Editors Note: Pete Waggoner will be updating this post each day through the final day of the state high school hockey tournament.
March 10th, 2019 - 12:59pm
Here we are on the last day of the tournament and another season comes to and end after the games are played out today. It is always difficult to watch the third place games play out. I am from the camp that while it is difficult to play a game that you were not planning on being a part of, be grateful that you have a second chance to play one more time with the group you will never have again. While that is easier said than done, life is full of disappointments and curveballs. What we know is that we rarely get what we want and only two teams are still standing when it comes to the championship games at each class.
Mahtomedi put a nice stamp on their season with a 7-3 win over East Grand Forks to take home the third place trophy in the Class A. The Delano Tigers topped the North Branch Vikings 2-1 for the Class A consolation title.
From the - I have never seen this live or on video category - the St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders scored what they thought was a goal with the red light going on and the referee washing it off and no whistle. The play continued up Ice as Greenway goes the other way and scores. The entire play went under review and as the video would indicate, the goal judge was right to put the light on. The Crusaders received credit for the goal.
Patrick Lilija handled the play-by-play chores to precision on this one while I rode shotgun as the color man for him. It is a role I don’t do much at all, maybe once a year and it is fun to observe and contribute to a game from the color commentator’s perspective.
Cathedral was believed by many to be the best team in the tournament or at least playing the best entering the weekend. Their loss to Mahtomedi in the regular season didn’t sway the consensus of the media jackals either and they were right.
The Crusaders were loaded with talent and their depth was just too much for the Raiders if Greenway to overcome. The game was high energy but in the end, the best team won.
As is our tradition, our team heads over to Cossetta’s for a between session meal. It’s always vibing in there with hockey people from all over. Heading back to the Xcel Energy Center is always a little somber feeling as I know the end to something good is coming and that is another high school hockey season.
The third place game is always going on as we record our last podcast from the Al Shaver Pressbox. All of us were treated to a classic final game with Edina defeating Eden Prairie 3-2 in overtime. The Eagles played their hearts out while Edina did what they needed and had tremendous goaltending from Louden Hogg. I will be making one final entry and get into the Edina and Eden Prairie game later today with final thoughts on the season.
March 9th, 2019 - 4:41pm
The dust just settled on the GreenwayNashwauk/Keewatin Raiders dramatic 3-2 overtime win over Mahtomedi this afternoon when I am writing this entry and the arena is still buzzing. Everyone loves the Cinderella story and this one is among the better ones. Once on the brink of doing the unthinkable, Greenway nearly lost the program, and was to merge with Grand Rapids for boys hockey. The girls already had and the community of Greenway knocked on doors and got the young kids playing the game subsequently saving the program.
Look at the Raiders postseason accomplishments this year and it is an impressive resume. They defeated Class A power Hermantown in double overtime at Amsoil Arena. The victory stopped a run of nine straight Section 7AA titles by Hermantown. Then they defeated Delano by a score of 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Delano has been a defensive juggernaut who had not given up a goal in three section games and along the way, the state took notice of a spirited hockey team that went to the net and played a game that did not look robotronic. Their community essentially shut down and is in St. Paul right now watching on as their group of kids play the game with heart, passion, and courage.
The semi finals would be the Greenway’s most difficult test as they were tasked with paying the No. 1 ranked Mahtomedi Zephyrs. The entire lower bowl of he Xcel Energy Center was full and the carry over to the club level was full. The energy in the building was the highest for that game and both teams played hard, battled, had their moments of brilliance and their moments of despair. After Greenway took the 1-0 lead into the second intermission, it felt like they were in the ‘avoiding losing mode’ while Mahtomedi went all in on taking the game. Suddenly, the Raiders found their fatiguing wheels and Ben Troumbly scored the game tying goal late in the third period and the game winning goal just :23 into the overtime period setting off an eruption of emotion both on the ice and in the stands.
It wasn’t long ago that Donte Lawson’s father Jim Lawson and former head coach Pat Guyer went on sales calls to get players engaged in hockey. In 2001, Pat Guyer’s Raiders were knocking off the Eden Prairie Eagles in a dramatic quarterfinal round game when they were playing Class AA hockey. Iron Range hockey ruled the high school hockey scene for the first twenty-plus years and has battled to remain relevant in the landscape over the years of which they have been. The teams may change but the story doesn’t as coach Grant Clafton said after the semifinal game yesterday that they were playing for more than just their three towns. They were playing for the entire Iron Range and that will be a lot of wind beneath their wings when they face of against the St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders. The big question will be if they have enough left in their tank as they rely on a few players while the Crusaders have some depth to work with.
