by the Hounds against Edina on the Hornet's home ice. Shots on goal were confusing. The Duluth News-Tribune had East outshooting Edina 49-32, but the Star-Tribune had Edina outshooting East 46-35. Which was is correct? Does it matter? Except for the stat-keepers of course, but the bottom line is that East won their third straight game on the road against a quality opponent. The only negative to this game was when Ross Carlson left the ice in the third period with some type of injury (back?). East is now 8-2 and has eleven days off before meeting Apple Valley on January 2 at the DECC.

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last updated decmeber 31, 1998