A grandmother and a teenage hockey playing girl were arguing over something that in the end really did not amount to the proverbial hill of beans. Both separated. Later the teenager asked the grandmother to read an essay that she just wrote. Her assignment was to choose a childhood memory and write about that memory. The teenager choose to write about making Christmas cookies with grandmother. As the grandmother read the essay, the teenager watch the emotions playing across the grandmother's face and suddenly they both realized that they mattered to each other and that no matter what happened they would be connected forever. In the end, perhaps that is what we all can achieve, to matter.
A Zach Parise game worn jersey and game used stick are being auctioned off.
If you walked into the Orono Ice Arena Thursday night, your first reaction would have been is there a hockey game tonight? There was no ticket table and hand stamp, only a brightly decorated red and white arena foray packed with people wearing mostly red in some form or another. The lady at the table announced to each person entering that both Orono and Delano High Schools had agreed that there is no charge for the game, only a contribution. Give as much as you like, put the money in the glass container, and then enjoy the game. It really was a big party and less a game.
An outpouring of emotion sat on the glass going into the rink
Both Orono and Delano have the “elephant in the room” no one wants to talk about in Section 2A, the #1 Class A team in the state, Breck. Orono and Delano are neck and neck for the #2 seed in Section 2A. Breck is the odds on favorite to take the #1 seed. So last night’s game had Section 2A seeding implications for the #2 seed. Both teams went for the win. In conference play, there is a second “elephant in the room”, Wright County Conference leader and challenger to Wayzata and Benilde-St. Margaret’s dominance in Section 6AA, Holy Family Catholic. After last night’s game, both teams are tied for second place in the conference behind the unbeaten (in conference play) the Fire.
Delano's Ben Meyers raps a Tiger rebound past Orono's Jonathan Flakne. Note Joey Luedkte (#12) is back checking and just fails to cut Meyers off the puck
The players did not settle down until five minutes into the opening period. In those opening minutes, the puck was just batted back and forth in the neutral zone. Gradually, the Delano forwards started to beat the Orono defense along the boards, carrying the puck into the corners or cutting into the slot off the face off circle. The Tigers were getting shots on net. Orono’s offense was still struggling.
Delano's Jeff Linna watches his shot bouncing in the net after scoring to put the Tigers up 2-0
At the 7 minute mark, a Tiger attack down the right boards resulted in a rebounding puck at the left side crease in front of the Spartan goalie Jonathan Flakne. The Tiger’s Ben Meyers beat the Spartan defender to the puck. Coming down the slot, Meyers backhanded the rebounding puck into the net past Flakne. Meyer’s goal put Delano up 1-0. Nick Pogue and Brady Miller got the assists.
Two minutes later, the Tiger’s Jeff Linna beat the Orono defense along the left boards and cut into the faceoff circle. He took a hard swing at the puck but caught the puck’s edge. Instead of going high, the puck was driven through a surprised Flakne’s 5-hole. Linna scored unassisted and Delano led 2-0.
Thirty seconds later, the Spartans struck back when Orono’s Alex Sellers scored unassisted to cut Delano’s lead to 2-1. A penalty set off a set of events that was key to the outcome of the game. It started with a Delano penalty.
With six minutes left in the opening period, Delano was called for cross checking. No ref made the initial call as the Orono player lay on the ice as a result of a collision and did not get up. Finally one ref did. An argument ensued because of the delay. During the argument, the injured player got up and skated to the bench. It was a weak call. One minute into the Orono power play, an Orono player collided with a Tiger defender to the right of the Delano goal along the end boards. The ref called a penalty and it looked like another weak two minute minor penalty; but the ref called it a major penalty.
Orono's Robert Fellers (center right in the picture) watches his tipped puck heading for the net to tie the game 2-2
Thirty seconds into the 5-on-3 power play, the Spartans established control in the Tiger’s zone and moved the puck to the blue line left and a Spartan took a shot at the net. Orono’s Robbie Fellers deflected the puck downward as it passed by beating Delano’s goalie Bret Nordling. Fellers got credit for the goal, Joey Luedtke and Jake Flemmer got the assists.
