HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
March 12, 2007

Making it down to another state tourney

By Aaron Schultz

In last week’s column, I talked about my long day at the state wrestling tournament March 1, and how, along with baseball, it was my favorite state tournament to go to.

Well, I put that notion to the test this past Wednesday, as I made my first trek down to the boys’ state hockey tournament.

I am kind of ashamed to admit that I had never been to a high school state hockey tournament, being that I proclaim that I am such a big hockey fan.

Trying to think back (remember, I’m old and my memory is going), I couldn’t come up with one time that I had even seriously considered going, and just didn’t make it.

While I may have never attended a state hockey tournament, I was always sure to catch as much as I could on TV.

Any-who, I had the opportunity to go down to St. Paul Wednesday morning and catch the Orono Spartans take on the defending Class 1A state champions from St. Thomas Academy, and figured, “what-the-hey.”

Heading down to St. Paul, leaving Winsted around 9:30 a.m., we got to the Xcel Energy Center a good 10 minutes before the opening face-off.

What struck me first was the lack of people at the game.

Don’t get me wrong, there was still a very nice crowd from Orono on hand, but it seemed as if there were hardly any fans from St. Thomas Academy at the game – other than the students, who were easy to pick out in their military dress uniforms.

By contrast, outside the Xcel, people were scalping tickets to the Class 2A tournament, which started Thursday, and had sold out every session throughout the weekend.

Still, I was excited to be there, and immediately bought some buffalo wings and a coke before settling down in my seat.

We sat right behind the goal, about five rows up.

As I ate my wings, all that I could think of was that I was going to be put on TV with my hands and face a mess from the buffalo sauce on my wings – remembering the Seinfeld episode where George was at the U.S. Open, and was caught by the camera eating a sundae, getting more on his face than in his mouth.

No cameras found me, at least I think.

Done eating, I settled down and watched a little high school hockey.

Orono was the first team to get introduced, next was St. Thomas.

When St. Thomas’ players began getting introduced, all of the Orono student section put newspapers in front of their faces as if to indicate they were paying very little intention while St. Thomas was introduced.

It is an oldie, but a goodie.

Well, once introductions were over, and the puck dropped, it didn’t take long to figure out which was the better team.

St. Thomas appeared to be the much better team, especially through the opening period.

However, despite only getting two shots on goal through the first period, Orono only trailed 2-1.

Orono then quickly tied the game up in the second period, and it looked like it was going to be a game after all.

Then came a couple of Orono penalties, which St. Thomas took advantage of, scoring twice before the end of the period, going up 4-2 heading into the third period.

In the third, St. Thomas scored the lone goal of the period to put the game away, winning 5-2.

While there wasn’t much scoring in the third, that was the most entertaining period of the game for me.

Sitting right behind Orono goalie Taylor Peterson, I got to see him get more than a little beat up in the third.

During a scramble in front of the net, Peterson’s mask got knocked off, and while he laid on the ice, without a mask, a shot headed for the net, but instead, hit him on the top of the head.

The whistle quickly sounded, and everybody held their breath for a second while Peterson laid on the ice motionless.

That is when the old adage “Ah, he’s a hockey player” came into effect.

Peterson slowly stood up, shook the cobwebs out, got a pat on his head from a teammate, put his mask back on, and continued to play goal.

While there have been different reports that the puck just sailed over his head, and missed the net, I’m going with it hitting him in the head. True or not, it makes for a much better story.

Once the game came to its conclusion, I walked up the aisle to the concourse, but before doing so, I took one more look over to the Orono student section, which had a nice little sign, that brought a chuckle.

The sign read “St. Thomas Academy, the best team money can buy,” inferring that St. Thomas, a private school, heavily recruits players.

Now, I don’t know about that, but the old private school versus public school battle, especially in hockey, is always something fun to pay attention to.

Alright, leaving the Xcel and heading to the car to go home, in nearly the same spot as last week, I almost took another tumble.

I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t running, or even thinking about my fall from last week, but there I was, nearly on the ground again.

After I caught myself, I took a look around, and sure s#5t, it was the identical intersection where I fell last week.

I think next time, down in St. Paul, I’ll walk on the other side of the street.

Looking back, I would still have to say that the baseball and wrestling tournaments are my favorite to attend, but I’ll leave my final judgement until I attend a Class 2A state tournament game.

Those look like a real blast, and maybe next year, I’ll find myself down there.

Of course, should the Bulldog boys’ basketball team win two games this week and make it to state, I’ll have to give the basketball tournament serious consideration as my favorite.

Oh well, my own little debate will continue.