Eveleth-Gilbert Golden Bears vs Duluth-Denfeld Hunters
Duluth was the perfect setting for a pair of truly fantastic high school hockey games. The first game of Hockey Day Minnesota featured two Northland teams in the Duluth-Denfeld Hunters and the Eveleth-Gilbert Golden Bears. The Golden Bears were able to jump on the Hunters early on a Cody Hendrickson breakaway goal. However, the Hunters owned the puck and poured on the shots.
Denfeld's Dylan Skorich and scored two goals and tallied an assist for three points on the day. The Hunters struck quickly in the third period to on the back of Skorich's two tallies to put the game out of reach. Scoring for the Golden Bears was Cody Hendrickson and Nick Pryzbylski. Pryzbylski had a moment near the tail end of the second period where his skate blade had broken off. Now, in the NHL of college game, the equipment managers just hot swap a blade and the player would hardly miss the next shift. However, in the high school game, Pryzbylski had to borrow another set of skates from a teammate. These skates were sporting hot pink laces, just so you could find the Golden Bears' top goal scorer in the through the low light that the gray overcast skies provided.
Eveleth-Gilbert was trying to slow down the Hunters by playing the body. The Hunters, though, kept skating and shooting. They out-shot the Golden Bears by a 4:1 ratio. Duluth-Denfeld defeated Eveleth-Gilbert by a 5-2 score.
Lakeville North Panthers vs Duluth East Greyhounds
The rematch of last year's State Tournament Championship game featured two pretty evenly matched teams. The 8th ranked Panthers traveled north to take on the 14th ranked Greyhounds with the Greyhounds looking to enact revenge. Duluth East struck first on a Ryan Peterson goal just a few minutes into the game. East was dictating play and it looked like the Panthers were a little slow out of the gate. They chased the Greyhounds all over the zone. It wasn't until 20 seconds left in the opening period that Lakeville North would score. Ryan Poehling ended up stealing the puck on the forecheck. It caught everyone by surprise, including netminder Kirk Meierhoff, and Poehling was able to tie the game at one.
The second period was controlled by the Panthers as the ice conditions started to worsen because the Sun decided to poke out from the clouds. The grounds crew did a dry scrape during intermission rather than placing more water down because there was a fear it wouldn't freeze again. Lakeville North found their legs during the break and played much better in the second period. They got the benefit of a couple power plays to help with getting offensive zone pressure. Max Johnson, the leading North goal scorer, scored on the power play on a nice centering feed from Poehling to take the 2-1 lead. Five short minutes later Henry Enebak potted the game winning goal. Enebak had himself a real fine game.
Ryan Peterson scored with about five minutes remaining to setup an extra-attacker situation late in the game. However, North put on a clinic on how to play in a close situation with the lead. Knowing that they didn't need to score, they forced the puck deep in the Greyhound zone and kept it locked up against the boards in all of the snow that accumulated throughout the game. Eventually Duluth East was able to Meierhoff of the ice, and after a Lakeville North icing infraction with six seconds left, an Alex Spencer shot sailed just wide as the horn sounded. A 3-2 victory for the defending State Champions on Hockey Day Minnesota is a great way to cap a weekend celebration of hockey.
Bayfront Park offered fantastic sight lines of the Duluth/Superior port and the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge. The Bridge, which usually uses the horn to hail ships as they disembark from the port. On Hockey Day Minnesota, it was the de facto goal horn. Heard to sound the ends of periods and for goals, it was a great way to incorporate one of the most recognizable landmarks in Minnesota.