Grant Opperman of Breck, right, scored a goal and added two assists for Minnesota Red in its 7-3 victory over Northwood School (N.Y.). Photo by Helen Nelson
In a locker room full of rivals turned teammates, Breck senior Grant Opperman isn’t a bad guy to send in as a peacemaker.
The outgoing Opperman will say whatever comes to mind, crack jokes and otherwise run his mouth. All in a positive way, of course.
“He’s got a good sense of humor,” Minnesota Red coach Sean Toomey said. “You need a guy who is willing to talk and lighten the mood a little bit. In the same token, he goes back out on the ice and delivers.”
Opperman had a goal and two assists in Minnesota Red’s 7-3 triumph over Northwood School (N.Y.) on Friday, Nov. 4, at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope in the quarterfinals of the Bauer National Invitational Tournament.
The victory advances Minnesota Red into an 11:15 a.m. Saturday showdown against Minnesota White, which got a hat trick from Hermantown’s Jared Thomas in Friday’s 7-1 quarterfinal triumph over Michigan Development Hockey League U-18.
Opperman played for Team Northwest during the Elite League season. He finished second on the team in scoring with 14 goals and 20 assists for 34 points in 24 games.
Grant Opperman, right, crashes into the goalpost after rushing the net. Photo by Helen Nelson
Now the 5-foot-11½, 180-pound forward finds himself playing on the same team as an array of former high school and Elite League foes.
“During the Elite League season, me and (St. Paul Johnson’s Jay) Dickman, went at it I think every game,” Opperman said about the 6-5, 240-pound forward who played for Team Northeast. “Not the best guy to pick, but we were going at it. Like chirping and throwing punches.
“And then you get here and see him and it’s, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ Who knows, you might be playing on a line together.”
Opperman was on a highly productive line that included Benilde-St. Margaret’s Christian Horn and Maple Grove’s Dylan Steman. The line opened the first and second periods with goals in the opening minute of each session, and each member of the unit scored a goal. Opperman helped clinch the win with a third-period goal that he scored after launching the puck just under the crossbar. Horn set him up with a perfect feed on a 2-on-1.
“It doesn’t matter who is on your line,” Opperman said. “Every single guy is an unbelievable player. No matter who you get put with, you are going to be just fine.”
The way Opperman sees it, Elite League players selected for the Bauer NIT share mutual respect more than they do bad blood.
“We know what guys’ strengths are,” Opperman said. “We play against them all the time. It’s not like we are a bunch of strangers coming together.”
Grant Opperman of Breck and Christian Horn of Benilde-St. Margaret’s each had a goal and two assists to lead Minnesota Red past Northwood School (N.Y.) 7-3 on Friday, Nov. 4, in the quarterfinals of the Bauer National Invitational Tournament at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope.
The line of Opperman, Horn and Dylan Steman of Maple Grove accounted for three goals. They scored on opening shift of the first and second periods.
Horn’s goal 42 into the second period put Minnesota Red ahead 4-0 and proved to be the game winner.
Northwood scored three unanswered during a 9 minute, 47 second span of the second period to close to within 4-3.
Minnesota Red regained control in the third period with goals from Hill-Murray’s Charlie Sampair and Opperman off 2-on-1 rushes. Jake Guentzel of Hill-Murray closed the scoring with a power-play goal.
Minnesota Red fired 56 shots on Northwood goaltender Zac Rondeau, who was spectacular in the second period when he was peppered with 26 shots.
Minnesota Red goaltender Bryan Nies of Grand Forks Red River made 28 saves.
1. Grant Opperman, Minnesota Red
A senior from Breck, the vocal Opperman let his play carry most of the conversation with the noisy Northwood bench. Opperman scored on wicked shot under the crossbar to conclude a 2-on-1 with linemate Christian Horn of Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the third period and also added two assists.
2. Jay Dickman, Minnesota Red
A St. Paul Johnson senior, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Dickman scored on a cannon wrist shot from the side boards, set up linemate Charlie Sampair for a breakaway goal with a deft pass and generally wreaked havoc along the boards and in front of the Northwood goal with his physical play.
3. Zac Rondeau, Northwood
Yes, Rondeau, from South Hadley, Mass., allowed seven goals. But he was brilliant during long stretches of the second period when he was pounded with 26 shots.