One of the biggest matchups in Northeastern Minnesota features two teams that have been to the Minnesota State Boys’ Hockey tournament a combined 14 times since 1990. The Duluth East Greyhounds hosted the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks in a decisive sectional game Thursday night and took home a thrilling 2-1 victory.
“Coach didn’t do much talking he let us do most of that” said Duluth East’s Jake Randolph, “Our captain told us this was a big game so we needed to stay focused. My dad (coach Randolph) said if you don’t like this game you’re not a true hockey player. But it was awesome out there.”
Jake Randolph scored the game winning goal with 4:31 left to play in the second period. The goal was East’s second in row as the Greyhounds went down 1-0 in the first period, just to tie it less than one minute later.
“It was awesome” said Jake Randolph of his game winning goal, “Olson and Toninato made two great passes to set that up. I had a lot of time and space and I saw the short side open and he was sliding a little bit so I got that side.”
Dom Toninato made a pass up the ice to Trevor Olson which created a two on one breakaway with Randolph. Olson made a nice backhanded pass to Randolph who took his time and rifled the puck into the back of the net.
“We just had to keep advancing into the zone and putting pressure on the blue lines” Grand Rapids head coach Bruce LaRoque told his players during the second intermission, “You don’t want to give East any extra opportunities in the offensive zone or turn the puck over so they transition quickly.”
The final period of the game would not be a cake walk for Duluth East as the Thunderhawks came out shooting often. The shots were tied at fifteen apiece after the second and Grand Rapids went on to outshoot Duluth East 10-4 in the final period.
“I thought we played great hockey as did East” said coach LaRoque, “You got to play hard and that’s all you can ask of the kids. I think it could have been our win just as much as East’s tonight.”
With just under nine minutes to play in the game Duluth East’s Hunter Bergerson took a five minute kneeing major penalty. The Greyhound bench was not pleased with the call. But the players knew what needed to be done.
“They were ready for the challenge because the players felt it was a bad call” said Duluth East head coach Mike Randolph, “They were out to prove that and they didn’t want the referees to determine the outcome of this game. But in the end it was just a very well played game by two very good teams.”
The call was a right one in the sense of there being a kneeing infraction, but it became questionable when it was called as a five minute major instead of a two minute minor. Grand Rapids brought some serious heat during their power play but to their dismay Charlie Roy took a high sticking penalty about halfway through Duluth East’s major penalty.
“We wanted to get our two power play lines together to go back and forth” said Nate Mondry who scored the only goal for Grand Rapids, “We didn’t want to leave one line out there and get tired we wanted to stay fresh and keep pushing for the full five minutes.”
But just Twenty seconds after Roy’s penalty occurred Duluth East’s
Nate Repensky went to the box for tripping. This penalty meant the fans were treated to some 4x3 hockey, which doesn’t happen all that much. Both teams survived their penalties and were at full strength, but only for a mere few moments. With 2:10 left in the game Duluth East’s Trevor Olson headed to the box for roughing.
“We wanted to make sure we got traffic in front of their goaltender because he’s the type of goalie that needs to see shots in order to turn them away” said Mondry of Rapids’ strategy for the last power play, “He’s not too good when he’s screened but when he can see the shots he’s a good goal tender.”
Grand Rapids put on some severe pressure and had their goaltender pulled for about the last minute of play. There was one last face off in Duluth East’s zone with seven seconds left in the game. Grand Rapids controlled the face off and took a shot from the point, but Toninato made a huge block and the puck bounced out of the zone as time expired.
“The way it went is why it’s a big win” explained coach Randolph, “We played seven minutes at the end shorthanded because of some questionable calls, and our two best defensemen were in the box. It was a character builder; it was the kind of game where we had a big gut check. We had a lot of guys step up and it was a great team effort.”
Grand Rapids took the final shot total 25-19 and they had showed a vast improvement from their last game on Tues. Jan. 11 against Hermantown.
“I felt good about the team’s performance” said Rapids’ Mondry, “We didn’t really play how we wanted to against Hermantown, but we came out with a good effort against East so we were happy about that. A couple bounces and the game could have gone either way.”
Both teams had been geared up for this game since the summer months when many of the players had faced each other in the advanced league.
“It’s a huge win against a huge rival” said Jake Randolph, “For the advanced 16’s we had a little scrum down there so that kind of set the mood for this game. There were a lot of fans here – the most we’ve had all season. It was just a lot of fun.”
1. Jake Randolph, Duluth East
Randolph scored the game winner in the second period to give the Greyhounds a huge win over sectional rival Thunderhawks. Randolph’s point total is 26 on the season.
2. Dom Toninato, Duluth East
Toninato scored East’s first goal of the game and then assisted on the game winner to push his point total to 26 on the season and to help the Greyhounds to a 2-1 win. Toninato also had a huge blocked shot with four seconds left in the game to secure the victory.
3. JoJo Jeanetta, Duluth East
Jeanetta stopped 24 of 25 shots en route to a 2-1 victory over Grand Rapids. Jeanetta’s only goal against came in the first period and he’s now 7-1 on the season.