Stung by Grand Rapids in back-to-back Class 2A, Section 7 high school boys hockey championship games, Duluth East earned some redemption Thursday night.
Sophomore forward Logan Anderson’s goal 4:50 of overtime, a deflection off a wrist shot from the point by defenseman Luke LaMaster, lifted the No. 3-ranked Greyhounds to a 3-2, come-from-behind victory over Andover in the 7AA final at Amsoil Arena.
Greyhounds Coach Mike Randolph’s (left) post-game quotes:
On the Greyhounds’ come-from-behind victory: “The result is special, very special. I thought we played a very solid third period and overtime. We got to our game, finally. We talked between the second and third periods about this team and how many times they’ve scored five, six, four goals in a period. I told the kids, they’re capable of doing it but the last time I checked, there’s a zero up there (on the scoreboard) and we’re not going to win. And right now we’ve got to find a way to get two in. And they did, and then we said we’ll go from there and see if we can get the win.”
On what he said to his players in the locker room between the second and third periods: “I just felt it was one of those nights when the puck wouldn’t fall for us. We could have scored nine goals, but their goalie was really good. That’s hockey. What did we score, 15 goals in our first two tournament games? And all of a sudden, we had to really grind it. This is a great character-building win for our kids.”
On how his team has faced adversity this season: “We haven’t faced this type of adversity. I told the kids, ‘You’ve never been in this spot. How will you react? Is everybody going to try to do it themselves, because it won’t get done that way. We have to find a way, as a team, to get this done. No clue who in this room will get it done, but somebody’s gotta get it done.’ It was all about finding a way to get it done. They haven’t had to play from behind. We weren’t playing our game. We were out of sorts, out of rhythm, a mess. What we were doing was hanging on the puck too much. We weren’t moving the puck. We tried to stickhandle through that trap, and that’s not going to work. The kids know that, and we had to get to our game if we had a chance. There was no guarantee because their goalie was excellent, excellent. But, we have to play the way we play. We can’t come into the game and not play the way we played. We played the first period the way our kids wanted to play, individually, and not the way the coach wants them to play.”
On what he said to his players about facing a hot goalie: “The focus is to keep the kids positive and realize that as long as we’re getting chances, we’ll break through. It’s a long game, 51 minutes or more. It would be different if we weren’t getting chances. I told them during a timeout, ‘We’re getting chances, guys, we just need to get to the rebounds. There are so many pucks laying out there, you need to fight to get the rebound, and you need to find a way to get the puck in the net. It might be a rebound, it might be one shot.’”
On one or two Greyhounds who stepped up: “I thought 22 (junior power-forward Ryder Donovan) was really, really, really special tonight. There were a couple times when he cut back to the net to create some offense, and he was driven. That body, that skating ability. He was flying. It was his best game. He looked like a veteran out there.”
On Duluth East advancing as the only northern Minnesota school in the eight-team 2018 Class 2A state tourney field: “We talked about it before the game. We’re the only northern Minnesota team alive. It would be not good if there were no northern teams at state. We’re looking forward to the challenge of being the only northern team. We know all of northern Minnesota will be pulling for us, just like we pulled for Grand Rapids the last two years.”
On his post-game speech to his players: “I just told the kids that this is a real special moment. The important thing is this is really special to the kids — and real special to their parents, who are the reason they’re here. I told them, ‘It goes by really fast, and before you know it it’s over. Every day, every minute, just enjoy it. It brings memories.’ They’ll never forget this. (Dave) Spehar was here tonight, and hasn’t been here for 22 years. My son (Jake) was here, and they relived that. When we go to the state tournament, they’ll relive that. There’s such history here. My phone has already blown up, and it will continue to blow up throughout all of next week. All former players who played and were successful in these moments, and just embraced it and enjoyed it. It’s special. The state high school hockey tournament is special. That’s why people come out to see these kids play. What a game here last night. Two incredible, great games here. What more can people ask for?”
On his best recipe for success at state: “Defense-first. I believe the guys will buy into it, because when we went into Minnetonka they bought into it. It’s about doing the little things. Don’t worry about who scores, who’s going to be interviewed at the end of game. Get in shooting lanes, backcheck the right guy. That’s what we’ll work on in practices here, ‘cause our offense will come from our defense. Anybody can win the tourney. Look what we did three years ago when we got on a roll. People didn’t think we should have been there and we beat a heckuva Elk River team. And then we played Lakeville North in the finals and everyone asked, ‘What the heck is Duluth East doing here?’ Lou Nanne came down between periods and said, ‘There’s no way you’re going to ring the puck out on Edina.’ I told him, ‘We’re going to do it, Lou.’ Then the next night he comes down and says, ‘Houdini. Houdini.’”