Trevor Olson (12) missed a large portion of the season due to injury, but his return makes the 'Hounds even more dangerous. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen.
A long shot. A loose puck in the crease. Players scrambling to get
to the net. The red light flashing.
The ending to Duluth East’s magical ride at last year’s state Class 2A tournament isn’t something the team likes to think about.
The coaches don’t bring up last year's triple overtime championship-game loss to Eden Prairie. The players don’t mention it. Any questions about the classic title game are answered with short responses.
That might change now that the Greyhounds are back in St. Paul for another shot at the big-school championship.
“We didn’t really talk about it or think about it this year,” senior standout Dom Toninato said after scoring twice to help Duluth East win its fourth straight Section 7AA crown with a 4-1 win over Andover. “As it gets closer to (Thursday), we’ll start thinking about it more and more.
“It might add a little something extra.”
Whatever inspiration the memories of last year can stir up might be a scary thing for Duluth East’s foes. The Greyhounds have had an incredible season, winning all but one game while playing arguably the most difficult schedule in high school hockey.
Mike Randolph’s group is a veteran one, with 10 seniors on the roster and numerous other players with a state tournament appearance under their belts. If anything, the chaotic tournament last year will allow Duluth East to play a calmer brand of hockey this time around.
“Last year can help us with the experience factor,” said senior defenseman Nate Repensky. “I think we take a lot of the same guys back there, it’s a new season and we try to play our game and do what we can.”
Randolph, who is no stranger to the state Class 2A tournament, credits the Greyhounds’ ability to defend their section title to the fact that all his players decided to stick around and give it another try.
“A lot of them could of left high school hockey this year and played elsewhere,” Randolph said. “They stayed together as a group, and this is the reason they stayed. They want to play in the state tourney, got back and achieved that goal.”
Led by Toninato (30-37--67) and fellow Mr. Hockey finalist Jake Randolph (34-38--72), Duluth East’s attack is as explosive as any in the state.
Toninato and Randolph have recently been reunited with longtime linemate Trevor Olson (9-21--30), who had been out with a knee injury for the first half of the year. The trio thinks it’s starting to get back to what it was last year, when they were one of the top lines in the state.
“We lost a little bit of chemistry with Trev being gone, but we’ve worked on it,” Toninato said. “I think its pretty much back to the way it was last year, and we’re hitting our stride right now.”
Repensky (2-17--19) anchors a defensive corps that isn’t afraid to chip in on offense, along with junior Meirs Moore (13-33--46) and sophomore Phil Beaulieu (4-18--22).
Goaltender Dylan Parker (16-0-0, 1.19, .933) hasn’t played in the state tournament, but his time between the pipes this year makes Coach Randolph think Parker and his other less experienced players are more than ready for the big dance.
“We had a lot of guys step up and play a lot more minutes than they would have (because of injuries),” Randolph said. “We went into some real tough buildings, played some real tough teams, and I think we’re tournament ready now.
“We’ll see on Thursday.”
The Greyhounds know they have the skill to win it all, it’s just a matter of playing their game and limiting defensive mistakes. If that happens, Duluth East will be tough to beat.
Mike Randolph, a former star forward on Duluth Cathedral’s powerhouse teams in the late 1960s and early ’70s, is one of the winningest coaches in state history. He’s approaching the 500-win mark and has won two state championships (in 1995 and ’98) in 13 previous state tournament appearances.
Head Coach: Mike Randolph
Colors: Red, Grey
Assistant Coaches: Terry Johnson, Dylan Mills
Home Ice: Heritage Sports Center, Duluth; Amsoil Arena, Duluth
State Tournament Appearances: (1958, 1960, 1961, 1964, 1975, 1991, 1994 (Class AA), 1995 (AA), 1996 (AA), 1997 (AA), 1998 (AA), 2000 (AA), 2003 (AA), 2004 (AA), 2005 (AA), 2009 (AA), 2010 (AA), 2011 (AA), 2012 (AA)
State Titles: 3 (1960; 1995, Class AA; 1998, Class AA)
Section 7AA playoffs