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.
Duluth East coach Mike Randolph gets creative with a water bottle as Greyhounds star Chris Locker, left, and Dave Spehar take a break during the epic five-overtime 1996 semifinal against Apple Valley.
Tonight's Duluth East/Minnetonka championship showdown has alumni of both programs taking notice and doing their part to rally the current troops.
Dave Spehar, 1995 state champion with an electrifying three hat tricks in as many games: "Soak it in ... Get it done ... 218 grit. GO HOUNDS!"
Spehar attended the Greyhounds' skate Saturday morning. Asked the location, Spehar wittily replied, "Area 51."
Chris Locker, 1995 champion whose passes were the catapult that launched so many Spehar goals: "You all have been dreaming and talking about this moment. Every sprint, every bag skate, every summer workout has been all put forth to get here. You boys have earned the opportunity to play for a state championship. Take it all in. Enjoy every second of it, Leave it all on the rink. Play Hound hockey for 51 minutes. Bring it home boys."
Nick Angell, member of the last Duluth East championship team in 1998: "20 years is enough. It's time for the team of '98 to pass the torch. Good luck tonight. Go Hounds!"
Meanwhile, former Minnetonka standouts sent their Twitter love.
Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year in 2008 and current Toronto Maple Leaf Jake Gardiner: @Jgardiner272: Watching @TonkaBoysPuck in the state tourney up here in Toronto. Good luck boys!
Gophers senior defenseman Steve Johnson:
@Steviej5: Best of luck to @TonkaBoysPuck in the State Tourney! Bring it home boys!! #Skippers ⚓️
Former Quinnipiac player Thomas Schutt:
@tschutt08: Huge shoutout to @TonkaBoysPuck, playing for a State Title tonight. Wish I could be at the X to watch it all go down. Bring the title home boys! #TheTourney18 #ProudAlum