John's Journal
Girls State Basketball Pairings Are Set3/12/2011
We interrupt the boys state hockey tournament for this important announcement:

There are a handful of section finals being played Saturday in Class 1A and 2A, but the pairings for next week's girls state basketball tournament are nearly complete.

In 3A and 4A four teams are seeded by a vote of the tournament coaches and their quarterfinal opponents are decided by random draw. There is no seeding in 1A or 2A.

The tournament begins Wednesday at Williams Arena and Target Center. All semifinals and championship games are played at Target Center.

Here are the pairings...

Class 4A
#1 Hopkins (27-2) vs. Buffalo (25-3)
#4 Maple Grove (24-5) vs. White Bear Lake (26-3)
#2 Eden Prairie (23-4) vs. Rochester Mayo (21-6)
#3 Lakeville North (27-2) vs. Anoka (6-24)

Class 3A
#1 Hill-Murray (28-0) vs. Red Wing (18-9)
#4 Alexandria (24-3) vs. Grand Rapids (20-8)
#2 Benilde St. Margaret's (24-5) vs. Marshall (20-6)
#3 DeLasalle (24-4) vs. Rogers (15-14)

Class 2A
Caledonia (26-3) vs. Sauk Centre (29-1)
Jackson County Central (26-2) vs. Minnehaha Academy (21-6)
Braham (28-2) vs. Pequot Lakes (27-1) or East Grand Forks (24-5)
St. Peter (24-3) vs. Providence Academy (25-4)

Class 1A
Goodhue (26-4) vs. Ada-Borup (25-2) or Hancock (25-2)
Minneota (25-1) vs. Maranatha Christian (20-9)
Mountain Iron-Buhl (26-3) vs. Red Lake County Central (24-4) or Northern Freeze (27-1)
Nicollet (16-8) vs. Sebeka (23-6)
Great Debate: Indiana Basketball, Texas Football or Minnesota Hockey?3/12/2011
We Minnesotans believe that the boys state hockey tournament is the number one high school event in the nation. Of course, we Minnesotans are a little biased. But during this week’s tournament we have been able to get an interesting perspective from a wider point of view.

Ryan Clark has been a sports reporter at the Fargo Forum for about six months. Ryan and I had some phone conversations earlier this winter and we met in person at the state wrestling tournament. Ryan covered the boys hockey tourney, as well, and he does a great job. He may have been the hardest-working person in the press box this week; writing game stories and blog posts, keeping Twitter updates flowing and having as much fun as possible.

Ryan went to college in Maine, and his reporting career has seen him cover high school basketball in Indiana and high school football in Texas. He wrote a blog entry (go to slightlychilled.areavoices.com) comparing those two to Minnesota hockey.

He discounts Indiana hoops because that state went to a multi-class system several years ago, removing much of the “Hoosiers” flavor from the state tournament. Texas vs. Minnesota is another question, however. Ryan wrote …

“It is hard because the state hockey tournament this week has been amazing and I’ve seen stuff here I never saw in Texas. Here, there are people scalping for tickets for a tournament. Never saw that in Texas. Just got back from the Let’s Play Hockey expo where it’s like a rave/concert that features hockey equipment. Don’t have that in Texas.

“Then there’s Minnesota hockey. People here are freaking nuts when it comes to hockey. It might not have the pageantry of Texas high school football, but it damn sure has the fans. There is a reason that this most watched high school championships in America. If this is even a stat of note, know this. I went up 55 Twitter followers in two days because of this tournament. Not all of them are from Minnesota either. Hockey fans, including the guys at places like The Hockey News, want to know what’s going on.

“Some of those football coaches in Texas were even like, “Wow” when I told them I was moving up here to cover hockey.

“Having covered championships in both states, I can say this. A Texas HS football championship is impressive. Two years in a row, I covered this small town that had its fans show up to every game. They lost the state title games both years yet it was still a good time. Keep this mind, not all title games in Texas, at least when I was there, were televised.

“Here, however, they are and in Texas, I never heard about families scheduling vacations around the state title game(s) like they do here in Minnesota.

“Finally, there’s the talent. Football is a rough game. Hockey is rougher. The talent in Texas I got a chance to see was impressive. The talent I’ve seen with hockey has been more impressive. You don’t see the kind of scouts at a Texas championship like you would at a Minnesota state hockey tournament.

“That being said, I give the nod to Minnesota High School hockey.

“Indiana, yes, has the tradition. Texas, yes, has the grandiose presentation and tradition. But know this, Minnesota is the only place where it has the tradition, presentation and a feel that makes it intimate that everyone truly feels they have a stake in how things go.”

