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Nothing is more refreshing on one of those 80 or 90 degree days than to find out there’s one of those summer high school hockey games going on. The Blackwoods Open high school varsity hockey tournament at Mars-Lakeview Arena last weekend was perfectly timed to provide just that sort of a break.
Going by recent tradition, the organizers might have been angling to set up a championship game between Marshall, the host team, and St. Cloud Cathedral, a traditional power in state Class A competition. But a strange thing happened on their way to the final.
Surprises were everywhere, most notably Shakopee, Mounds View, and Forest Lake. Shakopee took out Marshall in a close opener, and made it all the way to the final by also beating Eveleth-Gilbert in the semifinals. In the lower bracket, Forest Lake beat Denfeld in the first round, and Mounds View ambushed favored St. Cloud Cathedral, 4-1 in a game that might be a coming-out party for senior goaltender Like Ortloff.
Senior defenseman Cale Goenner rifled in a goal from the right point, and the Mustangs broke from a 2-0 start with goals by Carson Brodt, a speedy little forward who just happens to be the younger brother of UMD and U.S. Women’s National team star Sydney Brodt, and by John Rupert. Both scored on clean chances, Brodt on a neat pass from the left side, and Rupert on a breakaway. Another familiar name on the Mounds View team is Jake McAlpine, son of former Roseville and Gopher star Chris McAlpine, who later played pro hockey and is now a player agent.
The St. Cloud Cathedral team had some interesting names, also, one of whom was Mack Motzko, son of Gopher coach Bob Motzko, who also showed up to escape the heat outside. Motzko, whose two sons grew up in the St. Cloud youth program while their dad coached St. Cloud State, moved with the family and played in the Minnetonka program last season. “It was a tougher transition for Mack,” Bob explained, saying his younger son would like to return to St. Cloud and play with his buddies. “We’d prefer that he stays with us, but we’re leaving it up to him.”
Mack Motzko’s presence on the St. Cloud Cathedral team would seem to indicate he’s made up his mind.
As for other summer surprises, Mounds View, after upsetting St. Cloud Cathedral, was blitzed 10-2 in the semifinals by Forest Lake — which joined Shakopee as surprise finalists. Eveleth-Gilbert, which beat Superior in their opener, lost to Shakopee in the semifinals but bounced back to beat Mounds View 8-6 in the third-place game.
Ah, summer hockey.
If the heat stays through the weekend of July 26-28, you can take a break at Mars-Lakeview for the Hilltoppers Classic, with a powerhouse field that includes Greenway of Coleraine, Mahtomedi, Bemidji, Hermantown, Benilde-St. Margaret, Brainerd, St,. Cloud and Marshall.
The Twins continue to smack home runs and lead the Central Division, and they open the post-All-Star segment of the season with a challenging schedule that is going on right now, with a homestead starting with the New York Yankees following the New York Mets to Target Field.
Closer to home, the Duluth Huskies got off to a good start in the clean-slate second half, then faltered a little, before coming back strong to rise to first place at 8-4 at Northwoods League All-Star time.
Pitcher Dave Morrow and infielder Nick Kent were the Huskies who made the All-Star game, but it’s the suddenly effective pitching that could be the key for the Huskies in the second half.
Schuyler Hill threw a six-inning three-hitter, striking out four in a 6-0 victory over the LaCrosse Loggers and Cole Milam gave up only one earned run in six innings in the 6-3 victory over the Loggers. Kent, who was 2-4 in Saturday’s shutout victory came back with a 4-4 performance Sunday, as a tune-up for the All-Star game.
The Huskies return to Wade Stadium to face Thunder Bay Thursday.
One of the victims of a long playoff run to national competition is American Legion baseball, where the teams have to finish their regular season this week in order to start playoffs next week, because there are regional and state tournaments to come.
Duluth’s teams did very well in the brief high school season, with Marshall winning the Class AA state championship, Denfeld reaching the Class AAA tournament, and Duluth East making it to the verge of AAAA state. Those three teams all were scheduled to play at Ordean Wednesday, because Marshall and Denfeld combine to form the West Duluth Cubs, and East makes up the Lakeview team, and those two played Wednesday.
The West Duluth Cubs play at Hermantown at 5:30 Thursday, and the teams then have a planning meeting Sunday to find out their playoff pairings for competition that starts next Wednesday.
A lot of high school players don’t play Legion ball, although eligibility reaches to age 19. But it’s exciting baseball, so get out and watch a game this week or catch the tournament next week, then the season is over. Maybe it’s a good thing we’ve got summer hockey tournaments!