Unbeaten this season yet unable to avoid criticism about its geography or strength of schedule, state tournament newcomer Luverne won a moral victory Wednesday for an entire region.
The Cardinals, heavy underdogs to Class 1A power Hermantown, were tied with the Hawks 1-1 and stayed within one goal for almost half the game a 6-3 loss.
The representative from Section 3, made up of teams from southwestern Minnesota, went without a quarterfinal victory for the seventh consecutive season. But competing well against Hermantown earned Luverne respect.
“We have a lot of people who talk not very highly of our section, our area of the state and who we play, but we showed some people today that we can play hockey, too,” Cardinals coach Derrick Brown said. “The state is doing the right thing by letting us have a section and letting the game grow down in our area.”
Hermantown coach Bruce Plante concurred.
“Having a great team like that just excites the whole community and all the little kids,” Plante said. “That’s how it started for us.”
DAVID La VAQUE
Luverne couldn’t have started its first-ever tournament game in a worse way, giving up a goal only 27 seconds into the first period to Hermantown.
“We told them, ‘Get through your nerves,’ ” Brown said. “As soon as it was 1-1, our bench erupted, and you could tell we we’re going to have a hockey game today.”
A senior’s moment
Top-seed East Grand Forks got goals from the usual contributors in a 5-1 quarterfinal victory against Orono.
Dixon Bowen scored his team-best 18th goal. Tanner Tweten added two more goals to his season-total of 17, tying him with Reed Corbid, who also found the back of the Orono net.
The biggest goal of the night, however, came off Nick Ranten’s stick. The senior third-line center made a tremendous play in the third period, intercepting a pass in the Spartans zone and burying a slapshot to build a 4-1 lead.
Orono coach Kasey Yoder called the Green Wave’s fourth goal “a backbreaker” that squashed any chance of a Spartans comeback. It was only Ranten’s fifth goal of the season and first in eight games. His first career goal came last season in the section playoffs.
East Grand Forks coach Tyler Palmiscno hailed Ranten as “a senior stepping up to make a big play at a big time.”
DAVID LA VAQUE
Eden Prairie senior Luc Snuggerud didn’t play defense full-time until about five years ago. Now he’s being recognized as the top defenseman in the state.
On Tuesday Snuggerud won the Reed Larson Award, which “Let’s Play Hockey’’ magazine presents to the top senior boys’ hockey defenseman in Minnesota.
“Obviously it’s an honor,” he said. “It’s a testament to my teammates, especially to my defensemen and goalies, who have been playing great all year as well.”
Snuggerud will play for Nebraska Omaha this fall. Known as more of an offensive player, Snuggerud said he is working on improving his defense.
“It definitely helps knowing that I’ve gotten such a prestigious award,” he said, “but I mean it’s humbling at the same time, and it raises the bar a little bit.”