To understand America, it is merely necessary to understand Minnesota. ~ Sinclair Lewis
In a section that turned out to be a real bracket-buster, the 5th-seeded Alexandria Cardinal boys hockey team defeated the 3rd-seeded Willmar Cardinals, 2 –1, at the MAC in St. Cloud to win the Section 6A championship. Following the path established by the distaff side, the Cards parlayed an almost identical regular season record as the girls’ team, 9-15-1, into a state championship berth. The team has been a bit undermanned all season, has overcome some injuries, has made some position and line changes, and appear to have settled on sophomore Ben Allen as the goalie. Good on them.
The Super Fans had many competing interests last night – the Rileys were down at the “U” following the exploits of their grandson, Aaron, who was in the state tournament after winning the section diving championship; the Justices are following “Roadblock” as she leads the Gusties into tournament action – they beat Concordia, 5 – 2, last night and will now play for the MIAC championship. But we connected with Al Grundei, who has recently displayed his chops, and is now a full-fledged Super Fan.
We met Al at Anton’s for the pre-game meal – because that is what Super Fans do. It was our first trip to the MAC this year, and, truth be known, we go down there mainly for the popovers at Anton’s. And because Super Fans are mostly interested in the menu items, the supervisor had a lovely crusted stuffed salmon w/mashed sweet potatoes, and a Gnarly Head chardonnay; Al had broiled shrimp w/mashed sweet potatoes, and, wanting to keep his wits about him, an Arnie Palmer; and this reporter had blackened swordfish w/mashed sweet potatoes (notice a trend?) and a Big Ass Cabernet (now how could you not order something named “Big Ass”?).
Then it was on the MAC – we got lost on the way, of course, but that’s becoming par for the course these days. The place was packed, and we were intially directed to the far side of the rink as Alex fans. We stayed there for the 1st period, but moved to the other side for the final 2 periods – we were on the student side, which was fine, but decided to go join the older folk. You will note the change of seating from the videos and photos.
The game featured two evenly matched teams – they split during the regular season, each team winning at home. And good for the refs for letting them play – there was a lot of serious hitting, but only three penalties were called in the entire game. At the end of the 1st period, Al was quite dismayed that 17 minutes could go by so fast – continuous action that ended in a 0 – 0 tie. About halfway through the 2nd period, our Cards scored on a beautiful set-up by junior forward, Jordan Domine – with the puck deep on Willmar’s left side, he waited for just the right moment to rifle a pass to the far side of the net where an open Nick Swanson, senior forward, one-timed it into the open net. Shortly thereafter, our Cards took their only penalty of the game – to Willmar’s credit, they took advantage and just 17 seconds into the penalty rifled a shot from the blue line, through a maze of players, and caught the corner of the net. Just tip your hat to them.
The 3rd period began with a 1 – 1 tie, and it seemed obvious to all that whoever scored next was likely to win. Our Cards did it! Another nice set-up by Domine to the far side where junior forward Jacob Hennessy rifled it home. As Willmar pressed the action trying to tie, they got a couple of late penalties – though Alex had several good chances to ice the game then, we couldn’t score. So it was a 2 – 1 game down to the wire, and we had to hold on when Willmar pulled their goalie. All three periods were evenly and well-played – I thought our Cards had a slight advantage in each and finished with a 30-25 shots-on-goal advantage. The deserving team won. A couple of videos – from the game start, and then, of course, the finish – there’s nothing quite like a hockey celebration:
[The student side.]
It was non-tournament type weather last night. The temperature was in the high 20’s, the roads were dry and clear – though winter wear was showing on I-94. As we approached Avon, I think I lost a couple of fillings. A major snow “event” projected for the middle of next week, however.
Super Fan Julie Shaughnessy checked in from Arizona:
Thank you so much for keeping us on top of all our teams. We felt so bad about the girls’ seeded with that up-north powerhouse, but they still should be honored to get to state – WOW.
We were with a bunch of Alex folk down here last night, and one of the boys’ grandmothers was in the group. Needless to say, she is over the top about our hockey boys going to state. The boy and his family are due down here Saturday for a weeklong visit–looks like that won’t be happening. The coach (Scott Woods-grade 5-Voyager) called me this morning to see if we would be back so I could sub for him—how much are those plane tickets? So the whole nation (at least FL and AZ and MN) are all abuzz about our Alex sports teams. ~ Julie
The boys basketball team, currently on a 3-game winning streak, closes their regular season hosting Rocori tonight. Rocori handled them easily at their place – a good final test for the Cards. The supervisor, physically and emotionally drained, has asked for the night off from fandom in preparation for the girls semi-finals in St. Cloud tomorrow.
[Addendum: I was hoping to have tournament brackets by now. In their absence . . . The supervisor has been packing for three days now. We are taking a “post-season” vacation – minimum 11 days from now. She has these clear plastic tubs of clothing items under beds all over the house. She takes them out, piles their innards on top of the bed, and stares at them for a long while . . . I can actually almost see the little wheels spinning: “Brunch, on the 13th day!” Men will never understand this. Five minutes before the car backs out of the garage, I’ll throw some things in a suitcase and away we’ll go.
I was told at the ‘Y’ this morning that I must be a real sports fan. Actually, I’m not. I am, however, a Cardinal fan. There is a difference. I have long since stopped following any professional sport – except for the Twins. Pro “sports” are nothing more than thousands of hours of advertising interspersed by an occasional play. The same is true of big-time college athletics. Plus, the level of play is disheartening. I can’t watch Gopher men’s basketball, for example. There is a total absence of movement or any kind of offensive concept. Then I look at our Cardinal girls’ basketball team – they come down the court, recognize the defense, go to their positions . . . and constantly move! It’s such a pleasure to watch – there is a plan in mind.
Finally, from an old family friend:
[Thank you, thank you. I felt like I was there. Thanks for the popover tip. Pretty soon we will have to wear helmets when traveling on I-94 so that we do not have a closed head injury.]