Minnesota Hockey Magazine https://minnesotahockeymag.com Minnesota's leading online hockey destination. Sat, 16 Jan 2021 15:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-IMG_8923-1-32x32.jpg Minnesota Hockey Magazine https://minnesotahockeymag.com 32 32 Phil Housley – MHM Exclusive Interview (Segment 5/8) https://minnesotahockeymag.com/phil-housley-mhm-exclusive-interview-segment-5-8/ https://minnesotahockeymag.com/phil-housley-mhm-exclusive-interview-segment-5-8/#respond Sat, 16 Jan 2021 15:00:15 +0000 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=2107 Segment 5 - Onto the NHL and Buffalo

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Segment 5 – Onto the NHL and Buffalo

Phil Housley talks to Scott Tiffany and MinnesotaHockeyMagazine.com on the big leap, going from South Saint Paul to the NHL.  Phil recalls his very first scrimmage in Lake Placid at camp where he scores a goal, but afterwards, is told to prepare to go to the minors.  Phil has a great camp and earns his way into the NHL, playing the next 8 years for the Buffalo Sabres.  Legendary coach Scotty Bowman leads a talented group of players, including Mike Ramsey, Lindsay Ruff and Phil’s favorite, Gil Perreault.  Phil then recalls the sad day when he learns His ride in Buffalo is over, as he has been traded.



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New Wild season, new Wild faces https://minnesotahockeymag.com/new-wild-season-new-wild-faces/ https://minnesotahockeymag.com/new-wild-season-new-wild-faces/#respond Thu, 14 Jan 2021 15:36:59 +0000 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=34364 Minnesota opens its abbreviated 20th season with a revamped roster

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New Wild goaltender Cam Talbot braces for one of his 37 saves for Edmonton in a 3-0 Oilers loss to Minnesota on April 2, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Jonny Watkins)

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the return of sports brought some normalcy in a world that still doesn’t feel normal. Turning the calendar to 2021 does not make everything instantly better, but it could still offer a fresh and new start.

So much is different in today’s world, and the Minnesota Wild roster headed into the shortened, 56-game season is no exception. During intermission at the second-and-final Wild scrimmage on Jan. 10, a season-preview video played on the videoboard. Veteran winger Zach Parise was shown in a clip and said of this season’s roster that it might be one of the most turnover years he’s been a part of in his career.

“I mean, we were sitting in the locker room yesterday, and (Nick) Bonino was asking me, ‘Who used to sit in this seat?’” Parise said. “’Well, you know, Mikko (Koivu) was there, Eric (Staal) was here.’ And I’m like, oh my gosh, this whole row is new guys.”

Indeed the Wild roster includes plenty of changes from the start of last season.

On the top two lines coming out of camp, only two of the six players were with the club last season, Parise and Kevin Fiala. Nick Bjugstad and Bonino will fill in the gaps at center left by the departed Staal and Koivu. The much-anticipated debut of 2015 NHL Draft pick Kirill Kaprizov will round out the top line, while Marcus Johansson and Fiala will play on either side of Bonino on the second line.

Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno are slated together for some consistency from last year. Greenway and Eriksson Ek played a lot together last season, formed what was dubbed the GEEK line with Luke Kunin, who was dealt in the Bonino deal with Nashville.

Thanks to a trade and an injury, the Wild goaltender tandem looks completely different as well. It was six years ago nearly to the day that the reeling Wild traded for Devan Dubnyk, where he thrived as the top goaltender. He was traded to San Jose this fall, so his old teammates will get to see a lot of him with the new division alignment; the Wild are in the West with Vegas, St. Louis, Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, Colorado and San Jose.   

The team signed Cam Talbot in October to take over the No. 1 spot in net. He has a career 2.61 goals against average and 0.915 save percentage in 314 career NHL games.

The blue line offers the biggest piece of consistency and similarity for the Wild this year. It will be Jonas Brodin and newly minted captain Jared Spurgeon as a duo, Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba, then Carson Soucy and Greg Pateryn. Perhaps no one will be in search of a fresh start this season more than Pateryn, who spent most of the 2019-20 campaign out with various injuries.

Speaking of injuries, the Wild are already making do without some players to start the season. Alex Stalock is out with an upper-body injury. Mats Zuccarello had surgery on his right arm in November and has an indefinite timetable for a return to play.

The Wild were also hoping to get a first look at 2021 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi following his standard quarantine period after playing for Austria in the World Junior Championships, but the Wild announced Jan. 10 that Rossi is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

This shortened, late-starting season contained a fast-tracked training camp with no preseason games. The Wild tuned up with a couple of intersquad scrimmages.

