John's Journal
Class 1A Girls Hockey Semifinals Are Set2/17/2016
The Warroad Warriors have been to the girls state hockey tournament six times before this year, and they have played in five state championship games. The second-seeded Warriors moved one step closer to another title appearance Wednesday with a 3-0 victory over first-time entrant Northfield in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.

In the day’s second game, fourth-seeded St. Paul United beat Alexandria 2-0. In the evening session, top-seeded Blake beat Luverne 10-0 and fourth-seeded Proctor/Hermantown beat fifth-seeded New Prague 2-1.

Warroad won state titles in 2010 and 2011and were runners-up in 2006, 2009 and 2013. The Warriors' other trip to state came in 2012.

The first period Wednesday was as even as they come, with each team putting seven shots on goal and neither team scoring. The third period also was pretty well an even affair. The spillway opened for Warroad (24-3-1) in the second period when the Warriors outshot Northfield 15-2 and scored all three goals.

Demi Gardner cracked the ice at 6:26 and she scored again at 10:27. Sara Baumann made it 3-0 with a goal at 11:44. The final shots on goal were 36-12 in Warroad’s favor.

“I was really proud of them,” said Northfield coach Brent Bielenberg. “That first period, we played solid. We stepped back a little bit in the second period.”

One side story to the game was the large crowd from Northfield (19-10).

“How about that fan base from Northfield, huh? That was good to see,” Bielenberg said. Northfield sophomore Mallory Tidona said, “Everyone from our school came and it was really cool seeing all the support we had.”

Warroad coach David Marvin said, “Tip your cap to Northfield. That was maybe the biggest following I’ve seen from a school in the six years I’ve coached here.”

--St. Paul United (22-5-1) outshot Alexandria 32-23, getting goals by Joie Phelps in the first period and an empty-net shorthanded goal by Samantha Burke late in the third.

--Blake didn’t give up a shot on goal until the third period, by which time the Bears led 7-0 and had put 51 shots on net. Carly Bullock scored four goals and Lily Delianedis scored two for the Bears.

--Proctor/Hermantown (20-7-1) outshot New Prague (17-10-1) by a margin of 29-10 but the game went down to the wire. After a scoreless first period, New Prague led 1-0 on a second-period goal by Catie Skaja. The Mirage took control on goals by Reilly Albert and Sophie McGovern in the second.

FUN FACT OF THE DAY

The Proctor/Hermantown “Mirage” nickname was chosen by the team's first members. They wanted something different, and the name was taken from a car driven by one of the players: A Mitsubishi Mirage.

--Class 2A quarterfinal games will be played Thursday. Here is the schedule...

--Eastview (18-6-4) vs. #2 Edina (19-7-1), 11 a.m.

--Forest Lake (18-7-3) vs. #3 Eden Prairie (19-7-2), 30 minutes after conclusion of 11 a.m. game

--Sartell/Sauk Rapids (21-7) vs. #1 Hill-Murray (27-0-1), 6 p.m.

--#5 Lakeville South (20-5-2) vs. #4 Maple Grove (20-5-2), 30 minutes after conclusion of 6 p.m. game
It’s A Big Job Replacing A Legend In Chisholm 2/14/2016
CHISHOLM – When Larry Pervenanze received a job promotion last year, one of the changes was very small: He slid one spot to his left on the home team bench in the Chisholm gym. The aisle seat is on a row of blue plastic bleachers, where the previous occupant sat for 53 years.

Pervenanze was an assistant coach under Bob McDonald for 12 years, and when McDonald retired after the 2013-14 season, he made it clear that he wanted Larry to take over as Chisholm’s fourth boys basketball coach since 1923.

McDonald won more games than any coach in any sport in Minnesota history and is a member of the National High School Hall of Fame.

Did somebody say pressure?

“Yeah, I think there is pressure. He’s a legend,” Pervenanze (pictured) said before the Bluestreaks played host to Hibbing last week. “Being able to be with him for 12 years as an assistant, the stuff he taught me, it was a lot. It was fun being around him, and all his knowledge from 60 years of basketball.”

