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Trent Klatt became a student of hockey while playing wing with Ken Gernander with the Gophers. They were a dynamic duo, Klatt from Osseo scoring goals often set up by Gernander, from Greenway of Coleraine. “Kenny’s wife and my wife are identical twins,” said Klatt, who moved up to Grand Rapids while pursuing a pro hockey career and has lived there ever since.
When the Grand Rapids High School hockey coaching job came open, after former hometown star John Rothstein decided to give it up, Klatt jumped at the chance. “I love coaching,” he said. “I’ve learned so much in the game that this is my way to give back to the sport.”
Klatt’s Grand Rapids outfit beat Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 5-1 in last Saturday’s second Class AA semifinal in Section 7 to take a 20-6-1 record and the No. 1 seed into this week’s Thursday night final, against Duluth East. Klatt watched East dismantle a strong Elk River outfit 6-3 in Saturday’s first semifinal, to become 18-9 as the No. 2 seed.
“Any team that wants to make the state tournament through 7AA knows they’ve got to get through Duluth East,” said Klatt. “Mike Randolph is a great coach; he’s got his game plan and we’ve got ours. I never made it to the state tournament as a player, and I’d love to make it with this team as a coach.”
Randolph’s coaching takes on legendary magnitude as Section 7AA time. Against Elk River, Randolph was relieved to get injured winger Ryan Peterson back, although it took a second opinion barely 24 hours before game time for him to get cleared. Peterson gives Luke Dow’s second line real scoring punch, but Saturday went over the top.
Randolph started his third line of skilled and willing checkers, but the Elks didn’t open with their No. 1 line, as anticipated. A whistle after 36 seconds put the faceoff in Elk River’s left corner circle, and as Randolph sent out his No. 1 line, centered by Garret Worth, he noticed the Elks had sent their No. 1 line out. With last change, Randolph pulled the Worth line and sent out Dow’s line. The puck was dropped, Dow pulled the faceoff to his left, and Ryan Peterson – a half-second after his first shift started – whistled a quick shot in off the short-side pipe, and it was 1-0 at 0:37.
Two rotations later, the same thing happened. Randolph again pulled Worth’s line and sent out Dow, sho almost immediately scored from the crease at 6:05 for a 2-0 lead. On their next turn, the Worth line stayed out on the ice, and Ash Altmann raced around the defense on the left, cut to the net and jammed in his shot – 3-0, at 8:20. The third line came back out, and five seconds after the ensuing faceoff, sophomore defenseman Nick Lanigan rifled in a shot and it was 4-0. And Elk River didn’t yet have a single shot on goal.
It was 14-0 before Elk River got a shot, and when Nick Perbix got the Elks first goal, Ian Mageau countered with East’s fifth goal.
“I don’t think I’ve ever used that many line combinations,” said Randolph, who juggled constantly to keep the Elks from getting back into the game, although two third-period goals by the Elks required Altmann to score into an empty net to let Randolph relax.
Then it was Randolph’s turn to go up into the stands and watch East’s next foe. Blake McLaughlin got the Thunderhawks started at 4:34, and John Stampohar made it 2-0 two minutes later. The Lumberjacks needed an early goal, but even when Jacob Johnson got one, Gavin Hain scored his first of two goals for a 3-1 first period lead. Rapids went on to outshoot Cloquet 39-15 and pull away 5-1.
“They’re good,” said Cloquet coach Dave Esse. “They overpowered our guys. I’ve been here a long time, but has there ever been a more talented Grand Rapids team? Thursday will be a great game against East.”
In last Saturday night’s Class A semifinals, Hermantown and Hibbing went by the book – top-seeded Hermantown blowing away a Greenway-Nashwauk/Keewatin team that has had an outstanding season, by 9-0, scoring four times in a five-minute span of the first period. First-year coach Grant Clafton, who coached Peewees in his native Grand Rapids last year, has done a great job continuing the resurgence of the proud Raiders program.
Hibbing-Chisholm has also had a strong season, but had to get past Denfeld goaltender River Alander to reach Wednesday night’s final in A. Jake Bestul gave Hibbing a lead at 10:15, but Logan Parych tied it at 11:34 in the first period. Zach DeBoom scored on a power play at 2:43 of the second, and it stayed 2-1 until the Bluejackets scofred twice in the third and added an empty-net goal. Hibbing outshot Denfeld 44-24, but Alander’s goaltending kept the Hunters in the game.