Hockey fans had a lot to be thankful for after the last week we’ve experienced in Minnesota.
The amount of outdoor hockey in the State of Hockey was impressive with Hockey Day in Minnesota, U.S. Pond Hockey Championships and the Hockey City Classic, not to mention the countless pickup games on a local frozen pond or rink. Several other programs scheduled outdoor contests for the day, like Coon Rapids boys, which hosted Osseo on at the Coon Rapids Ice Center’s refrigerated outdoor rink for the second straight season.
Tornadoes win at Hanke Pit
All three official outdoor events included local ties, starting with the Anoka girls’ hockey team facing Elk River in a conference game that had plenty of meaning beyond the fairy-tale setting at the Hanke Pit.
“It really couldn’t have been better,” Anoka coach Pete Hayes said. “From the way we played, the venue, setting the way it was put on by Elk River and FSN, it was top-notch and really made our season.”
The Tornadoes (5-8-1, 8-11-1) shutout Elk River 3-0, scoring twice on the power play and once short-handed, despite being outshot 29-15.
The shorthander was Anoka’s first of the season. Hayes hopes this is will spark the Tornadoes into the final regular season push and what will be a bumpy ride in a deep section.
“Pressure doesn’t seem to get to this team. They just like to have fun and it drives me crazy sometimes. They’re really a loosey-goosey team,” Hayes said. “We talked about this as a real stepping stone going forward to play this well infront of this type of a crowd.”
Anoka sophomore goalie Molly Scarborourgh collected her third shutout of the season to help complete the season sweep over the Elks and retain the Silver Stick traveling trophy.
“That’s the kind of game we expect out of her,” Hayes said, pointing to the goalie as one of five phases of the game to win.
Anoka managed to excel without much help from senior defenseman Amanda Kimmerle who played a couple shifts. Hayes relied on sophomore Taylor Kinn and freshman Kailey Cameron more to hold their own. “And that’s what is also so impressive that our four and five defensemen stepped in so well,” Hayes said.
Cassidy Motter’s showed a great second effort to stay with her shot to slap home the puck resting inside the goal crease to give Anoka the lead. The eighth-grader has three points on the season.
Anoka captain Blair Parent scored twice, including a short-hander at the 11:28 mark of the second period for the final score to help snap a three-game losing streak and earn the No. 1 star honor. Parent had made it 2-0 after taking the rebound off a blocked shot for her 13th goal of the season.
Anoka remained in seventh place in the Northwest Suburban Conference, trailing the Elks by four points.
“Anxious. I mean nervous at the beginning but it was so cool to see so many people out here watching us,” Parent said during a post-game interview on Fox Sports North.
Hockey City Classic
The Hockey City Classic featured high school standouts excelling on the collegiate stage for the women and men.
The top-ranked Minnesota Gophers women’s team shutout Minnesota State, Mankato 4-0 at a downright chilly TCF Bank stadium Friday.
Former Coon Rapids standout turned Gophers junior Rachael Bona played a key role to earn the No. 2 star of the game honor.
She set up the game’s first goal by former Irondale standout Meghan Lorence less than 5:30 into the contest. Bona made it 2-0 when she buried a loose puck in front of the Mavericks net with two minutes left in the middle period.
Bona said the experience was great and to be among only a select few who had a chance to play a game at TCF Bank Stadium was an honor. “I’m very grateful to be part of it,” she said.
Going from the over 1,000-seat Ridder Arena to 45,000-seat or more seat football stadium took some adjustments at first.
“I don’t think it was on my mind the entire game,” Bona said. “Obviously, we were outside in this huge stadium so it was different. I think after everybody got a few shifts done, we settled into playing our game.”
Former Anoka standout turned Mankato sophomore winger Katie Johnson failed to register a shot and former Blaine standout Dani Scholzen blocked two shots but also had a minus-two rating.
Both said the Mavs came into the game confident, ready to play their game despite only one practice outdoors the day before, but excited for the experience.
Mankato had other practices scheduled, but poor weather conditions kept them indoors an extra day.
Johnson has three assists (four points) with a minus-four rating on 35 shots so far this season. Her only goal this year was the winner in a 4-2 season-opener against Mercyhurst Sept. 27.
Scholzen has four assists and 21 shots with a plus-one rating. She also has 24 penalty minutes as one of the top defensemen for Mankato.
Despite the outcome, both enjoyed playing outdoors on such a large stage.
“It was surreal to skate on the ice the first time,” Johnson said, comparing it with pond hockey.
“It was really fun. The biggest thing I wasn’t ready for was how bouncy the ice was,” Scholzen said.
Playing outside was completely different from usual conditions inside, she said. “You couldn’t anticipate the boards or glass [would react],” Scholzen said. “You just had to wing it and hope it turned out.”
During pregame warm ups the glare off the ice posed problems, but by the 4:30 p.m. start time, that issue was quickly fading.
Johnson and Scholzen admitted some of the prep rivalries carried over to college, but on a different scale. “It’s more friendly now,” Johnson said, knowing they went at it with Bona in Northwest Suburban Conference and section contests between Anoka, Blaine and Coon Rapids.
The Gopher men completed the doubleheader sweep for the home team with a 1-0 shutout of Ohio State. Blaine graduate and Minnesota sophomore defenseman Michael Brodzinski blocked a game-high four shots to help goalie Adam Wilcox post the shutout in front of a record-setting 45,021 fans to watch a hockey game in Minnesota.
Brodzinski had two shots, rang one off the pipe and blocked one more in a 4-2 win back inside Mariucci Arena, Jan. 18, as part of Hockey Day Minnesota.
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