Duluth East players swarm forward Dom Toninato after his first-period goal in the 7AA title game on Thursday. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net
Leading up to the 7AA final, things couldn’t have gone much stranger for Duluth East.
A snowstorm had forced school to be cancelled two days in a row, making the team occupy their time by practicing and having a team lunch rather than going to class. Missing jerseys had players wearing different numbers. They didn’t even come out for warm-ups until Andover had been on the ice for at least two minutes.
All signs pointed to a possibility of a mental lapse. Once the puck dropped, though, the Greyhounds made it clear that they were ready to work.
Duluth East scored twice in the opening period, held a 12-0 advantage in shots on goal at one point in the period and absolutely dominated play.
But that’s nothing new for the Hounds.
“We wanted to get off to a great start obviously, and we have the last two games,” head coach Mike Randolph said. “Tonight we got some good looks early on and got a lot of offensive zonetime early on and put them on their heels.”
Ryan Lundgren, who was wearing 14 on his back instead of his usual 21, opened the scoring with a rebound goal just five minutes in. Dom Toninato allowed the Hounds to build a 2-0 lead when he put a low shot through Andover goalie Chase Perry’s five-hole six minutes later.
It all seemed comfortable, familiar and easy for Duluth East. But, as the hockey pundits like to say, a two-goal lead might be the worst lead in hockey.
For a while, it looked like those gurus might be right.
Andover cut the lead in half early in the second period, and then drew a five-minute penalty on a hit low in the Duluth East zone.
Essentially, the Greyhounds’ comfortable lead that had been established by simple, gritty play was now hanging by a thread. But as the Hounds sat on the bench and waited for the Huskies’ power play to begin, the leaders made it a point to relay a vital message.
“The message on the bench was to stay positive and kill it off,” said Toninato, who netted a pair of goals in the contest. “We knew we have a system, and we just had to stick to that.”
The Hounds limited Andover to only one shot during the power play, often forcing the Huskies to retrieve the puck in their own end and work it 200-feet into the offensive zone.
They got back to simple hockey, and it was the difference for Duluth East.
“Momentum was in their favor [before the power play],” Duluth East blue-liner Nate Repensky said. “To kill a five-minute penalty without any significant scoring chances is a boost to your game for sure.”
It didn’t take long for the Hounds to display the confidence that the penalty kill had generated, and Toninato finished off a pretty play with a low snipe to put Duluth East up 3-1.
The Hounds added another goal in the third to officially put out the Andover fire, then coasted to their fourth 7AA championship in a row.
Duluth East will learn its seed for the Class 2A tournament this weekend.
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff writer
Duluth East's Ryan Lundgren watches as his shot sails past Andover goalie Chase Perry during the opening period of the 7AA final on Thursday. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net
Duluth East senior forward Dom Toninato’s bloody right nostril served as an odd sign of success two years running.
He got “drilled” by teammates celebrating a 4-1 victory against Andover in Thursday’s Class 2A, Section 7 championship game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth
Toninato scored twice for the No. 1 ranked Greyhounds, who return to the state tournament to avenge a three-overtime loss in last year's title game against Eden Prairie.
“I’ll give a little blood for this,” Toninato joked.
The Greyhounds made sure to draw first blood on Thursday. They stormed to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Ryan Lundgren fired a rebound home at 4:59 and Toninato put away a chance at 11:18.
Toninato’s goal came moments after he returned to the ice after serving a penalty. The Greyhounds (27-1-0) remained in control even when down a man, holding Andover’s power play to just one shot on goal. The Greyhounds outshot Andover 41-19.
“We’ve been emphasizing quick starts this year,” Toninato said. “We wanted to jump on them early and we did.”
Andover (19-7-2) showed life in the second period as Christian Mohs got in alone and scored at 4:39. The goal sparked a nice Huskies’ offensive flurry but produced no additional goals. Andover also failed to capitalize as Duluth East’s Phil Beaulieu took a five-minute major penalty for boarding
“That was a big turning point,” Andover coach Mark Manney said. “If we can get even one on that penalty maybe it’s a different story in the third period.”
Toninato added to the Huskies’ woes as his second goal of the game gave Duluth East a 3-1 second period lead.
Mohs misfired on shorthanded chance in the third period and Jake Randolph secured the Greyhounds fourth consecutive state tournament appearance with his goal at 10:50.
With about 10 seconds to play, Duluth East coach Mike Randolph leaned forward and confirmed what the giddy boys on the bench knew.
“You’re going to the house!” Randolph said.
-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune staff writer
1. Dom Toninato, Duluth East
The senior center was all over the ice on Thursday, scoring a pair of goals while assisting on a third for the Hounds. Toninato showed off great strength and hands, especially on his first goal when he took a pass at the blue line, fought through a pair of Huskies and fired a shot through the five-hole of Andover goalie Chase Perry.
2. Nate Repensky, Duluth East
Repensky, the anchor of the Duluth East defense, was a rock all night. He was also a factor on the offensive side of the puck, registering helpers on two Hounds’ goals. Repensky seems to know what to do with the puck every single time he touches it, and that puck presence allowed Duluth East to limit time in its own end and maximize time on the attack.
3. Chase Perry, Andover
Perry looked much more comfortable in goal than he did against Forest Lake last Saturday, stopping 37 shots in the contest. The sophomore controlled his rebounds like a veteran, and made some giant saves in big spots for the Huskies to keep them in it.
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff writer