John's Journal
East Grand Forks: First Time At State And Loving Every Minute2/21/2014
Some of the greatest scenes during this week’s girls state hockey tournament have unfolded behind the scenes, where the only onlookers are members of the media. After each game, the head coaches and selected players are brought into the interview room, where they sit at a table in front of the reporters and answer questions.

When the East Grand Forks contingent enters the room, it’s a large contingent. That’s because not only does coach Jim Scanlan and a couple of players sit at the table, most of the rest of the players sit among the media.

The Green Wave – making its first trip to state – is having a grand old time in the Class 1A field. Carrying the No. 1 seed, the Wave beat Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato 8-1 in the quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center and in Friday’s semifinals they rallied to defeat St. Paul United 3-2.

As Scanlan and sisters Haley and Alexa Mack talked about the game, the other players smiled, giggled and even broke into applause at one point. Part of the equation is that it is East Grand Forks’ first time at the tournament, and that always bring wide eyes. And yes, winning certainly makes things more fun. And the Green Wave is having tons of fun.

The win over St. Paul United might have looked unlikely after United took a 2-1 lead going into the third period on two goals by Alev Baysoy. Alexa Mack had scored for the Wave in the first period, Mak Langei tied it 2-2 on a power-play goal in the third period and Alexa Mack scored on another power play to provide the winning margin.

East Grand Forks tested United goaltender Catherine Johnson, putting 34 shots on net to 16 for United. That was part of the strategy for the Wave: attack, pound the puck and make good things happen.

“We knew somebody on our team would step up and make a play,” said Haley Mack. “We were just hoping to get pucks to the net and someone would pop one in.”

Scanlan described an emotional postgame locker room.

“I told the girls they never cease to amaze me,” he said. “It was pretty emotional. This team has believed all year long, they never quit, and I told them I was proud of them. They’re three periods away from a state title.”

East Grand Forks will meet defending champion Blake in Saturday’s noon championship game. The Bears also had to withstand a challenge in the semifinals before defeating Red Wing 5-4 in double overtime.

ENVISIONING SUCCESS

Blake had held a 4-2 lead over Red Wing before the Wingers came roaring back to make it a 4-4 game. One overtime had ended and the Bears were catching their breath before returning to the ice. Carly Bullock, a sophomore sensation who leads Blake in scoring, had scored her team’s fourth goal. She described the scene in the locker room at Xcel Energy Center:

“We wanted it real bad and we all were getting pretty tired. We talked about how good it would feel to score and go to the championship. Our energy was high even though everyone was really tired. It was great.”

It became even greater for the defending champions when Bullock scored 38 seconds into the second overtime. Bedlam on the ice. A pile of Blake players.

"This was definitely one of the most memorable games,” said Bullock, who has scored 49 goals this season. “Obviously winning state last year was one of the best, but this was such a close game; double overtime and we wanted it so bad. It’s obviously one of the biggest games, probably of my high school career."

The Bears will attempt to win back-to-back state titles for the first time in program history; they also won championships in 2002, 2007 and 2009 as well as last year. This is Blake’s seventh state tournament appearance and their four championships, tied with South St. Paul for the most in Class 1A. Blake has never lost in a state title game.

Red Wing, meanwhile, remains a team that has yet to play for a state championship. The Wingers have become one of the top programs in Class 1A, but their record against Blake is 0-5.

“We want our program to be in that conversation, among the top teams in Class A year in and year out,” said coach Scott Haley. “I think we’re there, but we just can’t get over that final hurdle.”

Nicole Schammel had two goals and one assist Thursday, including the goal that tied the game 4-4 in the third period. She has scored 18 goals in four state tournaments; the record is 21 by Krissy Wendell of Park Center. Red Wing will finish its season in Saturday’s third-place game against St. Paul United.

--When the Wingers’ Emily Stegora scored to make it Blake 4, Red Wing 3 late in the second period, the Red Wing fans broke out in song, singing Happy Birthday to Emily.

CLASS 2A: HILL-MURRAY, BENILDE-ST. MARGARET’S ADVANCE

--Hill-Murray 1, Eden Prairie 0: A goal by Kenzie Prater midway through the first period was all the Pioneers needed to advance. Hill-Murray outshot the Eagles 29-8. A year ago, the Pioneers lost to Minnetonka 3-1 in the championship game.

--Benilde-St. Margaret’s 2, Lakeville North 1: Kelly Pannek had a goal and an assists to help the Red Knights defeat the Panthers. Kasandra Petersen put Benilde ahead 1-0 in the first period and North’s Dani Sadek tied the score later in the first. Pannek’s winning goal came at 3:37 of the second period.