McDonald’s teams had a well-known identity: Short haircuts, players in jackets and ties on game day, relentless defensive pressure. None of that has changed under Pervenanze, but other adjustments have been made.

“I think Larry wanted to put his stamp on the team, with what they do and how they do it,” said McDonald’s son Joel, who has been the Hibbing coach for 17 years. “They play more man (defense) than they ever did. They run different plays.”

Hibbing defeated the Bluestreaks 93-69, giving Chisholm a record of 9-14 this season. It’s a young team and Pervenanze is optimistic.

“I have four seniors but only two played last year. We’re young,” he said. “We have 10 freshmen and they’re getting a lot of playing time, especially four of them. But now one of them is out with an injury. I’ve got three of them that are playing a lot, and one junior, one sophomore. The future looks good. Hopefully in the next couple years we can bring Chisholm basketball back.”

Bob McDonald, not wanting to cast a shadow over his successor and the program he led for so many years, does not attend boys games in Chisholm. He’s a regular fan at Hibbing girls basketball games to watch his ninth-grade granddaughter Abbey (Joel’s daughter) play on the varsity team. Joel also has a son, Ayden, who is in sixth grade.

“There’s still a presence that he has in the program, even though he would be the first to tell you that he’s totally left it up to Larry,” Joel said. “He doesn’t come here much. I think about a month ago he came to watch my son play over here, and I think that was the first time he was in the gym since he retired. It was really cool being able to walk back in here with him for the first time, and it was really special that he was watching my son play.”

Bob McDonald sometimes attends practices in Hibbing and assists Joel’s team when he can. He also likes to surprise Joel’s family by dropping off treats at their house.

“He keeps busy by running to the bakery every day, and running to the deli every day, and dropping donuts and bread and salami and candy off at my house when I’m not there,” Joel said. “So I come home and there’s a bag of goodies waiting for me in the doorway. And if I ate everything he dropped off I think I’d be about 300 pounds.

“He’s finding ways to keep busy during the day and he ends up at our practices quite a bit. He just kind of hangs out on the side, works with some guys every now and then; maybe they’re on the side, not shooting a true jump shot, so he’ll grab them and lecture them a little bit, trying to get that out of them.”

Pervenanze is almost an outlander in Chisholm, since he grew up six miles away in Buhl. His high school teams (he graduated in 1984) played against Chisholm every year, and he has vivid memories of Bob McDonald as an opposing coach.

“The 1-2-2 press is the thing that comes back to me,” he said. “You knew it was coming and he emphasized that. Even when I came on board (as assistant coach) he emphasized the 1-2-2 press. We switched around, went to a 3-2, but the 1-2-2 was his bread and butter.”

Pervenanze, who works for the city of Chisholm public works department, laughs about a Buhl native coaching in Chisholm.

“For a Buhl guy to come over to Chisholm? Who woulda thought it? And then to become a coach here? I would have never dreamed of it.

“When the position came open, my sister-in-law said, ‘There’s an assistant boys basketball job open. Why don’t you apply for it?’ At the last minute I applied and I was basically the only one who put my name in.”

Joel McDonald coached against his dad’s teams for many years, and the father won more of those games than the son did.

“There were a lot of games, I’m sure, when it was just a matter of him outcoaching me,” Joel said. “He just seemed to make the right adjustment at the right time and he seemed to find a way to get our guys to panic a little bit. That was kind of his M.O., so to speak, to get that out of a lot of opponents, regardless of where they played but particularly here.”

Pervenanze now sits in that first seat on the bench, shouting many of the same instructions that have been heard in the Chisholm gym for half a century, in a voice that’s not quite as deep as Bob McDonald’s famous baritone.

“Larry definitely has his stamp on it,” Joel McDonald said, “and it’s really cool that there are some things that still remain from the regime that was here forever, it seemed.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 474
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,173
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Here Come The Skiers (And You Can Listen On The Radio)2/11/2016
BIWABIK – Nordic skiing is a very unique sport. It requires snow, for one thing, and having a great place to ski isn’t always commonplace even in Minnesota. Athletes need skis, racing footwear, poles, a race suit and the ability to compete in conditions that can range from balmy to frigid, from no breeze at all to blizzard winds.

Among the 99 boys Nordic teams and 100 girls Nordic teams in Minnesota, the Ely Timberwolves have something on their side that no other team can contemplate: Ely has a hometown broadcaster who calls skiing play-by-play on the radio.

Tom Coombe (pictured) is a human Swiss army knife. He’s the editor of the Ely Echo newspaper, sports director of WELY Radio in Ely and since August he has been the athletic director at Ely High School. He has coached American Legion baseball in Ely since 1994 and has been an assistant baseball coach at the high school.

His radio duties include play-by-play of Ely High School and Vermilion Community College sports, and at Thursday’s MSHSL state Nordic ski championships Coombe was in his usual position, broadcasting the action from a spot near the finish line at Giants Ridge.

He also called last week’s Section 7 ski meet, where Ely finished first among girls and boys.

Coombe has been broadcasting from the state meet since 2004, and nobody is aware of any other radio stations that carry skiing live.

“It’s a challenge, no question about it,” Coombe said.

Nordic skiing is unlike more traditional “stick and ball” sports. The skiers leave the start line, disappear into the hills and woods and later reappear. Plus, there are two races at sections and state; freestyle races for girls and boys, followed by classical pursuit races. The finishing order of the freestyle races (which use a staggered start) are used to set the starting times for the classical races, with the highest freestyle finishers starting ahead of the rest of the pack.

Yes, it can be just a bit confusing.

“The first races, with staggered starts, I’ll generally do live updates,” Coombe said. “I’ll come back on the air for a few minutes when the Ely kids are on the course and when they’re coming back through the finish line. I’m pretty good at math so I try to figure out times in my head, I try to do approximations.

“Generally by the time the second race begins I have results from the first race and that helps fill some airtime. The second part, in the pursuit and a true order of finish, comes close to a traditional sports broadcast. They come in boom boom boom boom and it can be hard to keep track.”

WELY – also known as “End of the Road Radio” – can be heard on the internet, and Coombe gets more feedback from web listeners all the time.

“Our internet stream has picked up through the years,” he said. “I’ve had fans of other teams outside Section 7 listen; parents and grandparents have listened.”

Coombe first did state ski play-by-play when colleagues at the radio station had kids on the Ely ski team. He had little background in skiing, but gave it a whirl.

“It’s kind of evolved through the years. The first time we did it, people at the station who had kids involved in the ski program thought it would be a neat idea to do skiing. I was skeptical at first, and I hope nobody has a recording of those first couple of meets. I really had to learn on the fly how to broadcast something like this.”

SINGING AND SKIING

One of the busiest multi-taskers at the Nordic meet was Mesabi East junior Anna Johnson (pictured). Before the day’s races began, she joined the rest of her school’s choir members to sing the national anthem inside the timing building near the finish line. After the last note was sung, she sprinted out of the building to put on her skis.

Anna had reason to rush, because she was the 13th of 160 skiers to leave the start line in the girls 5K freestyle race. As she left the timing building, one of her fellow choir members yelled, “Go Anna!” Another singer said to the group, “Let’s go cheer on Anna!”

THURSDAY’S RESULTS

Margie Freed of Eastview finished ahead of the pack in the girls freestyle race and maintained her lead through the classical pursuit event to claim the individual state. Erin Moening of St. Paul Highland Park was second, followed by Anja Maijala of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton.

The girls team champion was Armstrong, followed by Wayzata, Stillwater, Duluth East and Burnsville in the top five.

The boys champion claimed his second state title in three years. Bloomington Jefferson’s Zak Ketterson won the championship as a sophomore and missed last year’s postseason because he was skiing at an international competition in Romania. Finishing second was Patrick Acton of Eagan and Xavier Mansfield of Spring Lake Park was third.

Minneapolis Southwest won the boys team title, followed in the top five by Stillwater, Wayzata, Forest Lake and Ely.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 416
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,173
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Family History Of Warm Hands And State Ski Championships 2/10/2016
BIWABIK – Before Maddie Dekko held her state championship gold medal, as well as another gold medal and a shiny trophy for being part of Blake’s championship Alpine ski team, she held history in – and on – her hands.

Wednesday was a big day for the senior from Blake, who put a disastrous 2015 state meet behind her and came away with all the possible first-place hardware. It also was a big day in Dekko family history, based on a worn pair of ski gloves.

In 1984, a young man named Jeff Dekko won an Alpine state championship skiing for Edina. In 2013 and 2014, Zach Dekko was part of Blake’s boys championship Alpine teams. Zach carried his dad’s old mittens at state, and his kid sister Maddie did the same.

“It was my turn,” she said with a smile Wednesday at Giants Ridge Resort. “I got to wear them and I guess they’re lucky.”

Maddie led after the first run, just as she did one year ago. But she fell on the second of two runs in 2015 and finished 73rd. Wednesday’s results meant a happy finish to her high school skiing career, and one happy family.

Rosie Hust of Orono finished second, followed by Ide Nellie of Blake. Dekko and Nellie led the Bears to the team title with a score of 157. Orono was second at 148 and Mankato West third at 141.

On the boys side, Tommy Anderson of Eagan won the individual title, followed by Jack Lindsay of Burnsville and Luke Doolittle of Eagan, giving the South Suburban Conference a sweep of the top three places.

Edina won the boys team crown with a score of 168, followed by Minnetonka (160) and Hastings (150.)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 408
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 7,950
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Skier Goes Down, And A Helping Hand Appears2/9/2016
Something special happened at the recent Section 6 boys Nordic ski meet. It started when a skier fell and broke one of his poles.

The letter below was sent to Armstrong assistant coach Doug Hubred, written by a parent of a skier from St. Louis Park. (St. Louis Park finished second to earn a berth at the state championship meet; Armstrong was third, two points back, and did not advance to state.)

Dear Doug,

I’ve written this letter to say thank you and to extend my deepest gratitude for your remarkable kindness at the section race Monday. My son Ben is the skier you extended the pole to after his fall around the bend.

I was nervous that morning before the race, but not about whether we would win. Ben had a tough week leading up to the race and I just wanted him to ski a good run without any falls. With marginal weather and snow, I knew it would be a hard course with treacherous terrain. He had a great first race despite a minor fall at the end. On the second race, I was standing on the sideline when he came around the bend and took that fall. I watched as he struggled to get up and my heart sank. I heard a jeering comment from a woman behind me about counting a skier out and my heart sank further. When I saw that his pole was broken, I figured that’s the end of it, he’s out. But when I saw a pole extended to him from the sideline, I knew that he could at least finish the race. I am proud of him for giving it his all and finishing.

I had assumed the pole came from one of our coaches and I thought how lucky Ben was that his coach happened to be there. When I later learned that the pole came from an Armstrong coach, I was in disbelief. I thought about the implications. Here your team was neck and neck with SLP for that second-place spot for state. You could have easily watched like the rest of us, feeling bad for the skier who fell but solidifying your team’s advance to state. Instead without hesitation, you chose to extend kindness to a kid who at the moment needed a helping hand. I have reflected on your honorable action, your selfless deed, since the culmination of that race. I wondered how many of us would have done the same thing, given the circumstances. Of course, we’d all like to think we would do the right thing. I would sure hope so, but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that you did an honorable thing that day which made a difference in a kid’s life, beyond the results of his race. Our family and especially Ben will not forget your kindness.

While it’s great that our boys will be competing at state, it is bittersweet. Your boys earned that spot just as much as the SLP team and I wish they too could have advanced. We overheard some nice comments from your boys after the race, even after experiencing that very tough loss. Your Nordic team is a great group of kids, clearly a reflection of the culture you have created. I hope they know how lucky they are to have a coach and a role model like you. I wish all of you continued success.

With great thanks and appreciation,

Sue, Alex and Ben Chong.