The new kids on the hockey block came to the state tournament for the first time in school history, found themselves on the wrong end of a pretty good shellacking … and they were all smiles and pride afterwards.
Congratulations to the Marshall Tigers, who showed us Thursday that this thing called high school sports isn’t only about winning. It’s also about working together, overcoming obstacles, hanging in there and seeing how far you can go.
Marshall goaltender Mason Campion said, “I guess it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” That may be true, and the Tigers’ first trip to the boys state hockey tournament will leave everyone with great memories. After they were defeated by second-seeded Breck 6-1 in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center, a lot of things didn’t really matter.
Marshall came in with a record of 14-10-1. Didn’t matter. No team from the Southwest Conference had ever played at state. Didn’t matter. The Tigers had reached the section championship game only once prior to this season. Didn’t matter. They were outshot 40-17 by Breck. Didn’t matter.
The only thing that really mattered was this: The Tigers made it to state.
“I didn’t really expect us to get here,” Campion said. “We just go out and work hard every game, see what happens. It’s fun to be a part of this team. Even if we just lost, I don’t care; it’s fun to be out there. It’s something you dream about. You just want to play at the Xcel Energy Center, and we’re here.”
This was supposed to be a year to rebuild in Marshall. Last year’s team finished 16-8-1 but a bunch of seniors graduated and a first-year head coach – Dave Coubert – took over this season. They were injuries during the regular season, with a raft of youngsters moving up from the junior varsity to the varsity .
In the Marshall Independent’s preview of the state quarterfinal game, Coudert told sports reporter Travis Andries what his expectations were.
“It's going to be a test,” Coudert said. “The only worse draw would have been (top-seeded) St. Thomas Academy, so we just want to see hard work, heart and no giving up. Just do Marshall proud, that's what we want.”
No problem there. The other seven teams in the 1A tournament combined for 44 state appearances and nine state titles. Didn’t matter.
The highlight for the Tigers came early in the second period when they scored their first goal in a state tournament. Junior Jeremiah Barker got the goal with assists by junior Andrew Bell and sophomore Derek Rasmussen. Here’s the best part of that tale: The goal was Barker’s very first goal of the season.
Coudert told the media afterwards, “We kept on saying, ‘Who’s going to be the first one to get a goal for Marshall in the state tournament?’ Jeremiah went out there and got a sweet goal.”
Barker was as surprised as anyone.
“When I tipped it, I didn’t realize it had gone in. I saw a flash of it and I couldn’t believe it; ‘Wow, I just scored a goal at the Xcel Energy Center.’ It was exciting. It was a great experience and I’m glad my parents were here to be able to see that.”
I’m glad we were all able to see that.
Well done, Tigers.
--Hermantown’s top line is a scoring machine, with Chris Benson (30 goals), Tyler Koepke (29) and Bo Gronseth (26) scoring almost at will this season. Fittingly, they each scored a goal in the Hawks’ 3-0 win over Duluth Marshall on Thursday.
The trio first came to the varsity as sophomores, when they were known as the Diaper Line. They helped the Hawks reach state that season, and their improvement has been steady.
“They were our second line last year,” coach Bruce Plante said. “Chris got to play on our top line a little bit because we needed a left winger. And this year these guys came in being our top line. I knew they were going to be good. I had no doubt about that because they had done well as 10th-graders and they had done really well as juniors.
“We have a pecking order in Hermantown and the older guys get a lot of the ice time. It was their turn. They see each other very well, their vision is great, they’re friends, they’re unselfish, they’re the kind of line you really love to have as the top line. They’re fun to have around and they’re totally unselfish.”
--In Thursday evening’s 1A semifinals, St. Thomas Academy defeated St. Cloud Apollo 12-0 and East Grand Forks beat Rochester Lourdes 3-2.
--Friday’s first game of the 1A consolation bracket at Mariucci Arena will be a challenge for the arena announcer as well as radio broadcasters. That’s because the 10 a.m. game will be between Marshall and Duluth Marshall. It’s probably best to refer to them as the Tigers and the Hilltoppers.
--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 4 for the tournament, 26 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 496
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,339
(*During the 2012-13 school year)