Orono had numerous scoring opportunities on the power play during the 5 minute major power play. Most came when the Spartans shifted the right point defenseman to the center right blue line and moved the right wing into the high faceoff circle. This move caught the Delano’s penalty killers over-shifted to the left side of the ice. The right wing almost always had an open shot on that power play, but failed to score. The wings never positioned themselves for a quick, one-timer, shot before getting the pass. Instead they choose to re-position themselves after they got the puck. The slight delay allowed the Tiger defense to recover. That’s hockey.
Delano killed the rest of the 5 minute major, but it had cost them the tying goal. The first period ended in 2-2 tie. With the help of the major penalty, Orono outshot Delano 12-5 in the period.
This shot in the first period by Delano's Jack Nelson just misses the upper left corner of Orono's net.
The period opening with both teams settling into their style of play. Delano focused on maintaining control in the Spartan’s half of the ice. They would turn the play in neutral zone, dump the puck low, and then try to follow with two pinching forwards trying to trap the Orono defender along the end boards. They had some success and when they did, it resulted in close in attacks on the Orono goal.
The Spartans tried to connect on the long pass (right boards to left boards or left to right) through the neutral zone looking to time the break on the Delano goal or to get the puck deep in the Tiger’s zone. The tactic really worked at the 11 minute mark allowing the Spartans to exert maximum pressure on Delano’s goalie Nordling. At one point YHH counted five separate moves is less than 3 seconds by 6’2” Nordling that ranged from high right to low left as he blocked five separate attempts by the Spartans forwards jammed at the top of the crease. He really put on an acrobatic display in that sequence.
No goals were scored and the few penalties called in the second period were not a factor. The second period ended in a 2-2 tie. Delano outshot Orono 7-5 in the period.
Joey Luedtke (#12 far right in the picture) shows he hasn't lost the passing touch as he tried to set up his teammate on this play
There was only one player at the game last night and that is Kim Ylitalo. She may or may not have been on the ice. This game was played to honor a hockey mom who was more than just a mother of kids who played hockey. She was active at the youth and high school levels in supporting hockey. Her two sons played hockey for the Spartans and captained Orono teams. Ted Ylitalo captained the Spartan team in the 2009-2010 season. But her interests went further than that; members of her extended family have also skated for Delano.
One of Kim’s extended family members, Reid Ylitalo, skated for the Tigers last night. He was present on the ice when the two hockey teams presented their donation to the Minneapolis Heart Institution to Kim’s longtime friend and one of last night’s benefit organizers, Sarah Wilson, between periods. Another extended family member, Eric Ylitalo, led Delano in scoring in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons before graduating last March. It was fitting that her memory was honored Thursday night at a game between the two teams. Kim, through relatives and friends, was the support for players on both sides of the ice.
A fan's ticket was a donation put into on of the glass buckets on the table as you walked into the Orono Ice Arena.
Kim was the focus Thursday night, not the game, because the players and fans wanted it so. Even the action on the ice had been tempered as if she was still present. Her living made players and friends and fans lives better, it made their lives matter. There was that connection. One could see it at the arena as people would congregate in small groups like they would do at wake.
In one of the more poignant moments, the national anthem was the played by a single saxophone in front of a quiet packed house of people who knew Kim and the saxophone player never missed a note or a beat.
In a sense, the game was like a wake with people constantly saying to each other, “if you knew her….” But it wasn’t a wake, it was a party. People were happy, players were happy. The normal things one sees at a high school hockey game happened. But even the most stranger of strangers to last night’s game would have walked away seeing that Kim’s life mattered and that she was missed.
Hockey moms do matter and sometimes they must feel estranged like the grandmother with her grandchild, confused temporarily by something that in the end does not matter. Valentine’s Day is near and perhaps it is time for those to renew their connections with their hockey moms, to re-kindle that feeling. After all is said and done, hockey moms do matter.
The contributions collected at the game will be given to the Minneapolis Heart Institute in memory of Kim Ylitalo who died of heart disease last May at the age of 50. Contact the Orono Youth Hockey Association for the details for those interested in giving.
Kim Ylitalo and Family