John's Journal
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
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 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
'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