Minnesota High School State Tournament
Class AA Final
Minnetonka Skippers 5, Duluth East Greyhounds 2
ST. PAUL, MN — Hours-long wait in lines, bands blaring, over 22,000 people for a singular high school hockey game. All of this is on display every year for the Minnesota Class AA state championships.
For the third-seeded Duluth East, the Greyhounds were on the chase for their fourth title and first since 1998 with legendary coach Mike Randolph leading the way. As for top-seeded Minnetonka, the Skippers were seeking to hang their first banner in program history with first-year head coach Sean Goldsworthy at the helm.
Matt Koethe scored twice, Joe Molnaar had a goal and two assists, while Charlie Glockner made 29 saves as the Skippers came away victorious over the physical Hounds en route to a 5-2 victory for their first-ever championship at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Saturday night in front of a raucous crowd that was announced to be well over the arena’s listed capacity.
“It’s pretty special,” Minnetonka senior forward Luke Loheit said. “I love these guys so much… we’ll walk together forever.”
After all the build up, both teams came out looking to dominate the first period with their own style of play. For Duluth East, it was hard-hitting checks and puck control that initially led them to scoring the game’s opening goal 7:11 into the period. The play was generated after Austin Jouppi led the Hounds’ rush into the zone down the near boards. Right before he crossed the goal line he passed off to Ricky Lyle who was skating straight towards the net with no one around him. Lyle took the puck and jabbed it far side to get the night’s scoring underway.
As for Minnetonka, they focused on their speed just as it had worked all season and throughout the tournament. It was on display in their semifinal victory of Centennial and the process paid off again when Skippers’ defender Grant Docter let go a shot from the point that was kicked around in front of the net before sophomore Bobby Brink scooped it up, juked Duluth East goatender Parker Klieve and slipped in a backhander to even the game at one with 4:54 remaining in the first period.
After Brink’s power-play goal, it was not long after the Skippers found the back of the net once more to take its first lead of the evening. Only 1:38 later, Koethe glided along the ice and around Duluth East defenseman to the goal line before he tried shoot a point blank shot to the far side of the net. Instead of going far side, however, he slightly hesitated and shot the puck right over the shoulder of Klieve with little room to spare but enough put the boys in blue up 2-1 late in the opening frame.
“We get a power play, we like to step on people’s throats and score,” Goldsworthy said.
The Skippers would increase their lead early in the second on yet another power play as defender Andrew Hicks’ shot from the point went right in to make it a 3-1 score. Seeing this shot from the exact opposite end of the ice was spectacular. Hicks’ shot had no one to compete with in regard to traffic while Brink and Koethe successfully screened Klieve as the puck found a wide open net.
When asked by local news channel KFAN about feeling comfortable after rattling off three unanswered goals Goldsworthy said, “Not really ever. Mike Randolph runs one heck of a program, we know how competitive those kids are — they’re not an easy out.”
True to Goldsworthy’s prediction, the Hounds responded.
After a first period where the Skippers outshot the Hounds 16-8, physicality began taking a toll as Duluth East fired from all angles. They were finally rewarded when Jouppi took Luke LaMaster’s pass all alone into the zone and pulled them back to within one as he looked far side, but shot it near side just over Glockner’s glove hand.
With the score 3-2, the second frame became one of controversy as Ian Mageau was nearly checked into Glockner by the Minnetonka defenders. Mageau was able to avoid the netminder by diving over him yet was still sent to the box amongst raining jeers from the crowd. East was able to recoup that time only a few minutes later, though, as Minnetonka “Mr. Hockey” finalist and captain Luke Loheit checked an East player into the net to much dismay from the crowd. It initially wasn’t called on the ice, but the refs were finally pressured into calling him for interference.
While it didn’t lead to a goal for the Hounds, it showed the refs were more than willing to send players to the box after refusing to call anything prior.
Duluth East continued to hammer Glockner in net as they looked to get even with Minnetonka throughout the third, but were never able to capitalize on the numerous man-advantages. Glockner continued to make stellar saves and even made one that would make an NHL highlight reel as he somehow perfectly placed his pad to the post just in time to stop a Hounds’ shot from going in.
The unit that should be most recognized after this game is the Minnetonka penalty kill that went six-for-six in neutralizing the highly dangerous Garrett Worth and company from pulling their squad back into it.
