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Riding the Rails

By Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA, 12/27/10, 1:08PM CST


Proctor's Jesse Scanlon nets OT game-winner against Delano in Hilltopper quarterfinals

Proctor's Frank Katzmarek celebrates his first-period goal (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).

Ian Ecklund of Proctor was knocked out in the second period on a clean, hard hit (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).

Junior Jesse Scanlon scored 57 seconds into overtime to give Proctor a 4-3 victory over Delano/Rockford in the quarterfinals of the Hilltopper Holiday Classic at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth Monday afternoon.  Scanlon gathered in a loose puck after it was misplayed at the blue line, streaked in uncontested and flipped the game-winner over the outstretched leg of Tigers' goaltender Ryan Pinoniemi.

“It just popped out right to me,” admitted Scanlon. “I seen the goalie just slide over, so I just put it low right over his pad on the blocker side.”

Proctor (7-1-0) took a 3-1 lead after one period, but Delano/Rockford (6-2-0) tied it on single goals in the second and third frames.

“We were real slow out of the gates,” said Delano coach Steve Brown. “We didn’t have much jump in our step and that’s really where we gave it away, in the first period.”

Rails' defenseman Cody Gauthier opened up the scoring just 1:48 into the game, rifling a power play wrister from the point.  Just seconds earlier, Gauthier had appeared to score on a similar shot, but referees ruled the puck didn't cross the goal line. 

The Rails also had two other apparent goals disallowed because of quick whistles.  Proctor coach Tim Schnobrich called over the officiating crew on each one, but only got the satisfaction of an explanation.

After Tyler Heinonen of Delano/Rockford tied it just under four minutes after Gauther's goal, the Rails struck twice in a span of 1:03.  Frank Katzmarek regained the lead for Proctor at the 12:58 mark, then Justin Scanlon redirected a fanned shot from the blue line past Pinoniemi for a 3-1 lead at 14:01 of the first period. 

After one frame, the Rails were buzzing, but seemed to run out of gas in the final two periods.  Proctor was playing without captain Tyler Pionk, who is out for several more weeks with a separated shoulder, and lost leading scorer Ian Ecklund with a shoulder injury early in the second period.

Delano/Rockford got within a goal when Jack Prinsen corraled a rebound and flipped it over Proctor goalie Ryan McCarthy just 32 seconds into the second.  Midway through the third, Jake Lorentzen roofed a snapshot from a bad angle to tie it at 3-all.

“We put some good pressure on and really emphasized running our forecheck,” said Brown. “The kids put themselves in good position to make plays, but unfortunately, the plays just didn’t happen tonight.”

McCarthy finished with 30 saves on 33 shots, while Pinoniemi also stopped 30, but saw 34 shots.

Proctor moves on to the championship semifinals to face Superior (WI), a 5-2 winner over Appleton (WI) in the first game of the tournament.  Delano/Rockford will play Appleton.  Both games will be played Tuesday at Mars Lakeview Arena.

Spotlight on: Proctor's fast start

Proctor coach Tim Schnobrich talks with officials after a goal was waved off (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).

Proctor hockey coach Tim Schnobrich had a message for his team entering the Hilltopper Holiday Classic in Duluth this week. But it may also have applied to hockey experts across the state who haven’t paid the Rails much attention so far.

“I said, ‘This is going to be our showcase. This is going to be where we show who we are’,” said Schnobrich.

The boys in Missabe Green certainly made a statement Monday afternoon, beating highly-regarded Delano/Rockford in overtime, 4-3. Proctor raced out to a 3-1 lead after one period, then recovered from a Tigers rally with Jesse Scanlon’s overtime winner.

The victory is certain to create a buzz around the program that hasn’t existed in years. It’s been 14 seasons since the Rails last made a big splash at the state level. The 1997 squad was the first – and only – in school history to qualify for the state tournament. They eventually finished third, beating Fergus Falls on the final day behind a state-tournament record six assists from Dom Talarico.

