John's Journal
Winning And Losing … And Learning Important Lessons2/25/2012
The storylines were everywhere Saturday at Xcel Energy Center...

We saw history, with Breck and South St. Paul playing the first multiple-overtime championship game in girls hockey annals before Breck won the Class 1A title in the second overtime. It was the Mustangs’ first title in five trips to state and South St. Paul’s second consecutive runner-up finish.

We saw a big record fall. Warroad junior Lisa Marvin had a hat trick and an assist as the Warriors beat Red Wing 5-2 in the 1A third-place game. That gave her 34 points in state tournament games, breaking the record of 32 set by Roseville’s Ronda Curtin in 1999.

We saw the arrival of young stars in both the scoring and stopping categories. South St. Paul ninth-grade goaltender Sydney Conley was named to the all-tournament team after an astounding three-game run, and Breck can give credit for its victory Saturday to another pair of freshmen. Alexandra Wallin scored one goal for the Mustangs and classmate Leah Schwartzman scored the other two, including the gold-medal clincher at 10:55 of the second overtime.

But look a little deeper and listen a little harder, and you find messages that go beyond who won and who lost, beyond the color of the medals and the words on the trophies.

Let’s go back a day. South St. Paul defeated Warroad 4-2 in Friday’s semifinals. After the game had ended and the Packers had exited their locker room, I noticed what had been written on the white board in the locker room:

--“Nothing worth having is ever going to come easily.”

--“In life, we have to work hard for things we want.”

--“Today, don’t run from the challenge! Meet it head on!”

--“EMBRACE this moment.You will never get it back!”

I posted a photo of that white board on the MSHSL Facebook page Friday night, and the response was resounding. Comments were posted that included “I’m in!” and “Wonderful!”

The words on the board came from South St. Paul coach Dave Palmquist, who is one of the veterans in his business. Dave has been the Packers coach from the beginning, leading them to a state-record 12 state tournaments, winning four championships with three runner-up finishes.

He’s also the father of one of the players (daughter Abby is a sophomore) and he’s among the majority of our coaches – no matter the sport -- who absolutely get it, who understand what’s most important.

“I tip my hat to South St. Paul,” said Breck coach Chris Peterson. “Dave Palmquist, I’ve known him for years and he’s a fantastic coach and he runs a great program. It’s one of those games when you’re glad to be on the victorious side, but you also have to feel for them. They played a really, really good game and they’re a great hockey team. It’s just a shame to see kids in tears afterwards, tears of joy and tears of sadness.”

After the Packers left the ice following their heartbreaking defeat (Sydney Conley is pictured here), Palmquist told the media how he felt about his team.

“We fell a little short, but boy am I proud of them,” he said. “And this kid to my left, she’s an unbelievable player.”

Sitting to his left was senior Sam LaShomb, whose third-period goal sent the game into overtime. Her high school career has now ended without a state title. But in the midst of it all, she came to the interview room and talked about how it felt to come so close and finish second-best for the second year in a row.

“We told everyone to leave everything they had out there,” she said. “It was constantly, ‘Never give up. Never give up.’ And I don’t think we ever gave up.

“I feel like we worked too hard to get let down like this. We gave it everything we had and we couldn’t ask for anything else. If you could ask somebody to give more, we couldn’t.”

Friday’s victory over the two-time defending state champs from Warroad had taken the Packers to new heights. A year ago, the score in the championship game was a crushing blow: Warroad 5, South St. Paul 1. But finally, after Friday’s game, here was their chance to win a state title. And through regulation, overtime and into a second overtime Saturday, they gave it everything they could and did not win.

“Twenty-fours hours ago it was such a different feel,” Palmquist said. “We wanted this one so bad and we knew it was right there for us. The loss is one thing but you think about the relationships, the seniors that are going to be gone. That’s tough for the girls. Our kids are going to miss these seniors a lot.”

And then the coach’s words reflected some of those lessons and messages that had been written in the locker room a day earlier. Lessons about giving your all, doing your best, never backing down from a challenge … and what those lessons teach.

Before Dave and Abby Palmquist left their house Saturday morning, father and daughter talked about how fortunate they were. About how some teams never get to the state tournament even once, and here they were; Abby’s third trip to the big show.

“These kids can look back and say, ‘What an awesome time we had,’ " Dave said. "To play in two state title games back to back is a pretty special thing and I hope that these kids know that. As we said in the locker room, there are going to be other disappointments in life, and if this is as tough of one as they have, they’re going to be pretty fortunate.

“I know they’re hurt. I know we all hurt today. But they’ll be able to look back and know that they gave it everything they had. And that’s what they’re going to be asked out of life, just give it everything they have, every single day.”


Young players also played a key role in Minnetonka’s 3-0 victory over Roseville in Saturday night’s Class 2A championship game. Holly Korn scored in the first period and Diana Drayer got a goal in the third; both are sophomores. Junior Laura Bowman scored the final goal into an empty net as the game ended.

Minnetonka goaltender Sydney Rossman, a junior, stopped 23 shots as the Skippers repeated as state champs.


--Chisago Lakes defeated New Ulm 4-0 to finish fifth in 1A.

--Edina held off Lakeville North 1-0 in the 2A third-place game.

--Roseau beat Mounds View 3-1 in the 2A fifth-place game.


--Red Wing senior Cori Fairbanks, who was profiled here Friday, received the Class 1A Herb Brooks Award. According the Herb Brooks Foundation, the award “is to be given to the most qualified hockey player in the state tournament who strongly represents the values, characteristics, and traits that defined Herb Brooks.” Cori is pictured with Dan Brooks, Herb's son.

--In Class 2A, the award went to Sydney Helmbrecht of Grand Rapids/Greenway.


Class 1A: Jamie Dobosenki, Megan Lushanko, Chisago Lakes; Nicole Schammel, Paige Haley, Red Wing; Kayla Gardner, Lisa Marvin, Lynn Astrup, Warroad; Kate Schipper, Milica McMillen, Breck; Emily Reibert, Sam LaShomb, Sydney Conley, South St. Paul.

Class 2A: Alexis Joyce, Cassie Alexander, Dani Sadek, Lakeville North; Adelle Murphy, Hanna Brodt, Kate Flug, Lee Stecklein, Roseville; Amy Petersen, Laura Bowman, Sidney Morin, Sydney Baldwin, Sydney Rossman, Minnetonka.

--Photo galleries from the state hockey tournament can be seen on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 15 for the tournament, 15 for the winter tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 297
*Miles John has driven: 6,439

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Hailey Brinkman Completes Melrose’s Big Weekend; Wins 1A All-Around 2/25/2012
North St. Paul’s Julia Stedman Wins 2A All-Around2/25/2012
Here We Go! Girls State Hockey And Gymnastics Take Center Stage2/24/2012
It’s a big day of state tournaments in Minnesota. We continue the girls hockey tournament at Xcel Energy Center with the semifinal games in Class 1A and 2A, and the state gymnastics meet begins its two-day run at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.

Here’s the hockey schedule…

Class 1A
11 a.m./ #2 seed Warroad vs. #3 seed South St. Paul
1 p.m./ #1 seed Breck vs. #4 seed Red Wing

Class 2A
6 p.m./ #2 seed Roseville vs. #3 seed Edina
8 p.m./ #1 seed Minnetonka vs. #4 seed Lakeville North

In gymnastics, team competition will be held today and individual competition will be on tap Saturday. Class 1A teams are competing today beginning at 11 a.m. and the 2A teams go at 6 p.m.

The hockey games are being televised by Channel 45 while the hockey and gymnastics action is being streamed online at

It’s going to be a great day!

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 8 for the tournament, 8 for the winter tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 297
*Miles John has driven: 6,397

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Red Wing’s Cori Fairbanks: A Comeback, A Goal And A Happy Ending 2/24/2012
The most remarkable line from the scoresheet of Friday’s second Class 1A girls state hockey semifinal game read like this: “2nd 05:32 REDW EV Fairbanks, Cori.”

That line of code described the period, time and even-strength status of a goal scored by Red Wing’s Cori Fairbanks during the Wingers’ 8-4 loss to top-seeded Breck. But it said much more than that, because of where Fairbanks had come from.

Two years ago, in the third game of the regular season and the Wingers’ home opener, the sophomore was tripped and went into the boards head-first. She broke the C6 and C7 vertebrae in her neck, as well as several ribs. It was bad. Early on, there were fears that she might be paralyzed.

“It was really scary,” she told me Friday at Xcel Energy Center. “No one knew what was going to happen, we didn’t know the outcome of it.”

Thankfully, she recovered but for a time her future in hockey was uncertain. You can’t blame a young player for being scared after experiencing something like that, and when Cori – now a senior – was cleared to play a year after being injured, she had second thoughts.

“I didn’t think I wanted to play again,” she said. “I was scared. My teammates talked me into it. I didn’t want it to happen again. I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, how it happened. But it still made me nervous, and my family was nervous, too.”

Red Wing coach Scott Haley said, “I give her a ton of credit. She loves this team, and her family and everyone has been really supportive.”

When Benilde-St. Margaret’s player Jack Jablonski was paralyzed during a hockey game this season, it brought back lots of memories for Cori. She posted a message on Jack’s CaringBridge website; “I told him that it happens to people all the time and he can get through it,” she said.

Cori rejoined the team halfway through last season, a season which ended with the Wingers getting to the state tournament . They lost to Eveleth-Gilbert in the quarterfinals before winning two games and finishing fifth. She scored what proved to be the winning goal in a 5-4 fifth-place victory over Hutchinson at Ridder Arena.

“It’s just been tremendous,” Haley said. “Last year I credited her for being the reason we made it to the state tournament. This year she’s just been a rock. She’s my captain and she’s the captain that I have do all my dirty work. She lives across the street, too, so she has double-duty with me at the rink.”

Cori’s goal Friday at Xcel Energy Center drew Red Wing within 5-3 of Breck.

“It was amazing,” she said of the feeling. “Even though we were down, I felt like that was the point where I thought we could come back up.”

The Winger were unable to do so. But in the long run, Cori sure came back.

“Here’s the thing with Cori,” Haley said. “Any time she does something, we’re happy. Because she’s that kind of kid. Those are the kids who are special to you.”

--The scoring star of the tournament so far is Breck junior Kate Schipper. She had a hat trick in the quarterfinals against Chisago Lakes and scored four goals against Red Wing.


--South St. Paul defeated two-time defending state champ Warroad in the other Class 1A semifinal. Emily Reibert scored twice for the Packers, who will meet Breck in the title game at noon Saturday. One of the day’s young stars was South St. Paul freshman goaltender Sydney Conley, who made 17 saves.

----In the 2A semifinals, Roseville and Minnetonka advanced to Saturday’s title game.

Roseville defeated Edina 4-1 with Kate Flug scoring two goals, just as she did in Friday’s quarterfinals vs. Grand Rapids/Greenway. Erika Allen made 18 saves for Roseville and Edina goalie Maddie Dahl had 20 stops.

In the final game of the day, there was no scoring until the final minutes of regulation and Minnetonka defeated Lakeville North 2-1 in overtime. Freshman Riley Tousignant broke the scoreless tie for Lakeville North with 3:57 to play in regulation and Sidney Morin tied it for the Skippers with 20 seconds to go. In overtime, the winning goal was scored by Amy Petersen with 1:39 left in the eight-minute period.


I was on a lot of various sports beats during my days as a newspaper reporter. One of the best jobs was covering the Gophers men’s hockey team when Doug Woog was the coach. I have fond memories of spending time with Woog, so I smiled Friday when I heard one of the South St. Paul players say, “Wooger!”

I was inside the room where the media interviews coaches and players after games. The Woog Alert – Doug is a South St. Paul native -- was sounded in the corridor, where a few Packers were waiting for their postgame interrogation. I slipped out of the interview room, shook hands with the coach and told him how great it was to see him. He said he'd be back for Saturday's title game.


I was standing one step behind the Breck bench, shooting a few photos, as the Mustangs and Wingers were being introduced by public-address legend Dave Wright. Breck coach Chris Peterson said to me, “I love being in games when Dave Wright is doing the PA!”


--The day’s best band moment: The musicians from South St. Paul playing the Chicken Dance and the student section dancing along.

--The day’s best mascot: The Mustang from Breck.

--Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 11 for the tournament, 11 for the winter tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 297
*Miles John has driven: 6,397

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at