Moorhead goalie Michael Bitzer (33) makes a save against Duluth East's Jake Randolph. Photos by Jordan Doffing; OTSN
In its game against Class 2A’s No. 7-ranked team on Saturday night, Duluth East experienced something it hadn’t seen yet during the season – a physical flair from an opponent that aimed to throw the top-ranked Greyhounds off their game.
When Moorhead roared out in the third period with two quick tallies to cut the Hounds’ lead to 4-2, it appeared as if the Spuds’ game plan had finally taken hold.
“They obviously came in to get in our heads, get us to run around a little bit,” Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said. “It worked for a while; the guys lost a little focus in the third. They got us off our game a bit.”
However, Duluth East eventually regained its focus, popped in a couple of answering goals and skated away with a 6-3 win.
Being the top-ranked team in Minnesota and playing with an unblemished record, Duluth East expects its opponents to throw different styles of play at it each night from here on out.
“We’re going to see different strategies [the rest of the season],” Randolph said. “That’s going to help us get ready for the playoffs, so we are ready for any kind of play that somebody brings us. We can play any way anybody wants to play.”
Perhaps the one Duluth East player that can best adapt to different styles is senior winger Trevor Olson. Against the gritty, hard-hitting Spuds, Olson led the Hounds in physical play while connecting with teammates to set up two Duluth East goals. With his size, its not surprising Olson thinks games like Saturday night’s brings out the best in him.
“That’s what I plan on doing every single game,” Olson said of his presence with the body. “Either making a hit to make a play or taking a hit to make a play. I did that my first shift and just kind of built off that.”
It was clear Olson looked better and better with each hit, proving that he’s a hit away from getting himself fully embedded in the contest. And when Olson is throwing around his body, he’s not the only one feeling the energy of a colossal check.
“In a game like this, he’s one of our physical players. That’s the kind of play we need from him,” Randolph said. “That’s what [teammates] are looking for out of him. He comes back to the bench with energy, and they feed off it.”
Olson’s linemates, Alex Toscano and Conner Valesano, reap most of the rewards that come from their winger’s tough play. With players on the other team keeping an eye on Olson, Toscano and Valesano find themselves with a little more ice in which to work. And when a game gets physical and chippy, they feel a certain comfort having Olson by their side.
“Absolutely,” Valesano said with a smile when asked if Olson opens up space for teammates with his style of play. “With Trevor on my line, I’m a lot more comfortable out there.”
Duluth East knew visiting Moorhead would be a little tired after playing host to No. 3-ranked Minnetonka the previous night before making the long trip to Duluth on Saturday. Because of that, the Hounds’ pregame objective was pretty simple – jump on the Spuds early.
Duluth East did just that, building a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period while outshooting Moorhead 18-3 in the first 17 minutes.
“That was one of our goals, to get on them right away,” senior winger Trevor Olson said. “That was our game plan from the beginning. We usually come out and try to put a couple in right away. That’s what we did tonight.”
While head coach Mike Randolph admitted that his team discussed the situation Moorhead was in before the contest, he also said that his focus is more on the way Duluth East plays night in and night out.
“We talked a little bit about them playing last night, and that they had to get on the bus to get here, just a short conversation about that,” Randolph said. “But it’s just worry about how we play. That’s basically where we’re at right now, is how we play and not worry about the other teams.”
The Hounds tripped up a bit at the beginning of the third period, but recovered well en route to a 6-3 win, outshooting the Spuds 46-17 in the process.
Duluth East plays at home against Anoka on Tuesday, then visits Section 7AA rival Grand Rapids on Thursday.
Trevor Olson was a huge presence on the ice in his first home game of the season. Here he learns his fate after a scrum in the third period.
Seven Duluth East players had multiple-point games and five Greyhounds scored goals as top-ranked Duluth East stayed unbeaten with a 6-3 win over visiting Moorhead on Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth.
The Hounds jumped on a Spuds crew that had played No. 3-ranked Minnetonka in Moorhead on Friday night before traveling to Duluth on Saturday, scoring three times in the opening period while outshooting the Spuds 18-3.
After a goal was waived off because the net had been dislodged, Duluth East finally got on the board when Alex Toscano batted home a puck during a scrum in front of Moorhead goalie Michael Bitzer with 10 minutes gone in the first.
Sophomore defenseman Phil Beaulieu scored back-to-back goals late in the opening period, beating Bitzer with two rockets from the point to give the Hounds a cushion entering the intermission.
Both teams brought physicality to the contest in the middle period, leading to several penalties each way.
Duluth East broke through to build a 4-0 advantage when Conner Valesano netted a power-play goal 13 minutes, 9 seconds into the second.
A scuffle broke out after the horn sounded to end the middle frame, leading to some trash talking as the teams skated off the ice.
The Spuds didn't quit, and they made it a game with two quick third-period goals. However, Duluth East answered with a couple goals of its own to put the game away.
Meirs Moore, Jake Randolph and Ryan Lundgren recorded three-point nights, Trevor Olson had two assists and Dylan Parker stopped 14 shots in goal.
Bitzer had some spectacular saves for the Spuds, and he finished with 40 saves in the loss.
Logan Ness, Nicholas Uglem and Tony Uglem scored the Moorhead goals.
Duluth East (13-0-0) will host Anoka on Tuesday night before traveling to Grand Rapids for a much-anticipated showdown with the Thunderhawks on Thursday night.
The Spuds (9-3-0) will be back in action on Tuesday, when they’ll meet Section 8AA foe Brainerd at home.
1. Meirs Moore, Duluth East
The Hounds’ smooth defenseman had three assists, making pretty pass after pretty pass to set his teammates up in quality scoring spots. Moore also displayed his composure, baiting Spud forecheckers with patience before escaping them with quick dekes and precision passes. He didn’t shy away from the physical stuff either, knocking players around to keep them away from the crease and taking guys off the puck along the walls.
2. Trevor Olson, Duluth East
The big, physical senior welcomed the hard-hitting nature of the game, pounding Moorhead players almost every single time he stepped on the ice. Olson’s physical play helped take attention away from his linemates, opening them up for scoring looks. With the Spuds focusing on knocking Olson off the puck, he was able to set up a pair of nice goals with quick passes through traffic.
3. Ryan Lundgren, Duluth East
The speedy winger had a big three-point night for the Hounds, showing both his vision and sniping abilities in a complete effort. Lundgren made a tape-to-tape pass to Dom Toninato for a tip-in goal in the final period to halt Moorhead's comeback, then lasered a wrister over Michael Bitzer’s glove to give the Hounds a 6-3 lead late in the contest.