New Wild forward Nick Bjugstad turns the corner on UMD defenseman Chris Casto in a 2-2 tie between the Gophers and Bulldogs on Feb. 23, 2013 at Mariucci Arena. (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

In the second scrimmage on Jan. 10, Team Green struck first with a goal from Bjugstad 5-1/2 minutes into the scrimmage. He got to the front of the net and poked the puck past Talbot. Coach Dean Evason has seen Bjugstad’s willingness to get to those areas of the ice, which should generate some scoring opportunities.

“He’s got such a long reach, so when he gets around the net he’s going to find those loose pucks in whichever direction,” Evason said. “He’s got such good hands and strength that he should be able to score in that area.”

The 6-6 forward is getting his shot at playing top-line center. He has the “one of us” vibes for Minnesota fans, growing up playing for Blaine. His NHL career took him to Florida before he was traded to the Wild this offseason from Pittsburgh. He’ll be in search of a bounce-back season with his new team after missing 60 games last season because of injuries; he recorded a goal and an assist in only 13 games with the Penguins.

On a Team White power play in the second period, Fiala provided a nice feed over to Spurgeon off the rush, and the new captain sniped a quick shot that found the net after ringing the crossbar. That tied the contest 1-1 with 12:44 on the clock in the second as the sound system at Xcel Energy Center blasted “Crowd Chant.”

Spurgeon looks great on the ice so far, and Evason is excited about the way the defenseman is playing, from his compete level to his reads of plays and also jumping into the play offensively.

“His timing is real good, and he’s not sacrificing any defensive stuff because of it,” Evason said.

Brodin’s shot from the top of the circles made it a 2-1 Team White lead through two periods, which ended up as the final score. With that, the Wild had a couple of practices where they continued to work on special teams play before they jetted off to California to start the season with a four-game set against Los Angeles and Anaheim.

Evason said after the second scrimmage that he liked the progression from the first scrimmage, with 15-minute periods and special-teams work in between periods, to the second scrimmage, which took on the feel of a full 60-minute game with intermissions.  

“I thought the guys responded extremely well and look good to go,” Evason said. “Obviously, you’d always like to have a little more time, but we’re very happy with where we’re at.”

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Phil Housley – MHM Exclusive Interview (Segment 4/8) https://minnesotahockeymag.com/phil-housley-mhm-exclusive-interview-segment-4-8/ https://minnesotahockeymag.com/phil-housley-mhm-exclusive-interview-segment-4-8/#respond Thu, 14 Jan 2021 13:00:28 +0000 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=34263 Segment 4 - World Tourney and 1st Round Pick

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Segment 4 – World Tourney and 1st Round Pick


Phil Housley talks about playing  first for the St. Paul Vulcans with his brother Larry.  It was here where Scotty Bowman told the college scouts, I don’t know why you are here, I am picking him in the first round.  Housley then was given a 2 game tryout with the US National team.  The tryouts went well and he made the team, then found himself getting out of high school to go play  against the Red Army, and the NHL greats at the World Tournament.  After proving to himself that he could play with the best in the world, Phil knew he was ready to play in the NHL and that he did, never playing a game in the minors or in college.



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Phil Housley – MHM Exclusive Interview (Segment 3/8) https://minnesotahockeymag.com/video-phil-housley-part-7-international-star/ https://minnesotahockeymag.com/video-phil-housley-part-7-international-star/#respond Tue, 12 Jan 2021 15:00:49 +0000 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=2113 Segment 3 - High School Hockey Direct to US National Team

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Segment 3 – High School Hockey Years & the US National Team

In this segment, Phil Housley sits down with  Minnesota Hockey Magazine and recalls his High School career that included playing for Team USA while a Senior in High School. 

After scoring 118 goals his only year of Bantams, during his second year of Bantams, he was asked to try out for the High School team and made it.  This was nearly unheard of as South Saint Paul had a great midget program and usually jerseys were reserved for either Juniors or Seniors.

His Freshman year, the team nearly made it to the state tournament, but in the Section Final played in front of a packed St. Paul Auditorium crowd,  Harding’s Chuckie Weiss stopped all 51 shots in a 1-0 shut out.  The next year, Housley would play in the state tournament, and in the quarterfinals with time running down, he scored the tying goal against Minneapolis Southwest, only to lose in overtime.  The next year, the Packers would beat a solid Sibley team in the section finals and  made it back and beat the number 1 ranked Edina West team in the quarterfinals on Larry Housley’s goal with 5 seconds left.  Irondale would beat them in the semi’s which ended their run.  Housley’s Senior year was perhaps the hardest moments of his career when Sibley would knock them out in the Section Finals.  Housley’s season was far from over, as he would make the National Team for team USA and play in the World Tournament against the likes of the Red Army team that was still intact from the 80 Olympics and Wayne Gretzky.  

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Phil Housley – MHM Exclusive Interview (Segment 2/8) https://minnesotahockeymag.com/phil-housley-mhm-exclusive-interview-segment-2-8/ https://minnesotahockeymag.com/phil-housley-mhm-exclusive-interview-segment-2-8/#respond Sun, 10 Jan 2021 15:00:20 +0000 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=2105 Segment 2 - South Saint Paul Youth Hockey Years

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Segment 2 – From being cut to MVP- Housley shined in South St. Paul youth hockey

Phil Housley sits down with Minnesota Hockey Magazine.com as we take a look at his early years playing on the outdoor rinks in South Saint Paul.  Housley’s passion as a kid was all hockey.   When looking at his trophy case, one of Housley’s many awards displayed was an MVP A Squirt Award that he won, after initially being cut, assigned to a B team and then back up to the A Team.   Housley loved skating outdoors as a youth.  He would often ask his mother to wake him up an hour earlier than normal so he could skate before school.  He loved the early Saturday and Sunday morning skates,  as he knew the city flooded the rinks on Friday and Saturday nights, and the fresh sheet of ice was like glass.  When asked about the coaches who had an impact, he recalls those who really stuck out include George Powers,  his dad Leroy, along with Tom Moore and Paul Moen.  These men all had a major impact on Phil’s career. 

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Phil Houlsey – MHM Exclusive Interview (Segment 1/8) https://minnesotahockeymag.com/phil-houlsey-mhm-exclusive-interview-segment-1/ https://minnesotahockeymag.com/phil-houlsey-mhm-exclusive-interview-segment-1/#respond Thu, 07 Jan 2021 20:05:47 +0000 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=2100 Segment 1 - Incredible Career & Tour of His Trophy Room

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Segment 1 – Incredible Career & Tour of His Trophy Room

MHM is proud to present a series of exclusive interviews with international hockey star, Phil Housley.  This is the first segment of the 8 part series.

Phil Housley opens up his home to Scott Tiffany and Minnesota Hockey Magazine.com  as they visit with Phil at his home where in this episode we tour his trophy room.  Unlike any other home, Housley’s is a hockey museum, as we enter and gaze at the seven game worn All Star game jersey’s that are encased in a hallway trophy case.  From there, Phil guides us through his NHL career and the numerous awards leading up to his newest plaque as an inductee into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame award.

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8th Annual MHM Foundation Golf Tourney – UPDATE https://minnesotahockeymag.com/8th-annual-mhm-foundation-golf-tournament/ https://minnesotahockeymag.com/8th-annual-mhm-foundation-golf-tournament/#respond Mon, 29 Jun 2020 18:52:26 +0000 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=34179 Date is set for Friday, September 18, 2020.

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(Photo from 2019 MHM Foundation hockey camp / Scott Tiffany)

Date is set for Friday, September 18, 2020.

Our 8th Annual Foundation Charity Golf Tournament will STILL be held on Friday, September 18th, at beautiful Pheasant Hills golf course in Hammond, WI.  Visit their web site =>> HERE.

We seriously considered cancelling the event, but it is still ON!  We have REDUCED the price to $50 and simplified the event with social distancing in mind.  No dinner or silent auction, but lunch is included.

Check this link to the NEW .pdf version of the tournament flier =>> HERE.

With your help, we have sent over 250 kids in need to hockey camp over the last 7 years and we are working to continue that success!

Please consider participating and talk to your golfing buddies and hockey friends.

There will still be prizes and on-course events.  Tee-times are available in addition to a modified shotgun start.

If you are interested in sponsoring a hole, there are several levels of corporate sponsorships available.
Just contact Scott at scott@mnhockeymag.com or call 715-222-6460.

Thanks. MHM Staff

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The Owen Factor https://minnesotahockeymag.com/the-owen-factor/ https://minnesotahockeymag.com/the-owen-factor/#respond Tue, 10 Mar 2020 02:28:24 +0000 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=33719 11-year-old Owen Nei combines passion for hockey and raising awareness for Gillette Children’s

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When Owen Nei met Devan Dubnyk last year, he asked the Minnesota Wild goaltender to sign the back of his Wild jersey with the number 99 on it.

