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The stars come out

All-star games usually feature lots of hugs and butt slapping by players who fight as rivals throughout the regular season, but play together on a special night. Tuesday's 60-minute CCM High School All- Star Game at the DECC was no different unti...

All-star games usually feature lots of hugs and butt slapping by players who fight as rivals throughout the regular season, but play together on a special night. Tuesday's 60-minute CCM High School All- Star Game at the DECC was no different until the puck dropped. The Iron Range contingent and the Duluth squad put their friendships on hold during a 6-0 Duluth win, skating and hitting with intensity more common to the state tournament than an all-star festival.
Much of the players' vigor revolved around the 20 or so National Hockey League, junior hockey and college hockey scouts that were in attendance, catching a last glimpse of what the area's high schools had to offer. The rest of the incentive was simple: community pride and the opportunity to play alongside some of their most talented conference rivals.
"It's fun to play with them, because you work so hard against them all year," said Greenway of Coleraine's Josh Liesmaki, who served as the Iron Range's alternate captain. "You almost build a little friendship with them."
That friendship, of course, is put on hold for much of the regular season.
"We're enemies during the year," said Tony Tomaino, a Duluth-native who skates for the Marshall School during the high school season. "But we always have respect for each other. It's just nice to be here to play with them tonight."
The evening's festivities began with an all-star skills competition, won by the Iron Ranger Rangers, 9-6, in come-from-behind fashion. The Rangers finally overtook the Duluth Lakers in the final event, rapid fire, on sniper-like performances from International Falls' Brady Fougner, who scored on three of five shots and Hibbing's John Bottoms, who scored on two shots. Roseau's all-world winger David Klema sealed the victory for the Rangers, zipping two shots past Superior's Jon Allen.
Duluth East stars Ross Carlson and Zach Burns didn't shed any tears over the skills competition loss, but they did think that an on-ice hockey wrestling event would have been a good addition to the event. That may or may not have changed the outcome, but for the Greyhound linemates, the night was more about having fun together than winning.
"I just wanted to have a good time," said Carslon. "For a lot of these people it's their last time on the ice."
Burns chimed in with his feelings, agreeing with Carlson and adding that it was nice for him to have a last chance to play on a line with his Greyhound buddy.
The Lakers and their head coach Mike Randolph suffered a second loss when Proctor's Mr. Hockey finalist, Aaron Slattengren, was forced to pull himself out of the game because of a violent case of the flu. Slattengren suited up and tried to go during the skills competition, but clearly wasn't his usual full-throttle self.
The sudden loss of their first-line left wing, however, didn't slow the speedy Lakers attack. Duluth got on the board just 1:58 into the first period when Duluth East's Trevor Marmon tipped a puck past Ranger goalie Jayme Fisher, an International Falls native.
It was the first of two goals for the Greyhound senior, who made the most of his farewell prep hockey performance.
"I just came out to have fun in my last high school game," said Marmon. "It was great to get a win here."
The Lakers increased their lead to 2-0 just minutes later when Forest Lake's Bryan Peltier, paired on a line with Cloquet's Ryan Langenbrunner and Corey Lennartson, scored his first goal of the game. Peltier earned rave reviews from Randolph, even before he chimed in with his second goal of the period on his way to an all star game MVP performance.
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"I'm having a great time here," said Peltier, who made the trip up to hockey country from the outer-Minneapolis suburbs. "The tempo of hockey is so much quicker, and I like that style. I love it up here. This is a lot better (hockey environment)."
Peltier's second goal of the night came late in the first period, and gave the Lakers a 3-0 lead heading into the intermission.
Duluth's goaltending tandem of Cloquet's Corey Lonke and Allen held firm in the second period as the Iron Rangers hustled to create some promising scoring opportunities that were denied. Allen checked into the game midway through the second period, and closed the door on a flurry of Rangers' shots in the third period to complete the combined shutout.
"It was a lot of fun," said Allen. "It was a great honor to play with guys like this. A lot of these guys will go on in hockey, and it will be fun to say I played with them."
Duluth's line of Langenbrunner, Peltier and Lennartson followed up a Tomaino goal in the second period with two of their own, from Langenbrunner and Lennartson, to push their lead to 6-0.
The Rangers buzzed the Duluth zone from the opening faceoff of the third period, led by Bottoms and the Greenway of Coleraine duo of Josh Liesmaki and Nate Moran. Allen, however, stood tall, closing the door repeatedly on the scrappy Rangers.
The buzzer sounded to end the third, but even the losing Rangers found smiles as the post-game awards were handed out. Hibbing's Brad Willis and Virginia's Ryan Dethloff soaked up the all-star spotlight in the closing minutes of the award ceremony, making the best of a tough loss.
"It was definitely fun," said Willis. "We had a good season, and it's nice to finish it off like this."
Dethloff, whose 24 points powered the Blue Devils through a solid season, echoed Willis' sentiments as he savored the night's mystique.
"This was a big accomplishment coming down here and playing with a great bunch of players," said Dethloff. "And we all had fun, right?"
His Ranger teammates shouted a resounding, "yes," which was a convincing vote of confidence for the growing event put on by Duluth's Kernz and Kompany, along with a cast of several sponsors.
On the Duluth side, the L.S.C Class A stars, like Hermantown's Jesse Stokke, celebrated a second-consecutive Laker win with smiles and admiration for their one-night teammates, whom they don't face during the regular season while playing a small school schedule.
"This is great," said Stokke. "Playing with all this talent ... It's good to finally come play with them and keep up to their tempo."
It was a tempo that made proponents of Minnesota high school hockey proud again, which may be the truest measure of the evening's success.

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