Over the past several years, Warroad and Thief River Falls have made the Section 8A championship game more exclusive than the most trendy New York City nightclub.
While yet another Warriors vs. Prowlers final is a distinct possiblity again this high school season, keep an eye on East Grand Forks as a team with the talent to crash that party.
Senior defenseman Tucker Poolman (pictured above) is one of the reasons Warroad and Thief River Falls should be wary of the Green Wave. Poolman, making his Elite League debut this fall, was one of the standout defensemen for Great Plains in its 9-1 thumping of Norway.
“I tried out for the team this summer,” the 6-foot, 170-pound Poolman said. “I thought I did pretty well. Yeah, I was excited to make it.”
Poolman, who had three goals and nine assists in 27 games for East Grand Forks last season, spent the summer working out at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. One of his training partners was his defensive partner against Norway, Grand Forks Central senior Jeremy O’Keefe.
“I had no idea what to expect,” Poolman said about the matchup with Norway. “I heard some Norwegian out there. Some English, too.”
1. Shane Omdahl, Great Plains
The senior center from Roseau needed just 10 seconds to put his stamp on the new Elite League season, scoring a goal that would ignite the rout of Norway. Omdahl and linemates Josh Erickson of Roseau and Nick Stoskopf of Warroad were buzzing the Norway defense all game.
2. Eric Brenk, Great Plains
The speedy winger from Moorhead led all players with three points (one goal, two assists), routinely showing his eagerness to crash the net.
3. Mark Bittner, Great Plains
The senior defenseman from Crookston didn’t crack the scoresheet, but he scores big points for playing a football game Friday night (he’s the Pirates’ quarterback) and making the early morning drive to New Hope. He and defensive mate Carson Gray of Warroad were solid at both ends of the rink.
Josh Erickson-Shane Omdahl-Nick Stoskopf
Comment: Last season the Great Plains line combination of two Warroad players (Brett Hebel and Brock Nelson) and one from Roseau (Adam Knochenmus) was one of the highest scoring in the league. This season the mix is slightly different with two Roseau players (Erickson and Omdahl) and one from Warroad (Stoskopf), but at first glance the grouping looks like it could be equally explosive.
John Simonson-Luke Johnson-Jordan Aamot
Comment: An all-Grand Forks Central trio, if these guys stay together during the North Dakota high school season they will be extremely difficult to stop. Aamot and Simonson each scored a goal and Johnson finished with two assists.
Eric Brenk-Bryant Christian-Casey Fugleberg
Comment: Speed, speed and more speed, with Moorhead’s Brenk and Christian were joined by Grand Forks Red River’s Fugleberg. Brenk had a game-high three points and Christian added a goal and an assist.
Micah Ranum-Alan Zahui-Conor Jonasson
Comment: Ranum of Thief River Falls had a goal playing on the unit with Zahui of Grand Forks Red River and Jonasson of West Fargo. This group played better and better as the game wore on and looked especially good in the third period.
Great Plains center Shane Omdahl of Roseau (pictured at right) figures to be on the short list of Mr. Hockey candidates during the coming high school season. He will also, undoubtedly, be heavily scrutinized by college coaches.
Omdahl, who had 27 goals and 42 assists last season to lead the Rams, said he has been in contact with Bemidji State and Colorado College but hasn’t received any scholarship offers.
He said he has toured the new Bemidji State Regional Events Center and came away impressed.
“Plus Bemidji is close to home,” he said.
Great Plains head coach Scott Oliver missed his team's 10 a.m. game against Norway on Saturday in New Hope but was expected to arrive in the Twin Cities later in the day.
Oliver is the new head football coach at East Grand Forks. His Green Wave beat Crookston 34-20 on Friday night, and Oliver spent Saturday's early morning hours reviewing game film with his assistant coaches and players.
Meanwhile, Mark Bittner, Crookston's quarterback and Great Plains defenseman, left home at 4:30 a.m. for the long drive to the Twin Cities.
Great Plains assistant coach Chad Hommerding handled the head coaching duties in place of Oliver.
Roseau’s Shane Omdahl opened the scoring 10 seconds into the first period and Team Great Plains was never seriously challenged in its 9-1 rout of Norway on Saturday, Sept. 11, at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League opener for both teams.
Nine players scored goals and 13 registered at least one point for Great Plains, which led 4-1 after the opening period, 5-1 after the second and blew the game open by scoring three goals in a span of 2:36 in the third period.
Three of Great Plains four third-period goals came on the power play.
Eric Brenk of Moorhead had a goal and three assists to lead all Great Plains scorers with three points.
Michael Bitzer of Moorhead stopped 17 of 18 shots to earn the victory.