Ho-hum, it’s another all Lake Conference final.
Since 2009 the Lake Conference has had a grip on the finals with both teams three times:
2010 Edina 4 Minnetonka 2
2016 Wayzata 5 Eden Prairie 3
2019 Edina vs Eden Prairie
Since 2009 the Lake Conference has had at least one team in the finals five times:
2009 Eden Prairie 3 Moorhead 0
2011 Eden Prairie 3 Duluth East 2 (3ot)
2013 Edina 4 Hill-Murray 2
2014 Edina 8 Lakeville North 2
2018 Minnetonka 5 Duluth East 2
Sum it up and the Lake has had at least one team playing in eight of the eleven years. The last time a Lake conference team that lost to a non-conference foe in the finals was in 2008 when Hill-Murray defeated Edina by a score of 3-0.
It has been an impressive decade for the southwest metro.
More to come as we prepare for the Class A Final with Greenway and Cathedral
March 8th, 2019 -12:32am
I am nine minutes earlier than last night’s entry and am surprised by that as actually, today felt like a much longer day and that I was getting to this earlier as opposed to later. So much happened today, I will try contain it to a a few paragraphs.
First we had four games of which three were decided by two goals and another went to triple overtime. For all of the talk about how the seeds played out, that point was moot as all eight teams were worthy of their spot at the head table. Second, we had a veteran announcer excused from his second of two games for an inappropriate comment. Third, there was a dust up with the Athletic and media credentials, and finally, Eden Prairie’s Jack Jensen averted a major issue for the MSHSL who were in a tough spot and I will get into that more in this entry.
We started our day with a group podcast and I think it’s good. It consisted of Bart Archer, Matt Harrington, Todd Mulliken, and myself. We were all over the map and it was almost like a morning show. HockDish 10 was a lot of fun and worth listening to. Click here to enjoy the discussion.
Legendary Announcer Doug McLeod was sent home after his first of two scheduled games when he made his now infamous rope lynching comment. After White Bear Lake went down 3-0, he said, “White Bear fans, time to get out the lynching ropes.” Oooooffffff. It was in reference to the Bears being in jeopardy of losing for the 19th time in the first round at that point. His comment sparked the Hubbard broadcasting switchboard to light up and he was told by a producer that he had to leave the facility. The Minnesota State High School League, in celebration of their 75th Anniversary have brought in various announcers that have worked over their tenure. It is the worst nightmare of every announcer who is perpetually in jeopardy of saying the wrong thing. He did say the wrong thing, it was quick and context to the heartache the Bears fans have dealt with over the years was being referenced. Indeed it was over the top and needed to be addressed.
There was a lot of jaw dropping and shock in the pressbox. It was a feeling of it is too bad for Doug. He’s been a broadcast icon in the hockey world and in Minnesota for years and to have that happen, self inflicted of course, but still sad to see. My only hope is he made a mistake and that this doesn’t define him as a person and a professional.
The game itself had Bryce Brodzinski on display but it was the play of Carsen Richels Will Hillman that caught my eye as they have some highly skilled players and can score. The Bears had some push back to their game after falling behind 3-0 but couldn’t overcome it.
Eden Prairie built a 2-0 lead and looked like they were well on their way to a semifinal berth. But Lakeville South goalie Henry Welsch had a different idea on that. He turned aside 62 Eden Prairie shots and kept his team in the game. South did not quit and that in itself created problems for the league. As the third overtime was coming to a close, the decision was made that the game would be suspended until 8am on Friday where it would be picked up for the fourth overtime on the same day of the semifinals. Fortunately someone scored to avert that potential disaster with :55 left in the third overtime.
Edina was challenged by the Moorhead Spuds in a 4-2 win. Edina captured a 2-0 lead in their game as well but Moorhead wrestled their way back with a goal to cut the deficit to 2-1. Sophomore goalie Louden Hogg made three key stops down the stretch including the dramatic diving blocker pad save in the final two minutes. He also snared a quick shot with his glove and gave his team a chance to advance to the final against the St. Thomas Academy Cadets.
The Duluth East Greyhounds have been a thorn in Edina’s site in recent memory. They won’t be this year as the St. Thomas Academy Cadets, led by Ryan O’Neill scored his 20th and 2st of the season to propel his team to the semifinals against Edina. The Cadets withstood the physical play of the Hounds and gutted out a win with speed and skill. Their speed could provide a fast past game with the high flying Hornets.
Finally, there was the issue with the Athletic and press credentials to the tournament. The media guide of the MSHSL says clearly if you have paywall to consume content, your firm will be denied. There it is in black and white. So, the Athletic was denied. The argument was that the StarTribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press first require payment for their papers but second require payment after a certain number of articles are read meaning there is a paywall there. While that is a fair argument, the StarTribune sends all high school content to the MNHockeyHub which is there’s and fully free of charge. The Pioneer Press does not have that. The media jumped on the MSHSL and put pressure on them to approve the Athletic. While it was indirect pressure, it was not what the MSHSL would want to deal with and eventually approved the Athletic who, by the way, won’t be coming until the finals on Saturday. I am not sure if that was their coverage plan, but why bother.
We move into the best day of the tournament, semi-final Friday
March 7th, 2019 - 12:41am
As I lie awake and hear the repetitious sounds of Chicago’s ‘25 Or 6 To 4’ thundering through my head after hearing it eight times today, I feel compelled to try to write that and Ozzy’s ‘Crazy Train’ right the hell out of my mind. We have a joke with our group in the pressbox that the bands recycle the same songs over and over and we keep score, almost like a band bingo game in our corner of the press box. We are begging for some new material.
We got through day one unscathed and we did have some productioyn challenges that were put forth by forces out of our control, yet pulled it off. I have been very happy with the traffic that the MNHockey.Tv has been getting this year. Actually, it has exceeded my expectations in terms of visits and pageviews. The overall views on our games also exceeded my goals and with this weekend, we have a chance to get to an impressive spot after year one. I may have written this earlier but over the years I have been all about partnering with the appropriate media outlets to lift my brand in this marketplace. I decided, screw that, I don’t have to do that and instead am taking my piece of the pie now and it has been quite good, like my favorite - French silk.
The play today for game’s one through three was painful to watch at times with two blowouts and a 5-2 game that had its moments but was in firm control of East Grand Forks. St. Cloud Cathedral was machine like in their 7-0 win over North Branch. It was impressive how North Branch pushed back and had a great effort in the first period. Eventually, it was clear that North Branch ran out of legs and gas as Cathedral kept their foot on their pedal and finished strong. Illustrating that they are a true title contender this weeken,. Cathedral’s Nate Warner ripped off a natural hat trick and Luke Schmidt had a goal and two assists in their win.
East Grand Forks had to work for their win against first timer Minnesota River who cut into a 3-0 deficit and reduced it to 3-2 after two periods. The Green Wave scored two goals 1:03 apart to give themselves some breathing room in the third period to go on to the 5-2 win. Jade Reicks had two goals for Minnesota River with Landon Parker and Tanner Mack each notching two goals for EGF. Carter Beck had two assists for the Green Wave as well.
The tweet of the day and maybe the weekend goes to my guy Tim Kolehmainen from Breakdown Sports USA. It was a shot of the New Ulm Eagles as they prepared for the introductions. This picture had it all in terms of the All Hockey Hair team. It’s funny when I think about that but it feels like when Barry Melrose and ESPN came in to do a piece on the All Hockey Hair team, it lost its authenticity. The effort and work is priceless, a true Minnesota Treasure. With its underground nature, it made it special. When kids spend as much time as they do to try to gain the moment, it loses the authenticity as well. Pre-planned never works in a spontaneously fun and funny moments and it feels like it is wearing thin now. With that said, I am aware that a ton of money has been raised over the years and count me as loyal view as long as it continues and I hope it continues.
On the ice, as good as the Eagles hair and mustaches were, the Mahtomedi Zephyrs were better. The Zephyrs cruised to a 6-0 win and outshot the Eagles 55-10. New Ulm goaltender Jack Raymond was fantastic in goal and the Zephyrs JD Metz and Tom Paradise each had two goals in the win.
