skip navigation

The Last Hurrah

By frederick61, 03/01/13, 5:45AM CST


St. Cloud Apollo celebrates going to their first state hockey tourney, for Little Falls the journey ends

Note: At YHH we are the observers of youth hockey.  It fun to watch kids and parents having fun at the rink, but we are only observers.  Think of YHH as the person on the road, watching carloads of parents and kids go by every year on a journey.

The skaters in peewee class of 2007-2008 are graduating from high school this year.  In March 2008, the Peewee A State Tourney was held in Willmar.  Edina led by Dan Labosky, TJ Moore, and Johnny Austin played in that tourney and beat a Jake Bischoff led Grand Rapids team in the finals 5-2.

Edina and Wayzata lead by Brian Machut, Jack Sorenson, Grant Besse and Dani Cameranesi had a great semifinal game.  Edina won 4-3 after trailing 3-0 late in the game.  Eden Prairie led by Steve Spinner, Mason Berg, and Jake Gerdes lost to Wayzata in the third place game.  Woodbury led by Jake Guentzel beat East Grand Forks led by Tommy Hajicek, Dixon Bowen, and Tanner Lindstrom 7-3 in the consolation championship game. 

Cloquet, led by  Beau Michaud and Karson Kuhlman, lost their first two games.  The eighth team in the tourney was Little Falls.

But like any journey, at some point there is an end.  For most of these kids, it ends with their last high school games played in the next few weeks.  They will move on, some to play hockey at a higher level.  But the fun part is now.

St. Cloud Apollo beats Little Falls for the Section 6A Title

Last night at the Municipal Athletic Complex in St. Cloud, St. Cloud Apollo beat Little Falls 6-3 in front of a packed arena.  The fans filled the arena so tight that standers were three and four deep in some places.

On March 1, 2008, YHH was at Brainerd’s Area Civic Center when Little Falls surprised everybody by winning a seed to the Peewee A State Tourney played at Willmar that year.  The Flyers beat Moorhead.  They joined the seven teams above at the state and lost their first two games.

The previous fall, the Little Falls peewee A team sprang out of nowhere when they starting winning some good tournaments in December of 2007.

In December of 2007, nobody outside of Little Falls, knew that the Flyers were good.

Nobody even knew that the Flyers would have a peewee A team that year.
The Little Falls peewee A team from the 2008 state tourney have kept together over the past 5 years.  They had 12 skaters and two goalies in 2008.   Two of their skaters were girls, but 8 kids of the remaining 12 have made the journey to the end.

Last night at the MAC in St. Cloud, the Flyers lost to St. Cloud Apollo 6-3 in the Section 6A championship game to end the Flyers journey.

Little Falls has one of the best winning records in high school hockey.  Since their peewee A team players of 2007-2008 started playing high school, the Flyers have a record of 62-21-2 (including this season).  Apollo has not had a winning season in the past five years until they posted a 18-10 record this year.  The two teams have played each other once, Little Falls winning in mid-January 4-2

But last night’s game was won by Apollo tactics, a slashing offense, and a hot goalie in Nick Althaus.

Little Falls dominated the first half of the game.  The opening period was scoreless and most of the play was in the Apollo half of the ice.  The Flyers succeeded in bottling up the Apollo breakout attempts by having the off forwards cover the pass on the breakout often beating the Apollo defender to the puck when the Apollo defense tried to move out their zone.

The Eagles didn’t help themselves in the opening period, drawing a 5 minute major two minutes into the game.  The Flyers succeeding in establishing puck control in the Eagles zone on the 5 minute power play, but could not beat Althaus.  Althaus was on the Apollo varsity team last year as an eighth grader and played in the Select 15 tryouts last summer.  This year the 6’1” ninth grader has been Apollo’s goalie.

When a Little Falls goal was disallowed two minutes in the power play, one knew that the Flyers were in for a tough time.

Little Falls failed to score on another power play with 4 minutes left in the period.  Still the Flyers dominated the opening period such that Apollo could manage on one shot on the net and that came in the closing seconds of the first period.  The Flyers outshot the Eagles 8-1, but the score was 0-0.

Little Falls’ momentum continued in the opening minutes of the second period.  But Apollo was starting to beat the Falls forward on the breakout pass.  The off forward was starting to slow in cutting off the Eagles break out attempts.

Two minutes into the period, Apollo established puck control in the Flyers zone only to have the Falls Taylor Drager score on a breakaway.  Drager beat a single defenseman by moving right in the slot and scoring on a backhand shot to the upper left corner.  The goal put the Flyers up 1-0.  Jack Schulte got the assist.

