Warroad and Roseau have been interlocked in boys hockey for decades. The two communities, located 20 miles apart, have one of the sport's most tradition-rich rivalries in Minnesota.
This season, the programs have taken similar paths to success as they renew the rivalry at 7:30 p.m. today in Warroad. Both teams had a slow start, a current winning streak and a lot of goals scored of late.
"Some of the things we try to do, I think it takes the kids awhile to learn,'' Roseau coach Andy Lundbohm said. "It's the same with Warroad. Both coaches want a certain structure.''
Roseau, after a 1-2-1 start, brings an eight-game winning streak into the game. Other than a 4-3 overtime win against Buffalo, the Rams won all of the seven remaining games by three or more goals.
Roseau has outscored opponents 43-11 in its last eight games and has allowed a total of four goals, and no more than one in a game, in its last five wins.
"The one thing I've noticed is that the guys are playing with more confidence,'' Lundbohm said. "Some of the guys are in different positions this year. Some are playing bigger roles. It takes time. And we're playing quicker now. When you can do that and put teams on their heels, good things happen.''
Warroad is 8-5-0. The Warriors opened the season with back-to-back losses and won just three of their first eight games. But they've won their last five games, outscoring opponents 25-3 in that span.
Warroad coach Jay Hardwick sees the in-season turnaround in similar fashion as Lundbohm.
"We graduated a big class last year,'' Hardwick said. "We have a lot of new guys in new places. There's a learning curve. It took the guys awhile to get comfortable.
"At the beginning of the year we weren't scoring a lot and we were giving up a lot of goals. Now we've turned the tables.''
Warroad has a strong one-two scoring punch in Grant Slukynsky (11 goals-17 assists) and Owen Meeker (11-14). The defense is led by Gage Wilmer (1-9), Hunter Pelland (3-4), Cooper Cole (1-6) and Blake Norris (1-4).
Brothers Aaron Huglen (12-18) and Paul Huglen (3-14) lead the Roseau attack. Oliver Lee (1.58 goals-against average, .930 save percentage) anchors a strong defensive unit.
"I believe we have one of the best players in the state in Aaron,'' Lundbohm said. "He's a leader. Other kids see his energy and they try to match it. And we've never had this much depth on defense. Oliver has been outstanding; his best games have been against our best opponents.''
That will include Warroad. While a bit of the edge in the game has diminished since Roseau went into Class AA, Hardwick says Roseau vs. Warroad remains an intense rivalry.
"It's the close proximity of the towns and the number of quality players the two have produced,'' Hardwick said. "The programs have made each other better. It's an arms race -- you know you have to be good because the other will always be good.
"This game still means a lot. It's the game everyone talks about.''