Maple Grove senior forward Spencer Bell admits the Crimson's first appearance in the Class 2A boys' hockey tournament did not go as planned.
The No. 2 seed Crimson was the first of four upset victims in Thursday's quarterfinals, losing 5-2 to Hill-Murray. And the tournament's only newcomers then lost Friday's consolation game to Eagan 4-1.
Still, Bell points out there was much to celebrate. He finished his career among the program's 10 most prolific scorers. The Crimson won a team-best 24 games and finally kicked down the state tournament door.
"Being the first one means a lot to me and the whole team," Bell said. "We raised the bar for the kids to come, and I think they will meet the challenge. They will look at what we've done and they'll say, 'Let's do even better.'"
Bell spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about his state tournament experience and what he said to help dejected teammates.
Q Despite losing twice at the state tournament, have you been able to take pride in all you accomplished this season?
A We have, definitely. In the locker room after the Eagan game on Friday, that was one of the first things the coaches and us captains stressed. We may have came here and not had the results we wanted but you can't judge the whole season on just two games. I think the guys know how special our season really was.
Q What were some of the off-ice things that helped make your tournament experience special?
A Being in the hotel with the team and just hanging out was really special. We had fun, pulled a few pranks and messed around.
Q Is there a prank that you can share that's suitable for publication?
A Um, I do not think so. [Laughs]
Q Where were you guys emotionally as you got up Thursday morning and prepared for your first state tournament game?
A It was kind of tough playing that early game. It was a little different but once we got to the rink we settled in. We stuck with our normal routine. We played a bit of soccer, got warmed up and got ready to go. You could tell everyone was nervous. We knew there was a lot riding on us being the first team to go there.
Q What was it like once you stepped on the ice?
A It was crazy. It was the most people I've played in front of before. But when it comes down to it, it didn't feel much different. The atmosphere is crazy but once we started playing, everything melted away.
Q Did the fact that all four seeded teams got knocked out the first day make your loss any easier to swallow?
A It made it a lot easier. We still were hurting from our loss but I know me and a couple other guys were back at the hotel Thursday night cheering on Lakeville South against Duluth East.
Q The loss to Eagan meant the season was over. What was your last time in the locker room together like?
A It was really emotional. No one was talking. You could tell that everyone's wheels were turning. After a good 10 minutes of sitting there, I took it upon myself to kind of get the guys going because you have to move on. I told the boys that time heals all wounds. We had to get back home and celebrate our season.
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