BOYS HOCKEY: East Grand Forks Senior High heads to state hockey tournament for the second straight season
When the East Grand Forks Senior High boys hockey team went to the Minnesota Class A state tournament last March, it was the first time for the program in 11 years.
Already a young team, that newness and inexperience created some wide-eyed moments.
But in 2014, the Green Wave are headed back to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul — equipped with experience and a new set of expectations. The top-seeded Wave face Orono at 6 p.m. tonight in the quarterfinals.
“I think the anxiety over the details is out of the equation,” Senior High coach Tyler Palmiscno said. “What’s the banquet going to be like? What’s the locker room setup? What’s the pregame routine at the X?
“It takes the stress away from all of us. Hopefully, that allows us to relax and be ready for (today) at 6.”
The Wave return most of their lineup from a year ago, minus standout scorer Tommy Hajicek and goalie Tanner Lindstrom.
The Wave were able to withstand those losses by returning plenty of proven firepower, as well as a corps of steady defensemen. As a result, the Wave cruised to a 25-2-1 record this year. Senior High’s latest win came in dramatic fashion — a double overtime victory in the Section 8A championship game against rival Warroad.
The ‘favorite’ label at state is new to the Wave, who don’t seem to be bothered by the distinction.
“We’ve been viewed as the favorite in the section all year with being the defending section champs, so it’s nothing new,” Senior High senior defenseman Eddie Eades said. “We know we have to win three games. Whether we’re the No. 1 seed or not seeded, it doesn’t matter.”
Easier to focus
And it doesn’t hurt to have experienced the hoopla of the tournament in 2013.
“It was the first time we’d been there in a while, so there was a lot of excitement,” Senior High forward Brandon Loven said. “This year we’ll be more ready.”
The Wave finished fourth at state last year after losing to No. 1 seed St. Thomas Academy in the semifinals and No. 2 seed Breck in the third-place game.
Expectations are higher for Senior High this time, although the Wave have an interesting draw in the first round with Orono (19-8-1 overall).
Orono, out of Section 2, upset Breck in the section championship game. Breck was one of two teams to beat the Wave this year, knocking off Senior High 6-1.
“They’re similar to us in they don’t have just one offensive weapon,” Palmiscno said. “They have a good goaltender, and they play extremely hard. Section 2 is notorious for having success at state. But at this point in the year, you have to focus on doing what you do and doing what you’ve done all year.”
Orono, which hasn’t been to state since 2007, was ranked No. 11 in the final Let’s Play Hockey poll.
Orono junior goalie Jon Flakne boasts a 91.8 save percentage.
The Wave have been led offensively by Reed Corbid with 16 goals and 26 assists, while Dixon Bowen has returned from an early season injury to add 17 goals and 20 assists.
Senior High goalie Josh Weber enters state with a 92.2 save percentage. Weber, who doesn’t typically face a lot of shots, withstood an offensive barrage against Warroad in the section title game.
“We have a lot of confidence in Webs,” Eades said. “He showed that he can win games for us, even when we’re not at our best. He’s been solid all year and will continue to be solid this weekend.”