The Duluth East bench celebrates a victory over Burnsville in the quarterfinals of the Schwan Cup Gold division (Photos by Tim Kolehmainen).
Duluth East senior forward Trevor Olson wasn’t supposed to play more than a few power-play shifts for the Greyhounds in their opening game of the Schwan Cup Gold Division on Monday, Dec. 26.
After all, it was Olson’s first game back since he sprained his medial collateral ligament in a preseason practice, which limited his practice time and conditioning level.
Luckily for the Hounds, Olson’s stamina was surprisingly high, and he saw more of the ice than the bench.
Olson netted a hat trick, helping top-ranked Duluth East advance to the Gold Division semifinals at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, where they’ll meet St. Thomas Academy.
“Before the game [coach Mike Randolph] said that I’d be for sure on power play and maybe a couple shifts here and there,” said Olson, who scored 28 goals and had 69 points for the Hounds last year. “After that first shift that I went out I felt pretty good, so I told [Randolph] to keep playing me until I got tired.”
Olson scored the Hounds’ first and second goals, and then added the empty-net insurance tally in the final seconds. Maybe the best sign for the Hounds was his battle level, which seemed to get higher and higher as the game went on.
“That never really happened,” said Olson, when asked when he started to feel tired.
As most people who have seen Olson play know, his game is more than just scoring. Olson is a big, physical player that is reliable in all three zones. In fact, he said that a big hit at the offensive blue line was what got him into the game against Burnsville, not a scoring chance or good cycle.
“I love taking the body,” said a smiling Olson. “I know I have the team support behind me, so I know when I have a big hit like that the team will get going.”
It’s not only his physical abilities that get the Hounds going, though. Olson is an emotional leader on Duluth East, something he showed late in Monday's game.
When the Blaze took a lead in the third, Olson’s confidence rubbed off on his teammates.
“When that goal went in we were on the bench and everybody looked at each other and said, ‘We got this’,” Olson said of his team’s response to falling behind in the final period. “We got about four shifts apiece [after the goal], we all went out there and played our hearts out.”
With the three games in three nights, Randolph isn’t sure how much Olson will be able to play the rest of the tournament.
“We’ll see how much we play him and how he feels when he gets up tomorrow,” Randolph said. “Hopefully he’ll be alright, because he played a lot more than we planned on playing him.”
Despite the lack of conditioning, Olson will probably get a good amount of ice time Tuesday.
“He’s a competitive kid,” Randolph said of Olson.
Whether Olson is only able to play a few minutes, or if he goes the entire game like he did Monday, Duluth East is simply content having one of its leading scorers and captains back in the lineup.
“He brings a lot of things [to the team],” Randolph said. “He not only bring the scoring touch, but the physicality, and he creates space for the other two [linemates Jake Randolph and Dom Toninato]. They’re pretty happy to have him on the line.”
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff
Jake Senta scores the second of his two goals for Burnsville (Photos by Tim Kolehmainen).
Alex Toscano kept top-ranked Duluth East among the ranks of the unbeatens, scoring with 46.6 seconds remaining to break a tie against Burnsville in the Schwan Cup Gold Division quarterfinals at Ridder Arena Monday afternoon.
His goal -- followed by an empty-net hat trick goal from Trevor Olson -- gave the Greyhounds (9-0-0) a 4-2 victory over the No. 7-ranked Blaze (6-3-0).
Toscano fought off a check in front of Burnsville goaltender Chris Mallon and picked the five-hole off a pass from Hogan Davidson. It was the first lead for East, as Burnsville had held both 1-0 and 2-1 advantages.
Jake Senta scored both goals for the Blaze, netting the only goal of the first period with just 1 minute, 9 seconds left.
Olson, in his first game back from a knee injury, tied it for East on a blast from the high slot that rang off the far post. But Senta regained a one-goal lead for Burnsville just over four minutes into the third.
Olson again responded with the tying goal just over 3 1/2 minutes later, setting up the frantic finish. He capped his hat trick with an open-net tally from the far blue line with 15 seconds left. The senior captain was expected to play just a few shifts, but injuries -- and his strong play -- forced him into a much bigger role.
Mallon was strong in nets for the Blaze, making 36 saves on 39 shots. Dylan Parker settled into a rhythm for East, making 20 saves, including a handful on a Burnsville power play late in the third period which ended just before Toscano's game-winner.
East advances to play St. Thomas Academy in the Schwan Cup Gold semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Burnsville plays Holy Angels in the consolation semifinals at noon at the X.
-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA
1. Trevor Olson, Duluth East
Welcome back to the lineup. After missing the first eight games of the season with a knee injury, Olson was expected to play a handful of shifts in his return Monday afternoon. Instead, he played the last 2 1/2 periods on a regular shift with linemates Jake Randolph and Dom Toninato -- and scored a hat trick. His conditioning may not quite be back to full strength yet, but his shot and ice awareness certainly was.
2. Chris Mallon, Burnsville
The Blaze goaltender was tested all game by the powerful East offense and he stood up to the pressure, making 36 saves on 39 shots (Trevor Olson also scored on an empty net in the final seconds). Mallon's size and quick glove frustrated the 'Hounds, who also missed the net on numerous great scoring chances.
3. Alex Toscano, Duluth East
Toscano scored the biggest goal of the game, hitting the water bottle with 46.6 seconds remaining on a scramble in front of the Burnsville net. Toscano's goal gave East its first lead of the game at 3-2 and sent the 'Hounds into the Schwan Cup Gold semifinals against St. Thomas Academy.
-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA