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Playing hockey against bigger schools, Roseau says it’s in the right class

On Thursday, Roseau will be making its 34th appearance in Minnesota’s high school hockey tournament. That’s only one less than the all-time appearance leader, suburban Edina.

The sheer volume of its tournament appearances is impressive. So, too, is the quality of the competition because Roseau opts to play in the higher class with opponents with considerably more enrollment when a two-class system was installed in 1994.

That meant Roseau, a town of 2,700, was competing against the likes of Moorhead, a city of 40,000 that was an emerging hockey power, to reach the state tournament.

Classifications don’t always tell the story, however. After all, Roseau won this season’s Section 8AA title after being swept by Section 8A champion East Grand Forks and Section 8A runner-up Warroad during the regular season.

Over time, however, the Rams have held their own, shown by seven state tournament appearances in their 20 seasons in Class AA.

And, it appears, there is no going back to Roseau’s more historic rivals.

“The overwhelming sentiment is that we’re able to play with the big boys and we want to continue with that,” said Larry Guggisberg, Roseau school superintendent.

“No one from Roseau has ever approached me over my 13 years (as superintendent) about changing to single A.”

Coach Andy Lundbohm said it’s “unanimous” in Roseau to stay in Class AA.

“I’ve never had anyone from Roseau come up to me and say that we should slide down to Class A,” Lundbohm said. “We knew that getting to state in Class A wouldn’t mean as much. This is where we felt we belonged.

“It’s kind of fun doing it with smaller class sizes. We wouldn’t do our town justice if we weren’t at the AA level, with all the banners hanging in our arena.”

Roseau has won seven state titles, including two in Class AA, in 1999 and 2007.

Lew Erickson, president of the Roseau Youth Hockey Association, said the town’s enthusiasm for the sport was shown by selling almost 600 state tournament tickets to local residents at the school.

“We’re certainly proud to be in the big tournament,” he said. “We feel like the good single A schools should come up and play with the big boys and girls because they’re good enough to do so.

“We still have a lot of fight and competitive drive in us, so I don’t see us opting down anytime soon.”