CLASS 2A CONSOLATION BRACKET

--Andover 2, Burnsville 1 (two overtimes): Mikayla Goodwin scored the winning goal for the Huskies one minute into the second overtime at Ridder Arena.

--Mounds View 4, Roseau 3 (two overtimes): A power-play goal by Bailey Thompson at 11:18 of the second overtime moved the Mustangs into Saturday’s fifth-place game against Andover at Ridder Arena.

STATE GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

Melrose captured the Class 1A gymnastics team title Friday at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. Melrose had a score of 149. 575, followed by New Prague (149.050) and Detroit Lakes (148.450).

In the 2A team championships, Roseville captured the title with a score of 151.800. Next were Northfield (150.800) and Wayzata (148.650).

All-around and individual event champions in both classes will be decided Saturday.

FRIDAY’S HOCKEY GAMES AT XCEL ENERGY CENTER

Class 1A Semifinals
Blake 5, Red Wing 4 (two overtimes)
East Grand Forks 3, St. Paul United 2

Class 2A Semifinals
Hill-Murray 1, Eden Prairie 0
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 2, Lakeville North 1

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Class 1A
Fifth-place/ Alexandria vs. Proctor-Hermantown, 10 a.m. at Ridder Arena
Third-place/ Red Wing vs. St. Paul United, 9 a.m. at Xcel Energy Center
Championship/ Blake vs. East Grand Forks, noon at Xcel Energy Center

Class 2A
Fifth-place/ Andover vs. Mounds View, noon at Ridder Arena
Third-place/ Eden Prairie vs. Lakeville North, 4 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center
Championship/ Hill-Murray vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s, 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 323
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,372
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
For Hill-Murray, The Best Offense Is A Great Defense2/20/2014
One of the keys to Hill-Murray’s 4-1 victory over Burnsville in the Class 2A girls hockey state quarterfinals Thursday at Xcel Energy Center was the Pioneers’ smothering defensive effort. Burnsville was held to 11 shots on goal, with five in first period, five in the second and only one in the third.

“That’s definitely a strength of our team,” Hill-Murray coach Bill Schafhauser said. “We rely on that.”

The Pioneers led 2-0 after the first period on a power-play goal by Jess Bonfe and an even-strength goal by Rebecca Zarembinski. Kenzie Prater and Brittney Anderson scored in the second period, as did Burnsville’s Paige Skaja.

Hill-Murray didn’t get its first shot on goal until nearly midway through the first period, but the Pioneers never got rattled.

“I didn’t really notice it very much,” said goaltender Leah Patrick. “Our forwards always come back. We start progressing through the game and I knew they’d get it. They’re all hungry to score and they fight really hard.”

Burnsville’s top line of Lindsey Coleman, Britta Nelson and Skaja have played together for four years and they finished first, second and third in scoring in the South Suburban Conference this season. Coleman had four shots on goal against Hill-Murray while Nelson and Skaja each had two.

The game’s key momentum swing came in the third period. Skaja’s goal made the score Hill-Murray 3, Burnsville 1 and the Blaze had reason for excitement. But Anderson scored 22 seconds later for the Pioneers.

“We kept telling the kids, ‘Let’s get one, let’s chip away,’ ” said Blaze coach Tracy Cassano. “We’ve faced adversity all year, our kids are resilient, they keep fighting. When Paige scored we felt like there was a little momentum swing, our bench went nuts and our fans went nuts. And then boom, they answered back.”

--In the day’s second game, Eden Prairie rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Andover 4-2. Goals by Sierra Langlie and Abbie Turpin put the Huskies in front 2-1 before Eden Prairie scored the game’s final three goals.

The Eagles’ Charly Dahlquist tied it 2-2 late in the second period and put her team ahead 3-2 early in the third. An empty-net goal by Kate Rydland sealed it for the Eagles.

“There were definitely some big momentum shifts,” said Andover coach Melissa Sailor. “It was big after we went ahead 2-1, and then they scored. It would have been really big to go into the third period leading 2-1.”

OTHER CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS

--Benilde-St. Margaret’s 7, Roseau 0: The top-seeded Red Knights broke loose after a scoreless first period to advance to Friday’s semifinals. Kelly Pannek had three goals and three assists for Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Caitlin Reilly had a goal and three assists.

--Lakeville North 3, Mounds 2 (3 overtimes): In a game that ended shortly before 11 p.m., the winner came when Morgan Manes redirected a shot into the net 59 seconds into the third overtime. North has experience in overtime games at state; last year in the semifinals the Panthers lost to Minnetonka 4-3 in a six-overtime game that ended at 1:02 a.m.

A STATE TOURNEY TRIFECTA

Brad Bergstrom, who is the principal at Austin High School, was one of the linesmen for Wednesday night’s Class 1A quarterfinal game between East Grand Forks and Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato. The game gave Bergstrom a rare trifecta of state hockey experiences.