It took the Eagles five minutes to get the equalizer.  An Apollo pass found Jason Omann breaking down the left boards.  Omann beat the Flyer defense low and beat the Flyers goalie, Michael Stompf, to the short side to tie the game 1-1.  Paul Kenney got the assist.

Three minutes later, Omann teamed up with Kenney to score again.  That goal put Apollo up 2-1.  The Eagles never relinquished their lead.  With 7 minutes left in the period, the whole game tempo changed.  The teams started to play cautiously.

Slowly as the period wound down, it became apparent that Apollo game play was to “thud”.  The Eagles started gaining the red line and dumping the puck.  They sent few attackers low and only when a better scoring opportunity developed would they launch a full attack.  The Flyers were frustrated as the period ended, giving up possession of the puck often in the neutral zone against a packed Eagle defense.

The second period ended with Apollo leading 2-1; the shots on goal still favored the Flyers 20-8.

Apollo created a long delay before the start of the third period and the team had to be buzzed out of their locker room.  But on the ice, the Eagles did not wait long, Blandon Bloch scored 17 seconds into the third period to put the Eagles up 3-1.  Omann got the assist, but the puck took a crazy bounce to help set up the score.

That opening third period goal was the game breaker.  Apollo went back to thudding and just kept dumping the puck and changing lines.  Little Falls would try to break through the neutral zone, but could not beat the packed Apollo defense often.

When the Flyers succeeded in the attack, they would get a good shot on goal, but Althaus zeroed the Flyers out most of the time.

With 12 minutes to go in the game, the Flyers Luke Majerie scored, finally beating Althaus on a shot from the left face off circle high and left.  Thomas Miller got the assist.  The Eagles lead narrowed to 3-2.

Apollo attacked after that goal.  It took the Eagles a minute to score.  This time Jared Christen scored with Kenney getting his third assist in the game.  The Eagles led again by two goals, 4-2.

Apollo went back to thudding.  The Eagles were content to move the puck to the red line, dump the puck and change lines.  The tactics continued to frustrate the Flyers.  At the 9 minute mark, the Eagles bench got caught with an extra player on the ice on a change when they failed to dump the puck deep and with the Flyers beating them in neutral ice.

But the Flyers power play sputtered as Apollo continued to send the puck deep forcing Little Falls to re-group.  With the game clock winding down, things looked bleak for the Flyers.

With three minutes to go, the Flyers’ Miller picked up the puck in the right face off circle in the Eagles’ zone and went for the net.  Beating a diving Apollo defenseman’s stick, Miller shot the puck over Althaus’ left shoulder to cut the lead to 4-3.

But in an attempt to bring pressure on the Eagles and establish puck control in the Apollo zone, the Flyer defense got caught forward.  This time, Apollo’s Brandon Bissett scored to put the Eagles ahead 5-3 with 90 seconds left on the clock.  Grady Ewing got the assist.  Jason Omann scored an empty netter 60 seconds later to end the scoring 6-3.

Apollo goes to state.  Little Falls goes home.  It may take a few years for the Flyer kids who came out of nowhere to feel good about last night.  It may take a few more years for them to realize what they have accomplished in hockey for the town of Little Falls.

But if they had looked up in the stands last night, they would have seen more Little Falls fans then Apollo fans.  The MAC is home ice for Apollo, the high school is 5 minutes down the road.

It is the last hurrah for Little Falls kids; the Stumpf brothers, Ben Newman, Spencer Fenske, Taylor Kottschade, Mark Arnez, Luke Majerie, and Nathan Adamietz.  It has been or will be the last hurrah for the others that played in the peewee A state tourney in March, 2008 and played peewee hockey that year.

It is the end of a journey.  Most parents have strong feelings after that last high school game their kid plays in.

Some would say it is a relief, others would say it leaves a void.  Most will cry in some way.  It is after all what makes us human.
Most move on with their lives.

For the kids on ice, it is different.  At first the kids may miss the sport, but kids go on to schools, jobs, and marriages.  Some parents become grandparents whose grandkids play hockey.

They return to the ice arenas.

At YHH, those cars keep driving by on their journey and next year some will end it.  But as the 2012-2013 season closes, we wanted to say to both kids and parents who we have followed over the years, we know those feelings after that last game.  We have lived them.  We also know it is the memories that count.

And YHH hopes that we have written our stories such that both kids and parents can remember them as they happened.  That is one of our goals.  So drop by and visit those memories often.  The YHH door is always open.

Recent MN YHH News