The Birth of a High School Border Battle
Historic Henry Sibley hosts Baldwin Woodville in inaugural game.
(Photo by Staci Lindus)
Historic Henry Sibley hosts Baldwin Woodville in inaugural game.
With two high school programs on the opposite ends of a hockey organizations life cycle, the Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks crossed the St. Croix River and into West Saint Paul to take on the Henry Sibley Warriors. Henry Sibley’s historic program made 8 trips to the Minnesota State High School tournament in the 70’s and 80’s. During those same years, The Baldwin-Woodville high school program did not exist, as it was not yet sanctioned by the high school league.
The Glory Years of Henry Sibley Hockey
The history of Henry Sibley hockey has a proud past and goes back many decades, with the team first showing strength by being runner up in the conference in 1954. The first star player was Paul Johnson, who won the gold medal on the 1960 Olympic team. Johnson was considered to have as much pure offensive talent as any player to come out of Minnesota in that era. “All the way through high school, he was the scourge,” Jack McCartan said. “He could control the game, do anything he wanted.”
The program continued to build with its glory years twenty years ahead, as under Head Coach Bob Boysen, who coached the team from 1971 -1977, the team would make four consecutive trips to the state tournament. Starting in 1973, the team made its first of many trips to the old Met Center for the annual Boys high School state tournament. The next season, the team would have two all-state players in John Albers and Doug Spoden with its leading scorer Dick Novak who had 56 points, finishing 4th in the State.
Head coach Joe Zwiec would take over the team from 1978-1988 and would make back to back appearances in 1982 and 1983, with the 83 club finishing 3rd in the state. Bemidji State University’s current head coach Tom Serratorre would coach the team to the state tournament in 1993 with the last club making the trip in 1997 under head coach Tim Guyer. In this stretch of hockey, the team sent multiple players onto college with several being drafted by NHL teams.
NHL draftees include Brian Ahern, who was drafted by the St. Louis Blues and Tony Troje who was drafted by the Chicago Black Hawks.
College standout players who are all in the Sibley Hockey Hall of Fame are numerous and include UMD’s John Albers, St. Coud States George Awada – (who played professionally in Europe), Bob Baumgartner – Notre Dame, Terry Brown (who was a two time All American at Augsburg), Ben Christopherson – Mankato State, Mark and Tom Genz – United States International, Dave Cosgrove – Ohio State University, Corey Hessler – University of Alaska Anchorage, Glen Johnson – Yale, Ken Kaiser – University of Masachusetts Lowell (holds NCAA record for most goals in one game as he scored 9 times against Amercan University), Mark Leitner – University of Alaska Anchorage, Mark Liska (Goalie) – Bemidji State (Liska is the only three-time First-Team Titan AHCA All-America honoree in BSU history and is one of two players to earn First-Team All-America honors three times during his career. During his time at BSU the Beavers went 113-17-4).
Other collegians include Dick Novak (Forward) – University of River Falls (Novak was named to the Minnesota State All-Tournament team in 1974). Novak earned NAIA All-American honors – only the fourth Falcon at the time to have earned the award), Mike Sack (Forward)- Augsburg College ( was inducted into the Augsburg College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997 for hockey and was also an All-American in 1975). Mark Shaughnessy – Brown University and Doug Spoden (Forward) – Minnesota Duluth ( was named to the Minnesota State All-Tournament team in 1974).
With the demographics changing on the suburb of St. Paul, the glory years of Sibley hockey is a distant memory, but hope lives on in their newly remodeled ice arena. The Sibley team is showing signs of a rebirth, having won double digit games under head coach Pat Bogie two years ago for the first time in over a decade. The West St. Paul youth program is still very competitive, but in high school it loses its talent. With private schools like St. Thomas Academy within minutes, the problem arises when the top talent decides to play elsewhere. Losing these high end players has a huge impact on any program. However, with new head coach Corey Hessler that may be a thing of the past, as the former professional player is determined to do all he can to keep his talent home.
While Henry Sibley hockey was having a strong run with trips to the mecca of all of high school hockey, the Minnesota State Boys High School Tournament, the Baldwin program was just getting started.
The Birth of a high school club team in Baldwin
As the migration of several hockey families moved into the Baldwin area from the Twin Cities, the high school program came about in 1973, as enough interest and talent had arrived. With the Dittman family moving in from White Bear Lake, along with newcomers including Bob Sell, the Smith’s, Jack Mielke, and the Bob Leaf family, with local families including the Hawley’s, Walkers, and the Godfather of Baldwin Hockey, Russ Schultz, the desire to form a hockey team was all there.
The first team was led by the three Dittman brothers, Neal, Dan and Mike, who previously was the starting center for a strong White Bear lake hockey program. Goalie Randy Walker, who never played hockey before, was recruited, as he was a strong all-around athlete that was known for his quickness. Walker recalls that his game was made easier by Mike Dittman, who was a prolific scorer, “the Dittman’s were so good that they played much of the game. Mike’s shot was so hard that it would often go through the chicken wire that was used above the boards that the volunteer local builders put up with the rink located in the high school parking lot.”
Walker recalls that first year was a real challenge,” the team had no warming house, and we had to dress in cars or on the snowbank.” Coached by Tim and Dennis Smith, along with goalie coach Tuna (his style of goal keeping was like a flopping fish) Marcotte, the team played outdoors against teams from Chippewa Falls, Rice Lake, Menomonie, Hudson and New Richmond with an indoor game at the only indoor facility in River Falls.
The Birth of an indoor rink in Baldwin
In 1997, the city authorized the hockey association to go ahead with building the Baldwin Civic Arena. With the ground thawing, and the need for plumbing to get in, Pete Hawley took his shovel and dug the first trenches. With construction started, According to Andy Lindus, “Russ Schultz showed up every day, acting as a foreman, pushing the guys to get things done.”
With Kevin Lindus providing materials and expertise, along with an attitude of never say never, the rink was built. Lindus was told repeatedly that Baldwin would never have an indoor rink. “No doesn’t mean never, and we were determined to prove to those who said we would never ever have an indoor rink, that we would.”
Rink Building Chairman Jay Monson said that, “without the village’s support, the rink never happens.” Having a dedicated crew of people who would bring dinner for the crew and some even sleeping on site, the project was completed in January of 1998.
Most of these people were volunteers and never got paid, nor did they expect it, as they just wanted to see this project through. It’s the way this small town operates and is why many of these families are proud to call Baldwin their home town.
Russ Schultz remarked “Without all these people, and the support from the community, hockey would not be in Baldwin.” Once the rink was built, Schultz became the voice of the Hawks, announcing almost all of the traveling team and Varsity games. His wife Rose served with him, running the music, until her passing in 2008.
The Black Hawks home rink, the United Civic Center, is ran by all volunteers. When entering the building, the first thing that meets the eye is the three back to back to back state championship trophies that the St. Croix Fusion High School club has won.
Coached by Matt Cranston since its inception, the Fusion combines The Baldwin-Woodville girls with the River Falls program. During an incredible run from 2009-2011 and a combined record of 72 wins 7 losses and 2 ties, the team won 3 straight titles.
As one sits in the stands looking out at the rink, it is impossible to not notice the state championship banners, as well as the conference title banners hanging from the ceiling. The future looks very bright for this program as this year’s young team has added several banners hanging from the rafters.
The Birth of the High School Border Battle
With first year Henry Sibley Head Coach Corey Hessler in charge, the team is in great hands. The former Sibley star player, who is in the Sibley Hockey Hall of Fame, has an impressive playing career. After High school, Hessler played Junior A Hockey for the Twin City Vulcan, before moving on to play for Alaska Anchorage. He then played professional hockey for teams across the United States, from Portland (AHL) and Fresno, to Greenville and Fayetteville, along with stops in the IHL for the Milwaukee Admirals and the Rockford Ice Hogs (AHL).
Hessler and Sibley Assistant coach Luke Trickle have ties to the Baldwin program, as both work for Midwest Leafguard/ Lindus Construction, a company that is based in Baldwin and where Trickle starred for the Hawks as a player.
Last year, with Hessler as the coach, the teams JV’s played one another. This year, with Hessler taking over the head coaching duties, he and Andy Lindus (the voice heard on Saturday morning on a popular home improvement show on WCCO radio) began to discuss a way to build a long term relationship between the two teams. With the school administrations blessing, the creation of an annual game between the two teams would birth their own border battle. The plan is to schedule one another for the next 10 years, with each team alternating hosting, with a combined team meal after the game.
The BW High School team past to present
From 1973 to 1998 the club team played in the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association winning several state titles.
After the rink was built, the team took a big step forward by joining the WIAA and the Middle Borders Conference in 1998. The early years were rough, and under head coaches Greg Gamache, Jayson Sell, and Pat Borgestad, the boys’ sanctioned high school team has never recorded a winning record.
However, the future looks very bright, with its young team (only one Senior, Luke Meyer), off to its best start ever. Meyer remembers the lean years well, “as a freshman, we struggled, and we only won a couple of games. Now, with the young guys pitching in and winning some games, it feels really good.” Meyer appreciates the team’s success and as the only senior is trying to provide the needed leadership, “I am trying to keep the bar raised high, keeping the team as one, and winning some games.”
The team is seasoned with several summer triple AAA hockey players and is off to an 12-6 start Head Coach Rick Coltrain , who became head coach last year said “the key is hard work, the team has been working really hard and doing all of the little things, and has really answered the bell.” Coltrain has had success as a head coach, in girls softball, winning the state championship for the Hawks and coming close with two runner up finishes with both games ending 1-0 losses.
Baldwin’s Brandon Connett-Leads state in scoring
The Hawks are led by prolific scorer, Brandon Cornett, with 59 points in just 18 games. Connett has had an amazing year. Earlier this season, Brandon had a stretch of 5 games where he recorded a hat trick in each game. He has also had one game where he recorded eight points with 5 goals and 3 assists.
The sophomore played last year with the Minnesota Revolution as a Tier 1 player, amassing 60 points, against the top level Tier one teams across the United States. He missed playing with his high school friends and is now leading the state in scoring. This past week, he was named the Wisconsin prep hockey player of the week, after another phenomenal week. Connett when asked about the week he had said, “Our team had a great week as things went very well.” When pressed for his being named the Wisconsin hockey player of the week, he humbly admitted he had a special week, “With help from my line mates, I had a good week with one goal and 4 assists against Somerset, one goal and three assist against Siren and 4 assists in the Sibley game.”
The Inaugural Border Battle Game and recap
With 3 goal and 3 assists Landon Albrightson leads Hawks to 6-4 Victory
On Hockey Day MN played this past Saturday, the First Annual Border Battle between Baldwin Woodville and Henry Sibley was played. Both teams battled hard to see who would take home the hardware.
Sibley took advantage of the slow starting Hawks on first period goals by started strong and jumping out to a 2-0 lead on first period goals by Frankie Einberger, who tipped a blast past Hawk goalie Bryan Bresina and a sharp angle snipe by Johnny McGuire.
In between periods, the Hawk coaching staff challenged its forwards by telling them the game would hinge on their speed versus the Sibley defenders. The Hawks would battle back, on two goals by Landon Albrightson and another by Leo Rasmussen, sandwiched between Sibley’s third goal, a blast by Colin Gallagher. The score would be even at three a piece going into the third period.
With the score still tied with less than 7 minutes to go, Baldwin’s lone senior, Luke Meyer would break the tie on a nice set up from Brandon Connett and Landon Albrightson. The Hawks lead would be short lived, as Sibley’s Jack Flynn would score on the power play on a questionable hooking call on Mitchell Hurtgen. Just 25 seconds later, Hurtgen would get revenge, scoring on a blast over the goalies shoulder from 30 feet out after receiving a long stretch pass from Connett.
Sibley fought hard for the equalizer, but Baldwin would not waiver, as the Warriors applied tremendous pressure for the last 4 minutes of the game but could not score, as the Baldwin defenders blocked 10 shots in that time frame. With under 30 seconds to play, Baldwin’s Connett would win a key defensive zone face off and Albrightson would take a Hail Mary shot at the goal from behind his own goal line, shooting the puck high over the Sibley players and his shot was a bull eye, scoring from 180 feet, which clinched the game by a 6-4 score.
The teams then shook hands and went off the ice, only to meet 25 minutes later to have dinner together in the inaugural Sibley-Baldwin Border Battle.
Baldwin Assistant Coach Andy Lindus, the driving force of arranging this series, looked out and beamed remarking, “That is the thing that makes hockey special, after competing hard for three periods, these teams go through the line and shake hands, we have added the meal afterwards as hockey is also all about the relationships you establish at the rink.”
|Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks||1 for 2 (50.0%)|
|Henry Sibley||1 for 2 (50.0%)|
|Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks||6 minutes on 3 infractions|
|Henry Sibley||6 minutes on 3 infractions|
- 1st Period
- 7:52 Henry Sibley, #44 Frankie Einberger (even strength) (#25 Gage Bruestle, #Johnny McGuire)
- 8:15 Henry Sibley, #24 Johnny McGuire (even strength) (#15 Colin Gallagher, #18 Adam Tschida)
- 2nd Period
- 10:56 Baldwin-Woodville, #16 Landon Albrightson (power play) (#9 Luke Meyer, #22 Gavin Hessler)
- 12:07 Henry Sibley, #15 Colin Gallagher (even strength) (#11 Max Rosenfield)
- 13:27 Baldwin-Woodville, #16 Landon Albrightson (even strength) (#17 Brandon Connett)
- 16:09 Baldwin-Woodville, #6 Leo Rasmussen (even strength) (#17 Brandon Connett, #16 Landon Albrightson)
- 3rd Period
- 10:30 Baldwin-Woodville, #9 Luke Meyer (even strength) (#16 Landon Albrightson, #17 Brandon Connett)
- 12:49 Henry Sibley, #20 Jack Flynn (power play) (#18 Adam Tschida, #28 Ty Tostrud)
- 13:14 Baldwin-Woodville, #8 Mitchell Hurtgen (even strength) (#19 Tucker Nauss, #16 Landon Albrightson)
- 16:47 Baldwin-Woodville, #16 Landon Albrightson (even strength) (#17 Brandon Connett)
- 3rd Period
- 11:35 Baldwin-Woodville, #8 Mitchell Hurtgen Hooking – Minor (2:00)
Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks Roster
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Henry Sibley Roster
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Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks Goalies
Henry Sibley Goalies