John's Journal
Girls State Hockey Tournament: Day One News And Notes2/23/2011
My favorite memory from Wednesday’s Class 1A quarterfinals in the girls state hockey tournament is a goal scored by the New Ulm Eagles. Let me be more specific: It was the only goal scored by the Eagles in a 12-1 loss to Breck at Xcel Energy Center.

Breck led 12-0 and there were only a few seconds to play in the game when the teams lined up for a faceoff in the Breck defensive zone. The puck was dropped and in an instant it was in the goal. Alexa Weiss was credited with the goal, which came with five seconds to play and set off the best celebration of the day.

The on-ice Eagles raised their sticks in the air and then embraced Weiss; it looked like they had just won the Stanley Cup. It was a sweet thing to see.

New Ulm was playing in its third straight state tournament, but had yet to score a goal in the Xcel Center. They lost to Blake 9-0 in the 2009 quarterfinals and to Breck 10-0 last year.

“We had a couple of little victories in there today,” Eagles coach Angela Zeig said after the game. Victory No. 1 was putting the biscuit in the basket.

Prentice Basten had a hat trick for Breck and Carly Schaeder had two goals for the Mustangs. Several state tournament records were set or tied in the game: Goals by one team, goals by two teams, goals in a period by one team (7) and shots on goal by one team (56).

New Ulm will play Hutchinson in Thursday’s consolation bracket at the University of Minnesota’s Ridder Arena, and it’s a pretty safe bet that Wednesday’s one little goal will put a little spring in the Eagles’ step.

--South St. Paul scored five goals in the first period and defeated Hutchinson 5-2. The Packers will meet Breck in Thursday’s first semifinal at 11 a.m.

--Warroad defeated Alexandria 7-0, getting four goals in the first period.

--Eveleth-Gilbert beat Red Wing 5-2. The Bears will face Warroad on Friday at 1 p.m.

--Does experience make a difference? It did for Breck on Wednesday. The Mustangs were 1A state runners-up last season, and as junior Milica McMillen said, “We were pretty comfortable, especially the older girls who were here last year.”

--Celebrity sighting: Attorney/baseball expert Clark Griffith was shooting photographs from the first row of the Breck game. Makes me think he might be related to Breck senior Caroline Griffith.

--Celebrity sighting II: Gigi Marvin, Warroad grad, former Gophers hockey player and currently star of an Old Dutch potato chip commercial.

--Mascot sightings: The Breck Mustang is very cool. The South St. Paul Packers’ Skating Steer is the coolest.

--Pep Band Song of the Day: “Zoot Suit Riot” by the Red Wing symphony orchestra.

--Diet Coke Count: 4

--Number of times I was asked, “Hey John, how many Diet Cokes today?” 3

*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,091

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Recapping The State Dance Tournament2/22/2011
The 2011 state dance tournament is in the books. Our special guest correspondent, Cannon Falls High School assistant dance coach Erin Hawkinson, recaps the state tournament...

By Erin Hawkinson, Special Correspondent


CLASS A: The excitement of the state tournament kicked off with the Class A jazz division at noon on Friday, with a very tight race between the teams. There were again some major ties this year, with Yellow Medicine East and Aitkin tying in prelims and finals for the 2/3 spots. In the end, YME slid to third with Aitkin taking home second place. Duluth Marshall had another repeat as champs – making it five in a row. The big surprise in this division was BOLD not qualifying for finals after being perennial runners-up in years past and St. Charles sliding into the sixth-place spot for the first time instead. BOLD ended up in seventh. Final results: 1st Duluth Marshall 2nd Aitkin 3rd YME 4th Cannon Falls 5th Frazee 6th St. Charles

CLASS AA: The AA jazz division saw Benilde-St. Margaret’s adding the title to its previous victories in 2008 and 2009 with a beautiful dance to “The Heart of the Matter.” The Knightettes were second going into the final round and stepped up to take the victory in the finals. Totino Grace took second, with last year’s champions St. Cloud Cathedral sliding to third. Newcomer Holy Family grabbed a spot in the finals for the first time in Class AA, after a tradition of Class A top finishes in the early 2000s. Final Results: 1st Benilde-St. Margarets 2nd Totino Grace 3rd St. Cloud Cathedral 4th Holy Family Catholic 5th Sartell 6th Academy of Holy Angels

CLASS AAA: Maple Grove succeeded in taking the top spot from defending champion Wayzata with both teams turning in impressive dances yet again. Michael Jackson was a common theme in the finals, with three teams using something from him. Eastview pulled out the third spot again, with Chaska taking the fourth-place spot. Chaska was a crowd pleaser with its emotional and unique dance to “Jar of Hearts,” which really helped highlight the depth and ability of Class AAA along with the other finalists. AAA can sure be proud of its strong jazz division that is unparalleled outside of national competitions. Final Results: 1st Maple Grove 2nd Wayzata 3rd Eastview 4th Chaska 5th Blaine 6th Spring Lake Park


CLASS A: Huge teams dominated class A, with all three top placers dancing 30 or more girls. Again this year, visuals and transitions dominated this division with Aitkin and Cannon Falls taking the top spots. For the third year in a row, those two teams were neck and neck, with Cannon Falls taking the win this time around. Finals were actually a tie for first place, with CF winning the triple tie-breaker with 12 more total points. Last year Cannon Falls lost by one point (and one rank), and in 2009 Aitkin lost by 15 points (and one rank) to Cannon. Lac Qui Parle Valley-Dawson Boyd rounded out the top three for the second year in a row, and there was a new face in the finals with Duluth Marshall taking the fifth-place spot this year after only making finals in jazz in previous years.

CLASS AA: There was a brand new champion in AA, with Sartell-St. Stephens claiming its first title. Their reaction will go down as a state classic, with a total meltdown of crying for joy. The ultra-competitive division did not disappoint as all three top placers brought their very best. Totino Grace took second with its Prince-themed dance, and Academy of Holy Angels came in third. Three-time champion St. Cloud Cathedral settled for fourth place with a young team for them, and Sauk Rapids-Rice qualified for finals for the first time in many years with its Pirates dance. Final Results: 1st Sartell 2nd Totino Grace 3rd Academy of Holy Angels 4th St. Cloud Cathedral 5th Austin 6th Sauk Rapids-Rice

CLASS AAA: Eastview rolled to a definitive win with a cute and cool Vegas-themed dance, utilizing three-colored costumes to the maximum. They also thought outside the box with the music choices, using not just the obvious Elvis tunes, but more subtle picks as well to complete the theme. Eden Prairie brought their strong kicks into second place this year after not making the finals last year. Apple Valley took third this year, bringing home a medal for the first time since 2004. Faribault looked solid as usual at state and claimed the fourth-place spot. Chaska rounded out the number-five spot while Brainerd took home the sixth-place spot, improving on its section placements, with black and white costumes creating visuals designed for the state floor. Final Results: 1st Eastview 2nd Eden Prairie 3rd Apple Valley 4th Faribault 5th Chaska 6th Brainerd

Overall, state 2011 was a high-emotion, high-intensity weekend full of all the joy and triumphs of high school sports at their finest. Some teams were overjoyed to achieve, others found disappointment, but all shared in a strong tradition and history of our sport, something that will not soon be forgotten. Teams are already looking forward to next season, some with new coaches, new rosters and new challenges. No matter where you’re from or what team you support, dance team participants all share a common thread of passion for our sport that will see its continued success and growth for years to come. It has been a pleasure to share this with you in my postseason coverage of dance team for John’s Journal. See you next year!

Erin’s State Stats:
Miles Driven: 9 (finally, a short trip!)
Diet Mountain Dew Count: 4
Girls Hockey: Two Former Stars Look Back2/22/2011
More than a decade has passed since what might have been the greatest single night in Minnesota girls’ high school hockey history. The 1999-2000 season opened in mid-November with a showcase game at Eagan Civic Arena. The two stars from that game – and that era – look back now and remember it as if it had happened yesterday.

Scenes like that one, with an overflow crowd, tons of pregame talk and an historical sense of anticipation, don’t come around often.

The singular sensations, the players everybody came to see, were Eagan sophomore Natalie Darwitz and Park Center senior Krissy Wendell. Darwitz had been named the Metro Player of the Year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune two years earlier as an eighth-grader and Wendell had won the honor as a junior. At the end of the 1999-2000 season Wendell would be named Minnesota’s Ms. Hockey, and the duo would soon become teammates on U.S. national and Olympic teams as well as at the University of Minnesota. On this November night, however, they were opponents.

“I remember the hype leading up to that game,” Darwitz said. “We had good visibility in the media, and it was the north suburban phenom vs. the south suburban phenom. The stands were jammed and there was a lot of buzz, a lot of good energy for that game. The fun part of it was it wasn’t for a girls’ game, it was for a hockey game.”

The game lived up to expectations. Wendell scored seven goals as Park Center recorded a 10-4 victory and Darwitz, playing with an injured hip, scored twice for Eagan. The pair raced up and down the ice all evening, played physically against each other and put on a show that people still talk about today.

Darwitz is now 27 years old and Wendell is 29. Their hockey careers include national championships at the University of Minnesota – where they hold or share most of the scoring records -- and Olympic medals. Some of their favorite hockey memories, however, go all the way back to their high school days.

“Oh, that was a lot of fun,” said Wendell, who is married to former University of Minnesota men’s hockey star Johnny Pohl and is the mother of two young daughters. “Obviously when you’re on a winning team everything seems to be more fun. There were a lot of good friendships, and I still keep in touch with some of the girls on our team. High school goes by so fast.”

