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.
--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.
--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
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