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Super Bowl week or not, there was some compelling hockey being played in the Great White North, which keeps everything in perspective now that football season has finally had its final gasp squeezed out. Let’s just run through the week, hitting the high spots. Let’s start with Superior visiting Heritage Center to face Duluth East. The Greyhounds hit the ice flying, and jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first period, gave up a goal, then scored four in a row and went on to win 8-1. Of note, Superior took a penalty at 12:53 of the second period and the score 5-1.
The ref dropped the puck in the right corner faceoff circle, and East’s Ryder Donovan pulled the draw back and to the left, right on Ian Mageau’s stick. He immediately shot and hit the net for a goal. The goal came at 12:54 -- one second after the penalty. The big line had scored on a one-second power play. Donovan, a sophomore, had 3 goals and 2 assists; junior Mageau had 2 goals and 4 assists, and Garrett Worth, another junior, 2 goals and 3 assists. Friday afternoon, AMSOIL Arena. Maddie Rooney, the sophomore goaltender for the UMD women’s team, who got her game to a high level by playing for the Andover boys high school team, where then-coach Shannon Miller recruited her, came off a 3-0 shutout over Ohio State and pinned a 2-0 blank on North Dakota, with 24 saves. The first goal was key, when Jessica Healey came out of the penalty box at 16:35, and skated over to the bench. Lara Stalder came on, spotted Michelle Lowenhielm getting the puck in the UMD zone. Stalder broke the other way, Lowenhielm flung the puck up to her, and Stalder scored her 18th goal on the breakaway. Sidney Morin got the other goal, moving in from the left point to score a power-play goal late in the third period. Friday night, No. 1 ranked UMD men play host to Nebraska-Omaha. We knew Dominic Toninato had played hard all season, and he had a few goals, but we had overlooked the fact that he hadn’t scored at AMSOIL all season. Playing against his former Duluth East linemate, Jake Randolph, Toninato broke a 0-0 deadlock when he scored a breakaway goal at 0:12 of the second period. Luc Snuggerud tied it with a bullet from the point on a power play, but Toninato showed his old, familiar form by grabbing the puck off to the left of the net and putting it in at 19:04 for a 2-1 lead. UNO tied it again when Ian Brady scored at 1:32 of the third, and it stayed 2-2 through regulation, through a 5-on-5 overtime, and a 3-on-3 overtime.
That meant a sudden-death shootout. The Mavericks would go first, and coach Dean Blais, always one for the dramatic, sent Randolph out. He skated in, went for the 5-hole, but freshman goalie Hunter Miska stopped him. First up for UMD? No, not Toninato, but Alex Iafallo. He zoomed in, made a neat move, and scored on Evan Weninger. That gave UMD the extra standings point, although the game stands as a 2-2 tie. Back to Saturday afternoon in AMSOIL, for the second round of games. Early in the first period, UMD freshman Brooklynn Schugel carried deep up the right, circled behind and passed out to the slot. Closing fast, Sydney Brodt could only block the pass with her skate, but alertly then smacked it with her stick. Goal, 1-0 UMD. North Dakota tied it 1-1 when Marissa Salo scored at 2:36. Just 1:10 later, Stalder was deep on the left when the puck came to her, and she fired from a hopeless angle. “I didn’t see any opening, and I didn’t see it go in,” said Stalder. “But I saw the light go on.” UMD wins 2-1. UMD’s sweep came with center Katerina Mrazova away at an Olympic trial tournament for the Czech Republic, and this weekend, Stalder leaves to join the Switzerland team for a 3-game qualifying tournament. Missing Stalder and her 19 goals, and Mrazova leaves an enormous task for the rest of the Bulldogs who, while ranked No. 2 in the country, go to Madison to play No. 1 Wisconsin. Saturday night, and while all the fixings for watching the Super Bowl are in place at home, the UMD men faced Nebraska-Omaha again. Adam Johnson’s first period goal was followed up by Iafallo and Joey Anderson with a pair of power-play goals in the second, and goals by Avery Peterson and Neal Pionk in the third, for a stunning 5-0 victory and Miska’s NCAA-leading fifth shutout of the season. The final goal was one for the highlight video. Toninato carried up the left side at high speed, feeding the slot for Iafallo, who immediately fired a shot that wasn’t a shot at all, but a missile aimed wide to the right, where Pionk, racing up from defense to join the rush, one-touched it in as he flew past the right post. All at top speed, for a 5-0 victory. The Bulldogs now take a weekend off. One day after the Super Bowl for the ages, Duluth East went to Cloquet to face Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, which has been on a roll lately. First period was intense, even, and scoreless. But East was in its perpetual motion mode, and the Lumberjacks needed a big play to avoid being a victim of the grind. A penalty wasn’t it, and East’s Jack FitzGerald scored on a deflection at 1:32. Five minutes later, Garrett Worth scored on a rebound of Luke LeMaster’s shot, then FitzGerald scored again and it was 3-0. Cloquet’s Jedd Anich got a deflected shot to fool East goaltender Kirk Meierhoff midway thorugh the third period, but Worth countered on another power play, and, moments after Austin Jouppi failed to score on a 2-on-0, he came back and converted a 2-on-1 feed from Worth for a 5-1 final. Big games, big goals, and a lot more action than just a football game last week.