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Latest Duluth East upset ranks among biggest in recent tourney history

By Loren Nelson, 03/06/15, 10:30PM CST

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David La Vaque has covered all but one state hockey tournament game since 2009 and has worked as a Star Tribune high school sports reporter since 2004. His favorite tournament experiences include cheering for alma mater St. Paul Johnson in 1991 and staying for most of the Apple Valley/Duluth East marathon semifinal game in 1996. Loren Nelson has covered every state tournament since 2009 as the national media editor for Sport Ngin. He attended many, many other Tourney games as a high schooler from the far northern reaches of Minnesota making the annual pilgrimage south to the old St. Paul Civic Center in the 1980s.


Still winding down from Duluth East’s whopper of a win over Edina. Incredible game played in front of a huge crowd – the announced 21,609 for the evening session is the largest indoor crowd for a hockey game in Minnesota.

Who says the state tournament has lost its luster?

Last upset of that magnitude, I think, came in 2012. Duluth East was on the other side in that one, as the No. 1-seeded Greyhounds came in with a 27-1-0 record and the magnificent top line of Jake Randolph, Dom Toninato and Trevor Olson. They were prohibitive favorites to win the tourney.

Unseeded Lakeville South knocked off the Greyhounds 3-2 in the quarterfinals in a shocker.

The difference in that game was that Lakeville South was led by a superstar in Justin Kloos, the Mr. Hockey winner that year who is now playing for the Gophers. Lakeville South also entered the tourney with a respectable 20-8-0 record.

This Duluth East team has neither of those things. The Greyhounds were 14-10-4 entering the tournament and have no and Mr. Hockey candidates or Division I commits on their roster.

Lots of good stuff from the postgame media session, including Randolph saying he didn’t think the win was an upset. Seriously.

Asked about his calm demeanor, Randolph quipped: 
“Did you see me on the bench at the end? I’ve been here 17 times, so you kind of get used to it. And I’m retired.”

Randolph’s relationship with senior goaltender Gunnar Howg also came up. Howg, who was deep in Randolph’s doghouse midway through the season, made 25 saves against the Hornets.

Randolph on Howg:
“I don’t have to say anything to Gunnar anymore. He knows where I stand and I know where he stands. I know how important this is to him.

“He sat out about five six games midseason. He wasn’t happy with his play, nor was I happy with his play. He turned it around. He went into Lakeville North and lost 2-1 and the only reason it was a 2-1 game was because of Gunnar. He’s our guy.”

Howg on his midseason benching: 
“I guess I just lost focus. It was not fun. Those three weeks going to practice, just feeling unimportant. That definitely drove me to go out there and try as hard as I could, every shot, every game.”

Another masterful coaching job by Randolph, whose body of work fits snugly among the careers of icons such as Edina’s Willard Ikola, Bloomington Jefferson’s Tom Saterdalen and International Falls’ Larry Ross.

If Randolph, who ranks seventh in the state in career victories, can win a state championship with this, the most unlikely of teams, he only cements his legend.

Gotta run. Putting together the Day 3 All-Tourney Team with La Vaque.

Stay tuned.

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