Thanks Ryan. And keep up the great work.


TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--As I write this, Hermantown leads St. Thomas Academy 3-1 in the first intermission of the Class 1A hockey title game. Tonight’s 2A championship will go to either Duluth East or Eden Prairie.

--Consolation bracket: Thief River Falls beat Hibbing/Chisholm 3-0 in the 1A third-place game and Breck beat Rochester Lourdes 7-4 to finish fifth.

--I cannot confirm that the Lady Gaga tune “Bad Romance” was written with high school musicians and hockey arenas in mind, but the big band from Hermantown hit that baby out of the park.

--Diet Coke Count: 1 for the day, 12 for the tournament, 40 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,502

--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
State Hockey: Cadets, Hawks and Even Some Background on the Prowlers3/12/2011
Hermantown junior Jared Thomas did everything he could do in Saturday’s Class A boys hockey state championship game. He scored two goals, got one assist and played his heart out, as did everybody on both teams. After St. Thomas Academy rallied to beat the Hawks 5-4 in overtime, a glum Thomas sat in front of the media with teammate Garrett Skrbich and coach Bruce Plante.

It was the second one-goal loss in the state title game for the Hawks in two years. Last season they fell to Breck 2-1; that winning goal came with 1:40 to play in regulation.

Jared summed up the feelings of all the Hermantown fans when, asked about next season, he said, “We’re hoping we can get back here and get a lucky bounce for once.”

The top-seeded Cadets won Saturday afternoon’s game at Xcel Energy Center when Taylor Fleming sailed the puck on a lengthy journey, past two sprawling defenders, through a scrum in front of the goal and in at 6:34 of the eight-minute overtime.

Hermantown coach Bruce Plante was asked if he was stunned by the goal.

“I could come up with some better words,” he said.

Andrew Commers had two goals and one assist for the Cadets and Andrew Mattson finished with two goals and an assist for the Hawks.

Hermantown scored the game’s first three goals and led 3-1 after one period. The Cadets got within 3-2, the Hawks expanded the lead to 4-2 and St. Thomas Academy shortened the leash once more and trailed 4-3 going into the third period.

If there was any hint about what might come, it was the shots-on-goal number after two periods: Cadets 34, Hawks 17. Commers put an exclamation on that point when he scored early in the third to tie the score 4-4. It stayed that way through the end of regulation and on into overtime.

NICKNAME GAME

I wrote this week that the Prowlers of Thief River Falls have one of my favorite nicknames. That sparked an email from 1997 TRF grad and current TRF faculty member Reid Froiland. He wrote about the history of the nickname, which is very interesting. Some excerpts …

“The adult amateur teams in baseball and such back then (early 1900s) called
themselves the 'Thieves,' deriving their nickname from the name of the city. When it came time for the high school to have cocurricular activities, the school leaders did not want to call their team the 'Thieves' as well, as the students were younger than the adults -- and so they bestowed upon the students the nickname ‘Prowlers’ to signify their status as ‘young thieves.’

“However, school leaders did not want their children to be known as children who prowl after people to rob them of their money and objects – so they chose the black ‘prowler cat’ as the mascot. And thus the Prowler tradition was born -- a play on the name of the city and the age of the students! … the Prowler name has been around since the early 1900s.

“Thanks for the positive words about the “Prowler” name and for your
coverage of all that makes high school activities great!”

Reid also told me of the travels this week of the Thief River Falls pep band. The band came to St. Paul (more than 300 miles) for Wednesday's quarterfinal hockey game, and arrived back in TRF at 5 a.m. Thursday. They played for the TRF boys basketball subsection quarterfinal game in town at 7 Thursday night, then headed back to St. Paul at 5:30 a.m. Friday for that day’s semifinal game against STA. They played at the third-place game this (Saturday) morning and were scheduled to leave the cities for TRF to play at tonight’s boys basketball subsection semifinal game ... “until they were ordered to stay in the cities another night because of treacherous road conditions up north here. Five games in four days until
weather intervened ... how's that for dedication?!?”

Thanks Reid. That’s another reason why we love the bands.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--1A all-tournament team: Rory Vesel, Rochester Lourdes; Austin Rudnick, Breck; Adam Johnson, Nick DeCenzo, Hibbing/Chisholm; Matt Audette,Thief River Falls; AJ Reid, Zach Schroeder, David Zevnik, St. Thomas Academy; Garrett Skrbich, Jared Kolquist, Connor Lucas, Jared Thomas, Hermantown.

--Herb Brooks Award winner: AJ Reid, St. Thomas Academy.