“He said, ‘You’ve got some really big shoes to fill,’” Owen said. Number 99, of course, was worn by Wayne Gretzky.

Owen and Dubnyk met again after the Wild’s game against the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 23. Dubnyk and some of the other Wild players stopped to sign autographs for the Blaine Bantam Bantam B2 team. Owen was there, too, representing Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

When he saw Dubnyk, Owen presented the same 99 jersey wanting an autograph.

“He was like, ‘Can you sign this?’ And I said, ‘Buddy, I signed it right here,’” Dubnyk said, chuckling. “And he said, ‘Will you sign the other number now?’

“So, he’s got both the nines on the jersey signed in the middle by me.”

Wild fans might not know the 11-year-old Owen or his story, but they’ve probably seen him. He appears in the Hiway Federal Credit Union Hockey Kids4Kids commercial with Dubnyk that’s shown in the arena during Wild games and during the FSNorth broadcasts. Hockey Kids4Kids was started three years ago to inspire youth hockey teams to participate in community service. Youth hockey teams hold fundraisers to benefit Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul to help kids who may not be able to play hockey because of medical conditions or injuries.

This year, 23 youth programs raised $24,608 bringing the total funds raised over three years to more than $75,000.

Owen is one of the Gillette Children’s kids and has become a bit of a representative for the Hockey Kids4Kids program. His parents found out at the 19-week ultrasound with Owen that he had aqueductal stenosis, where the ventricles in his brain that carry spinal fluid were blocked between the third and fourth ventricles, compressing the brain tissue, according to his dad, Chris. With almost no brain tissue, Owen’s parents were advised to abort the pregnancy and declined.

Owen had surgery right after he was born addressing Goldenhar syndrome, which is a rare malformation of the cranial structure. Owen has had 15 surgeries in his young life and is deaf in his left ear. A CT scan at eight months old showed 100 percent of his brain tissue was back.

“He just kept hitting milestone after milestone cognitively,” Chris said. “And he’s a super-smart kid.”

The Hiway Federal Credit Union Hockey Kids4Kids commercial shown at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 23, 2020. (Heather Rule)

Chat with Owen for even a few minutes and it becomes clear how much his passion for hockey spills over. Let’s start with the basics: How long has he been a hockey fan?

“Probably since day one,” Owen said.

Yes, since the day he was born, Owen confirmed. With two older siblings who play and a dad who coaches, Owen’s always been at the rink, his dad said.

Even with the connection with Dubnyk, Owen maintains former Wild forward Mikael Granlund is his favorite player. He still keeps up with him, even after Granlund was traded to Nashville last season.

“I just like the style of his playing,” Owen said. “And he seems like a nice guy, and I’ve always wanted to meet him.”

Owen was in the suite with the Blaine team (one of the top fundraising teams and selected at random to receive a party at Xcel Energy Center) for the 4-1 Wild loss to St. Louis. The Wild scored their only goal as Owen was in the middle of an interview with a certain reporter in the suite. Upon hearing the goal horn and cheers from fans, Owen immediately perked up and started trying to get a glimpse of what happened.

With the interview about wrapped up, he was told he was free to go back to his seat. He jumped up and couldn’t get there fast enough, it seemed. That enthusiasm is part of what they refer to as the “Owen Factor” in the Nei household, Chris said.

Owen Nei and his dad, Chris, at the hockey rink. (Chris Nei)

“The Owen factor is that he’s given us a perspective on life of what’s important,” Chris said. “He’s always positive and he’s got a big heart, and he’s super tough to go through all those surgeries.”

Owen plays the game, too, as a member of the St. Paul Capitals C squirts team. He has the approval of his pediatric neurosurgeon to play, although the doctor was concerned because Owen’s spinal column was a bit smaller and he’s at a higher risk for being paralyzed from a traumatic injury, according to Chris.

But at the squirts level, the play is so slow and players are small enough and close to the ground that it isn’t much of an issue right now. He can play into bantams, until checking starts, his dad said. Owen is a decent skater, with a backyard rink for practice, and has good hand-eye coordination in spite of his condition, according to Chris.

This year, Owen’s dad told him if he wants to keep playing hockey, they’ll just figure out a way to make that happen.

“Let’s take it one day at a time,” Chris said. “You’ve defied the odds already. Who’s to say you can’t play?”

