At two very different venues in the Twin Cities, Friday was a day to remember and honor two coaches who are no longer with us. Their friendship, their guidance and their ethics have left lasting impressions on their teams, who wore great big smiles on Friday while also shedding a few quiet tears.
At Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, the girls hockey team from Blake wore the initials BRS on their helmets and a patch that read “Brano” on their jerseys. It was their way of honoring Branislav Robert Stankovsky, 56, who was the Bears coach for 14 years before passing away last April from complications related to several strokes.
And at the Sports Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus, a common sight was a t-shirt worn by folks from New Prague. On the back of the shirts were the words “New Prague Gymnastics/In memory of Matt Shetka.”
Shetka, 54, coached the Trojans to five state titles and taught in the school district for 33 years. He passed away in December of an apparent heart attack while shoveling snow. He also was the Trojans’ longtime girls golf coach, and his teams won two state championships in that sport.
The loss of Stankovsky and Shetka hit their schools hard. Blake senior forward Dani Cameranesi said she thinks about Brano every day.
“Every time I pick up my jersey and see that patch, I think about him,” she said after the Bears defeated Red Wing 6-3 in the Class 1A semifinals.
“His entire family has been here for us through the entire tournament and the entire season, in fact. It’s also a lot of credit to the coaching staff this year. They have big shoes to fill and they’re doing a great job. We as teammates want to do it for each other, also. “
Stankovsky had a record of 290-74-19 in his 14 years at Blake and his teams won state titles in 2003, 2007 and 2009. He was not a teacher; he owned a company called Creative Health Care Management. But hockey was certainly in his DNA; he was drafted by the Pittsburg Penguins in 1975.
The New Prague gymnastics team captured the Class 1A team title Friday with a narrow margin over second-place defending champion Melrose. Athletes, coaches and fans all shed tears during the competition, the team’s first without Shetka in more than three decades.
For Blake and New Prague, the loss of their coaches helped bring teammates even closer together and unite them in their athletic efforts.
A banner taped to the wall outside the South St. Paul hockey locker room at Xcel Energy Center expressed sentiments that seemed appropriate Friday. The sign read:
“Believe in your coaches. Believe in your team. Believe in your line mates. Believe in yourself.”
Believe in your coaches. Even when they’re no longer with you.
CLASS 2A HOCKEY SEMIFINALS
--Hill-Murray 2, Eden Prairie 1: The Eagles led after the opening period on a goal by Charly Dahlquist before Hill-Murray’s Kenzie Prater scored on a power play in the second period and Sarah Bobrowski scored the game-winner in the third period.
--Minnetonka 4, Lakeville North 3 (6 OT): The longest game in the history of the state tournament finally ended after 1 a.m. when Amy Petersen scored the game-winner. The teams combined for 115 shots on goal.
CLASS 1A HOCKEY SEMIFINALS
--Blake 6, Red Wing 3: Karlie Lund had a hat trick and Cameranesi had two goals and two assists as the Bears, who scored on two of three power plays, moved into the state championship game.
--Warroad 4, South St. Paul 1:Kayla Gardner had two goals and an assist, and Lisa Marvin had a goal and two assists to lead the Warriors. They will meet Blake in the championship game at noon Saturday.
CLASS 2A HOCKEY CONSOLATION
--Eagan 3, Forest Lake 2: The winning Wildcats put 52 shots on net and Megan Wolfe scored two goals. Rachel Wall added a goal and assist for Eagan.
--North Wright County 3, Irondale 0: Dani Sibley had a goal and assist for North Wright County, which will meet Eagan in the fifth-place game at noon Saturday at Ridder Arena.
SATURDAY’S HOCKEY SCHEDULE
9 a.m. at Xcel Energy Center: Red Wing vs. South St. Paul in 1A third-place game.
10 a.m. at Ridder Arena: Mound Westonka vs. Hibbing/Chisholm in 1A fifth-place game
Noon at Xcel Energy Center: Blake vs. Warroad in 1A championship game
Noon at Ridder Arena: Eagan vs. North Wright County in 2A fifth-place game
4 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center: Eden Prairie vs. Lakeville North in 2A third-place game
7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center: Hill-Murray vs. Minnetonka in 2A championship game
BY THE NUMBERS
*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 9 for the tournament, 9 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 464
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,089
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
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