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Apple Valley isn't kidding around

03/04/2010, 1:00pm CST
By Loren Nelson, Editor

Section 3AA final: Youngest Eagles' players shine in win over Woodbury

Calling them The Kid Line would not only be unoriginal but not altogether accurate, given that one third of Apple Valley’s nickname-worthy forward unit, namely Michael Berens, is a junior.

Besides, by all accounts freshman Hudson Fasching and sophomore A.J. Michaelson are mature beyond their years. It’s not like these are grade-schoolers who bust out their Hot Wheels in the locker room.

”They are young, but they play like they are older guys,” Apple Valley junior goaltender Aaron Gretz said. “Sometimes we forget that Hudson is a freshman and A.J. is a sophomore. They look like seniors out there.”

After working some early-game jitters out of their system, Michaelson and Fasching took over the Section 3AA title game on Friday, March 5, at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum. They each scored two goals as the No. 4-seeded Eagles upended No. 3 Woodbury 4-0 to earn a berth in the state tournament.

“Age isn’t everything,” Apple Valley coach Jerry Hayes said. “If you can play the game, you can play the game.”

After a scoreless first period, Michaelson used an incredible burst of speed to take a loose puck in open ice into the Woodbury zone on a 2-on-1 with none other than Fasching. From there, Michaelson slid a perfect pass to Fasching, who drilled a hard shot into the net for the only goal of the second period.

Fasching scored again 5:41 into the third on a hard shot from the top of the right face-off circle, and Michaelson repeated the long-distance feat -- only this time scoring from just inside the left face-off circle -- less than two minutes later as the Eagles surged to a 3-0 lead. Michaelson added an empty-net goal in the final minute to cap a four-point night.

Michaelson now has nine points in three playoff games, including five goals.

”You saw that tonight, what it means to have him back on the ice,” Apple Valley coach Jerry Hayes said about Michaelson, who missed about eight games with a groin injury during a January and early-February stretch during which the Eagles struggled. “He’s only been back about three weeks, and he’s just now starting to hit his stride.

“You saw that tonight, just the explosiveness that he brings. He’s a dynamic player, when you can add that to your lineup … he’s a big part of our success.”

After Fasching scored the first goal, then the second, momentum just kept building for the Eagles. They kept the puck in the Woodbury zone for much of the final two periods as all of Apple Valley’s lines were buzzing.

“Once they got ahead they got better, they got way better,” Woodbury coach Wes Bolin said about the Eagles. “You know, high school hockey is one of those things where when you get the lead, it’s such an emotional game and they are just kids, that the kids with the lead play better. Kids playing from behind sometimes have a tendency to lose focus on what they need to do.”

For Michaelson, resting and rehabbing the injury he suffered while playing last fall in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League was almost too much to take.

“It was awful,” he said. “I wanted to be out there. All I could do was rest it, ice it and go to physical therapy. The first two games (since returning), I would hear a clicking noise. And now it feels fine.”

It feels better than fine. The Eagles, led by their Kids, are making their first state tournament appearance since 1996.

 “Yeah," Michaelson said while standing outside the Eagles' high-decibel celebration in their locker room, "this is awesome.”

Fasching scored again 5:41 into the third on a hard shot from the top of the right face-off circles, and  Michaelson duplicated the shot only from inside the left face-off circle less than two minutes later as the Eagles surged to a 3-0 lead. Michaelson added an empty-net goal in the final minute and finished with four-point night.

Michaelson now has nine points in three playoff games, including five goals.

”You saw that tonight, what it means to have him back on the ice,” Apple Valley coach Jerry Hayes said about Michaelson, who missed about eight games with a groin injury during a January and early-February stretch during which the Eagles struggled. “He’s only been back about three weeks, and he’s just now starting to hit his stride.

“You that tonight,  just the explosiveness that he bring. He’s a dynamic player, when you can add that to your lineup … he’s a big part of our success.”

After Fasching got that first goal, then the second, momentum just kept building for the Eagles. They kept the puck in the Woodbury zone for much of the final two periods as all of Apple Valley’s lines buzzed around looking for a goal.

“Once they got ahead they got better, they got way better,” Woodbury coach Wes Bolin said about the Eagles. “You know, high school hockey is one of those things where when you get the lead, it’s such an emotional game and they are just kids, that the kids with the lead play better. Kids from behind sometimes have a tendency to lose focus on what they need to do.”

Statistics, Summary

Photo Gallery

THREE STARS

1. Hudson Fasching, Apple Valley
Big, smooth-skating freshman scored the opening goal off a nice feed from linemate A.J. Michaelson, then did most of the work himself to put Apple Valley up 2-0 in the third period when he unloaded a hard shot from the top of the right face-off circle that got past Woodbury goaltender Michael Ness.

2. Aaron Gretz, Apple Valley
Eagles' junior goaltender was especially sharp in the opening period, when he made 11 of his 27 saves to keep the game scoreless while his teammates, many of them sophomores, rid themselves of some early jitters.

3. A.J. Michaelson, Apple Valley
Sophomore appears fully recovered from a nagging groing injury, as he combined electric bursts of speed with some deft stickhandling to set up a goal and score two of his own, the first on a cannon shot from the left face-off circle that jolted the water bottle from the top of the goal and the second into an empty net. 

Quick Hits

Kid Line strikes
Apple Valley's A.J. Michaelson, one of the state's top sophomores who missed a large chunk of the regular season with a groin injury, used a tremendous burst of speed to break into the Woodbury zone on a 2-on-1 with freshman linemate Hudson Fasching in the second period. Michaelson eventually fed Fasching with a cross ice pass that Fasching one-timed past Woodbury goaltender Michael Ness to put the Eagles ahead 1-0 with 6:24 left in the period. Michaelson finished the regular season as the Eagles third-leading scorer with 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists). Fasching, one of the state's top handful of freshmen, led Apple Valley in scoring during the regular season with team highs of 20 goals and 16 assists.

Dueling goalposts
With the game still scoreless in the second period, both teams came within inches of getting on the scoreboard by drilling shots off the goalpost. Apple Valley's Alex Trenary struck iron with a shot with about 11 minutes left and Woodbury's Matt Pederson countered just a few minutes later with a hard shot off the left goal goalpost. In the third period, Apple Valley's Michael Berens unloaded a shot that hit the crossbar and caromed forward to the ice just outside the crease area. Berens' linemate, Fasching, offered some words of encouragement after the next whistle then Fasching scored his second goal of the game a few minutes later.

Equipment adjustment
A leg pad problem for Apple Valley goaltender Aaron Gretz delayed the start of the second period for several minutes. The Eagles were late arriving to the ice from their locker room, and once they did make their appearance Gretz was bent over on the bench adjusting the strap on the balky piece of gear. At one point, it appeared as though the linesman was going to drop the puck to start the period even though Gretz was not in the goal and only one Apple Valley player was anywhere near the center ice face-off circle.

Off to Sioux City
Seconds after one season concluded for Woodbury senior Max Gaede, a new one was to begin. Rick Comley, an assistant coach with the Sioux City (Iowa) Musketeers, was at Thursday's game and, with Woodbury's season over following the Royals' loss to Apple Valley, planned to drive Gaede south to join the USHL team for the rest of the season. By playing at least 10 games with the Musketeers (they have 13 remaining on their regular season schedule) the team would retain Gaede's rights for next season. Gaede, a Minnesota State recruit who led the Royals in scoring with 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists), was expected to be in the Musketeers' lineup as early as Friday, March 5, for a home game against Des Moines (Iowa).

The Game That Wouldn't End
At the same time Apple Valley was surging past Woodbury in the Section 3AA final, Duluth East was rolling to a 5-1 win over Elk River in the Section 7AA title game. Although they are in different conferences, sections and regions of the state, the teams will forever be linked. In 1996 Apple Valley and Duluth East played the longest game in state tournament history, a five-overtime marathon that lasted 93 minutes, 12 seconds of elapsed time. Apple Valley won the semifinal matchup 4-3 on a goal by Aaron Dwyer. The Eagles, who went on to beat Edina in the Class AA championship game, haven't been to the state tournament since. "I was at the Duluth East game," said Apple Valley junior goaltender Aaron Gretz, who had a brother on the team. "I was four years old. I do not remember it. My brothers were just talking about (playing in the state tournament). It’s the greatest memory they’ve ever had, and now I can experience it too. It’s just going to be unreal."

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