Dubnyk can see how much Owen loves the game and doesn’t think it’s a question of Owen wanting to play.

“Certainly, there’s quite obviously nothing that will be slowing him down,” Dubnyk said. “So, he’s going to do everything plus more and more than people think he’s capable of doing.”

Owen has some goals in mind, too, like playing Division-I hockey, winning a national championship and winning the state high school tournament.

“I’ve always wanted to play in the NHL,” Owen said. “And score a goal in the NHL and just make great friends.”

Dubnyk said he’s fortunate to be able to raise money for Hockey Kids4Kids, but it’s Owen’s inspiration that drives it all.

“Kids’ innocence and strength is just the most incredible thing in the world when they’re faced with adversity,” Dubnyk said. “They don’t feel sorry for themselves. They just go.

“It’s a special thing to see and obviously you wish that he didn’t have to do it, but he can certainly teach a lot of us a really good lesson.”

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Why Not Us? https://minnesotahockeymag.com/why-not-us/ https://minnesotahockeymag.com/why-not-us/#respond Sun, 08 Mar 2020 05:41:30 +0000 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=34143 Minus top defender, Hill-Murray seizes title opportunity in 4-1 win over Eden Prairie

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SAINT PAUL – Hill-Murray senior Charlie Strobel recalled hanging out with his teammates at goaltender Remington Keopple’s house last summer.

“We’re just like, ‘why don’t we become state champions our senior year?’” Strobel said.

Why don’t they? Well, they did.

Hill-Murray defeated Eden Prairie 4-1 in the Class 2A championship Saturday night. The Pioneers pulled off an upset, winning the title as a 5-seed over the 3-seeded Eagles. Strobel had a team-leading four goals in the tournament, including two in the title game.

“We’re 2020 state high school hockey champions,” Strobel said. “And we can live with that for the rest of our lives. That’s the best feeling in the world right now.”

Hill-Murray senior captain Charlie Strobel (L) and teammate Henry Eischen celebrate Strobel’s second-period goal giving the Pioneers a 3-0 lead over Eden Prairie en route to a 4-1 win over the Eagles in the Class 2A final on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

The Pioneers accomplished the feat with what opponents often referred to as their “relentless” play. That offense and defense started off strong from the drop of the puck Saturday.

Hill-Murray took a 1-0 lead in the middle of the first period, capitalizing on the first power-play opportunity of the game. Junior defenseman Matthew Fleischhacker took a shot from the blue line that found its way into the net.

Their underdog status helped their mindset, too.

“Gave us a little firepower at the beginning of the game,” Fleischhacker said.

The Pioneers extended the lead to 3-0 by the time the second period was over. First, they got an early goal from senior Owen Quast when he entered the Eden Prairie zone and blasted a shot top-shelf over the blocker at the 3:46 mark of the period.

With 1:54 to play in the period, Strobel took the puck into the zone and held his ground while being defended by Eden Prairie’s Mason Langenbrunner. Strobel went all the way down behind the net and finished off the play with a textbook wrap-around goal to push the margin to 3-0.

Eden Prairie assistant coach Paul Ranheim pointed to momentum turning just three minutes into the game, when Jackson Blake stood even with the goal line and sent the puck all the way through the crease, parallel with the goal line.

“I think the momentum for us changed when we had the great 3-on-2 and Blake didn’t score,” Ranheim said.

Eden Prairie’s John Mittelstadt (9) and Ben Steeves (6) celebrate Steeves’ third-period goal, cutting the Eagles’ deficit to 3-1 on the way to a 4-1 loss to Hill-Murray in Saturday night’s Class 2A championship game at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Eden Prairie got on the board with 11:11 remaining in regulation with Ben Steeves’ 37th goal of the season when he picked a corner just inside the top of the goal on the blocker side. The Eagles had life, cutting into the deficit for a 3-1 game.

But Strobel took a diving shot on a 2-on-1 play and his second of the game seemed to really seal the deal for the Pioneers, regaining the three-goal lead with 6:01 left in regulation.

Despite Eden Prairie pulling its goaltender not long after that, the Eagles couldn’t seem to get much going offensively in the closing minutes.  

“They were getting in shooting lanes,” said Eagles senior John Mittelstadt. “It wasn’t easy getting the puck to the net, obviously.”

The Pioneers were also without one of their top defensemen, Joe Palodichuk, in the game. The team found out in the middle of the afternoon that the junior would be out after going to the doctor and being diagnosed with mono.