--Consolation bracket: Thief River Falls beat Hibbing/Chisholm 3-0 in the 1A third-place game and Breck beat Rochester Lourdes 7-4 to finish fifth.

--I cannot confirm that the Lady Gaga tune “Bad Romance” was written with high school musicians and hockey arenas in mind, but the big band from Hermantown hit that baby out of the park.

--The number one sound in hockey: When a long slapshot sails just wide of the goal and everyone in the building says “OH!”

--Diet Coke Count: 2 for the day, 13 for the tournament, 41 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,502

--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
Boys State Hockey Tournament: 112,474 People Can’t Be Wrong3/12/2011
One hundred twelve thousand four hundred seventy four. Let me rephrase that: 112,474.

That was the total attendance for the four-day boys state hockey tournament. That averages out to 28,118 fans per day and 14,059 fans per session. Those are astonishing numbers for a high school event. (In case you missed the earlier post comparing the hockey tournament with Texas football and Indiana basketball, scroll down and take a look, because it’s pretty good stuff.)

We know that Minnesotans are absolutely nutty about the state hockey tournament, but the love affair has some national and even international flavor. Thirty high school lacrosse players from Georgia were in town this week, and they were sitting in the stands among the 112,474. A group of fans from Sweden flies to the Twin Cities every year for the tournament. They were in a suite, also among the 112,474.

And the tournament culminated in a terrific manner, with both state title games going to overtime. St. Thomas Academy defeated Hermantown 5-4 in the Class 1A championship game (for 1A details, scroll down to another earlier post.) And in the 2A finale, one of the great games in history, Eden Prairie defeated Duluth East 3-2 in triple overtime.

The moment that many TV viewers will remember from the 2A final is the Eagles’ Kyle Rau (wearing the C in the photo) diving and stretching with every fiber to reach a loose puck as it hit the crease. He swatted it with his stick and the puck banged off the goalpost, hit the skate of an East player and went in for the winning goal. It was truly a memorable play by one of the state’s top players, but my memories will center much more on the postgame scene.

On one side were the winning Eagles, as joyous as any teenagers you will ever see. On the other side, the East Greyhounds were absolutely crushed. Some of them had their heads down, buried in the boards. Most of them sat on the ice, stunned. The scene was a display of the difference made by one goal, by one player diving to tap a chunk of rubber.

One of the thousands of MSHSL Facebook followers posted this comment after the game: “Hopefully video footage of that winning goal will be captured on YouTube and posted. It shows just how narrow the margin between celebration and heartbreak can be.”

It was the first triple-overtime championship game in tournament history. The tournament also tied a record with six overtime games, and Duluth East and White Bear Lake both tied a record by playing three overtimes games in the tournament.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--2A all-tournament team: Brandon Wahlin, White Bear Lake; Charlie Lindgren, Lakeville North; Nick Kuchera, Will Merchant, Eagan; Dom Toninato, Nate Repensky, Jake Randolph, Hunter Bergerson, Duluth East; Kyle Rau, Nick Seeler, Dan Molenaar, Andrew Ford, Eden Prairie.

--2A Herb Brooks Award winner: Garen David, White Bear Lake.

--2A consolation bracket: Eagan beat Edina 5-3 in the third-place game and Lakeville North finished fifth by defeating White Bear Lake 4-3 in three overtimes. The Bears got plenty of ice time in the tourney, playing seven overtimes in three games.

--1A all-tournament team: Rory Vessel, Rochester Lourdes; Austin Rudnick, Breck; Adam Johnson, Nick DeCenzo, Hibbing/Chisholm; Matt Audette,Thief River Falls; AJ Reid, Zach Schroeder, David Zevnik, St. Thomas Academy; Garrett Skrbich, Jared Kolquist, Connor Lucas, Jared Thomas, Hermantown.

--1A Herb Brooks Award winner: AJ Reid, St. Thomas Academy.

--1A Consolation bracket: Thief River Falls beat Hibbing/Chisholm 3-0 in the 1A third-place game and Breck beat Rochester Lourdes 7-4 to finish fifth.

--I cannot confirm that the Lady Gaga tune “Bad Romance” was written with high school musicians and hockey arenas in mind, but the big band from Hermantown hit that baby out of the park.

--The number one sound in hockey: When a long slapshot sails just wide of the goal and everyone in the building says “OH!”

--Dept. of Patience: The members of the 2A all-tournament team had to be ready to be introduced at the end of regulation, so they were lined up in the tunnel behind the Eden Prairie bench. And that’s where they stood … through one overtime, and a second overtime, and into the third overtime.

--Chant of the Day: The East student fans during the second overtime, repeating “All You’ve Got! All You've Got!”

