Orono senior Thomas Walker skated off the Xcel Energy Center ice and into the arms of former Spartans head coach, former professional hockey player and current Channel 45 state tournament broadcaster Mark Parrish on Friday.
“I have a special bond with him,” said Walker, who scored three goals in Orono’s 5-4 overtime victory over Mahtomedi in the semifinals. “He was the one who gave me my first chance on varsity. There’s always a kind of special spot for someone who gave you your first shot.”
Just minutes after broadcasting Orono’s thrilling victory to a statewide audience, Parrish was on an elevator heading down to congratulate the Spartans in their locker room.
“He was jacked up. He said, ‘You are going to give me a stroke one of these days,’ ” Walker said. “It means a lot to see him come down there.”
Parrish, who won two state championships in three state tournament appearances with Bloomington Jefferson in the 1990s and became an NHL star for more than a decade, was Orono’s head coach for two seasons. He switched roles with former assistant Will Scholz just before the start of the season to pursue on-camera broadcasting work with the New York Islanders.
Record 1A crowd
Orono’s massive red-clad army of students was matched by Mahtomedi’s sea of yellow. Chants were exchanged, and roars erupted with high-decibel fury.
As the Spartans and Zephyrs played to a thrilling overtime conclusion, the Xcel Energy Center’s lower bowl slowly filled to the brim. By the third period, the arena’s club level was open to late-arriving fans, a rare occurrence for the small-school sessions.
Attendance for the afternoon session was announced at 11,905 — a Class 1A Friday semifinal record, besting the previous high of 11,320 in 2012.
Have a seat
Technically, Duluth East’s Carson Cochran’s stop of a point-blank Edina rebound attempt counts as a blocked shot. But it defined the term “save.”
His team clinging to a 3-2 lead, Cochran ended up on his can in the crease but stopped a Mason Nevers shot inches from the goal line.
“He’s had a heck of a tournament,” Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said.
Taking the power out of the power play
Mathematically speaking, taking a penalty against Minnetonka is a losing proposition.
The Skippers scored two shorthanded goals against Centennial on Friday — one by Bobby Brink early in the third and one by Grant Docter into an empty net in the closing minute. Minnetonka now has 15 shorthanded goals this season, including three in the state tournament.
Amazingly, the Skippers have allowed just 12 power-play goals. Centennial went 0-for-3 on the power play against Minnetonka, giving the Cougars a minus-2 with the man advantage.