He is a native of International Falls and played in the 1983 boys state hockey tournament. He was the head coach of the boys hockey team at Fergus Falls from 1997 to 2002 and took the Otters to six consecutive state tournaments. And this week he is working the girls state tourney as an official for the first time.

Bergstrom, who has been a hockey official for 10 years, worked a consolation-bracket game at Ridder Arena on Thursday and will work one game Friday back at Xcel Energy Center.

“Yes, the game of hockey has been very good to me,” he said.

SOUNDS OF THE TOURNAMENT

Canada defeated the U.S. 3-2 in overtime to win the Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey Thursday. Canada overcame a late 2-0 deficit, and when the Canadians scored to tie it 2-2 with 54.6 seconds left in regulation, a resounding “NOOO!” was heard in the corridor behind the team benches at Xcel Energy Center, where players and tournament workers were watching on several TVs.

CLASS 1A CONSOLATION BRACKET

--Alexandria 4, New Ulm 3 (three overtimes): Alexandria ninth-grader McKenzie Revering scored an unassisted goal with 2:40 left in the third overtime; it was her fifth goal of the season.

--Proctor-Hermantown 4, Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato 1: Karie Lenard and Jillayne Gilbert each scored two goals for the Mirage. Sarah Kivisto had Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato’s goal.

FRIDAY’S GAMES AT XCEL ENERGY CENTER

Class 1A Semifinals
11 a.m.: Blake vs Red Wing
1 p.m.: East Grand Forks vs. St Paul United

Class 2A Semifinals
6 p.m.: Hill-Murray vs. Eden Prairie
8 p.m.: Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Lakeville North

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 323
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,332
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Red Wing’s Schammel Is Among Elite Girls Hockey Company2/19/2014
Nicole Schammel is a senior hockey player from Red Wing who is in the final stages of a stellar high school career. She holds school records in career goals and points and has signed a letter of intent to play Division I college hockey at Minnesota State Mankato.

Schammel had three goals and three assists in the Winger’s 7-2 victory over New Ulm in Wednesday's Class 1A state quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center. On the season she has 61 goals, more than any other player in the tournament field.

As her high school hockey career comes to its conclusion this week, she was surprised to learn Wednesday where she ranks among some of the game’s legendary players.

Natalie Darwitz, who played at Eagan from 1997 to 2000 before continuing her career at the University of Minnesota as well as in the Olympics, is the state’s all-time leader with 468 career points. Schammel is No. 2 on that list with 452 points.

On the career goal-scoring list, Darwitz is first with 316, Schammel has 269 and Krissy Wendell (Park Center, 1998-2000) is third at 219. Wendell also played for the Gophers and in the Olympics, so that’s some pretty good company.

“That’s pretty cool,” Schammel said. “Obviously those guys are great. It’s an honor.”

Schammel plays on one of the top lines in the state with senior Emily Stegora and junior Reagan Haley. That trio did all the scoring for the Wingers on Wednesday. Stegora will also play at Minnesota State Mankato and Haley has made a verbal commitment to Minnesota Duluth.

“They might go down as one of the highest-scoring trios in high school league history,” said Red Wing coach Scott Haley. “What’s neat is the synergy between those three.”

That synergy extends beyond the ice. Schammel and Stegora are doubles partners on the Wingers tennis team, and they reached the section semifinals last fall. Haley, Schammel and junior Kayla Oberding are members of the golf team, which placed fourth in the Class 3A state tournament last spring.

“It’s a pretty special group,” Haley said. “We’ve really enjoyed watching these three play.”

YOUTH MOVEMENT

If there is a younger group of girls at Xcel Energy Center during this week’s state tournament than the Blake hockey team, they’re probably selling Girl Scout cookies. Yes, the Bears are the defending Class 1A state champions, but they also have a roster packed with very young players.

Eight players graduated from last year’s Blake team, and nine of the 20 players on the 2014 state tournament roster are in seventh, eighth or ninth grade. The Bears’ class breakdown goes like this: three seniors, three juniors, five sophomores, four freshmen, three eighth-graders, two seventh-graders.

“I’m happy with the poise they’ve exhibited all season,” coach Shawn Reid said after the Bears defeated Alexandria 3-2 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. “We have some really good poise on this team. The younger players are playing above their maturity level, which is phenomenal to see.”

Blake’s goals Thursday were scored by sophomores Carly Bullock (two goals) and Sylvie Wallin. One of Bullock’s goals was unassisted, and the assists on the other two Bears goals were by junior Lilia Everson and ninth-grader Sarah Levitt.

MULTI-TASKING AT ITS FINEST

Both of Alexandria’s goals against Blake were scored by senior Melissa Drown, who does much more than play hockey. Melissa not only is a captain on the hockey team, she is president of her school’s A Club, president of the Liberty Livewires 4H club, student council vice president, member of the National Honor Society and has a 3.8 GPA while taking advanced and college-level classes.

EVENING ACTION

--In a game between teams making their first appearances at the state tourney, top-seeded East Grand Forks defeated Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato 8-1. Haley Mack had four goals for the Green Wave and Alexa Mack had one goal and three assists. Kennedy Sommerfeld had the goal for Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato.

--St. Paul United defeated Proctor/Hermantown 5-2 in the day’s last quarterfinal. Joie Phelps had two goals for St. Paul United, which was outshot 26-21 by the Mirage. St. Paul United is a cooperative team with players from Visitation and St. Paul Academy and Summit School.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--The best scene in the formal postgame interview room: While East Grand Forks coach Jim Scanlan and players Haley Mack and Coco Piche sat at a table in front of the gathered media, the rest of the Green Wave players sat with the reporters. As the session ended, the players applauded.

--Blake is the defending champion, and two of the key scorers in the Bears’ 2013 state title lineup returned this season .. and they are not yet seniors. Bullock and Karlie Lund (now a junior) were both named to the Class 1A all-tournament team a year ago. Bullock had four goals and two assists in three games at state last time and Lund finished with five goals (including a hat trick in the state semifinals) and five assists.

The Bears are playing without Lund at state, however. Coach Shawn Reid had some fun when talking about her status, jokingly using an approach common in the NHL: “Karlie is questionable with an upper body injury (end of joke). She has a broken collarbone, she’s out.”

--Blake is seeking not only its second consecutive state championship but its fifth overall. The Bears won titles in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2013.

--New Ulm (which is a cooperative team involving New Ulm, New Ulm Cathedral, Sleepy Eye and Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s) is making its sixth consecutive appearance at state.

--Top-seeded East Grand Forks is playing at state for the first time. The Green Wave met Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato is Wednesday’s 6 p.m. game. Wednesday’s action also was the first at state for Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, as well as for St. Paul United ( a cooperative team with players from Visitation and St. Paul Academy and Summit School), which met Proctor-Hermantown in the day’s final game.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 315
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,292
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Dance Season Closes With A Terrific State Tournament2/15/2014
The high school dance season culminated in grand fashion over the weekend, with 36 teams advancing to the state tourney in the Jazz division and 36 more advancing in High Kick. After the first round in each division, six of the 12 teams in each class advanced to the championship round at Target Center.

In Jazz, here are the championship results…

Class 1A
1. Yellow Medicine East, Granite Falls
2. Marshall School, Duluth
3. Aitkin
4. Frazee
5. Rockford
6. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton

Class 2A
1. Benilde-St. Margaret’s, St. Louis Park
2. Totino-Grace, Fridley
3. Sartell-St. Stephen
4. Simley, Inver Grove Heights
5. South St. Paul
6. Mound Westonka

Class 3A
1. Eastview
2. Wayzata
3. Maple Grove
4. Chaska
5. St. Cloud Tech
6. Brainerd

And in High Kick, the results are …

Class 1A
1. Aitkin
2. Yellow Medicine East
3. Frazee
4. Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd
5. Montevideo
6. Pelican Rapids

Class 2A
1. Totino-Grace
2. Sartell-St. Stephen
3. Cannon Falls
4. Austin
5. St. Cloud Cathedral
6. Holy Angels

Class 3A
1. Eastview
2. Chaska
3. Faribault
4. Eden Prairie
5. Wayzata
6. St. Cloud Tech

Congratulations to all the teams that competed at state!

--To see outstanding photo galleries by Minnesota Prep Photo from the state dance tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 307
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,252
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
The Winter Ski Season Is Complete As Nordic Champs Crowned2/13/2014
BIWABIK -- Thursday brought a fresh few inches of snow to Giants Ridge, where the state Nordic ski championships were held. The snow may have slowed some of the athletes but the day went off without a hitch.

The Wayzata girls captured their second consecutive team title with three individuals finishing among the top 10. Placing second was Armstrong, with Stillwater third.

The girls individual champion was Irondale senior Mattie Watts, followed by Burnsville senior Vivian Hett and Wayzata senior Alayna Sonnesyn.

The boys team champion was Forest Lake, followed by St. Louis Park and Duluth East.

Topping the boys individuals was Bloomington Jefferson sophomore Zak Ketterson, followed by Mounds Park Academy senior Nick Gardner and Forest Lake junior Leo Hipp.

All skiers raced a 5k freestyle course in the morning and a 5k classical event in the afternoon.

Congratulations to all the skiers!