--I don’t think the Duluth East student section was chanting “Let’s Go Eat!” There was probably an S in there … made me hungry regardless.

--Next big event: On Monday, the MSHSL will announce the class and section assignments for 2011-12 and 2012-13. They will be posted on www.mshsl.org.

--I’m gonna go and ahead and take Sunday off, if that’s OK with everybody. Next week is the girls state basketball tournament, when the you-know-what will resume. Speaking of which …

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 16 for the tournament, 44 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,502

--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
Boys State Hockey Tournament: Semifinals, Paper Hats and Great Quotes3/11/2011
When the day’s theme centers on the semifinals of a state tournament – any state tournament – you know special things will take place. That was the situation Friday at Xcel Energy Center during the boys state hockey tournament. We heard one of the most quotable coaches come through once more, we saw paper hats tossed onto the ice, and we saw more big crowds and more great hockey.

The coach with the quotes is Hermantown’s Bruce Plante. He is one of those old-school coaches who doesn’t try to talk in code or sugarcoat things. The media always enjoys talking with Plante, because everyone always comes away smiling. (That's Plante in the photo, with Garrett Skrbich.)

After Hermantown defeated Hibbing/Chisholm 6-4 in Friday’s first Class 1A semifinal, Plante was asked about the possibility of playing St. Thomas Academy for the state title. This was a few minutes before St. Thomas Academy faced Thief River Falls (STA won 6-0).

Plante smiled and said, “I can’t tell you the truth so I’ll tell you something else.” He heaped praise on the Cadets, including this statement: “Their fourth-line center could play first line for us.”

Another of Plante’s quotes ties in with the paper hats. When Hibbing/Chisholm sophomore Adam Johnson scored his third goal, paper hockey helmets came raining down on the ice from the Hibbing/Chisholm student section. Bauer, which is one of the tournament sponsors, has a table in the Xcel lobby where the famous paper helmets are distributed to whoever wants one.

The Bluejackets fans had a bunch of them, and they were tossed in celebration of Johnson’s hat trick, which tied the score 4-4 in the third period. The officials scooped up the hats and deposited them into a trash can that was brought onto the ice. For old-time sake, a couple of baseball caps were also tossed on the ice.

Plante spoke in glowing terms of Johnson, saying, “He should be playing at UMD,” a reference to Minnesota-Duluth.

The best quote from a player Friday came from Hermantown’s Skrbich,who scored twice. He was sitting in the penalty box – next to a penalty box supervisor -- when an empty-net goal by Jared Kolquist rolled into the net a split second before the speeding Johnson could stop it.

“As soon as it went in, I had to give the guy in the penalty box a hug,” Skrbich said with a grin.

--The 2A semifinals were played in the evening session. In the first game, Duluth East defeated defending state champion Edina 2-1 in overtime. The winning goal was scored by Alex Toscano on a rocket of a wrist shot from the left circle. I’m pretty sure Edina coach Curt Giles wasn’t referring to Toscano’s shot when he opened the postgame questioning by saying, "Let ‘er rip.”
Eden Prairie beat Eagan 5-1 in the final game of the day, setting up Saturday's 2A state championship game between Duluth East and Eden Prairie.

--Basketball story of the year: The Anoka girls basketball team won one game last season and finished the 2010-11 regular season with two wins. Yep, you guessed it: The Tornadoes have been on a postseason tear, and their overtime victory over Cambridge-Isanti on Friday puts them into next week’s Class 4A state tournament.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--There was a group of high school lacrosse players from Georgia at the tournament on Friday. The MSHSL received a call asking about tickets, and 30 young Georgians – in town for some sort of lacrosse event, it is presumed – were taken to the Xcel Center by their Minnesota hosts.

--How big is the hockey tournament? The MSHSL website had 25 percent more traffic on Wednesday than the highest previous recorded peak.The site, in fact, had to be taken down for a time because of all the clicking. The Channel 45 television ratings on Thursday set more records. And even before Friday night's games, total tournament attendance was 51,314, This is monster stuff.

--I had some help in performing my tournament chores on Friday. Eric Peterson, a sophomore at Cloquet High School and a member of the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program, spent much of the day with me in a job-shadowing kind of deal. We both had a great time.

--Chant of the Day: The Thief River Falls fans chanted “Prowler Nation!” This just reinforces my belief that "Prowlers" is one of the best nicknames around.

--Celebrity Sighting: Bestselling author Vince Flynn was in the arena Friday. He is a graduate of St. Thomas Academy.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day (steady as she goes), 12 for the tournament, 40 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 519
*Miles John has driven: 8,502

--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