Sure, East Grand Forks had high hopes for its hockey team this winter. But even the most optimistic Green Wave fan had to be surprised by what transpired. Call it a dream season.
"It's pretty surreal," said senior Kolton Aubol following a 2-0 whitewashing of Warroad in the Section 8A final, a result that sent the Green Wave (22-3-3) to the state tournament for the first time since 2002.
A young defensive corps and first-year starting goaltender Tanner Lindstrom jelled almost instantly, powering the Green Wave into mid-January as the state's last remaining unbeaten team. Even after a two-game losing streak took away some of the luster, East Grand Forks rallied with a dominant stretch the rest of the way.
In all, the Green Wave were one of the stingiest teams in the state, allowing just 1.57 goals per game and posting 10 shutouts.
"We all fight together and we're all out here to win and we're all out here to play for each other," said sophomore Tye Ausmus, listing defensive mates Eddie Eades, Taylor Brierley and Colton Poolman -- none of them seniors. "We're brothers out there on the ice."
-- Tim Kolehmainen
FORWARDS: East Grand Forks is one of the deeper -- and more balanced -- class 1A teams in the field. Senior Tommy Hajicek led the team with 20 goals and 43 points, but another six forwards had at least nine goals and 18 points. that production is also well-balanced between grade levels. Hajicek and seniors Kolton Aubol, Nick Korynta and Rayce Martin are the veterans, but a look at the leaderboard also shows representation from juniors (Brandon Loven), sophomores (Dixon Bowen and Reed Corbid) and freshmen (Tanner Tweten and Grant Loven).
DEFENSE: The strength of the team has been on the blue line. The quartet of juniors Eddie Eades, Taylor Brierley and Colton Poolman and sophomore Tye Ausmus has a great mix of size (eades is an imposing heavy hitter), speed and skill.
GOALTENDING: Tanner Lindstrom was an unknown coming into his senior year as a career varsity backup. He's not unknown anymore. Not after winning 15 of his 21 starts and racking up seven of the team's 10 shutouts. He's a big goaltender who likes to spread out and fill as much of the net as possible.
In his first year as the solo head coach, Palmiscno has the Green Wave in the state tournament for the first time since 2002. he's been co-coaching East Grand Forks the past few seasons after a successful playing career. The 1998 East Grand Forks graduate followed in the footsteps of his father (Tony) and uncle (Steve) by playing at the University of North Dakota. He was also a three-year letterwinner in high school in football as a quarterback and in golf, playing in the state tournament as a senior.
Of all the teams outside of the "big three" of St. Thomas Academy, Breck and Hermantown, it appears East Grand Forks has the best chance to win a title. Outstanding team defense has been the Green Wave's hallmark and will be what carries them forward.
Nickname: Green Wave
2012-13 Record: 22-3-3
State trips: 1971, 80, 82, 98, 99, 2001, 02, 13
Coach: Tyler Palmiscno
Assistants: Scott Oliver, Chad Dahlen, Nick Bydal
Home arena: East Grand Forks Civic Center, East Grand Forks
Last season: Lost to Thief River Falls in Section 8A final, 4-1