The crown jewel among the state’s handful of precious gems of enduring rivalries, The Game lost some of its shine when two-class hockey arrived in the mid-1990s and Roseau opted to play in the larger Class 2A field shortly thereafter.
The fact these neighboring Canadian border town teams no longer meet in the playoffs has been somewhat of a buzzkill, sure, but players still get hyped and fans lubricated when these teams meet.
Coaches sometimes get fired based on the results, too.
“In Roseau, you can lose some games, but you can’t lose to Warroad,” said Dean Blais, who guided the Rams to the 1990 state title.
Both teams are in the midst of their finest seasons in recent history, and expectations have been cranked to the maximum, which sets up our Top Game of the Week as fans begin to look ahead to the start of next month’s playoffs.
Warroad, ranked No. 2 in the Class 1A coaches’ poll from Jan. 2, is the last of the state’s unbeatens. The Warriors have topped longtime small-school Section 8 foes Thief River Falls (2-1 on Dec. 12) and No. 3-1A East Grand Forks (6-4 on Dec. 20) to grab early frontrunner status.
Feeding the hype machine ahead of Thursday’s game is the fact Warroad (13-0-0, 4-0-0) boasts the state’s scoring leader in senior forward Grant Slukynsky, a Northern Michigan commit who has 20 goals and 30 assists. Warroad also features the state’s top scoring freshman in Jayson Shaugabay (8-20-28).
Roseau (10-3-0, 2-1-0) suffered a surprising 4-2 loss to fellow Class 2A, Section 8 resident Buffalo on Dec. 13, but it has otherwise survived its opening gauntlet of potential playoff foes, beating No. 6-2A Moorhead (4-3 on Dec. 10), Bemidji (6-1 on Dec. 19) and Brainerd (8-4 on Jan. 3).
Max Strand, one of several sophomores dotting the Rams’ roster, is the team’s top scorer with 27 points on 15 goals and 12 assists.