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A Great Day for Hockey

I had a terrible cold yesterday, causing me to sneeze and have a runny nose all day. There was a thick fog that gave me about ten feet of visibility on some stretches of road. I was trapped in radio hell with Sean Hannity, FoxNews Radio, some idiot on WCCO who was ripping Tommmy Amaker because he bet a bunch of money on Michigan to beat Indiana(which any sensible person would tell you will never happen in my lifetime.) And for one gruesome segment a Laura Schlesinger/James Dobson duo in which they told sexual assault victims to stop crying so much. My dinner consisted of Doritos and awful small talk with an overnight clerk at a gas station.

But I still had a great day. Because I walked into Xcel Center at 10:55am yesterday and didn't leave until 11:03pm. There's nothing better than spending an entire day watching hockey.

I won't even bother pointing out things I had wrong in my predictions, since it's pretty much everything. I was inches away from going 0-4. I will give my thoughts on the games.

Mankato East vs. Little Falls

This was a very good, very wide open game. Mankato East battled back from three goals down to cut the lead to one twice, but ultimately fell just a bit short in their comeback. They never could get that goal to even things up. Little Falls goalie Jake Kluver wasn't outstanding, but he made some very key saves, including two great glove stops at 1-1 that really could have changed the momentum of the game. East just had too many defensive breakdowns against a talented offensive team. They gave everything they had though. I even broke journalistic rules(which is ok, since I'm not really a journalist) and cheered for them as they tried to come back. They're a fun team to watch, and it's a shame most of the team will be gone next season.

Individually, Little Falls had some players on the college radar. Jared Festler and Joey Cotton were supposed to be Little Falls best players, but they didn't impress me that much. They can certainly move the puck, but I think they got a little too fancy at times. The real star for Little Falls was Ben Hanowski. He scored two goals. One was a perfect shot topshelf, and the other was a nice breakaway. He's got very good hands for his size. He could be a little more physical with his size, but I think he'll definitely be a college player.

Derek Hager from Mankato East didn't impress me much when I saw him earlier this winter, but I thought he was one of the best players on the ice yesterday. He should have been the leading scorer yesterday with a goal and three assists but I believe they shortchanged him an assist on East's second goal. His goal was beautiful for he made a pass at the blueline, and drove hard to the net for a perfect tip-in. He's a very hard worker with a decent amount of talent. It would be a shame if he wasn't playing junior hockey somewhere next season. He could play for my team anyday.

Duluth Marshall vs. Blake

Marshall was a very physical, very disciplined team. They pretty much controlled play. Things just weren't meant to be for Blake. They got down 3-0 after the first period, but had a chance to come back. They hit the inside of the goalpost twice in the second period. The whole team celebrated on the ice after one of the shots, even though the puck was still in play. Marshall added a fourth goal late in the period that pretty much sealed it. If Blake had made it 3-2 instead of 4-1, it would have been a totally different game.

Kent Patterson was probably the best prospect playing in the game. He had a rough game yesterday. The first two goals were a tip through a screen and a nice one-timer that he had no chance on. The third and fourth goals were probably avoidable. On the third goal, he jumped on a loose puck in between the circles, but then let go and Marshall scored. Now I'm not sure on the rule in high school. In college it would have been a penalty if he had held onto it, but I don't know about high school. The fourth goal came off a scramble in front, where Patterson stayed down too long instead of getting up and back in position and Marshall slid a puck through.

Overall, I think he'll still be a very good goalie some day. He's an excellent puckhandler and is always trying to start the rush by making a quick outlet pass.

Mike Louwerse isn't on the 2007 Recruiting Board, but he's been identified as a college prospect for some time now. He didn't do much in the first period of the game. You could tell Marshall really focused on him, as he got destroyed three of four times by huge hits. He was a completely different player in the second and third though. He's very shifty with the puck. He reminded a bit of Marty Sertich. I think he'll be a good college player down the road.

For Marshall, I liked the game of junior Bob Gutsch. He's a big, tall kid that plays a physical game, but can also put the puck in the net. Sophmore Brian Erola had the hit of the day when he laid out Mike Louwerse.

St. Thomas Academy vs. Orono

St. Thomas was the much better team in this one, but Orono almost stole it with better goaltending and being opportunistic. Orono scored their first goal on a scrum in front of the net in the first period. St. Thomas didn't get on the board until Jordan Schroeder scored a pretty backhand goal. Orono answered right back with a fluke goal where the goalie let the puck slide between his pads, and an Orono player barely nudged it in. It looked like that goal would stand until St. Thomas scored on a tip from the point with 13 seconds left. After that, all the momentum was in St. Thomas' favor. They quickly won it in OT after Orono turned the puck over in their own zone.

I was pretty impressed with Jordan Schroeder. He was probably the most flashy player on the ice yesterday. He's practically impossible to stop one-on-one and he had some crazy moves, including one where he put the puck between his legs and beat a defenseman to set up a goal that was eventually called back. That said, there's not much else to his game. He's a little bit like Phil Kessel, except without the great snapshot. He's certainly got time to develop that game though. I think he might be better served in the USHL where he's playing against better defenseman.

His linemate sophomore Connor Rooney was in the same mold as Schroeder, but not as flashy. He could end up on some college team's radar if he continues to develop.

Hermantown vs. Thief River Falls

Another excellent game. TRF built an early 3-1 lead before Karl Gilbert scored three goals for Hermantown in the third period to win 4-3. Some people were saying TRF choked, and some said TRF was hurt by the loss of Mike Forney in the second period due to a wrist injury. From my standpoint though, TRF just ran out of gas. They skated two lines the entire game and by the third period, they were dead. With Forney in the lineup, they occassionally mixed in their third line whenever they got a lead. But once he left, they stuck with two lines. Hermantown played solid hockey the whole game.

North Dakota recruit Mike Forney only played half the game, but he was on the ice for more than half of that time, so I got a decent look at him. I had heard people talking about how he didn't go in the corners prior to the game, but watching, I think that's completely false. He did a very good job at throwing his weight around yesterday. He's usually the high man on TRF's forecheck, while the other two forwards try to force a turnover, which could be what people are referring to, but I think it makes sense, because it gives their best player the opportunity to pick off a pass and have a great scoring chance.

He set up one great scoring chance with a nice move where he kept the puck on a two-on-two, and also made a nice breakout pass to set up a chance where he tipped the puck between his legs to a streaking teammate. Overall, I thought he looked good. He has very skinny legs for someone that is going to be playing college hockey next season, but he can definitely get around the ice.

So that was my day of hockey. Four long games was exhausting, but if I could, I'd definitely want to do it again today with the AA quarterfinals.