Duluth East's Alex Toscano scores the eventual game-winning goal on a third-period breakaway. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net
When Duluth East finally found its game around Christmas and started clicking at the pace it’s used to clicking at, there was still one spot on the roster that wasn’t quite solidified.
Goalie Dylan Parker, who admittedly wasn’t playing his best hockey, was in the middle of a rocky stretch. He wasn’t at the top of his game, and he decided to challenge himself.
“I started off really slow and I knew it,” he said. “I don’t lie to myself if I’m playing shaky, but throughout the year, I knew I had to come and play for these guys at the end of the year. I knew I had to play big if we wanted to keep playing.”
Parker worked with goalie coach Kyle Kolquist to get his game back on track. Kolquist, who won the Frank Brimsek Award as Minnesota’s top senior goalie when he played for the ‘Hounds, had a pretty good idea as to what would help Parker succeed at the level he wanted to.
“We talked about slowing down my game,” Parker said. “We went back to last year and looked at my positioning and noticed that I was really back in my net. I wanted to change that, and we really worked on playing out in the crease more.”
The results of the midseason instruction started to catch on late in the year, and, since February rolled around, Parker has been lights out. The senior has three shutouts in his last four games, is giving up a fraction of the rebounds he used to allow and has found that poise between the pipes that he lacked at times throughout the year.
In the Section 7AA final on Thursday, Parker had maybe his most steady game to date. Despite allowing three goals – all on plays that coach Mike Randolph called “NHL-type” plays by Grand Rapids players – Parker made 24 huge stops and helped calm his teammates in a back-and-forth third period.
“He’s a confident guy and you can always be confident in him,” said junior defenseman Phil Beaulieu. “Its always good to have that goalie back there, especially when you’re playing D. You know you can let him take shots and stuff like that.”
For Randolph, who has seen plenty of good goalies in his days behind the Duluth East bench, Parker’s success was just a matter of getting focused.
He knew Parker had it in him.
“He hadn’t played consistently consistent enough for his experience or ability,” Randolph said. “We’ve been on him, we’ve been riding him. Basically, we’re not going to the state tournament unless he picks up his play. He played on two pretty good teams, and it was time for him to step his game up.
“He met the challenge, and he’s found his game at the right time.”
He has, and Parker hopes his experience and rejuvenated confidence can help him at the Xcel Energy Center next week.
“I got a little experience and I know what its like down there,” he said. “I think that’s going to help out a lot when we get down there. I just have to play my game.”
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff
Duluth East goalie Dylan Parker turns away a shot from Grand Rapids forward Jonah Bischoff on Thursday night. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net
Four different Duluth East players scored to help the Greyhounds win a classic 7AA title game, 4-3, on Thursday, Feb. 28, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Grand Rapids coach Bruce LaRoque could not have planned a better start for the game for his team. The Thunderhawks came out flying in the first period generating multiple great scoring chances on the power play -- one of them a pipe -- but nobody could put one past Parker.
Then, at the 8:33 mark of the first period, Duluth East winger Brian Bunten made a great play to spring junior center Jack Kolar on an odd-man rush and Kolar picked his spot and buried it blocker side to put the Hounds up 1-0. Grand Rapids was able to hold off a Hounds late power play flurry to keep the score 1-0 Hounds after 17 minutes.
The persistent play of the Hounds finally payed off when Lundgren of Duluth East battled hard out front getting off a shot that rebounded out to the point where Beaulieu then picked his spot in between Hunter Shepard’s leg and the post and put the Hounds up 2-0.
With a little over five minutes to go in the second a scramble down low led to the puck bouncing off a some skates right out to Reid Holum of Grand Rapids where he then put it past a screened Parker to make it 2-1.
Only 30 seconds remained in the second when Duluth East's Jack Forbort picked up the loose puck, circled completely around the net, then let a laser go over Shepard’s shoulder from just atop the crease. That unassisted goal for Forbort put the Hounds back on top 3-1 at the end of two.
Just over a minute into the third a Bischoff to Bischoff one-timer was tipped in front by Holum to give him his second goal of the night and bring the score to 3-2 Duluth East.
Beaulieu sprung Toscano on a breakaway with 12 minutes to play in regulation, and Toscano then beat Rapids goaltender Shepard blocker side.
But three minutes later, Jake Bischoff started the puck out of his zone then, fed Holum, who put a shot on goal that Bischoff tipped in for his first goal of the night to bring the Thunderhawks within a goal.
With two minutes to play in regulation a controversial too many men penalty was assessed to Duluth East. Duluth East was able to kill off the penalty and held off the swarming Thunderhawks.
The win for the Greyhounds (24-4-0) sends them to their fifth straight Class 2A state tournament.
-- Morgan Nygaard, MN Hockey Hub staff
1. Alex Toscano, Duluth East
Senior Alex Toscano, picked up one goal, and an assist in tonights 7AA title tilt. His loan breakaway goal just so happened to be the game-winning goal as well. Toscano was named the team captain for a reason, and tonight he showed exactly why.
2. Reid Holum, Grand Rapids
Reid Holum needed one of his best games as a Thunderhawk tonight to put away the Duluth East Greyhounds. His effort came up just a bit short. Holum figured into all the Grand Rapids scoring with a valiant effort in his two goal and one assist night.
3. Phil Beaulieu, Duluth East
Junior Phil Beaulieu, had an outstanding night for the Hounds. One goal, and one assist tonight for Beaulieu helped seal the victory, and send the Greyhounds to state for a fifth straight season. Beaulieu was a stud on the blueline yet again when his team needed him most.
-- Morgan Nygaard, MN Hockey Hub staff