John's Journal
Boys Hockey: Minnetonka Skates Past The Butterflies, Wins Big11/28/2012
There were no real misconceptions going into Tuesday night’s boys hockey season opener between Minnetonka and Apple Valley. Numbers, facts and clear-eyed logic told the story.

Minnetonka has a veteran team that is No. 4 in Let’s Play Hockey’s Class 2A rankings. Led by seniors Max Coatta, Tommy Vannelli and Jack Ramsey, the Skippers are extremely solid. They were 24-4 last season, losing to eventual state champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the Section 6 championship game.

Apple Valley, which went 11-12-3 a year ago, has a roster that is loaded with youth. The Eagles have only three players with varsity experience: senior captains Mason Preston and Christian Smith and junior Brandon Smith. Of the two other seniors on the roster, Shane Van Dusartz is the top goaltender and Brandon Loge suffered a knee injury in the first period Tuesday.

The game was a 7-1 win for the Skippers, to no one’s surprise.

“Today was a good learning experience for us,” Eagles coach Jerry Hayes said. “We had no illusions that we were going to be a team that was going to come roaring out of the gate.”

Apple Valley did not quite come roaring out, but the Eagles played Minnetonka to a standstill in a scoreless first period. The shots were 12-8 in favor of the Skippers, but at that point the scorecards were not tilted in either direction. When the Eagles got the first goal, by Dylan Reynolds, at 8:04 of the second period, it looked we had a ballgame.

Then, the onslaught. The Skippers scored three goals before the period was out and got four more in the final period.

“I was a little concerned with our guys standing around, not moving their feet,” Minnetonka coach Brian Urick said. “But it got better as the game went on and the guys got the butterflies out of the way.”

Here’s a warning that was issued to every team that will face the Skippers: Their seven goals were scored by seven individuals. Alex Klein, Vannelli, Connor Thie, Charles Huminski, Justin Bader, Coatta and John Schultd all raised their sticks in celebration, pumped a fist while skating on one knee or otherwise marked the accomplishment. James Schultd had four assists, Coatta and John Schultd had three.

“We feel pretty good to come out with a W, we’ll take it for our first game,” Coatta said. “We’ve got some things we need to work on, but we battled hard and took away some positives.”

And get this: Minnetonka was missing three players, including Ramsey (who has made a verbal commitment to play at the University of Minnesota.)

“They’re good,” Hayes said. “I really like their D and they obviously have some top-end forwards. You can tell it was the first game for everybody. The puck was a little bit square-shaped by the end of the first period with both teams kind of tomahawking a little bit. They certainly have speed up front and Brian does such a nice job with them, too. They’ll be ready to go in their conference. They’ll be right up there with the best of them.”

The Skippers aren’t dwelling on their No. 4 ranking, because rankings are worth as much as square pucks. The top three teams in 2A are Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Edina and Eden Prairie. Edina, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka are all in the Lake Conference, and the Skippers, Benilde and Eden Prairie are all in Section 6.

“Hopefully we’ll ramp up as the year goes on and get better with our young guys,” Urick said. “Hopefully we’re peaking at the end of the year. In the playoffs it comes down to one game. We’ve had teams that have been the favorite and it doesn’t always work out. We’re just going to try to prepare for the end of the year.”

The preparations are underway.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 346
*Miles John has driven: 4,727
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Totino-Grace Had The Look Of A Champion11/25/2012
One quick look between best friends was all it took for Totino-Grace to take control of the Class 5A state championship game. Read Brian Jerzak's story by clicking here.
If This Was The End, Eden Prairie’s Grant Went Out In Style11/24/2012
Eden Prairie rolled to the Class 6A football state title with a 28-7 victory over Lakeville North. Speculation centered on whether it was the final game at Eden Prairie for coach Mike Grant. Read Brian Jerzak's story by clicking here
Mahnomen: Where Adding To The Tradition Is A Tradition11/24/2012
Mahnomen football coach John Clark Jr. had a little talk with his players Saturday morning. The Indians would be facing Bethlehem Academy for the Class 1A state championship at the Metrodome in a couple of hours, and Clark wanted to remind the boys about their program’s tradition.

He wanted them to think about it … then forget about it and just play football.

This is Mahnomen’s 21st appearance in the state football playoffs. That’s more than Hutchinson (20) and Eden Prairie (16). Of all the teams in all the classes who went to state this year, only Totino-Grace (22) has been here more often than the Indians. (St. Thomas Academy also made it to state for the 21st time.)

There are some aging ex-footballers in Mahnomen who remember 1974, the first time the Indians went to state. They tell tales of state championships in 1980, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1998 and state runner-up finishes in 1979, 1982, 1985, 1989 and 2011.

Clark wanted his players to keep everything in proper perspective; not too much pressure but plenty of incentive.

“(Tradition) is important but when I talked to the kids this morning, I said, ‘Let’s respect that tradition but this is our team and our time. Let’s add to it.’ The best thing you can do to respect the tradition is add to it. I thought we did that.”

