Friday's second Class 1A boys hockey state tournament semifinal pitted undefeated Warroad against Orono. The Warriors baseball hat on his head made it clear where Larry Olimb stood, even after just completing his first season as the Orono girls hockey coach.
"There was no question today," Olimb said. "I saw some of my girls here and I said to them, 'I'm Orono girls hockey all the way, but I'm a Warroad boys hockey fan.' "
Olimb, a 1988 Warroad graduate and Mr. Hockey Award recipient, watched his alma mater jump to a 3-0 lead early in the second period. But a projected laugher turned tense as Orono rallied to force overtime.
Back in 1988, Olimb led Warroad to the single-class state tournament with a 24-0 record. But the Warriors came up short, losing a double-overtime game to Edina in the semifinals. Olimb wasn't pondering history as he watched the Warriors reach a second overtime Friday. He just enjoyed the outcome — a game-winning goal for a 4-3 victory set up by Mr. Hockey Award finalist Jayson Shaugabay and finished by senior defenseman Erick Comstock just 16 seconds after puck drop.
"Probably the best player in the state draws four Orono guys toward him and then he sees his defenseman going to the net," Olimb said. "That's Warroad hockey to me."
Olimb led his Spartans girls program to the Class 1A state title game two weeks ago and fell short against former Warroad teammate turned Warriors coach David Marvin.
"These tournaments are always fun whether your team is in it or not," Olimb said. "But it has been extra special for me to be part of it, with the Orono girls team coming here, and then supporting my hometown is always fun, too."
DAVID LA VAQUE
A brief, justified delay
Reporters had to wait awhile to interview Gophers forward Mason Nevers after Thursday's practice at 3M Arena at Mariucci, but he had a perfectly valid reason for being tardy.
Nevers' alma mater, Edina, was playing Moorhead in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A boys hockey state tournament, and his brother, Jackson Nevers, is a Hornets forward. When the Spuds rallied from a 6-3 deficit and forced overtime in the final minute of the third period, Mason's media session was put on a brief hold so he could watch Jackson, a Hornets captain who has committed to the Gophers.
Once the first overtime ended, a Gophers staffer hustled Nevers to the interview room so he could complete his duties during intermission.
"They're battling,'' Nevers said. "I'm a little nervous, but they got it.''
Nevers turned out to be right. Edina advanced with a 7-6 victory on Charlie Sandven's goal 2:02 into the second overtime. Jackson Nevers had a goal and an assist.
"It's always the best time of the year," Mason said before watching the second OT.
Mr. Hockey finalist stayed out
Mr. Hockey finalist Jayson Shaugabay of Warroad simply wanted to get through the first eight-minute overtime period.
"I was on the ice for like 10 straight minutes," Shaugabay said. "So, I was just, 'I need to get a little bit of a break. Get a little banana in me or something.' "
The rest — and fuel — did wonders. Just after the second overtime period began, Shaugabay took the puck from center ice and sent a perfect feed to top-line defenseman Erick Comstock to quickly end a 4-3 Warroad victory. Shaugabay scored a goal and had two assists in the game, increasing his points total to 95 this season.
No goal, no problem
Swings in momentum are plentiful in state tournament games. Late in the first period of the first Class 1A semifinal, Mahtomedi appeared to have taken a 1-0 lead on a shot from Jonny Grove that the official on the ice signaled a goal. Play continued for a few moments, until it was halted. Mahtomedi celebrated the goal, but officials went to the video review process.
The video showed that the puck went the length of the goal line through the cage but never fully across the line into the net. No goal.
"Certainly a big momentum swing, thinking that maybe we scored," Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl said. "The replay was very clear, it did not go in. But still, emotion is there.
"So you have to recover from that. And we failed to get the puck out of the zone. They get a bounce and score right away."
Exactly 20 seconds after play resumed, Hermantown's Dallas Vieau popped a goal to give Hermantown the lead.
Grove still got his tally before the period was over, when he jammed away at a loose puck in front with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the period to tie the score before intermission.
"I was really impressed with our guys and how we answered with a goal before the end of the period," Poeschl said. "And that was a critical goal to be able to even it up before we went in for the break."
Rogers' Cheslock wins Reed Larson Award
Rogers senior defenseman Chase Cheslock was named the Reed Larson Award winner by Let's Play Hockey.
Cheslock, 6-3 and 205 pounds and committed to St. Thomas for college, achieved numerous accomplishments during his three years as a varsity player, including a spot on the Star Tribune All-Metro first team.
The Reed Larson Award goes to Minnesota's top senior defenseman.