Then the night cap with the Raiders of Greenway and Tigers iof Delano was a breathtaking affair. It had it all with incredible momentum swings and Delano asserting themselves when needed and the Raiders pushing back. Greenway did take over the game and outshot the Tigers 43-29. It was in the second period where the Raiders began to take over, outshooting the Tigers 18-8 for the frame tand they tied the game at 3 after trailing 3-1. Donte Lawson (2g-2A-4pts) was electric and incredible on the puck. He has individual skill and the ability to make others better around him with pinpoint vision and passing skills. They went on to win a tight 6-4 game with and empty net tally.
Which leads me to this: Cely’s. What the hell is going on out there? It was so refreshing to see the Green Wave score 6 goals and not once did a player run around the ice like he is in the Premier League freaking out because he scored a goal. There wasn’t one self check where a player slams himself into the boards - nearly separating their shoulders, there weren’t any Superman cely’s, bowl and arrows, going down to one knee, or any other of the pre-planned cely BS that has taken over the high school game that wreaks of me. Call me old fashioned and no fun, that is fine by me. I have become that because the individuality has taken over. When the Raiders scored the sticks went up, a player stopped where he was, faced his teammates, and welcomed them in for a terrific team effort. They weren’t running away from their teammates and taking their little improvised show on the road around the rink. It was great to see and made you feel like the Raiders are all about each other. That was fun to see and so was a terrific game.
As i now have written those two songs out of my head, they have been replaced by The Final Countdown by Europe (How dusty were they?) and Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes. ‘Ba, B’ Bu Buu bu baa b’ bu bu…..’ Good night everybody!
March 6th, 2019 - 11:39am
Somehow we seem to do it every year and get the broadcasts up and running. There are always variables to what we do such as what gear are we using? Where do we set up in the Xcel Energy Center press box? Is everyone credentialed? Are we prepped sufficiently? Do I have enough sponsors and are they recorded? There is more but that is the but you get the idea. Yes we picked through the questions and are good to go.
My team started arriving between 9 and 9:30am today with my team tuned up and ready to go. Todd Mulliken is handling the live scoring and is a loyal friend who loves high school hockey and his Hornets. Mully, as we affectionately call him is what is right about high school hockey and those that love it. He is passionate about the game and makes these weekends a lot of fun to work.
Also on the scene was Patrick Lilijia the play-by-play voice that booms. I think Patrick has the work ethic and ability to go deep in this business. He works as hard as anyone I have seen behind the mic and takes pride in delivering a great product. Patrick is making us look good.
We opened our 14-game marathon with North Branch and St. Cloud Cathedral. North Branch fans in attendance were impressive and there was great representation. The Cathedral fans - let’s just say they won’t be winning the sportsmanship award anytime soon. They were the first to pull out the USA chant (You Suck Ass) in the third period with the game well in hand.
We have our rhythm and are excited to bring more coverage to you over the next 4-5 days. We will be laying down a podcast later today as well.
March 5th, 2019 - 7:07am
A couple of times I was going to write some things yesterday but there was nothing much to comment on. It is like the calm before the storm. This evening, the eiight Class A teams will all descend upon St. Paul and enjoy their State Tournament Banquet meaning it’s getting real. The tournament capsules were posted by Matt Harrington yesterday and I need to shout him out on those as to date, it is the most informative, insightful, and thoughtful piece I have seen created for the Class A tournament.
The most interesting thing is that there are two new teams in the mix with just one returning from last year. To see Greenway bounce back after that difficult overtime loss last year to Hermantown and to push through this year was fun to watch. It will be interesting to see how far this group can go. It’s odd how that happens. The year before there will be a 20-23 win team that gets stopped in the sections and then comes back with a 15 win season and the shock the world.
There are some great teams in the field with St. Cloud Cathedral hoping to earn their first ever title. Mahtomedi is thinking the same thing as both have been in the top 1 or 2 slots of the top ten all year. Cathedral and Mahtomedi played earlier this year with Mahtomedi winning 6-2. Delano opened the season 1-5-1 and finished the season 16-4-1 and they have a great goaltender and defensive brand having not allowed a goal in section play. The East Grand Forks Green Wave have a 20-win season and are always competitive in the state tournament. They have a potential semi-final round matchup with Cathedral. The Green Wave fell 7-2 to Cathedral earlier this year. With Minnesota River and North Branch making their first appearances, they will need overcome the typical first-timer syndrome which sometimes translates to slow starts in game one. Their communities are fired up and that will help with their energy levels. New Ulm won the Section 3A as the No. 3 seed and return for their first appearance since 2015. They split with Minnesota River, another tournament team this year.
I am posting the Class A team capsules later today as well. I noticed that Loren Nelson, a dinosaur like myself in the high school hockey coverage in Minnesota and a friend, posted the Fab 50 on the MNHockeyHub. It is a list of the top 50 players ranked from 50 to 1 that fans should watch. Lists are always a great thing for high school hockey fans as they create massive chatter and debate. As usual, Loren does fantastic work and it is a great list. There is really no way to perfectly nail it but there is one player that is missing from the list that has to be mentioned and that is Edina defensemen Mason Reiners. How he is not picked up by a Division I team is beyond me. The kid can flat out play and has been their best defenseman in all three zones since early January. He has three DI commits that play with him and I have no problem saying he may be playing the best of all of them which is lofty praise.
This is a bit hypocritical but while I am a fan of the lists, as they are fun to look at and drive major views and clicks, I never rank high school kids - I just can’t. Worse, is to have rankings of squirt players on a website. There is nothing positive that comes from that and at a young age the I in team starts coming out and a culture of me has since been birthed and one can feel a gross film that has encapsulated our great game and at a young age.
Things for the weekend that need to be done include getting a couple of adapters for the sound so we can bring you the ice effects which brings so much extra to the game, making sure I have all the webcast gear together for the audio we will bring, and get the :15 spots recorded for each sponsor. I will also be following up on Jon Sands live scoring setup - making sure it is all ready to go.
The “Sandman” as I call him is defined by one statement, Can-do. There is nothing he won’t do and always does it with passion and to the best of his ability. Jon does all of his work with a smile on his face and has proven to be multi-faceted. He is the guy behind getting all of those highlight clips cut on YouTube and tweeted out. He also sends those clips to SportsCenter where we have been published twice for top ten plays. Who can forget the Mason Nevers danglefest for Edina and the Blake Messenberg skill package for Benilde-St. Margaret’s? Jon, along with the best cameraman in the game, Todd Grover made that happen. Groves is so consistent. He loves the game and came to this as just a guy who has developed into an incredible camera guy. There isn’t a game Todd doesn’t want to do and he delivers the same consistent professional view of the game from behind the lens that we all can tend to take for granted because it is so good. High School Hockey is a better place because of Jon and Todd.
More later as we prepare for the start of the tournament tomorrow.
March 3rd, 2019 - 4:44pm
Today, I recorded the HockDish podcast with Bart Archer. We decided to lay down the recording at Braemar Arena because we wanted the arena vibe. It could not have been a more perfect setting as the mites were finishing off their final weekend of play this year with their jamboree.
Our aim of the show was to discuss the upcoming Class AA tournament field and take a stab at prognosticating the tournament. Without giving away the show, we both agreed on who was going to win but who got their to play the was disputed.
One of the discussion points centered on the seeding of the teams that are actually decided by the teams. I make an argument for why Eden Prairie should be the No. 3 seed and it will be next to impossible to convince me otherwise.
Working with Bart Archer has been a joy the past 32 years. After meeting at the University of Minnesota in 1985, Bart and I had the shared passion for hockey, then at the NHL level and locally at the high school level - today nothing has changed. We got our start with the “The Station of Champions” Bloomington Educational Cable Television (BEC). Tom Ringdal and Mike Smith were incredible supports for us as Bart and cut our teeth calling first Bloomington Kennedy games in the late eighties and then Bloomington Jefferson in the nineties all the way up to 2002.
Things were much more simple with how the game was covered then. In the Twin Cities, there was local cable television, radio, and newspaper coverage during that time. Today, there is so much depth in coverage, it is staggering. There has been one constant and that has been Bart Archer going stride for stride with me. He has adapted to the way we have covered the game and always brings high end prep, knowledge, and entertainment value. Nobody knows that Bart religiously provides me with a line up sheet complete with stats and information. He also prints it on both sides so the rosters match up with how they are situated on the bench for ease of use.
Bart has been a great friend and a great professional to work with. Taking time from his personal life away from work to give to the fans of high school hockey should not be overlooked and he does it for the love of the game. Bart’s passion fuels me and for that I am grateful.
While wrapping up at Braemar, the Edina High School parents were selling the Rink Rat t-shirts while a player meeting with head coach Curt Giles and his staff was to begin. They were going to cover their daily itinerary and preparations for the big week. There is so much that goes into if from the team and production site, it is stunning.
I have the Class AA team profiles completed and know that my guy Matty Ice Harrington is busting his tail between broadcast gigs in Peoria, IL to get us the Class a profiles. Tim Kolehmainen from Breakdown Sports USA and my good friend of 13 years will be joining me to lay down HockDish Pod 10 to discuss the Class A field tomorrow. I will also be heading over to the WCHA offices to interview Bill Robertson and will be using his content for our tournament audio coverage.
March 2nd, 2019 - 5:37pm
This year will mark the 13th straight and 22nd year of my broadcast/webcast/content producing life of covering the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament. It used to be that I had aspirations of the big stage of the NHL as a play-by-play announcer, but I ditched that long ago as the high school game that is presented each year over the course of the regular season and the tournament at its core delivers all I could possibly want or need. It is raw, emotion, passion, and skill. Would I love to hammer out games at the NHL level? Of course, but there is no need to leave my family and loved ones when everything at the high school level is there for a guy like me. It too brings out passion in me and for that I am a lucky man.
There is no surprise that record amounts of fans turn out to pack in the Xcel Energy Center while massive numbers watch and listen live on television and online each year. For those in the hockey world across the US who are still trying to figure out the Minnesota High School model and why it is successful, and moreover trying to sabotage the community based model, stop. Jump on board as this brand of hockey is unprecedented for the age level. It can not be duplicated and is special.
Each year, I wind up leaving the tournament exhausted and voiceless from announcing and covering wall-to-wall games, yet exhilarated as each year seems to top the previous year in the magical tournament. I will walk down the Al Shaver press box at the end of the tournament with my lifelong buddy and broadcast partner Bart Archer along with Breakdown Sports USA’s Tim Kolehmainen and suggest to them that there is no way this year can be topped. Yet, the following year I stand corrected every time. I expect an incredible tournament this year and the field is terrific.
These players are not dumb. They have followed this hallowed tournament since their infancy and it is carried on with incredible respect and dignity from team-to-team, player-to-player, coach-to-coach. The seeds came out today and as we know there is plenty of talk and prognostications that come along with it. One sees and hears all kinds of crazy things and we all have to remember these guys are still kids. They aren’t paid and they give their best effort every time they play. A lot of the talk after seeds come out is about what teams and players can’t do. In this space, we talk about what teams and players can do.
Today, I am setting up the team capsules for our previews that will post across two days on Monday and Tuesday. I will be writing the Class AA capsules and Matt Harrington will be on the Class A capsules. Matt is an amazing young man. He was introduced to me by my friend Kevin May who is an incredible supporter of mine as well as youth and high school hockey. Harrington has been my right hand man as he came to me from Cretin-Derham Hall last year as a senior and stepped in eager to contribute and do anything he can to move on to the career he covets which is to be the play-by-play voice of the San Jose Sharks. Matty Ice, as I call him, has been an incredible glue as we produced a record number of live streams from my organization this year. Harrington has taken on announcing, website, social media, and production responsibilities including setting up our new web platform. He is majoring in Sports Communication at Bradley University in Peoria Illinois. Matt Harrington is the grandson of the great late Gene Harrington, the former sports director at the Minnesota News Network (MNN) and son of Greg Harrington former UNO Mavericks and Minnesota Moose play-by-play announcer and Sports Warp co-host on KFAN Radio with Guy Green.
We will have full game coverage leading up to and during the games at the Xcel Energy Center that includes, live audio play-by-play, game stories, live scoring, social media updates, podcasts, and news and notes from each game. This diary will be random from time-to-time over the next week and is intended to outline what is happening during the big week from my eyes. Back to work as I have some team preview capsules to write.