Roseau Rams rise up
ST. PAUL - The talk the entire season was about Roseau's impressive sophomore class. And the sophomores didn't let the Rams down against Grand Rapids in an all-northern Minnesota state Class AA boys hockey final Saturday night before 17,567 fans ...
ST. PAUL - The talk the entire season was about Roseau's impressive sophomore class.
And the sophomores didn't let the Rams down against Grand Rapids in an all-northern Minnesota state Class AA boys hockey final Saturday night before 17,567 fans in Xcel Energy Center.
Sophomore goalie Mike Lee stopped 28 of 29 shots, sophomore forward Tyler Landman had two goals, sophomore forward Nick Oliver had one goal and their classmates showed off their skills in a 5-1 victory against the Thunderhawks.
But the final game of the season is a special night for seniors, and Roseau's upperclassmen also had a big night in the biggest game of the year.
Seniors Ryan Larsen and Ben Johnson scored goals in the first and second periods, respectively, to get the Rams off to a good start in a game in which offense took a back seat to good defensive hockey early on.
"This year's senior class, not only did they get us here, but they stepped up in the championship game," Roseau coach Scott Oliver said. "I liken it to a dogsled team. Your seniors are going to be the lead dog . . . and they're going to dictate the speed and the pace of the entire team."
The state title is Roseau's seventh and first since 1999. The Rams finished at 29-2 overall, with both losses coming to Section 8AA rival Moorhead. Roseau could compete in Class A based on enrollment, but it opts up to Class AA.
"For our little program, for our little town of Roseau to continue to come down to the state tournament and compete against the big schools, that's what it's all about," coach Oliver said.
The tight-checking game featured two of the most storied programs in Minnesota. Roseau made its 31st appearance and Grand Rapids came down for the 14th time. Combined, they now have 10 state titles.
Larsen, who scored Roseau's third goal in a 3-1 victory against Rochester Century in Friday's semifinal round, staked the Rams to a 1-0 lead.
After a Johnson shot, Larsen found himself alone in front and put one into an open corner of the net at 12 minutes, 12 seconds of a first period that had little flow.
A sprawling Reidar Jensen save on Landman while the Rams were skating shorthanded kept the margin at one entering the second period.
Johnson scored on a 2-on-1 with Ryan Weston at 3:06 of the second for a 2-0 lead. Johnson saw Weston take off and caught up with him before taking the pass and firing a shot past Jensen for his fourth goal of the year.
"I've wanted this since I was a little kid, since the '99 team won it," Johnson said.
Landman made it 3-0 at 1:30 of the third, taking a pass from Kurt Weston and beating Jensen high.
Kurt Weston and Landman teamed up again for a power-play goal at 4:17 for a 4-0 lead. Landman knocked a rebound past Jensen's stick side after a Weston blast on net for his second goal.
Landman, Lee and Nick Oliver are just part of the talented sophomore class, which also includes standout defenseman Aaron Ness and forward Ryan Weston.
"It is a very talented group of underclassmen, there's no question about it," coach Oliver said. "But they're not the ones who run the locker room, they're not the ones who run the bus, they're not the ones who take care of things daily, whether it's in school or out of school. It's your seniors."
Corey Kosak spoiled the shutout with a high shot that handcuffed Lee with 8:49 left.
The Thunderhawks, who finished at 19-8-4, couldn't solve the Rams' stifling defense. Grand Rapids senior forward Patrick White, who had four goals against the Rams in last year's quarterfinals, didn't get a point in the state rematch.
"All of their shots were from the outside," coach Oliver said. "That was our game plan. We've shut down some very good players this last month. We shut down Patrick White twice now. We shut down (Moorhead's) Jordy Christian.
"That's just a credit to the kids buying into the systems."
Roseau wore its throwback jerseys from the late 1960s and early 1970s for the third straight game at state.
"There's just a lot of pride and a lot of tradition in Roseau hockey," coach Oliver said. "These players are not just playing for themselves, they're playing for the past teams."