It created some personnel changes on the fly before the game. With Palodichuk usually running the power play, the Pioneers stuck Jared Jensen in that spot, while they also rotated five defensemen throughout the game.

“What was bizarre is we got one power play, I believe, and we scored on it,” said Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner.

It’s the fourth state title for the Pioneers and second in the two-class format that started in 1994, with the other title coming in 2008. Hill-Murray also won the title in 1991, when Strobel’s father, Mike, was an assistant captain on the team. His uncle, Mark Strobel, was the tournament’s leading scorer that year, with four goals and three assists.

For Charlie, it’s a great feeling knowing that family history.

“Then I came in here and tried to do my best to do the same thing,” Charlie said. “I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself, because I knew if I did, the outcome probably wouldn’t happen.”

Since winning its second state title in 2011, Eden Prairie has finished as a runner-up three times (2016, 2019, 2020).

“They played like they wanted it more,” Ranheim said, of Hill-Murray. “They came out, their legs were moving, and we got behind. And chased and chased and couldn’t find our momentum.”

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East Metro Reigns Again https://minnesotahockeymag.com/east-metro-reigns-again/ https://minnesotahockeymag.com/east-metro-reigns-again/#respond Sun, 08 Mar 2020 05:40:01 +0000 https://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=34120 Champions rise in the east for the next year at least

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SAINT PAUL — Hill-Murray’s resounding 4-1 Class 2A championship game win over Eden Prairie on Saturday night paired with Mahtomedi’s thrilling Class 1A title tilt win over Hermantown earlier in the day is quite the feather in the the Metro East Conference’s cap, the league that houses both of them, and the East Metro in general.

When asked about it after the game, Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner responded, “I guess I didn’t think of it that way but does that happen very often?”

The answer to Lechner’s question is no. In fact, it marks the first time since 2008 that one conference can claim both state champions going back to when the Classic Suburban Conference, featuring Hill-Murray and St. Thomas Academy, managed the same feat. It was also the last time two East Metro teams have claimed state titles in the same season. 

Coincidentally, that was the last time the Pioneers skated off as Class 2A champions. The 2008 Classic Suburban winners were joined by conference runner-up St. Thomas Academy, which won the Class 1A title that year. The Cadets made it a trio of Metro East teams qualifying for the 2020 state tournament, this time as a Class 2A competitor, and advanced to the semifinals before falling to the Pioneers 3-2 on Charlie Strobel’s overtime goal. 

The 2008 Pioneers also beat St. Thomas Academy in overtime at Xcel Energy Center but that came in late January as part of the 2nd-annual Hockey Day Minnesota festivities based in Baudette. Three days later, a 5-4 overtime win over Mahtomedi clinched the conference title for Hill-Murray.

The Pioneers went on to defeat Roseau 4-2 in the Class 2A semifinals, ending the Rams’ 42-game winning streak dating back to the previous season. The Pioneers won the state title with a 3-0 win over another West Metro power Edina.

Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl addresses his team on the bench during his team’s Class 1A quarterfinal win over Delano on Wednesday, March 4, 2020 at Xcel Energy Center. (Photo: Tim Kolehmainen / Breakdown Sports USA)

Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner’s second state championship came in his 14th tournament appearance (11th in the last 15 years) which includes five trips to the Class 2A final. For Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl, on the other hand, Saturday’s win gave the Zephyrs their first Class 1A state title overall and first in nine trips to the state tournament under Poeschl after three third place finishes (1994, 2015 and 2019).

“They did a great job and it was fun for Poeschy,” Lechner said. “We sent them a little congrats before our game so, yeah, that’s pretty neat.”

The ties between Lechner, Hill-Murray and Poeschl run deep dating back to the 1979-80 season when Poeschl was a senior 3-year starter for the Pioneers during Lechner’s first season as a Hill-Murray assistant coach under Terry Skrypek. One of Poeschl’s teammates, Bill Schafhauser, is Hill-Murray’s girls’ varsity coach and the brother of current Lechner assistant, Pat Schafhauser.

Now they coach at schools slightly more than six miles apart and have done so since the 1997-98 season.

“There’s certainly an awful lot of pride for the East Metro,” Poeschl said. “For as much as we hear about the West Metro and the teams, not to take anything away from them, but we often are in the shadow of the Edinas and the Wayzatas and the Benildes and Eden Prairies and, you know, the list goes on.

“But [I’m] awfully proud of the East Metro and the way that we’ve represented our conference.”

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