Minnetonka (27-2-2) finally busted the game open with a goal from Molenaar only two minutes into the final stanza to make it 4-2. The goal initially appeared to be kicked in, but after officials convened it was ruled a good goal after replay showed he did not use a kicking motion to put the puck in the net off passes from Docter and Brink.
With time running low, the Hounds finally pulled Kleive in a desperation attempt to come up with two goals and force overtime. But as Koethe came off the bench behind every Duluth East player, he cherry-picked a pass and skated the puck home for the empty-netter sealing the Skippers’ victory and their first state title.
— UpNorthHockey (@hockey1North) March 11, 2018
Tonka wins first ever state title, 5-2 victors over Duluth East. pic.twitter.com/jtiyz3z4Rt
— YHH (@YouthHockeyHub) March 11, 2018
For Duluth East (25-3-3), the loss is frustrating for everyone involved with the program. The Greyhounds continually have made it to the championship game but have never broken through to find the promised land after falling in 2011 (to Eden Prairie 3-2 in 3OT), 2015 (to Lakeville North 5-1), and now to Minnetonka in 2018 along with numerous third-place finishes.
As for Minnetonka, salvation has arrived after dropping their first tournament appearance in 2010 to Edina.
After the game, Minnetonka’s Joe Molenaar was honored with the Herb Brooks Award which signifies hard-working individuals who play for their team, school, family and community with ethics that symbolize the late great coach. It was a bittersweet moment for Molenaar who lost his father when he was 12. Goldsworthy mentioned after the game he was “a glue guy” for Minnetonka, and, “it was a no brainier — I nominated him right away.”
“We went into this game high-energy and the bounces went our way,” Molenaar said.
— West Metro Hockey (@westmetrohockey) March 11, 2018
The All-Tournament team, which is voted on by select members of the media, was also announced following all the fan fare: Sammy Walker and Ben Brinkman of Edina, Rob Christy of St. Thomas Academy, Garrett Worth, Ian Mageau, Parker Klieve, and Luke LaMaster of Duluth East, and Bobby Brink, Charlie Glockner, Grant Docter, Joe Molenaar, and Josh Luedtke of Minnetonka.
1-Charlie Glockner (Minnetonka) – 29 saves, 1 A
2-Matt Koethe (Minnetonka) – 2 G
3-Joe Molenaar (Minnetonka) – 1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts
Class A Final
Orono Spartans 2, Alexandria Cardinals 1
ST. PAUL, MN — Landon Wittenberg’s goal, 6:17 into the third period assisted by Jack Kubitz and Zach Adams, snapped the tie and sparked third-seeded Orono to a 2-1 victory over fourth-seeded Alexandria in the final of the Minnesota State High School League Class A championship game at Xcel Energy Center.
Thomas Walker gave Orono the 1-0 lead 7:18 into the game with assists from Lucas Jorgenson and Jack Suchy, but Alexandria came right back 7:49 later as Jack Westlund tied it at 1-1 with an assist from Ben Doherty.
Orono outshot Alexandria 27-16 but needed all 15 saves from senior goalie Evan Babekuhl to secure the Spartans’ first ice hockey state title in school history.
Wittenberg’s first goal of the tournament came off point-to-point passing from the defensive tandem. After Adams fed Kubitz, the defenseman let a slapshot go from the blue line which sailed wide but caromed off the boards right to Wittenberg who made no mistake.
“I was so surprised that the puck popped right out on my stick,” Wittenberg said. “I was like, ‘There’s no way I can miss this.’ I just hammered it as hard as I could and left no doubt.”
Alexandria senior goalie Jackson Boline was named the Herb Brooks Award winner after yielding just three goals on 80 shots during 152:44 of time in between the pipes.
“Just to be playing in the championship game today, I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Alexandria coach Ian Resch said. “It’s going to take a couple of days. These guys will be able to reflect and realize what they’ve accomplished. They are in the middle of it right now, so it stings. They will be talking about this and will remember this for the rest of their lives.”
Orono finishes its dramatic season 27-3-1, while Alexandria closes out its 2017-18 campaign at 19-11-1.
1-Landon Wittenberg (Orono) – GWG
2-Jackson Boline (Alexandria) – 25 saves
3-Evan Babekuhl (Orono) – 15 saves
Written by Jack Kewitsch / @JackKewitsch
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Minnetonka and Duluth East stand for The National Anthem at Xcel Energy Arena on March 10, 2018. (Jack Kewitsch HockeyClan)
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