John's Journal
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
Boys State Hockey Tournament: Time For The 2A Quarterfinals3/10/2011
Welcome back to the Big Ice Dance in downtown St. Paul. The first game of the day has just begun, with Edina and Blaine meeting in the first of four Class 2A quarterfinals on this Thursday.

It’ll be a busy, fun-filled day. The arena is already getting crowded and I’m sure we’ll have a big attendance number by the end of the day. Here are few tidbits to get things rolling …

--Question of the day, received via Facebook: “Here's today’s question for you, John (after you had your first Diet Coke). Wonder if there is another state tournament in the country that has two head coaches in it who played at the top professional level of their sport? Both Curt Giles (Edina) and Tim Bergland (TRF) played in the NHL.”

--Ticket Tussle: As I drove to the arena I saw a trio of ticket scalpers arguing on a street corner. I rolled down the window to try to get some quotes. I didn’t understand much, but it appeared to be a territorial squabble.

--Mascot Sightings: Blaine brought its Bengal.

--If you didn’t see the Blaine-Edina pregame introductions on TV, you missed a whole bunch of bleach-blond Bengals.

--Band Land: Before the first skate hit the ice, the Blaine symphony orchestra played an outstanding rendition of “Cleveland Rocks.” As the Blaine and Edina teams began warm-ups, both bands broke into their respective school songs from their seats in opposite ends of the area. Both were loud and proud, even if the nuances of the songs may have been lost in the collective din of two school songs being played at once.

--If you bet the Diet Coke “under” on Wednesday, you won. Through the girls state hockey tournament and last week’s wrestling tournament, I had sipped four Diet Cokes every day. My total Wednesday was three. As I’ve been told a couple of times today, I must drink five before day’s end in order to return the earth to its proper axis.

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 3 for the tournament, 31 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 519
*Miles John has driven: 8,461

--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: This Is For You, Rachel3/10/2011
Rachel, can you hear them? Can you hear your friends back home in Minnesota cheering for you? Can you hear them chanting your name?

We know Rachel Sandell saw the signs. On her computer way out in Reno, Nevada, she was watching her friends from Duluth East High School – on the ice and in the stands – during Thursday’s Class 2A boys state hockey quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.

They held up signs in the stands that said, “The Love is on for Rachel!” They chanted, “Rachel! Rachel! Rachel!” They chanted, “We love Rachel! We love Rachel!”

Rachel – watching a webcast of the Channel 45 game telecast -- saw the signs and texted friends who were at the game. She sent one text that said, “I saw the signs! That’s awesome!”

Awesome indeed. While Rachel and her mom are in Reno -- where Rachel is being treated for liver cancer – her Duluth East schoolmates are pulling for her. Cheering for her in the midst of the biggest hockey game of the season. The Duluth East Greyhounds beat White Bear Lake 4-3 in double overtime Thursday, with the winning goal scored by Zac Schendel.

“She’s a friend of mine,” Zac said. “Our team’s talked about her a few times. We want her to stay strong and hopefully she can pull through this.”

When the East team was honored at a pep assembly on Tuesday, the event was dedicated to Rachel. She’s a senior and she’s special; she’s on the dance team, she’s an officer in the Key Club, she’s the editor-in-chief of the yearbook.

“She’s totally involved and everyone knows her,” said fellow senior Jessa Kohlhaas during Thursday’s game. “Everyone misses her. Everyone loves her. We all just want to let her know that.”

Jessa told me that Rachel has been fighting liver cancer since early last summer. “She’s been doing great but recently she took kind of a little bit of a turn,” Jessa said. “She’s out in Reno with her mom to pursue some more aggressive treatment.”

Rachel and her mom are keeping the folks back home updated via a Caring Bridge website (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/rachelsandell).

“Basically, as a community at East and around Duluth we’re trying to show her and her family support,” Jessa said. “Financially, emotionally, whatever they need we’re just trying to show that we love them, we care about them, and we’re behind them 100 percent.”

East goaltender JoJo Jeanetta, who made 22 saves against White Bear Lake, is also one of Rachel’s many friends.

“It was a really sad story when she was diagnosed, but it’s amazing to see how well she’s dealing with it and to see our whole school get behind her,” JoJo said. “We’re playing for each other and for her.”

As someone wrote on Rachel’s Caring Bridge site after Thursday’s game: “Hope you had a chance to see the East hockey game today and all the beautiful blue “The Love is on for Rachel” signs that the students had! I'm betting all those positive thoughts directed your way helped the team a little bit, too!”

Keep watching and listening, Rachel. We’re all pulling for you.

OTHER GAMES

--Edina defeated Blaine 3-2 in the day’s first game. Blaine led 2-1 after the first period but the defending state champion Hornets scored twice in the second period to take charge. In the evening session, Eden Prairie beat Lakeville North 5-0 and Eagan beat Moorhead 3-0.

--The attendance for Thursday’s first session was 17, 625. The evening session crowd was 15,240. Amazing.

--The Friday lineup is filled with semifinal games. In Class 1A, it will be Hermantown vs. Hibbing/Chisholm at 11 a.m. and St. Thomas Academy vs. Thief River Falls at 1 p.m. The 2A games are Edina vs. Duluth East at 6 p.m. and Eden Prairie vs. Eagan at 8 p.m.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Question of the day, received via Facebook: “Here's today’s question for you, John (after you had your first Diet Coke). Wonder if there is another state tournament in the country that has two head coaches in it who played at the top professional level of their sport? Both Curt Giles (Edina) and Tim Bergland (Thief River Falls) played in the NHL.”

--Ticket Tussle: As I drove to the arena I saw a trio of ticket scalpers arguing on a street corner. I rolled down the window to try to get some quotes. I didn’t understand much, but it appeared to be a territorial squabble.

--Mascot Sightings: Blaine brought its Bengal and Duluth East’s skating Greyhound was out on the ice, too.

--Restroom Rescue: My greatest contribution to the tournament came when the men’s room in the press box ran out of paper towels. With wet hands, I flagged down a security person, who got on her walkie-talkie. Crisis averted. I also found a credit card on the floor of the press box. I thought long and hard about going absolutely nuts at the mini-donut stand … but we found the card’s owner.

--Not Your Average Joe: JoJo Jeanetta’s actual name is Joseph Frank Jeanetta IV, named after his great-grandpa, grandpa and father. Grandpa is Joseph and dad is known as Joe. Thus, he’s JoJo .

--If you didn’t see the Blaine-Edina pregame introductions on TV, you missed a whole bunch of bleach-blond Bengals.

--Chant of the Day: Edina students in the lower bowl yelling “Marco!” and Hornets in the upper deck responding with “Polo!!”

--Band Land: Before the first skate hit the ice, the Blaine symphony orchestra played an outstanding rendition of “Cleveland Rocks.” As the Blaine and Edina teams began warm-ups, both bands broke into their respective school songs from their seats in opposite ends of the area. Both were loud and proud, even if the nuances of the songs may have been lost in the collective din of two school songs being played at one.

--If you bet the Diet Coke “under” on Wednesday, you won. Through the girls state hockey tournament and last week’s wrestling tournament, I had sipped four Diet Cokes every day. My total Wednesday was three. As I was told several times Thursday, I must drink five before day’s end in order to return the earth to its proper axis. Which brings us to …

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 8 for the tournament, 36 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 519
*Miles John has driven: 8,461

--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
A Basketball Milestone And A Hockey Tournament3/9/2011
I’m back in the press box at Xcel Energy Center on this Thursday morning, awaiting the start of the boys state hockey tournament. But we interrupt this hockey coverage for an important boys basketball note …

Rushford-Peterson coach Tom Vix reached a milestone this week, recording his 500th career victory. Tom isn’t the kind of guy to brag, but Rushford-Peterson activities director Luke Lutterman sent me an email to help spread the word about Tom’s accomplishment.

Tom is a native of Houston, Minnesota, and a 1978 Houston High graduate. He went to Luther College in Iowa and has been coaching for 27 years.

His career record is 501-198, making him the 29th boys basketball coach in Minnesota to reach 500 wins. Tom has led Rushford and Rushford-Peterson to 11 state tournament appearances, two state titles, one second-place finish and consecutive state tournament appearances from 1997 to 2001.

Luke, who is new to R-P this school year, also wrote this: “On a personal note, I have only known Tom for the past seven months, but in that time he has proven to be a very humble, hard-working person who gives all the credit to his assistant coaches and players. Tom was reluctant to receive any recognition after his 500th win. Most importantly, he does a fine job of teaching our student-athletes what it takes to be successful in life through basketball. Whether they know it or not, our student-athletes who are coached by Tom are being prepared to be successful in life after basketball. Tom insists on doing things the “right” way and does so with a calm demeanor. The schools and communities of Rushford and Peterson are very lucky to have Tom as a teacher and coach.”

Congratulations Coach Vix!

ON TODAY’S HOCKEY slate are the Class 1A quarterfinals. Hermantown and Alexandria will kick things off in a few minutes.

--I was in the elevator to the press box this morning when the first DC question was asked: “Hey John, how many Diet Cokes are you gonna drink this week?” A few minutes later came this query: “How many Diet Cokes so far today?” I haven’t had even one yet, but it’s early and I’ll be here all day.

--Twitter note/ This Tweet appeared yesterday: “I get to be in the Press Boxes of the Xcel on Thursday for Boys Hockey Tourney. Will my dream of meeting @MSHSLjohn come true!!!???!!! :)” My reply went something like this: Aming a little low, aren’t you?

--The Alexandria peb band just kicked off the week by playing “Crazy Train.” Splendid start.

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 12 for the tournament, 28 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,420

--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: Be Careful What You Wish For3/9/2011
The key moment of the opening day of the boys state hockey tournament may have come exactly five seconds into the second period of the first game. It was the initial goal of the tournament, and it changed everything.

Second-seeded Hermantown and unseeded Alexandria had played a scoreless first period in Wednesday’s Class 1A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center. On the second-period faceoff, the puck slid to Alexandria’s Jodan Domine on the blue line. He gave it a slap and it sailed past Hawks goaltender Connor Lucas to put the Cardinals in front 1-0.

That, as it turns out, may have been a mistake.

“Quite honestly,” said Alexandria coach Scott Woods, “we kind of woke the sleeping giant at that point.”

Indeed. Hermantown responded with five second-period goals – including one by Garrett Skrbich 34 seconds after Domine’s – and rolled into Friday’s semifinals with a 5-1 victory.

Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said, “When they scored, that really kind of percolated the guys a bit. … Giving up that goal get the competitive juices going. It puts a little fear into you.”

Hermantown was a clear favorite in the game, coming in with the second seed and a record of 23-3-2. Alexandria will take a 12-16-1 record into the consolation bracket.

The Hawks and their fans had reason to be nervous early, because they were unable to put anything past Alexandria goaltender Ben Allen despite a 15-6 edge in first-period shots. The final shot total was 56-14 in favor of the Hawks, who outshot the Cardinals 22-3 in the second period.

In the game’s final minutes, the Hermantown student section was signaling the next stop for the Cardinals by chanting “Mariucci!”

OTHER GAMES
--Unseeded Hibbing/Chisholm pulled off the first upset of the tournament, beating No. 3 seed Rochester Lourdes 4-0 in the second game. In the evening session, No. 1 seed St. Thomas Academy defeated New Ulm 13-2 and No. 4 seed Breck lost to Thief River Falls 7-5 in the best game of the day.

--Favorite Decoration: On the back of Breck goaltender Jack Kenney’s helmet is a photo of the team huddled around him, shot from above. Under the photo are words “PLAY AS ONE.” Very cool.

--Dress Code: Hermantown’s students came in full white-out regalia. The Rochester Lourdes students chose black-out mode. The Cadets of St. Thomas Academy, as usual, wore their dress military uniforms.

--Mascot Sightings: The Alexandria Cardinal, wearing a headband.

--Fashion Statement: The vertical stripes on the socks worn by the Rochester Lourdes players.

--Twitter note/ This Tweet appeared Tuesday: “I get to be in the Press Boxes of the Xcel on Thursday for Boys Hockey Tourney. Will my dream of meeting @MSHSLjohn come true!!!???!!! :)” My reply went something like this: Aming a little low, aren’t you?

--Band Report: The Alexandria pep band kicked off the week by playing “Crazy Train.” Splendid start.

Best Save: During the third game of the day, the power cord for my laptop stopped working. To the rescue rode MSHSL media steward Jil Fiemeyer of Wadena. She loaned me the cord to her laptop (which she wasn't using), and I survived the night without having to resort to a manual typewriter. Hats off to Jil!.

--I was in the elevator to the press box Wednesday morning when the first DC question was asked: “Hey John, how many Diet Cokes are you gonna drink this week?” A few minutes later came this query: “How many Diet Cokes so far today?” During the final game of the day, someone in the press box showed me a question they had been asked via text message: “What’s the website where I can follow the Diet Coke Count?” I have definitely created a monster.

--Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 3 for the tournament, 31 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 8,420

--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