Roseau hockey team returning to state tournament for first time since 2010
ROSEAU, Minn. -- Alex Strand is one of the few, a Roseau hockey player who already has experienced a state high school tournament. In 2012, Strand was the leadoff batter, starting shortstop and a pitcher for the Roseau team that won the Section 8...
ROSEAU, Minn. - Alex Strand is one of the few, a Roseau hockey player who already has experienced a state high school tournament.
In 2012, Strand was the leadoff batter, starting shortstop and a pitcher for the Roseau team that won the Section 8AA baseball tournament and advanced to state.
Strand was a sophomore then. Now, as a senior, he’s one of the top scorers on the Roseau team that is advancing to the Minnesota state hockey tournament.
“That (state baseball) was a good experience, a fun time,” Strand said. “But this is a better feeling. Roseau is such a big hockey community. Everybody is talking about the state tournament. People you don’t know come up and congratulate you. It’s a good feeling, really good.”
In Roseau, with its rich hockey tradition, this season has been a long time coming. The Rams won the Section 8AA tournament last week, beating rival Moorhead 7-4 in the championship game, to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2010.
Three seasons between state tournament appearances – that’s a long time for Roseau hockey.
“It’s the reality that hockey is getting better in our section,’’ Roseau coach Andy Lundbohm said. “It’s not an easy task to get down to state out of our section. There is a lot of passion for hockey in our community. People know how hard these kids work.
“Kids are pretty ecstatic getting to state in any sport. They are proud of what they accomplish, and they should be. And the kids spend more time on the ice rink than they put into any other sport here. To be rewarded like this, the satisfaction has to be a little higher.”
Roseau has been close to state over the previous three seasons. The Rams lost to Moorhead in the 8AA semifinals in 2011 and 2012, and then Brainerd eliminated Roseau in the section semis last season.
That this is the group that has gotten the Rams back to state is no surprise. During their youth hockey days, this collection of athletes won state peewee and bantam VFW state tournaments.
“These kids have played in a lot of pressure situations as youth players,” Lundbohm said. “Yeah, it was at a different venue. But they have shown they know how to turn it up a notch in big situations. They were expected to be a good group.”
A big line
The Rams take a 20-7-1 record to state. They also have one of the most explosive lines in the state.
Strand (29 goals, 48 assists) centers a line that includes Alex Halstensgard (19-23) and UND recruit Zach Yon (39-41).
“They’ve carried the mail,” Lundbohm said. “They’ve put up some big numbers. You always hear teams talking about stopping that line. But nobody has really done it.
“They’re all outstanding athletes. But they’re completely different players. Yon is the total package. He has unbelievable speed, is a gifted playmaker and has a laser for a shot. Strand is the playmaker with his ice awareness. Halstensgard is more the gritty kid who does a lot of the dirty work. He’s an energy guy.”
Defenseman Cole Bjugson (9-36), a Bemidji State recruit, is the Rams’ other top scorer.
But depth and defense also are key components to the Rams’ success.
The second line of Brady Castle (11-10), Dylan Mielke (6-9) and Jack Helgeson (8-4) also has been productive. Helgeson and Castle had key goals in the 8AA final against Moorhead.
“That line got us going in the section final,” Lundbohm said. “They forechecked well, beat Moorhead to the puck and got some big goals.”
Bjugson heads the defensive unit in front of goaltender Ryan Anderson (2.25 goals-against average, .901 save percentage).
“Our top line has done really well,” Anderson said. “But I think we’ve really improved on defense. We play good defense, too.”
A big line, some depth and defense - it’s all added up to the end of a three-year state tournament drought.
“It was getting a bit frustrating for everybody,” Strand said. “There are so many expectations for Roseau hockey teams to do well. It puts a little more pressure on you. But I think (the high expectations) help.”
DeVillers reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1128, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1128 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .