I always look forward to the program every year for the cover art work. This is River Shinny by Terrence Fogarty. As always, it’s a reproduction of beautiful Lake Darling. OK, I made up that last sentence.
[So, it’s the following morning. We’re at Ridder Arena on the U campus where the Gopher women’s team plays. The Cards are playing New Ulm in the consolation bracket. New Ulm has a superior record, but we suspect the Cards will be the better team. Here the Voice of the Cardinals is setting up while he meets with the president of the local chapter of the Dave Harris Fan Club.]
[Dave is joined by his partner in crime, Bob Cunniff, on the right, and by the principal (remember the principal is your “pal”) of Jefferson High School, Chad Duwenhoegger. Chad is actually showing photos of his vacation to some southern respite like all Alexandrians have been doing this winter.]
[We’re in the 2nd period now, down 1 – 0. It seems like our last 10 games of the season we were down 1 – 0 after one. I asked the parents in the stands if the team was aware that it is not illegal for us to score first?]
[Center ice for a face-off. Somewhere in here I must have fallen asleep. This was probably the start of overtime. The Cards got goal from Nicole, and then being down 3 – 2 late in the game, Lauren made a beautiful play and scored a short-handed goal to tie the game at 3. This game was eerily similar to the first game, except in this game we really dominated the game when we weren’t shorthanded. I can’t remember if the Eagle goals were on power plays, but I seem to recall the only shots they got on goal in the 2nd period is when they were on power plays. ]
Anatomy of a game winning goal, in triple overtime, in a state tournament, courtesy McKenzie Revering (29), freshman defense:
[Good camera anticipation here if I do say so myself. Little Rev had a similar solo not much before this one where she made it all the way to the goalie and got off a good backhander. But the goalie could see it well and made the stop. This time I kept the camera rolling . . . ]
[And I think she just powered it in from the backhand side! 🙂 It was really nice in this game to get goals from someone other than Mel. In fact, with Nicole, Lauren, and McKenzie, the last three goals came from defensemen.]
[The Echo Press photo.]
[On Saturday, we played, and lost, the consolation championship to Proctor-Hermantown. We were weathered-out of attendance, but the radio broadcast seemed to indicate we again had the advantage when the teams were at even strength. But we really hurt ourselves with penalties in the tournament. 😦 ]
So, what we’ve learned [a/k/a, The Annual Report]: After all, we’re firm believers in continuing education. First, we’ve learned that in the year of the polar vortex, it’s getting harder and harder to do this! Your intrepid reporter has to plan ahead before he ventures out every morning and noon for the newspaper and mail. Before he traverses the entire length of the driveway, he advises the supervisor that if he’s not back in a half hour, engage a search party and call 9-1-1. We left Wednesday morning, February 19, for the drive to St. Paul and the state tournament. We almost turned back for home before we got to Osakis. Between heading into a blinding sunrise, we would run into dense fog banks where visibility was limited to the end of the car hood. We limped all the way to Albany before we cleared that hurdle. We came home the next day in a blinding snow storm that lasted until we hit Freeport. We opted out of going back down for the consolation final on Saturday based on the advice of . . . everyone within a 5-state area. The Thursday blizzard had rendered travel south and east of St. Cloud death defying. Thus, we missed the girls’ consolation championship game, and the boys’ section semi-final game against Apollo in St. Cloud that we had planned on catching on the way home (we won in 2 OT’s!).
We have been following girls’/women’s hockey since 2003. And this year we had the Olympics, too. The game still belongs to . . . Canada, and congrats to them.
The USA’s women’s team was absolutely the most fun women’s team ever to watch play. Unfettered, they were so fast they seemed unbeatable. But Canada fettered them. They made the US speed advantage disappear with a combination of their own speed – and strength. Canada’s strength advantage manifested itself in face-offs, forechecking, and on their skates (don’t get knocked down or off the puck with contact). In the two games the teams played in the Olympics, the Canadians seemed to have an advantage in all those areas.
The women’s game in general, at the international, college, and high school level, is still improving by leaps and bounds. There’s been concern at the international level that Canada and the US are too dominant – but other countries are improving by starting with the goalie position. Switzerland was tough in that regard in these Olympics. And there weren’t any double digit blowout games this time around. That was also true in the state high school tournament – all the games are pretty competitive now.
The Cards played well in the tournament. I thought we passed as well as we had all year. We skate well, have good depth, and from all reports have some talent coming up from the U-12 and U-14 teams. In other years, I usually had a pretty good idea as to who would be the scorer(s) the following year. I’m not sure who’s going to make up for the loss of Mel’s goals next year. I’m sure someone will surprise me. It seems likely that some of our offensive defensemen will be moved up to the forward line – Nicole, Lauren, and Little Rev are all potential scorers. That’s what we did with Mel and Taylor. And I really noticed late in the season, and in the state tournament, that we really need to improve on face-offs (hit those rowing machines in the off-season?). It jumped out at me in the St. Cloud game (incidentally, the best team I saw all year based on that one game (I didn’t see Hopkins)) where it seemed they won every face-off. Blake beat us badly at that in the tournament. Their big shot advantage in the 3rd period was in winning face-off after face-off in our zone and getting an immediate shot on goal. Dave and Bob also mentioned it on the radio during the Proctor game. It’s amazing we played all the games close in spite of that.
Going back to the top of the page, what a change from just 6 years ago. On our state championship team, we just had one player who could make you jump out of the way with a slapshot – now assistant coach, Ashley Holmes. Though she played defense, her teammates called her the power forward. Now every one on the team can smoke a riser from the blue line. Lauren, who has a terrific slapshot, scored her “shortie” on one in the New Ulm game. I don’t the goalie ever got a good look at it. Now everybody, just get a little stronger for next year. 😉
[Mel gets squished in the Blake game (Echo photo). Congrats to her and her senior teammates for another state tournament season . . . and comeback and see us again sometime. 🙂 ]
As may be obvious from the photo boundaries surrounding this blog, you may get the idea that girls’ hockey is my favorite spectator sport. Why, you may ask (as many often do, of course)? I don’t really know. It may be analogous to why is your favorite color red? It just is. It probably has to do with our age, growing up in a time when there were no girl sports at all. And that hockey would seem to be the least attractive sport for girls – it’s so macho. But that’s probably just our old age chauvinism (several of the Super Fans deign only to go to girls’ hockey games and no other sports). We once asked Abby Williams why she wore pink laces in her skates. Her response was, “Because it makes me look tough.” For someone of Abby’s stature, we found that immeasurably appealing. For while girls’ hockey does not allow checking (why we prefer it to the boys’ game), it is still incredibly physical. And because of that, concussions are always going to be a concern. We lost a couple of players for several games this year because of concussions. It’s a high speed game, and while the helmets can help prevent skull fractures, I’m not sure if anything can be done to prevent concussions except to try to limit collision situations as much as possible.
Best of luck to the boys tonight. If they can beat St. Cathedral, it’s the state tournament for them as well.
p.s. Dear Girls’ Hockey Team: Was it really necessary to go three overtimes in the New Ulm game. We knew the snow storm was going to start about noon, and if the game would ended in regulation, we would have made it home unfettered (twice in one posting?). As it was, the minute we stepped out of Ridder after the 3rd OT, we knew we were in trouble. I wonder if School District 206 would have paid for an overnight for us? On second thought, based on the road conditions down there, we still wouldn’t be home!
Addendum (because I tend to forget stuff): Canada has 85,000 girls/women hockey players. The US has 68,000. Size matters. And that may be just the reason Canada continues to produce the better. The rest of the world is way behind those numbers so they will have to increase participation if they want to be competitive.
Of course size matters at the high school level too. And it’s trending the wrong way. The Minnesota High School League came on TV during the tournament to note that hockey participation is dropping. There may be several reasons for this – the most obvious are economics and time. Hockey is an expensive, time-consuming sport – and like golf, there are apparently other things people want to do with their time and money. At the girls high school level, it means more consolidations. Consolidations create more class AA schools – and more girls who would have played for their own town’s school may now be shut out in the numbers game. And that’s why I think, particular at the class A level, the private schools are becoming more and more dominant with their better access to players and resources. This year private schools won both the class A and AA tournaments, with the AA championship game between two private schools. I found it a bit incongruous that one of the major TV sponsors for the tournament is Education Minnesota, a public school entity. But as the number of class A teams diminish, that leaves teams like Alex having to play a schedule that includes more and more AA teams. This year fully half of their pre-tournament schedule was against the bigger teams. You do well to just finish above .500 in those circumstances.
[Alex hockey team in the early ’60’s, before it was even a school sport. Hey, I know these guys! 🙂 Our boys lost the section final last night – 2-1 to St. Cloud Cathedral (yup, another private school). From all reports a very evenly played game. Congrats to them to a terrific season!]