No one will argue. The Indians put on a ball-control show, knowing that the best way to keep Bethlehem Academy’s quick feet and rapid-fire offense from scoring was to turn the Cardinals offense into 11 spectators.

Mahnomen’s first drive covered 74 yards in 10 plays, swallowing more than five minutes of game time. The Indians also had a 96-yard, 19-play scoring drive and one that didn’t result in points but covered 60 yards in 17 plays and lasted almost 10 minutes.

“That’s exactly what our plan was,” said senior quarterback Jacob Pavek, who rushed 23 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns. “Long drives, three or four yards a pop, first downs, limited turnovers. We had a couple turnovers but our defense made up for it. Our game plan was to shove it right down their throats and that’s what we did.”

Clark said, “As coaches we talked about playing a little game of keep-away. You draw up a plan and you hope, and boy did they execute it. They just executed so well; our offensive line, our quarterback was pretty much flawless on his reads. It was maybe boring to some people but it was poetry in motion to us.”

The numbers – not just on the scoreboard – tell the story. Mahnomen had the ball for 31 minutes, 20 seconds to 16:40 for the Cardinals. The Indians ran 65 plays, the Cardinals ran 37. The total yardage was 318 to 162.

“Kids can do extraordinary things,” Clark said. “Things like heart and guts get overused a lot but I thought that’s our our kids showed. A lot of our kids played both ways and they really gutted it out. I’m proud of what they did.”

In last year’s Prep Bowl Mahnomen lost to Dawson-Boyd 35-20. Dawson-Boyd was the team that Bethlehem Academy defeated 29-20 a week ago in the state semifinals, showing a very impressive quick-strike offense.

“They were fast, we knew that,” Pavek said. “We had to shut down their running game, limit their passes, limit their big plays, and that’s what we did.”

CELEBRATION TO REMEMBER

After Blue Earth Area defeated Rochester Lourdes 30-7 in the Class 3A title game, the party got started on the Buccaneers’ side of the Metrodome. The grins, the hugs, the tears of joy … it was something to behold.

The happiest person – although he held his emotions pretty well in check on the field -- might have been Blue Earth coach Randy Kuechenmeister. He has been the head coach there for 22 years; the Buccaneers made prior trips to state in 1972, 1990, 2006 and last season but had never won a state title.

“It’s been an unbelievable year,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the kids. The kids have worked hard, they’re a very unselfish group. They epitomize what ‘team’ is all about. They do their job and they’ve done it every week. I’m very proud of them.”

Holding the state championship trophy in his arms, Kuechenmeister was asked how it felt. He hesitated, and you had the sense that tears were not far off.

“I’m just proud, proud of the kids and what they’ve accomplished,” he said. “I’m a little overwhelmed, I suppose, with the whole thing. Never in my wildest imagination did I think we’d win 13 games, go undefeated and win the state. What a credit to the kids. It’s more than I could ever imagine. I’m extremely, extremely proud of them. “

Congratulations to all the teams.

HALFTIME HIGHLIGHT

In 1982, the very first Prep Bowl game at the Metrodome featured teams from Le Center and Mahnomen. Players, coaches and cheerleaders from those two teams were honored at halftime of Saturday’s Class 3A Prep Bowl contest.

The teams lined up on the field and everyone was introduced by name. Many of the players wore their school’s jerseys and the cheerleaders brought pom-poms. The Mahnomen old-timers had an especially grand day, having watched the current Mahnomen team win a state title earlier in the day.

The lines of two teams met at midfield and “Good game!” was heard several times as the one-time opponents shook hands.

Le Center won the 1982 Class B state title with a 12-6 victory over Mahnomen. Other scores from the first Prep Bowl were: Stillwater over Owatonna 34-27 in Class AA; Brooklyn Center over East Grand Forks 30-8 in Class A; Truman over Belgrade 16-14 in Class C; and Westbrook over Hillcrest Lutheran 34-12 in nine-man.

--Photo galleries from all the Prep Bowl games can be viewed on the MSHSL Facebook page.

PREP BOWL XXXI
Friday
Nine-man: Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 40, Grand Meadow 22
Class 2A: Caledonia 25, Moose Lake/Willow River 22
Class 4A: Hutchinson 67, Holy Family Catholic 7
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 28, Lakeville North 7

Saturday
Class 1A: Mahnomen 20, Bethlehem Academy 14
Class 3A: Blue Earth Area 30, Rochester Lourdes 7
Class 5A: Totino-Grace 49, Owatonna 21

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 344
*Miles John has driven: 4,719
*Diet soft drink count: 3
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Blue Earth Area, Totino-Grace Capture State Titles11/24/2012
Blue Earth Area broke open a close game and sailed to a 30-7 victory over Rochester Lourdes in the Class 3A Prep Bowl. Totino-Grace rolled past Owatonna 49-21 for the Class 5A title. Read Luke Sleeper's coverage by clicking here.