The parking lots surrounding Plymouth Ice Center 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.
Monday's matchup between Benilde-St. Margaret's and Wayzata was brimming with electricity for both the JV and varsity games. The teams squaring off had originally been scheduled to play Jan. 5, but were rescheduled in the wake of the paralyzing spinal cord injury suffered by Red Knights sophomore Jack Jablonski in a JV game.
Jablonski was injured Dec. 30 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. Margaret's coach Ken Pauly said 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."
Both teams were called for 5-minute major penalties in the showdown of Class 2A, Section 6 rivals. Both penalties likely would have been 2-minute minors before the Jablonski injury spurred statewide rule changes that stiffened the penalties for checking from behind, head contact and boarding penalties.
"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 on 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 of the JV game.
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