Benilde-St. Margaret's junior Grant Besse (12) tries to jam the puck past Wayzata goaltender Alec Almquist as the Trojans' Matt Halverson (20) and Kage Tiller (8) provide the defense. Photo by Helen Nelson
Grant Besse heard the chants.
Benilde-St. Margaret's junior Grant Besse celebrates after scoring against Wayzata. Photo by Helen Nelson
Benilde-St. Margaret's junior Grant Besse scored twice against Wayzata and ranks sixth in the state with 35 goals. Photo by Helen Nelson
The parking lots surrounding the Plymouth Ice Center parking lot were full an hour before varsity game time, and the bleachers inside the building were bustling for what was certainly one of the most anticipated junior varsity games in state history.
The Monday, Feb. 6, matchup between Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Wayzata was brimming with electricity at both the JV and varsity levels, the teams squaring off in games that had originally been scheduled for Jan. 5 but were rescheduled in the wake of the paralyzing spinal cord injury suffered by Red Knights sophomore Jack Jablonski in a junior varsity game.
Jablonski was injured in a Friday, Dec. 30, game against Wayzata in St. Louis Park and is rehabbing at the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Minneapolis.
“Honestly, I thought it was a non-factor,” Benilde-St. Margarget’s coach Ken Pauly said about the effect of the highly charged game on his players after the Red Knights’ 4-3 victory in front of 1,322 fans. “I don’t think it was an issue at all. I thought it was far more of an issue for our junior varsity players because those were the two teams that were involved.
“The truth is neither of the two varsity teams were in the building when Jack got hurt.”
Both teams were called for 5-minute major penalties in the showdown of Section 6AA rivals. Both penalties likely would have been 2-minute minors before the Jablonski injury spurred statewide rules changes that stiffened the penalties for checking from behind, head contact and boarding.
“They were good calls, but I didn’t think there was anything flagrant with either of those penalties,” Wayzata coach Pat O’Leary said. “I was happy there was nothing negative that came out of this game in terms of penalties.”
Wayzata resident Grant Besse scored twice in a four-goal second period for the No. 8-ranked Red Knights (16-5-0).
Kevin Miller scored with 2 minutes, 50 seconds left in the second period as Wayzata (13-7-1) pulled to within 4-3 entering the third period. The Trojans were unable to capitalize on a 5-minute major penalty called in Red Knights’ forward Christian Horn early in the final period.
Wayzata won the junior varsity game 1-0.
“It was kind of a slow start, but once you start playing it’s the funnest game ever out there, finally getting the monkey off our back and playing this one for Jack,” Benilde-St. Margaret’s junior forward Tanner Ahlborn said about the JV game. “It would have been a lot more fun to win that game, but even though we lost, it was a heck of a time out there.”
A senior defenseman, Halverson scored the only goal of the first period, blocked three shots and was effective moving the puck out of the Trojans' zone. He also did a nice job setting up at the top of Wayzata’s power play.