Photo: Nick Wosika
I was served a great primer for the State Tournament in watching a lot of high school hockey this winter. Because of this familiarity, my anticipation for the event was high. And we were all rewarded with some great games in this year’s State Boys’ High school Hockey Tournament. There were also excellent individual and team performances. And one bad play that has replayed in my head several times. Overall, I thought the tournament was well-played, maybe better than most in my recollection. Some thoughts:
Greenway – what a sight to see. It looked as if the entire city of Greenway/Coleraine showed up in St. Paul. To see such great hockey people come to support their team was a delight. Hockey people like Mike Antonovich, Bob Gernander and Frank Serratore – all of whom I had the opportunity to chat with – came to support their “Green.” It all reminds me of how many great people there are in hockey and how lucky I am to count many as friends.
Greenway may have had the fewest players on the bench, but they might have had as a collective, the highest hockey IQ in the tournament. They had heart as well. They were a fun team to watch.
No single performance was any better than Jack Raymond, goaltender for New Ulm. He had darn near 60 shots against him and really kept the opening round game against Mahtomedi close for a long period of time. He was athletic, solid/sturdy all game. His performance was fun to watch.
I took extra interest in Eden Prairie, as my son, Eric, works with the team and their goaltenders. I hadn’t seen EP play all year. Frankly, I was disappointed with their opening night performance. I was asking my son if this performance was “normal.” He said it was not. Often, the first game brings the most nerves which can make it hard to get on the right track.
Friday night, game two, they were a much better version of themselves. And by Championship Saturday, they were playing what I think was their A+ game when it was needed most against a very good Edina team. EP played outstanding. If not for the effort of Edina goaltender Louden Hogg, there would not have been an overtime period. EP played outstanding
As championship teams do, they win even when on the receiving end of another’s best shot. Edina took EP’s best shot, came up with the needed goaltending, and I have to say, they took advantage of their limited chances. The three goals they scored were near perfectly placed GREAT shots. One has to give Edina great credit. They found a way to win against what was a very good opponent. Another great and entertaining game where both teams represented themselves well. And in spite of EP’s great performance, Edina, who played well all throughout the season, proved they are deserving of being 2019 champions.
Now something for all of us to contemplate. What do you say to a young man who makes “the” big mistake to lose the game? It’s a hard question with maybe no right answer.
There are always many mistakes made in a game. That said, all mistakes are not equal in the outcome of the game. This play, this mistake that has replayed in my head numerous times, wasn’t the easy kind for me to forget, because it was totally controllable. And it came at a crucial time. That said, these are young adults, and in this case, I don’t know if the player even knows exactly what happened or what his mistake was. Maybe he hasn’t been trained to know. Maybe in the pressure of a bigger moment, he simply went a bit “brain dead.” Let’s be honest, we have all had such moments.
If this kind of mistake is made when working as a firefighter, quite possibly somebody gets hurt. There are many jobs where fundamental mistakes just cannot be made. Bad things happen when the fundamentals are not followed. In this hockey case, no one gets physically hurt, but the team goes home.
Of course, during the game, everyone, each player and each coach, likely are imperfect. Mistakes will be made. At the end of it all, all any of us are left with are memories, and hopefully the desire to reflect honestly and to be a little better in every way in the future. Each of us must have the resolve to do so. I hope this player, if aware of his error, is not too hard on himself, yet has the resolve to learn from it positively to not let it happen again! “The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat” was the old mantra of ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and as always, it applies to this year’s tournament as well.
All said, I have never been more impressed with the overall display of skills by all teams and all players. I extend my heart-felt congratulations to organizers, coaches and players in continuing to build this great hockey tradition we all are fortunate to share in. And as great as the State Tournament spectacle continues to be, let us not forget, there is great hockey out there in many places. We still have much to compete with on many levels.
A St. Paul native and forward for the University of Minnesota from 1978-82, Kevin Hartzell coached in the USHL from 1983-89 with the St. Paul Vulcans and from 2005-12 with the Sioux Falls Stampede. He was the head coach of Lillehammer in Norway’s GET-Ligaen from 2012-14. His columns have appeared in Let’s Play Hockey since the late 1980s. His book “Leading From the Ice” is available at amazon.com.
Photo: Nick Wosika