Hermantown junior forward Ryan Sandelin has such a head for hockey, he often acts as a coach on the ice, directing traffic and drawing up plays in real time.
Hawks coach Bruce Plante loves that part of Sandelin’s game.
Sometimes Sandelin’s competitiveness and unrivaled rink savvy make him an extra coach on the bench, too.
That trait isn’t appreciated quite so much.
“He gets so ramped up,” Plante said. “He likes trying to coach our team from the bench sometimes, and I have to slap him in the back of the helmet and say, ‘Knock that … off.’ ”
Sandelin, the son of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey coach Scott Sandelin, scored twice and had an assist in the Hawks’ 7-1 semifinal victory over St. Paul Academy on Friday in the Class 1A tournament at Xcel Energy Center. He has eight points — three goals, five assists — in the tournament and 61 on the season (26 goals, 35 assists).
Sandelin’s emergence as one of the Hawks’ lynchpin forwards comes after he spent all of last year playing defense — not his preferred position.
“We had one of our better D go down, so I just had to do what I had to do playing defense,” Sandelin said about last season. “And I had a good time doing it.”
Plante said he sees Sandelin as a surefire Division I college defenseman. But the coach promised Sandelin he would play him at forward this year and kept his word.
Stillwater misses one
Stillwater’s Luke Manning missed the semifinal vs. Eden Prairie due to an injury, forcing the Ponies to go without their third-leading scorer and absorb the loss of a friend.
“You can’t replace a kid like that,” Stillwater coach Matt Doman said. “He’s a bulldog. I think it was tough emotionally for our guys coming out in the first period.”
Was it a concussion that sidelined Manning?
“Yeah, allegedly,” said Doman, declining to get specific.
Happy birthday, kid
Danny Reich, St. Paul Academy’s backup goaltender, got an unexpected birthday present of sorts when he was called on to play in the semifinal against Hermantown with 5 minutes, 53 seconds left in the third period Friday.
The junior, playing in front of several thousand people in attendance and a statewide TV audience, stopped all four shots he faced. Reich had played in just four other games this season, with three of the appearances coming in mop-up time in lopsided victories.
St. Paul Academy coach Matt Funk made sure to give a huge hug to starter Andy Beran, a sophomore who was the Spartans’ go-to guy in goal all season.
“I just told him it’s not on him,” Funk said. “He got us here, and he’s going to have plenty more moments down the road.”