Gretchen Norby remembers when the girls hockey program at Detroit Lakes High School got off the ground. She talked about that first season -- which was 12 years ago – in a quiet corridor at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday after the Lakers’ first game in a state tournament.
Norby was a freshman player during that first year and now she is the Lakers’ first-year head coach. So if anybody understands what it takes to get from there to here, it’s Norby.
“It’s surreal to be there at the start of the program and now be here as a coach,” she said. “It’s special for me and I’m honored to be part of this team.”
Things didn’t exactly work in Detroit Lakes’ favor during the Class 1A state quarterfinals. The Lakers were defeated by second-seeded Warroad 13-1 in what can safely be called a drubbing. But Norby and senior Brianna Seebold (who scored the Lakers’ goal) didn’t have any problems being cordial during the postgame media session.
“When we went out there, we were a little shocked,” Seebold said, managing to smile. There was plenty of shock to go around. Warroad scored four goals in the first period and nine in the second before the Lakers won the third period by a score of 1-0.
“We played tough teams,” Norby said. “That didn’t prepare us for today.”
Warroad moves into Friday’s semifinals against South St. Paul. Detroit Lakes will head to Ridder Arena and face New Ulm in Thursday’s consolation bracket.
The Lakers came to state with a record of 12-15, so their loss to powerful Warroad (now 23-4-1) was no surprise. Norby knew what could happen.
“Not to downplay our team or anything, but I think I was being realistic going into this game today,” she said. “We had done our homework on Warroad, we knew what they have. So really my goal for these girls, and I said this, was to enjoy this week. Take this experience, play your hearts out. … it’s the state tournament, take it for all it’s worth.”
Despite the defeat, the smiles told the story.
SOMETHING’S MISSING FOR SOUTH ST. PAUL
When the South St. Paul Packers won the Section 4 championship, something was different during the postgame awards ceremony. When they left the ice after defeating New Ulm 12-1 in Wednesday’s state quarterfinals, again something was different.
Mike Funk was not there. The South St. Paul activities director died on Jan. 29 after suffering complications from an aortic aneurysm in mid-December. Funk, a former hockey coach at St. Thomas Academy, had been with the South St. Paul school district for 20 years.
“It’s very different,” Packers coach Dave Palmquist said after Wednesday’s game. “Mike was a hockey guy and he would have been the first guy to greet us as we came off the ice. It is a different feeling this year. A year ago he was putting the medals around the kids’ necks after the section final and shaking our hands and he was always right there for us. He was a good friend and it is a big loss.”
ONE YEAR LATER, A REMATCH
In last year’s Class 1A state championship game, Warroad defeated South St. Paul 5-1. The Packers held a 1-0 lead before Warroad scored five times in the third period.
Packers senior Sam LaShomb, who had four goals against New Ulm and will play collegiately at North Dakota, remembered last season’s title game as she talked about the semifinal rematch with the Warriors that will be played at 11 a.m. Friday.
“Thinking back, you don’t ever want to lose a state championship like that. We came out and got the first goal and we were all psyched.
“I think this year we have a lot better chance. It’s not going to be a miracle this year. If you see us in the championship game, it won’t be, ‘How the heck did that happen.’ It will be, ‘It’s South St. Paul.’ ”
The teams have met once this season, with Warroad beating the Packers 5-0 in the Kaposia holiday tournament in South St. Paul.
IN OTHER GAMES…
--Top-seeded Breck was tested by Chisago Lakes before advancing with a 7-3 victory. Chisago Lakes led 3-2 at 8:12 of the second period before the Mustangs scored the final five goals of the game.
The prettiest goal of the tourney’s opening day was by Breck senior Milica McMillen. She went left-right-left, leaving defenders in her wake and banging the puck home to tie it 3-3.
“I just wanted to try and get the momentum back,” said McMillen, who has signed with the University of Minnesota. “I saw the opening, shot it and it went in.”
--The day’s last 1A quarterfinal went to overtime before we had a decision. Red Wing defeated Hutchinson 6-5 on a goal by Nicole Schammel – her fourth of the game – at 3:53 of overtime. The Wingers and Breck will meet in Friday’s semifinals.
FRIENDS OLD AND NEW
New Ulm is making its fourth consecutive appearance in the Class 1A state tournament. That means many of the Eagles are accustomed to the sights and sounds of the Xcel Energy Center, as well as the people they see every year at this time.
One of those people is Marty Manley, a member of the Xcel Energy Center staff who helps keep things running smoothly in the locker room areas as teams arrive, prepare, play and depart.
As the New Ulm girls milled around in a corridor Wednesday morning long before their game against South St. Paul, they spotted Marty. Several Eagles shouted, “Hi Marty!” One girl – clearly making her first visit to the tournament -- said, “Hi Marty! I’m new!”
Marty gave her a fist bump.
In Warroad’s 13-1 victory over Detroit Lakes, several state tournament records fell. The 14 total goals was a record, as was the Warriors’ 13 goals and its nine goal in the second period.
--Further updates will be posted here during the evening session…
--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 4 for the tournament, 4 for the winter tournaments.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 289
*Miles John has driven: 6,313
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