Duluth East coach Mike Randolph knew this night would come eventually.
The longtime bench boss has been a part of many Senior Nights in his time with the Greyhounds, but the one on Wednesday, Feb. 8, was a little more distinct.
Mike’s son, Jake, is the senior captain of the Hounds, and many of his teammates are lifelong friends. When Mike and his wife, Ginny, went onto the ice to be honored with Jake and the rest of the seniors, the smile on the coach’s face stretched from ear to ear.
“It’s a very special night,” Randolph said following Duluth East’s 4-1 win over intracity rival Duluth Denfeld. “It’s the most special night of all my years having Senior Night.”
Jake did his best to make it even more memorable, recording three assists on a night that saw him and center Dom Toninato reunited with fellow senior Trevor Olson. The trio combined for a pair of goals and seven points, playing a regular shift together for the first time all season.
“It just seemed like the right time to make the move [of putting Olson back on the top line],” Coach Randolph said. “I though they played pretty well together. We’ll probably stick with that for a while.”
The Hounds started all seniors on Wednesday, and played all 10 of them on their roster. The group has left its mark on Duluth East hockey history, but Randolph says that he will remember them for more than just their play on the ice when they graduate.
“This group of kids is really tight. I’ve watched them grow up, they’ve been over to our house, and Jake’s been over to their houses,” Randolph said. “It’s a special senior class. All of them are great kids, great students, great citizens, and they’ve been a special group to work with.”
Randolph and his family will never forget this night, but, even with the great memories it offers, Randolph says it’s a little bittersweet.
“To be honest with you, I reflected back and thought that I always used to say ‘I don’t want this night to ever come,’” Randolph said. “It’s a special night, but at the same time, you realize that there’s not much left.”
The Hounds will conclude their regular season next week before beginning the Section 7AA playoffs on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Trevor Olson, Dom Toninato, Meirs Moore and Alex Toscano all scored second-period goals to give top-ranked Duluth East all the insurance it needed en route to a 4-1 win over intracity rival Duluth Denfeld on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth.
The game was an entertaining, back-and-forth affair in the opening period, with tons of energy in the packed building.
After a scoreless first, where Duluth East outshot the Hunters 15-8, the Greyhounds were finally able to break through red-hot Zach Thompson just 1 minute, 57 seconds into the middle frame.
Olson found a soft spot in the Denfeld coverage, took a pass from Jake Randolph and buried it to put East up 1-0.
Toninato tapped home an Olson pass 7 minutes later on a 5-on-3 power play. Moore unleashed a slapper from the top of the right circle to give the Hounds a 3-0 lead with 14 minutes gone in the second, and then Toscano netted a goal a minute later to get Duluth East into the intermission with a 4-0 cushion.
Nick Forbort broke Paige Skoog’s shutout bid with 17.5 seconds to play when he knocked home a rebound from the slot.
Skoog finished with 13 saves for Duluth East in the winning effort.
Randolph had three assists, Olson had two and Moore, Ryan Lundgren and Phil Beaulieu each had one.
Duluth Denfeld’s Levi Talarico was credited with the single assist on Forborts goal.
Thompson, who made at least 10 top-notch saves, stopped 41 shots in the contest.
The Hounds (22-1-0) close out their regular season with a pair of games next week, traveling to Hastings on Tuesday before hosting Tartan next Saturday in their season finale.
Duluth Denfeld (9-12-2) wraps up its regular season with a pair of home games. The Hunters play Proctor on Saturday afternoon, then battle with Grand Rapids on Tuesday night.
1. Trevor Olson, Duluth East
Olson, who was reunited his old linemates Jake Randolph and Dom Toninato late in the first period, was spectacular. He scored the first goal and then set up Toninato before getting another assist on Meirs Moore’s goal. Olson’s physical presence adds an extra element to the Toninato line, which is already pretty tough to defend.
2. Jake Randolph, Duluth East
Randolph made perfect passes to Olson and Moore for their goals, and was given the second assist on Toninato’s tally. While his passing abilities get plenty of attention, Randolph is one of the better wall players out there, too. On Wednesday, he displayed those skills with some good agility and balance in tight areas along the boards.
3. Zach Thompson, Duluth Denfeld
The junior goalie might have had his best game of the year on Wednesday night, stopping 41 shots for the Hunters. Thompson made some ridiculous saves in all three periods, and came up huge on several Duluth East power plays.