Duluth East’s schedule allows for a number of interesting scenarios to play out throughout the course of the year.
Because they aren't a member of a conference, the Greyhounds get to play whomever they like within the section and around the state. They get to maintain some long-standing rivalries. They get to play in a tournament that simulates the State tournament. They also get to stack their schedule in order to play some playoff-type games in each month before the playoffs start.
“It’s tough,” coach Mike Randolph said after another grueling week for the ‘Hounds, which saw them play three important games against three solid – but very different – opponents. “We played Tuesday against our archrivals, then [Thursday] we played in a big game within our section and [today] we played Eden Prairie. We’ve got some tired bodies in the locker room.”
Tired bodies and tired minds are what Randolph expects, though, as he puts his players through the grind during the regular season to condition them for the playoffs.
The goal is to have Duluth East ready for any team, any situation and any system.
“It’s about building towards the playoffs, and anytime you can play the teams we’ve played, that just helps you that much more come playoff time,” Randolph said.
The ‘Hounds contest against Eden Prairie on Saturday, Jan. 12, provided another pair of practice playoff scenarios for Duluth East – playing from behind and through frustration.
After two periods of play, the Eagles were clinging to a 1-0 lead despite being outshot 28-13. Duluth East was pressing for the equalizer, but couldn’t find it on several power-play tries through 34 minutes.
Randolph delivered a message between the second and third periods, and the ‘Hounds responded.
“We needed to pick it up, and he told us to bear down,” said senior blue-liner Andrew Kerr. “We were playing tired and we really needed to start getting to our game. We didn’t panic, though, and found a way to get the job done.”
The Duluth East response in the final period was something that is encouraging to Randolph – as are the responses by East after games against Breck and Duluth Denfeld that they’d rather forget.
“We’re starting to get some consistency in our game and the guys are starting to believe in what we’re trying to do,” he said. “We’re figuring out who we are and what the roles are. We have a lot of guys that don’t show up on the score sheet but do a lot of other things, and the biggest thing we’re happy about [in our game today against Eden Prairie] is that we played the way we wanted to defensively.
We got the job done against a really good hockey team.”
Three third-period goals off three sticks and 19 saves from goaltender Dylan Parker proved to be more than enough for No. 7 Duluth East in a 3-1 win over No. 15 Eden Prairie on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth.
After a Mason Bergh second-period marker allowed the Eagles to enter the third period with a 1-0 lead, Jack Forbort, Jack Kolar and Phil Beaulieu each scored for the Greyhounds in the final 17 minutes.
Just two minutes into the third, Forbort poked a faceoff forward in the offensive zone, got the puck to the net and beat Eden Prairie goalie Jake Kielly to even the score.
Kolar found some space in the slot and wired a one-timer over Kielly’s glove for game-winning goal just 90 seconds later.
Beaulieu’s goal, which was assisted by Parker and came just seconds after the Eagles pulled Kielly for the extra man, sealed it for the ‘Hounds (10-4-0).
Andrew Kerr and Kyler Chartier also had single assists for Duluth East.
Kielly played well throughout the contest, stopping 39 shots in all – including 20 in the second period alone.
Defenseman Luc Snuggerud had the lone assist on the Bergh goal.
Duluth East will be back in action on Tuesday when it travels to White Bear Lake.
The Eagles (6-7-1) are off until a Thursday game with Hopkins in Hopkins.
1. Jack Forbort, Duluth East
The ‘Hounds top-line center was responsible with the puck in all three zones, and it was his beautiful individual effort that sparked the Duluth East third-period rally. With just two minutes gone in the final period, Forbort pushed a puck forward off a draw, skated in on Kielly and stuffed it in the net to tie the game and give Duluth East all the momentum.
2. Phil Beaulieu, Duluth East
Beaulieu scored into an empty net on a long shot with just seconds remaining, but his play defensively was really key for Duluth East on Saturday. Beaulieu was smart with his stick, made some timely hits and kept his gaps tight to limit time and space.