It was senior night for the Duluth East players but Maple Grove crashed their party.
The Crimson earned their 15th win of the season with a 3-1 victory while handing the Greyhounds their fourth loss of the year.
“It was a tough game and you’re coming in from a long ways away,” Maple Grove’s Dylan Steman said. “It’s a long bus ride and the legs aren’t exactly feeling fresh but did get on the ice a little earlier today with the J.V. It’s not a conference game but it’s a huge win in knowing that we can play with a team of that caliber and beat them.”
All of the goals scored in the game were at even strength and there were only three penalties all game, two of which belonged to the Greyhounds. Maple Grove had a goal called off in the second period because of a man in the crease. That goal would have given the Crimson a 3-0 lead.
“They’re well coached and well disciplined,” Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said. “They may be as good a team that we’ve seen as far as they don’t have any superstars but they’re solid on the back end and they’re solid up front.”
Maple Grove’s three goals were spread out through all three period with Steman scoring in the first and third periods. His second goal of the game came with only 90 seconds left to play in the third period, stifling Duluth East’s comeback hopes.
“We came off that game against Blaine and now having a three game lead in the conference I wasn’t sure how they’d react playing a non-conference game and coming up here for the first time,” Maple Grove coach Gary Stefano said. “We came out in the first period and kind of popped on in. After we survived the first period we were feeling good about ourselves.”
Maple Groves second goal occurred just 90 seconds into the second period after Alex Mason made a sick deke move on a Greyhound defender and rifled the puck past JoJo Jeanetta.
“We were making the simple plays and getting the puck out of the zone,” Steman said. “They move the puck really well and we just stayed on them and we were able to put the puck in the back of the net.”
Duluth East looked severely flat for most of the game until the final period, where they posted 15 shots – more than they had in the first two periods combined. They were down 21-12 in shots after the second and ended taking the total edge in shots 27-25.
“We were sharp the whole third period so we wanted to get more offensive zone time,” Duluth East’s Jake Randolph said. “Then we had Phil (Johnson) come out there for the goalie and he had a great game the whole night. It was senior night and usually the seniors show up better. But they dumped it on us about 90 percent of the time and that was hard on us.”
Duluth East’s Phil Johnson made it 2-1 with four minutes left in the game but with one minute left the Greyhounds found themselves down 3-1 and they decided to pull Jeanetta anyways. Coach Randolph said he knew the chances of tying the game were slim, but he felt it would be good for his team to get some more experience playing with the goaltender pulled.
“The first period was okay, the second period was awful and the third period was a sense of urgency,” coach Randolph said. “I thought we played good in the first period, but they were sitting back a little bit. But we had more energy. We got into the offensive zone and we won some puck battles.”
Despite playing such teams as Eden Prairie, Wayzata, Edina and Breck the Greyhounds feel that Maple Grove has probably been their toughest opponent.
“We weren’t sharp all game, especially my line,” Jake Randolph said.
“We tried to force a lot of stuff up the middle, but they’re a great team and I think they’re under-ranked. They’re the toughest team we’ve played. But we didn’t get anything going offensively and they played great defensively.”
Randolph’s line of Trevor Olson and Dom Toninato have a combined 103 points this season and they were held scoreless for this game.
“We didn’t sit back at all,” coach Stefano said. “We ran the same fore-check and we had success getting the puck in deep. Even after they scored we still had some chances and we kept getting the puck in deep.”
1. Dylan Steman, Maple Grove
Steman figured in two of the three Crimson goals by scoring the first and third goals of the game. He picks up his 27th and 28th point of the season as Maple Grove picks up its 15th win of the season.
2. Ryan Coyne, Maple Grove
Coyne stopped 26 of 27 shots including 15 in the third period alone en route to the 3-1 win. The senior goaltender wasn’t tested early but needed to be on his game in the third period. Without Coyne's play, the Greyhounds could have easily come back to win.
3. JoJo Jeanetta, Duluth East
Despite letting in three goals, Jeanetta still stopped 22 shots and made some impressive saves to keep his team within reach for the duration of the game. Jeanetta made several sprawling saves and full-extension grabs with his glove to keep Maple Grove to only one goal per period.