Senior Jordan Stejskal is one of three Grand Rapids players suiting up for Great Plains in the Elite League. Photo by Helen Nelson
Jordan Stejskal doesn’t have the date circled on his calendar.
No need to, when it is burned into his brain.
“January 12th,” Stejskal said. “I’ve heard a lot of people saying they were going to come to that game.”
That game? It is none other than Grand Rapids playing host to Duluth East at the venerable IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids. The start time is 7:30 p.m. This one has “sold out” stamped all over it.
“I hope we get a lot of people,” Stejskal said. “We hate Duluth East, they hate us. It is a rivalry, but we love it.”
Last season Duluth East beat Grand Rapids 2-1 in overtime in a heart-stopping Section 7AA championship game at a raucous Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
It wasn’t the playoffs, and there weren’t thousands of fans in the stands, but Stejskal was playing some high-level hockey on Saturday, Oct. 1, in Grand Rapids as a member of Great Plains in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League. Stejskal’s Grand Rapids teammates Nate Mondry and Avery Peterson also were in the Great Plains lineup in its 6-3 loss to league-leading Team Southeast.
Two more Grand Rapids players, Jake Bischoff and Travis Underwood, suit up for the Elite League’s Team North.
“After going to the Twin Cities every weekend, it is nice to finally come home,” said Sterjskal, who scored seven goals and added six assists in 28 games for the Thunderhawks last season. “A little home ice advantage for the north teams. It’s fun.”
A 6-foot, 185-pound senior defenseman, Stejskal had two assists through 10 games for Great Plains.
“I try to play a little bit on the offensive,” Stejsakl said. “Move the puck and play defense is all you have to do, really. Keep it simple.”
There is a high appreciation level for the simple-but-effective approach in Grand Rapids, where three state championship banners (1975, 1976, 1980) hang from the arena’s wooden rafters.
“It is a lot of fun playing here because people in Grand Rapids love their hockey,” Stejskal said.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
Eagan's Will Merchant scored twice, Lakeville South's Justin Kloos added three points and Team Southeast cruised passed Great Plains 6-3 in the first of four Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League games Saturday at the IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids.
Team Southeast also got multiple point games from Eagan's Nick Kuchera, St. Thomas Academy's Eric Schurhamer and Hill-Murray's Jake Guentzel, helping to increase its lead in the standings to five points over Team Northwest.
Greenway's Erikur Arnason was tested early and often in the pipes for Great Plains, turning aside 39 shots, including 18 in the opening frame where his play kept the game from turning into what could have been a blowout.
Justin Kloos of Lakeville South had a goal and two assists in Team Southeast's victory over Great Plains. Photo by Helen Nelson
Guentzel and Eagan's Eli May scored early for Team Southeast, which held leads of 2-1 and 3-2 at the end of the first two periods and never trailed in the contest.
Eastview's Scott Nelson was the other player to record a goal for Team Southeast. His marker 2 minutes, 26 seconds into the third period held up to be the eventual game-winner.
Bemidji's John Forseth, St. Cloud Cathedral's Austin Swingle and Moorhead's Bryant Christian each found the back of the net for Great Plains, even though scoring chances were limited throughout the game – it had only 28 shots on goal, 13 of which came in the final period.
Bryan Nies of Grand Forks Red River was in goal for Southeast, finishing with 25 saves.
Both teams had games Saturday tonight, with Great Plains taking on Team Southwest and Team Southeast playing Team North.
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff
1. Justin Kloos, Team Southeast
Kloos, a Lakeville South senior who has committed to play for Minnesota, scored a power-play goal and added two assists for Team Southeast in has become a typical Elite League performance for the high-octane, highly effective Kloos, the league’s top scorer.
2. Will Merchant, Team Southeast
The crafty Eagan senior was up to his usual tricks, scoring twice in the third period. Merchant’s final goal was into an empty net, but he deserves high marks for creativity for dribbling an airborne puck off his stick a few times before whipping it into the empty goal.
3. Alec Rauhauser, Great Plains
The juniot defenseman from Bismarck, N.D., was effective moving the puck out of the zone, took the body with zest and zeal and, for good measure, notched a power-play assist.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor