David La Vaque has covered all but one state hockey tournament game since 2009 and has worked as a Star Tribune high school sports reporter since 2004. His favorite tournament experiences include cheering for alma mater St. Paul Johnson in 1991 and staying for most of the Apple Valley/Duluth East marathon semifinal game in 1996. Loren Nelson has covered every state tournament since 2009 as the national media editor for Sport Ngin. He attended many, many other Tourney games as a high schooler from the far northern reaches of Minnesota making the annual pilgrimage south to the old St. Paul Civic Center in the 1980s.
Here we go with Day 2 of The Tourney at the X. Feeling fresh and energized this morning but still trying to pace ourselves – this is a marathon, not a set of Herbies.
Starting the day with a big nod to New Ulm’s Jon Kopacek, whose uncanny Kyle Rau impersonation gained him national acclaim.
Who is Jon Kopacek, and why are we comparing him to Kyle Rau, you ask?
Kopacek is an Eagles senior forward who scored against Mahtomedi on Wednesday morning on a diving swat of the puck. Kopacek’s goal with 1:20 left in the second period pulled New Ulm to within 4-2 in an eventual 6-3 loss.
The goal was ESPN’s No. 1 play of the day.
Warning: Lots of basketball highlights to wade through before getting to Kopacek’s goal in the video below, not that there is anything wrong with that.
As for the Kyle Rau reference, more on that below the Kopacek video.
Here's what Kopcek had to say about his goal:
"I saw it laying there, so I just dove for it, you know, just trying to make a play. Luckily for me it went in the back of the net.
"When you are playing here, you’ve just got a little extra step in you. You want to do everything you can to try to put one behind their goalie."
The goal reminded me of what is easily one of my most memorable state tournament moments -- Kyle Rau's diving jab at the puck in Eden Prairie's classic triple overtime triumph over Duluth East in the 2011 Class 2A title game. Rau won the Mr. Hockey Award the next day and is wrapping up a stellar career with the Gophers.
Video of Rau's goal below (quality not great).