John's Journal
'If You Can’t Get Excited This Time Of Year, You Don’t Have A Pulse'3/8/2011
As noted in the previous post, we are in the midst of winter state tournaments. This is obviously an exciting time for all high school sports fans and participants, and it’s not hard to see why.

Postseason games, whether in section or state play, are where all the hard work, commitment and preparation pay dividends. Section championships -- whether in basketball, hockey, wrestling or any other sport – are almost always tense affairs, with one team exploding in celebration upon qualifying for state and one team seeing its season come to an end.

The boys state hockey tournament begins Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center, and in preparation for the big week I attended a section final doubleheader last week at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena. After Edina, the defending champion in Class 2A, defeated Burnsville in a narrow finish, I asked Edina coach Curt Giles and senior Jake Sampson (right) about the experience.

Giles said, “This time of the year is unbelievable in high school hockey. If you can’t get excited this time of year, you don’t have a pulse. It’s so much fun and the kids are so excited and there’s nothing better than playing hockey when the sun’s coming out and it’s starting to warm up a little bit. It’s springtime hockey and I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing like the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament. There’s nothing like it.”

Sampson, who scored the winning goal with 71 seconds to play in the section final, talked about growing up amidst Edina’s high school hockey tradition and history.

“You don’t want to let the city down,” he said. “We’ve been to the state tournament the last five years, we’ve got 10 state championship titles, we want to make it another one.”

The Hornets’ state championship banners hang in their home rink, Braemar Arena, and “Every practice, every day you look at them,” Sampson said. “And you want to be part of it. Last year was great and we just want to do it again.”

Asked about being a senior playing high school hockey for the final time, Jake said, “I’ve played with these guys for 12 years and you don’t want it to be your last game. You love them to death and you’d do anything for them. You just want to keep playing with them.”

Very well said.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,379

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Taking Some Monday Down Time … But It Won’t Last Long3/7/2011
Happy Monday to one and all from MSHSL World Headquarters. It’s pretty peaceful in the office today, although a few ears are still ringing from the enthusiastic crowds on hand Saturday at the state wrestling and boys swimming and diving championships.

As the five-week run of winter state tournaments continues, this is boys hockey week. The action will kick off at the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday with the Class 1A quarterfinals and the 2A schools will hit the ice on Thursday. All semifinals will be played Friday and the state champs will be crowned on Saturday.

If you want to put in a vote for your favorite team, you can do so on the MSHSL Facebook page. Just for fun, we have posted polls where you can vote for the teams you think will win the 1A and 2A hockey titles.

The basketball postseason is also heating up this week with section tournaments. Following this week’s hockey tournament, we will exit the Xcel Energy Center (home of girls hockey, wrestling and boys hockey) and shift over to Williams Arena and Target Center for the state basketball tourneys. The girls tournament will be held March 16-19 and the boys tourney will be March 23-26.

Have a great week!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,379

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Class 1A Boys State Hockey Seedings and Pairings3/5/2011
Class 1A boys state hockey pairings …

Wednesday’s quarterfinals:

11 a.m./ #2 seed Hermantown (23-3-2) vs. Alexandria (12-15-1)

1 p.m./ #3 seed Rochester Lourdes (24-3-1) vs. Hibbing (17-9-2)

6 p.m./ #1 seed St. Thomas Academy (22-6) vs. New Ulm (21-4-2)

8 p.m./ #4 seed Breck (20-8) vs. Thief River Falls (19-8-1)
Class 2A Boys State Hockey Seedings and Pairings3/5/2011
Class 2A boys state hockey pairings …

Thursday’s quarterfinals:

11 a.m./ #2 seed Edina (18-7-1) vs. Blaine (20-4-4)

1 p.m./ #3 seed Duluth East (22-5) vs. White Bear Lake (21-5-2)

6 p.m./ #1 seed Eden Prairie (21-5-2) vs. Lakeville North (13-14-1)

8 p.m./ #4 seed Eagan (20-6-2) vs. Moorhead (18-7-2)
What A Saturday: A Whirlwind of Wrestling, Swimming And Hockey3/5/2011
Saturday was one of those days that people like me know are coming. When things slow down a bit -- usually during the midst of the regular season in whatever season it happens to be – you think ahead to the madness that will soon arrive.

On Saturday, the madness struck with full force. And oh, what a great day it was.

While wrestlers were battling their way through the consolation brackets in the state tournament on Saturday morning at Xcel Energy Center, conference calls were held with the coaches who will bring their boys hockey teams to the X for the upcoming state tourney. Seedings were announced, the pairings were drawn and the hockey tournament brackets were revealed to the world.

By noon Saturday the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center was a beehive of activity. That’s where the boys swimming and diving season culminated with the state meet. And the wrestling season came to its usual fun-filled finish with individual state champs being crowned.

Three sports, championship Saturday for two of them and setting up a great tournament for the third one. Busy, busy, busy. Befitting the times, I received this message via the famed worldwide web on Saturday evening: “John-Does your family get to see you any time in the next month?”

I replied: “They can see me whenever it's convenient. Except for days, nights, weekends and holidays.”

--Apple Valley crowned seven individual wrestling champs, and four of them own a combined 14 state titles. Destin McCauley (152 pounds, pictured at left) became the fourth wrestler in history to win five titles, and Dakota Trom (125), Matt Kelliher (135) and Brandon Kingsley (140) each won for the third time. Mitch Bengston of St. Cloud Apollo also captured a third gold medal.

Over at the state swim meet, Fergus Falls won the Class A team title with a one-point advantage over St. Thomas Academy. The final standings looked like this: 1. Fergus Falls 205. 2. St. Thomas Academy 204. 3. Breck/Blake 201. 4. Monticello 168. 5. Richfield 162.

In Class AA, Minnetonka claimed the team championship. Those team standings: 1. Minnetonka 253.5. 2. Eden Prairie 248. 3. Edina 232.5. 4. Rochester Century 154. 5. Mounds View 137.

--I had some darn good company Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. One of the best things about my job with the MSHSL is spending time with aspiring journalists from high schools all over Minnesota. A Breckenridge High School junior named Turner Blaufuss hung out with me during the wrestling tournament, and we chatted about sports, journalism and lots of other fun stuff. Turner was actually in town to cheer for Breckenridge junior 160-pounder Stephen Erlandson (who took home a second-place medal in Class 1A), and he drank Cokes while I kept up my usual pace of consuming Diet Cokes.

--One of the best things about state tournaments is running into people you haven’t seen in a long time. That’s exactly what happened Saturday when I bumped into Wild goalie coach Bob Mason at the Xcel Center. Mason had the same job at the University of Minnesota during my days as a college hockey writer. We had a nice chat and promised to meet up again during the boys state hockey tournament … which is just a few days away.

Will the madness ever end? I sure hope not.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 12 for the tournament, 28 for the winter tournaments.

To see photo galleries from the state wrestling and swimming championships, click on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 503
*Miles John has driven: 8,379

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn