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GIRLS HOCKEY: East Grand Forks Senior High makes its first appearance in state tournament

East Grand Forks coach Jim Scanlan leads a short practice Tuesday as players (L-R) Karly Nelson, Tiffany Hanson and Courtney Nelson share a laugh. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
Erica Eades' father, Cary Eades, played and coached at UND. Eades is one of several Green Wave players and coaches with ties to college hockey. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Riley Koberinski's dad, Scott Koberinski, played and coached at UND. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

Jason Mack doesn’t bring up his own hockey success to his daughters very often. Last Wednesday, however, the family watched an old hockey video.

There was Jason Mack, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime for Bemidji State in the 1994 NCAA Division II national championship game, a 2-1 victory against Alabama-Huntsville.

“We talk about hockey all the time,’’ East Grand Forks Senior High forward Haley Mack said. “The night before the section championship game, we watched the tape of dad scoring the goal in the national championship game. It was so cool. It was motivation for us.’’

Haley Mack now has her own big-goal story. The sophomore scored the game winner in the second overtime as East Grand Forks Senior High beat Thief River Falls 2-1 in the Section 8A championship game.

The top-seeded Green Wave (24-2-1) play Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato (10-17-0) today in a 6 p.m. quarterfinal game of the Class A state tournament in St. Paul.

Senior High is making its first appearance in the state tournament. But a lot of the players have parents who can relate to success on the big stage.

For instance, there is Jason Mack, with daughters Haley and Alexa on the team. Cary Eades and Scott Koberinski played on UND national championship hockey teams; their daughters, Erica Eades and Riley Koberinski, are two of the top Green Wave scorers.

On the prep level, Bruce Nelson was head coach and Roger Hanson an assistant on the Senior High football team that won the state title in 2004; their daughters, Karly Nelson and Tiffany Hanson, are hockey regulars. Tiffany’s mother, Liesa Brateng Hanson, still holds the Minnesota state track meet record in the 300-meter hurdles, which she set in 1987.

“We grew up with our dads teaching us how to play the game,’’ Haley Mack said. “But they always told us to have fun, to do what we wanted to do. They left it up to us if we wanted to play. We all have our own passion for the game.’’

While Jason Mack doesn’t talk about his college playing days a lot, Riley Koberinski has heard her dad’s stories often. “He always talks about it. He likes to re-live it,’’ the junior said. But that hasn’t put added pressure on this generation of athletes.

“I’ve always hoped to get the same chances my dad did,’’ Koberinski said. “And he’s very supportive. He tells us not to settle for just going down (to state), to go to win. He’ll say, ‘Nobody remembers second place.’ That pumps me up.’’

Helping hands

Hockey has been more than just parents-to-daughters talk. The fathers also helped coach at the youth levels.

“All these girls played for some of those hockey dads when they were in our youth programs,’’ Senior High coach Jim Scanlan said. “No question, they had a big impact in teaching the kids how to play the game.

“Now (the parents) just let us coach. I appreciate that very much.’’

For the Green Wave, the road to the state tournament has had some big barriers.

Warroad, a perennial power, won the previous five section titles, beating Senior High in the 2013 section final. Senior High beat Warroad 2-1 in two overtimes in the section semis this season, setting up the final with Thief River Falls.

While Warroad graduated heavily last spring, Thief River Falls returned a strong group. The Prowlers were first and the Green Wave second in weekly state rankings for much of this season. Senior High’s only two losses have been to Their River Falls.

“Warroad has raised the bar for all of us in the section,’’ Scanlan said. “If you wanted to advance, you had to go through their strong program. Making it to the section championship (in 2013) helped us this year. The girls saw how close we were to getting to state. These girls were locked in on the first day of practice and they never let up.’’

Some of the Wave heard stories from parents about the excitement of playing on the big stage. Karly Nelson experienced it going to football games her father coached.

“I was at almost every game,’’ the senior defenseman said of the 2004 football season. “The pep rally at school before they went to state, seeing all the attention they got, it was so cool. It pushed me to stay focused.

“Now we’re making history, just like our parents did.’’