Darwitz said, “There’s nothing like playing for your community, playing with your friends and growing up together. When I look back, I have a smile on my face. At times I wish I could snap my fingers and be back in high school and to have that opportunity again.”

Darwitz played in state tournaments as a seventh-grader, eighth-grader and sophomore, with Eagan’s best finish coming in 1997 when the Wildcats were runners-up to Hibbing/Chisholm. After her sophomore year, Darwitz skipped high school hockey while training with the U.S. national team and completing her high school education via distance learning.

Wendell (pictured at left) was a member of the Park Center girls’ hockey team as a junior and senior and played in the state tournament both years. The Pirates were one-class state champs in 2000, defeating Anoka 6-0 in the title game.

Their names are peppered throughout the state tournament record book, with scoring marks that may never be eclipsed. Wendell, for example, scored six goals in one game during the 1999 tournament and Darwitz recorded seven points in a single period during the 2000 tourney.

The girls’ state hockey tournament was only in its sixth year when the high school careers of Darwitz and Wendell ended in 2000. The early tournaments were held at the State Fair Coliseum, and both players remember the energy inside the small arena.

“There were great crowds, lots of high-caliber girls and a great atmosphere,” Wendell said.
“Playing at the Fairgrounds was fun,” Darwirz said. “It was such a great atmosphere, with the bands and the student sections and kids painting their faces.”

Both Wendell and Darwitz grew up playing hockey with boys; Wendell also played in the 1994 Little League World Series as the only female on the Brooklyn Center team and the first female starting catcher in Little League World Series history. Wendell played with the Park Center boys’ hockey team through her sophomore year.

“Honestly, I think it was such a great advantage because boys are naturally more intense and that elevated my game,” Wendell said. “There weren’t any other options at the time. I played with good guys, too, and the same group all the way up. I was really lucky in that aspect. And when you start so young, they don’t even think of you as the girl on the team. It was normal for them.”

Both players have travelled the world as hockey players, and Wendell has done the same as a hockey spouse. Pohl spent several years in the NHL before playing in Switzerland and Sweden. Wendell ended her playing career at the world championships in April 2007, she and Pohl were married later that year and their first child, Emily, was born in June 2008. The family expanded when Anna was born in 2010. They live in Woodbury and Pohl is a teacher and coach at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul.

Wendell does some teaching at clinics and camps, and Darwitz (above) remains heavily involved in hockey, as well. They know that in addition to being historical figures in the hockey world, they also are seen as role models. And that’s a role they are happy to accept.

“I would hope that Krissy and I have some responsibility,” Darwitz said. “We like to be in the community and be good role models and to show kids how we got to where we are, and to teach them and guide them along. And also to show them that we’re stand-up people and have our morals and passions in life that are good ones. You don’t ask for that, but I think with talent comes responsibility and you’re held to a higher standard.”

Wendell said. “I think Natalie and I are probably names that people remember because we played beyond high school and college. And obviously with the Olympics, that’s kind of a big deal. Before us there were Amber Fryklund, the Curtins, Winny Brodt, lots of pioneers. John (Pohl) has said how it’s kind of cool now, ‘You paved the way and it’s come full circle,’ with two daughters and one of them is starting to skate.

“To see how far the game has come is pretty cool.”

John Millea is the media specialist for the Minnesota State High School League.
State Wrestling Team Quarterfinal Matchups2/21/2011
Coaches in all three classes completed the seeding process this morning and the brackets are set for the team portion of the state tournament. Team titles will be decided on Thursday, March 3 at Xcel Energy Center and individual competition will be held the following two days.

Here are the team brackets…

Kimball (2) vs. Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial
Frazee (3) vs. Border West
Jackson County Central (1) vs. Pierz
Minneota (4) vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa

Kasson-Mantorville (2) vs. Wabasso-Red Rock Central
Scott West (3) vs. Monticello
Simley (1) vs. Grand Rapids
Foley (4) vs. Thief River Falls/Goodridge

St. Michael-Albertville (2) vs. Centennial
Albert Lea (3) vs. Hopkins
Apple Valley (1) vs. White Bear Lake
Prior Lake (4) vs. Bemidji
Teams Are Set For State Wrestling2/20/2011
The teams are set for the state wrestling tournament, March 3-5 at Xcel Energy Center. Teams will be seeded by the coaches Monday morning. Individual section tournaments will be completed next Saturday, Feb. 26. Here are the teams that will wrestle at state:

Class A: Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Jackson County Central, Minneota, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, Kimball, Border West, Pierz, Frazee.

Class AA: Kasson-Mantorville, Scott West, Wabasso/Red Rock Central, Simley, Monticello, Foley, Grand Rapids, Thief River Falls/Goodridge.

Class AAA: Albert Lea, Prior Lake, Apple Valley, White Bear Lake, Centennial, Hopkins, St. Michael-Albertville, Bemidji.