Duluth East forward Jake Randolph, right, tries to control the puck as Maple Grove's Spencer Bell (20) and goaltender Kyle Koop scramble for the puck. Photo by Helen Nelson
With the Maple Grove student section in postseason form on Wednesday night in hopes of giving its team a mental edge while getting into Greyhounds’ goalie Dylan Parker’s head, the junior netminder admitted that he barely paid notice to the boisterous, hostile environment at the Maple Grove Community Center.
“I just don’t pay attention to them,” said the calm, cool Parker after stopping 23 shots in yet another winning effort for top-ranked Duluth East. “I look at the game and try to find something to do around the crease until they get down in my zone.”
Goaltenders that step into the crease in road buildings have been known to struggle with a vocal home crowd. Often they lose focus, they don’t stop the shots they should and they let the momentum build against them. Just ask Roberto Luongo what it’s like to stand between the pipes in those situations.
Duluth East goaltender Dylan Parker leads the state with a .947 save percentage. Photo by Helen Nelson
But Parker was a brick wall against the No. 2-ranked Crimson, allowing absolutely nothing after Maple Grove found a way to tie the game at one midway through the opening period.
“I just focus on the thing I started from at the beginning,” Parker said. “I go out there and stop all the pucks I can and keep my team in it until they can start scoring goals throughout the game.”
Because of his mild manner and fundamentals, Parker didn’t have to make any sprawling, game-changing saves. Instead, he stood at the top of his crease and swallowed up shot after shot, holding up his end of the deal to near perfection.
“He’s been big,” Duluth East head coach Mike Randolph said of Parker, who also dazzled in a Hounds’ win over Minnetonka a week ago. “They went on the power play [at the end of the second] and he came up big.”
The power play that Maple Grove found itself on towards the end of the second period was maybe Parker’s best showing all game. He stopped several point-blank chances, he found pucks through traffic and, most importantly, snuffed out any momentum the Crimson hoped to gain from the man advantage.
“I know that if I start stopping pucks they’re going to go put it in the other net,” Parker said. “It really gives me confidence knowing they will help me out.”
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff
Duluth East's Trevor Olson (12) gives teammate Dom Toninato a hug after Toninato scored a first-period goal for the Greyhounds. Photo by Helen Nelson
A sold-out crowd conservatively estimated at 1,500 packed the Maple Grove Community Center on Wednesday for the showdown between No. 1 Duluth East and No. 2 Maple Grove. Photo by Helen Nelson
Senior forward and likely Mr. Hockey finalist Jake Randolph scored twice and added an assist as No. 1-ranked Duluth East knocked No. 2 Maple Grove from the unbeaten ranks with a 4-1 victory on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at a sold-out Maple Grove Community Center.
A crowd estimated at more than 1,500 -- with some fans standing on benches, ladders and window wells -- packed the arena to see the much anticipated showdown between two of the state’s last unbeaten teams.
Randolph scored his first goal in the opening period on a backhander while kneeling on the ice. His second goal came in the third period on a nifty deke that pulled Maple Grove goaltender Kyle Koop out of position, allowing Randolph to deposit the puck into an empty net. That goal, which came on a power play, put the Greyhounds (12-0-0) ahead 4-1 with 12, minutes 47 seconds left in the third period.
Dom Toninato and Conner Valesano also scored for the Greyhounds, who led 2-1 after the first and 3-1 heading into the third.
Senior forward Dylan Steman scored the lone goal for the Crimson (11-1-1).
Duluth East handed No. 3-ranked Minnetonka its only loss of the season in the championship game of the Schwan Cup Gold Division on Dec. 28.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
1. Jake Randolph, Duluth East
Not even heavy attention from the Maple Grove defense could slow down the Greyhounds' leading point scorer as Randolph collected three points (two goals and one assist). After Maple Grove's Dylan Steman tied the game at the 8:56 mark of the first period, Randolph answered by scoring his first goal just 69 seconds later. The senior forward added a nifty power-play goal early in the third period to help seal the victory.
2. Dom Toninato, Duluth East
Dominant on both sides of the ice, Toninato was an all-over threat. Offensively, the senior forward had a busy first period as he scored a power-play goal and added an assist on Jake Randolph's eventual game-winning goal. Toninato also aided the short-staffed Greyhounds' defense (star defenseman Nate Repensky is out with a wrist injury) with tenacious forechecking and heavy backchecking -- notably in the second period as he broke up a quality chance for Maple Grove when it looked like the Crimson would get back into the game.
3. Dylan Parker, Duluth East
Thanks to his teammates breaking up chances and blocking shots, Parker only saw 24 shots on goal -- but they were the best Maple Grove could throw at the junior goaltender. The majority of Parker's 23 saves came when Maple Grove was on the power play or had odd-man rushes. Parker's positioning was near-perfect, making save after save that continually frustrated the dangerous Maple Grove forwards.
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff