The spotlight will be on Edina at this week's state high school hockey tournament, as the Hornets try to become the first AA team to win three titles in a row since Bloomington Jefferson in the early 1990s.
Edina itself came fairly close to winning three straight a decade before that, from 1982 to 1984, but in the middle year of that stretch the Hornets were derailed by a school making its only tournament appearance: Columbia Heights.
The 1983 Hylanders are remembered as a Cinderella team, but they also had solid credentials. They were led by players who had been state bantam champions in 1980, including a future college All-American. They also had a goalie with a fitting name, Reggie Miracle, who had learned a lot during many years at camps run by Warren Strelow, the goalie coach for Herb Brooks' "Miracle on Ice" Olympic team.
Columbia Heights went 14-7 during the regular season, then reeled off three victories in the playoffs. That put the Hylanders in the Section 2 final against Cloquet, one of the top teams in the state, who nearly eliminated them.
Columbia Heights trailed 4-2 in the third period and took a penalty with about 10 minutes to play. Amazingly, they scored two shorthanded goals and went on to win 5-4 in double overtime. Sophomore D.J. Haller scored the game-winner, while Miracle made 45 saves as fans chanted "Reggie, Reggie, Reggie," according to the Star Tribune's report.
"This is absolutely overwhelming. I don't know if I'll ever come down," Coach Elly Froiland said after the game. "We are going to the state tournament for the first time, and based upon what these kids have shown this season, I don't think it's just to be awed."
Five days later, playing defending champ Edina before 18,331 fans at the St. Paul Civic Center, they showed he was right. Less than three minutes into the game, Columbia Heights took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Joe Mickelson, and that's how it stayed until early in the third period, when Haller made it 2-0. That was the final score, as Miracle made 29 saves.
The next day, the Hylanders' run ended. Burnsville beat them 5-2 in the semifinals, although the score was deceptive. With less than five minutes to play, the game was tied 2-2. Then Burnsville's Dave MacNulty got a penalty shot and scored; two empty-net goals completed the scoring. On Saturday, Columbia Heights lost the third-place game 4-3, to Henry Sibley.
Burnsville went on to play Hill-Murray in the state championship game, losing to the undefeated Pioneers 4-3. Edina rebounded from its quarterfinal loss to take the consolation title and then reclaimed the state championship in 1984. Burnsville won its first state title the year after that and repeated in 1986.
Columbia Heights didn't get back to the tournament. The program merged with Brooklyn Center and Fridley in 2001, and that program merged with Park Center in 2006, becoming North Metro.
Gary Peterson, now the mayor of Columbia Heights, had two sons on the 1983 tournament team, Tom and Bill. They both still live in "The Heights," the mayor said. Others also live in the area, including former coach Froiland.
Tom Palkowski, who was injured late in the Edina game, became a Division III All-American at St. Thomas and now coaches the St. Thomas women's team.
Miracle lived in Connecticut for a time, but he moved back to Columbia Heights about 10 years ago. He's now a registered nurse and recalls an encounter with one of his patients, a man who is a quadriplegic. The patient knew him as Reggie, but it wasn't until recently that he saw the full name on Miracle's tag.
"Are you the goalie from Columbia Heights?" the man asked.
It's always that way if his name strikes a chord, says Miracle:
"When people do remember me, they also remember Columbia Heights."