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Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said game officials have “been very approachable and are trying to work with the coaches.”
Randolph said some of his protests about the severity of hits have been met with agreement by officials, “But then they will say, ‘I still have to give him a five.’ ”
Randolph sees a “higher respect” among players and said of the culture change, “What everyone wants is more safety for the kids and I think it’s moving in the right direction.”
Changes are top of mind
Conversely, Randolph said he sees a “huge difference” at the JV level, where less experienced officials are “overreacting.” The game is called tighter, he said, whereas “varsity refs know it’s important for the games to have some flow.”
Breck coach Les Larson said he thinks “every player and every coach is cognizant that you’ve got to tell your guys not to hit hard along the boards. Not to hit like you’re trying to physically intimidate somebody.’’
Larson said he’s also seen rare instances of referee crews “going back to the old deal” of allowing more hits.
Overall, the kids and the coaches have done a great job of remembering. “They don’t want anybody to get hurt,’’ he said.
Hermantown coach Bruce Plante said play still can get chippy when a team is losing. “It’s part of the game. It’s not right but it’s part of the way kids react,’’ he said.
But he lauded players for embracing the changes and playing with respect.
“They are pulling up on checking from behind. Kids are really cognizant of it. They try to go in under control,’’ he said. “I don’t think it’s hurt the physical part of the game and we’re a physical team.’’
Staff writers David La Vaque and Jason Gonzalez contributed to this report.