Then came some lean years in the small community that hugs the hills southwest of Duluth.

“We’ve been transitioning – four or five years ago we were a very physical team, a football team that liked to play hockey,” admitted Schnobrich. “But now we have some very talented kids and we’re trying to teach them hockey.”

Monday’s victory improved the Rails’ record to 7-1-0 after eight games – the best record in years. Proctor is scoring 7.6 goals per game and has ramped up its offensive potency. The Rails aren’t afraid to attack, sending forwards high out of the defensive zone and forechecking hard on offense.

“We want to bring it this year,” said Schnobrich. “Before, we’ve had to play a very defensive style because we haven’t had the horses to run wild.

“We have some kids who can fire and we’re trying to teach the run and gun style.”

The fast start is even more impressive in that the Rails are now missing two of their leading scorers, Tyler Pionk (6-11-17) and Ian Ecklund (6-15-21). Pionk separated his shoulder in a 5-2 victory over Greenway and is expected to miss at least two more weeks. Ecklund hurt his shoulder early in the second period Monday and missed the remainder of the game. He was scheduled for X-rays later that night.

In their absence, Justin Scanlon (13-6-19), Jesse Scanlon (4-8-12), Jeremy Lopez (6-5-11) and company will have to step up. But while the goal-scorers get the glory, Proctor’s defense has also been solid in its fast start.

Assistant captain Cody Gauthier (6-9-15), whom Schnobrich says has “one of the best wrist shots I’ve ever seen from a defenseman,” is also conscientious in his own zone. He went head-to-head with Delano star Tyler Heinonen on several occasions Monday night and came out unscathed.

Gauthier is one of four regular defenseman who have helped the Rails overcome the graduation of three-year starter Derek Robinson between the pipes. Monday night, junior Ryan McCarthy stepped up with 30 saves on 33 shots. He’s split time with Brody Morin and the pair have combined to allow just 2.0 goals per game.

Both have been helped by the coaching of Terry Dunbar, a former Rail and minor league hockey player who has been acclimating both varsity action.

“Those kids have really stood up and taken the responsibility,” said Schnobrich.

Proctor's Cody Gauthier tries to slow down Tyler Heinonen of Delano/Rockford (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).

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Three Stars

1. Jesse Scanlon, Proctor
Notch the game-winner in overtime of a tournament quarterfinal and you find yourself with the No. 1 star.  Scanlon gathered in a misplayed puck at the blue line, streaked in on a break and lifted the puck over the outstretched leg of Delano's Ryan Pinoniemi for the game-winner just 57 seconds into overtime.  Scanlon also had two assists.

2. Cody Gauthier, Proctor
Gauthier displayed leadership (he's an assistant captain), defensive toughness (going head-to-head with Delano star Tyler Heinonen on more than one occasion) and a rocket wrister from the blue line (he had a goal and an assist).

3. Tyler Heinonen, Delano/Rockford
Heinonen was his usual self, at the center of much of the Tigers' offense.  He finished with a goal and an assist.  He was tough to knock off the puck and showed good speed on his rushes.

Other recaps

Superior (WI) 5, Appleton (WI) 2
The Spartans broke open a close game with two late third-period goals to earn a victory in the quarterfinals of the Hilltopper Holiday Classic at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth.  Superior will face Proctor in an All-Lake Superior Conference semifinal Tuesday, while Appleton takes on Delano/Rockford in the consolation semifinals.

Duluth Marshall 5, Irondale 0
Mac Dow scored the first two Marshall goals as the hosts cruised to a shutout victory in the quarterfinals of their holiday tournament Monday night.  Brian Anderson stopped all 21 shots he faced for the Hilltoppers, who get the winner of the Fort Frances (ONT) versus Madison (WI) Edgewood quarterfinal nightcap.  Esko Aukee had 27 saves for Irondale.

Madison (WI) Edgewood vs. Fort Frances (ONT)
The nightcap of the Hilltoppers Holiday Classic quarterfinal round.

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