Monday, November 1, 2010
Team Great Plains surprises with Elite League playoff crown
By Tim Droogsma
Both the balance, and the depth of talent, in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League was on display last weekend as Team Great Plains – a sixth-place finisher in the regular season – ran off three wins to capture the Elite League playoff championship.
Great Plains finished its remarkable run Sunday with a 7-5 win over Team Northeast, who themselves had made an improbable charge to the championship game from the #7 seed position.
“This was a great championship game, and a tremendous win for Team Great Plains,” said Elite League founder and Commissioner John Russo. “It shows how much talent there is in this league, and what any group of players can accomplish when they play as a team.”
Here’s how Great Plains’ run to the championship unfolded:
TEAM NORTHEAST 4, TEAM NORTHWEST 0
The tournament began with many Elite League fans expecting the regular season co-champions, Team North and Team Northwest, to meet again in the finals. Team Northeast made that an impossibility with a stunning 4-0 shutout of Northwest in the quarterfinals.
Goalie Tim Shaughnessy of Hill-Murray stopped all 30 shots in earning his first-ever Elite League shutout. His Northeast teammates came out fast, getting goals from Miles Death, Max Birkinbine and Joey Hess in the first period. From there, Shaughnessy keps Northwest at bay until Nick Turbitt scored in the third period to nail down the win.
TEAM NORTH 7, OMAHA JR. LANCERS 1
Patrick Moore scored the first of his two goals as part of a four-goal, first-period barrage as Team North – the league’s other regular season co-champ – blew by Omaha. Goalie Dom DeGuiseppi made 32 saves and Travis Underwood had a goal and three assists for North.
TEAM GREAT PLAINS 5, WISCONSIN 4
Bryant Christian scored a pair of goals as Great Plains built a 5-3 lead, then let goalie Bryan Nies hold on through a furious Wisconsin rally for the victory. Nies stopped 12 of 13 Wisconsin shots in the final period for a total of 38 saves. Brad Navin had a pair of goals for Wisconsin.
TEAM SOUTHEAST 10, TEAM SOUTHWEST 4
Holy Angels’ Joseph LaBate of Southeast scored two goals and Lakeville South’s Justin Kloos had a goal and three assists and Southeast – the third-place finisher in the regular season – launched 51 shots at two Southwest goalies. Southeast had finished the regular season with a seven-game winning streak and finished just one point behind the co-champs, and looked to be on their way to the finals.
TEAM NORTHEAST 5, TEAM SOUTHEAST 3
Southeast’s run ended, however, in the semifinals against Northeast. After Southeast’s Bob Kinne gave his team an early 1-0 lead, Northeast scored the next four goals to take a 4-1 lead four minutes into the third period. Kinne’s second goal of the game cut it to 4-2, but Kloos’ power-play goal at 17:39 stood up as the game-winner, and Zac McCarver added an empty-netter for the final margin. Southeast outshot Northeast 32-23, but Northeast goalie Blake Cates came up with 29 saves.
GREAT PLAINS 2, TEAM NORTH 1
Great Plains knocked of the league’s other co-champ as goaltender Bryan Nies had another great game between the pipes, stopping 35 of 36 shots and sending his team to the finals. Nies, a junior from Grand Forks Red River, was staked to a 2-0 lead by teammates Shane Omdahl and Josh Erickson, both of Roseau, in the first period. Nies didn’t give up a goal until Brian Skrbich drew North within one midway through the third period.
TEAM GREAT PLAINS 7, TEAM NORTHEAST 5
On Halloween, the title game turned into a wild and crazy affair, with the scoring opened by Great Plains’ Nick Stoskopf of Warroad just 53 seconds into the game. At 6:59, Northeast’s Miles Death – and with that name, he had to score on Halloween – ripped a slapshot from the point to tie the game at 1-1.
Stoskopf’s second goal of the game, and Josh Erickson’s tally five minutes later, gave Great Plains a 3-1 lead, but Riley Colvard scored for Northeast at 17:59, setting the stage for a frantic finish.
First, Brandon Wahlin of White Bear Lake scored for Northwest just 59 seconds into the third period, tying the game at 3-3. Northwest then went on the power play, but Great Plains’ John Simonson scored a short-handed goal to put his team back on top. That lead lasted less than four minutes, until Centennial’s Joey Hess knotted the game at 4-4.
Carson Gray of Warroad put Great Plains ahead for good at 10:03, and things looked secure when Erickson scored his second at 17:23 for a 6-4 Great Plains lead. But with the goalie pulled, Jefferson’s Eric Freschi scored with 18 seconds remaining to cut it to 6-5. Off the ensuing faceoff, Shane Omdahl knocked the puck into an empty net, scoring just three second after Freschi and providing the final 7-5 margin.
TOURNEY NOTES: After the championship game, 40 players and six alternates were chosen from Elite League rosters to play on Team Minnesota Red and Team Minnesota White in this weekend’s Bauer National Invitational Tournament at New Hope Arena. The NIT field includes the two Minnesota teams, Shattuck-St. Mary’s and teams from New York, Texas, Michigan, Massachusetts and Manitoba.
Posted by Doug at 3:16 AM