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Baudette Bay produces a Play of the Day -- and of high school senior's lifetime

Almost everyone who has picked up a baseball, basketball or hockey stick has dreamed of making it big enough to be on SportsCenter. Da, da, da . . . da, da, da.

Almost everyone who has picked up a baseball, basketball or hockey stick has dreamed of making it big enough to be on SportsCenter. Da, da, da . . . da, da, da.

Being highlighted on ESPN's hourlong sports highlight show usually requires playing the sport professionally or in the top echelon of college athletics.

Not so for John Clark, a senior at Lake of the Woods High School in Baudette, Minn.

On Saturday - and Sunday morning - Clark was featured on the Top 10 Plays of the Day on SportsCenter. His nifty goal in LOW's 5-3 victory over St. Paul Johnson was deemed Play No. 4 on the popular national broadcast, watched by millions.

"That's when you know you've made it as an athlete - when you make the Top 10 Plays," Clark said. "My friend said I'm his idol now.

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"I was in shock for a while. I couldn't believe I was on ESPN. It was an unreal experience."

Clark's goal was picturesque, with a sweet move to beat the goalie.

But the play alone wasn't what landed him on SportsCenter.

It was the novelty of the game - pond hockey. As part of Hockey Day Minnesota, the teams played outdoors on Baudette Bay of the Rainy River.

Helped by the gimmick or not, it was a golden moment for the Bears' defenseman. Even before he was No. 4, he thought he had found hockey nirvana. That's because the game was televised by Fox Sports Network in a six-state area, and he did two TV interviews during the broadcast.

"I figured I'd see highlights of our game on the Gophers' game on FSN later in the day," Clark said. "But I never imagined ESPN.

"NHL players had the No. 10, No. 9 and No. 8 best plays. It's pretty cool to be up there with the big boys."

His TV appearance carried some irony. Earlier in the day, before the TV clip was aired, Clark received a telephone call from his older brother, Jay. As a goalie for North Iowa, a junior team, Jay had scored a goal. He shot the puck the length of the ice into an open net with the opposing goalie pulled.

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Since a goalie scoring a goal is rare, "Jay called to tell us that his team was sending the video of his goal to ESPN," Clark said. "So, I called him later that night and told him that I beat him to it."

The last Minnesota high school athlete to make the Plays of the Day may have been Blake Hoffarber, who had one of the more memorable highlights of all time. A Hopkins High School basketball player, Hoffarber hit a long, game-tying shot to force overtime in a state championship game while lying on his back. For that shot, he was awarded an ESPY Play of Year Award and appearances on "The Today Show," "Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

Clark's play won't earn him that acclaim. But his five seconds of fame was fine icing of the grandiose cake of pond hockey.

"We pulled it off," LOW Coach Mark Fabian said. "It was absolutely perfect. We put Baudette back on the map."

Bakken reports on local news and writes a column. Reach him at 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or rbakken@gfherald.com .

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