Grand Rapids senior forward Nick Koerbitz scores on a third-period breakaway chance against White Bear Lake on Saturday, Jan. 21. Photo by Adam Crane
Even though they didn’t get to play outdoors on Hockey Day Minnesota, the common theme from Grand Rapids after the Thunderhawk’s 4-3 victory over White Bear Lake (9-8-1) was that the once-in-a-lifetime experience was everything they had hoped for.
For junior forward Cody Mann of Grand Rapids, it was everything he could hope for, and then some.
Mann opened up the scoring for the Thunderhawks (13-5) on Saturday Jan. 21 at the Pagel Activity Center in Minnetonka when he tipped home a pass across the crease from teammate Travis Underwood in the first period.
During the intermission, the goal came with a bonus in the form of an interview for FSN North.
“It was my first interview ever… on TV and I was really nervous so it got me off my game a little bit,” Mann said. “But after my first one or two shifts in the second period I got back in my groove.”
The cameras were rolling, pregame ceremonies were had, and the energy in the building was electric.
Still, nothing seemed to faze any of the Thunderhawks who had a bounce in their step throughout the game, beating the Bears to pucks, winning battles, and passing crisply into plenty of odd-man-rushes.
They controlled the game from the word go.
“It was a great experience just being in front of all these fans,” Mann said. “There was a lot of people watching on TV and a lot of people who made the trip down…. I think we were nervous on the way down… but as we got out there and got into our routine, and got warm ups through, we were rolling pretty good.”
Junior defenseman and University of Minnesota recruit Jake Bischoff echoed Mann and also noted the perks of stopping every few minutes for commercial breaks.
“It’s different, it’s sorta nice, a little more rest actually,” Bischoff said. “I play D so I was out quite a bit so a little rest was nice.”
Past the novelty of the matchup, Grand Rapids entered the third with only a 2-1 lead and plenty of hockey left to play.
“We got pretty focused in between the second and third,” Mann said. “We were only up by a goal so we had to come out there and make it our game.”
Mann and company certainly put their stamp on the rest of the game, scoring twice more and holding on for the victory. Mann even notched his second goal of the game to push the lead to three when his backhand shot from the slot was redirected into the net by a White Bear Lake defender.
“It was incredible, I wish I coulda got that third one,” Mann said, shaking his head and smiling about a missed opportunity on a breakaway. “It was fun scoring those two goals, nothing better.”
-- Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff
Grand Rapids junior defenseman Jake Bischoff (left) carries the puck in on the White Bear Lake goal on Saturday, Jan. 21. Photo by Adam Crane
The athletes participating in Hockey Day Minnesota aren’t the only people under the spotlight.
In Saturday’s 4-3 victory for Grand Rapids over White Bear Lake, the referees were closely scrutinized during the game due to the new rule changes after the tragedy of Benilde-St. Margaret’s Jack Jablonski’s injury.
In the Thunderhawks win, the refs whistled four major penalties including a boarding call, a checking-from-behind, and two calls against White Bear Lake for kneeing.
“Those things happen,” Grand Rapids coach Bruce LaRoque said. “I’ve probably seen more knees in the last few years than probably my whole career. I don’t know why that is but certainly it’s something that’s gotta be checked.”
The five-minute majors were split evenly between the two teams, and both teams suffered. White Bear Lake and Grand Rapids scored a goal on the majors but LaRoque said that the effects of the penalties surpassed the five minutes.
“The toughest part is especially when you get a couple [majors], and you’re using the same people over and over they’re gonna get tired,” Laroque said. “As big as it is killing those things off, it’s probably gonna hurt you down the road in the same game because your guy’s legs are getting tired.”
White Bear Lake coach Tim Sager wasn’t very happy with the way the game was called but admitted that the penalties are probably for the better in the long run.
“They’re trying to keep the kids safe,” Sager said. “It is what it is, you gotta fight through it and stay focused and just keep working.
“The game will totally change now. Teams that are very good on the power plays will be winning the games. Hopefully they take a look at this rule you know, I understand that it’s for safety but the dynamics of high school hockey are going to change."
Grand Rapids kicked off the fifth annual Hockey Day Minnesota with a 4-3 win over White Bear Lake on Saturday, Jan. 21.
Striking first were the Thunderhawks with a goal by Cody Mann in the opening period.
Then came the penalties.
Grand Rapids' forward Travis Underwood was called for checking from behind and served the now-standard five minute major penalty along with a ten minute misconduct. The harsher penalty comes as a result of the rule changes announced on Saturday, Jan. 14, by the Minnesota State High School League.
The second period would feature additional scoring and more major penalties.
White Bear Lake's Mitch Morrisette would score immediately following another major penalty called on Grand Rapids, this time a boarding call on Conor Hoolihan.
A pair of kneeing major penalties for White Bear Lake would allow the Thunderhawks to retake the lead on a power-play goal by David Horsmann.
Grand Rapids would extend its lead in the third period as Nick Koerbitz snuck behind the defense and scored on a breakaway chance against White Bear Lake goaltender Jared Schletty. Mann would notch his second of the game giving the Thunderhawks a three-goal lead.
Not going away quietly, White Bear Lake would score twice in the last two minutes of the game as Morrisette scored his second goal of the game on a power-play and Jake Wahlin would punch in a loose puck as the Bears had an empty net.
Grand Rapids would hold on for the win as Thunderhawks' goaltender Patrick Flaherty made 25 saves.
Splitting time in the White Bear Lake net were senior goaltender Anthony Zappa and Schletty. Zappa, who started the game, finished with 11 saves. Schletty made eight saves and was credited with the loss after allowing the Thunderhawks' fourth goal.
Hoping to build off the momentum, Grand Rapids (13-5-0) will host Bemidji at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at IRA Civic Center.
White Bear Lake (9-8-1) will travel to Cottage Grove Ice Arena on Thursday, Jan. 26, for a 7:30 p.m. game against Park.
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff
1. Cody Mann, Grand Rapids
There's no better time to break a four-game scoreless streak than Hockey Day Minnesota. Mann opened the game's scoring in the first period but it was his third period goal that ended up being the game-winner. The junior forward was a offense presence throughout the afternoon and was rewarded for his efforts with a pair of timely goals.
2. Jake Bischoff, Grand Rapids
After he missed time earlier this season with an injury, the Thunderhawks are glad to have BIschoff back in the lineup. Not only did the junior defenseman play excellent in the Grand Rapids' zone, but Bischoff also registered two assists putting his team in perfect position to collect the victory.
3. Mitch Morrisette, White Bear Lake
When the Bears needed a goal, Morrisette was there to answer. The senior forward scored two power-play goals and kept White Bear Lake in the game until the very end.
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff