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Duluth East passes defensive test at state hockey tourney

ST. PAUL -- Mike Randolph didn't pull any punches after his Duluth East team lost a 5-4 regular-season game to crosstown rival Denfeld, chewing out his defense and goaltender with equal fervor for playing with a lack of focus.

Duluth East advances
Moorhead's John O'Connor (22) and Duluth East's Meirs Moore (15) go after the puck in the third period of the Minnesota Class AA high school boys hockey tournament quarterfinals on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Hannah Foslien / For Forum Communications)

ST. PAUL -- Mike Randolph didn't pull any punches after his Duluth East team lost a 5-4 regular-season game to crosstown rival Denfeld, chewing out his defense and goaltender with equal fervor for playing with a lack of focus.

"He told me I had to keep my head in the game and I knew it, the team knew it," senior goalie Dylan Parker said Thursday. "I started playing more confidently and let (the defense) know I was going to make those saves when I had to."

Parker only needed to make 12 saves Thursday, but those included a couple of game-saving stops in the third period of East's 1-0 victory over Moorhead in a Minnesota Class AA high school boys hockey state tournament quarterfinal in front of 16,005 spectators at Xcel Energy Center.

The second-seeded Greyhounds (25-4), winners of 17 straight since that loss to Denfeld, advance to play No. 3 seed Edina (23-6) in a semifinal at 6 p.m. today. The Hornets blasted Lakeville North 9-3.

Parker didn't face a shot until 45 seconds remained in a scoreless first period and was tested only five times in the first two periods, thanks to a suffocating defensive unit.

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"That's being mentally sharp," Randolph said. "It's very difficult for a goaltender to play in that kind of game. He had problems earlier in the regular season where he had a hard time staying focused, but he's learned to deal with it."

Junior Jack Kolar, a third-line center, scored the only goal, striking 1:13 into the second period when he rifled a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle after taking a pass entering the Spuds' zone.

"My line, specifically, is a line that just takes shots and tries to get rebounds and gets a lot of opportunities," Kolar said of his fifth goal of the season. "I got a nice pass right up the middle, took it wide, aimed for the middle of the net and it went in on the lower left."

East turned the game over to its defense and Parker from that point on. Parker stopped center Aaron Herdt from close range early in the third and then nullified another Herdt attempt in the closing moments.

"I just felt comfortable in the net today," said Parker, who has four shutouts in his last five games. "It's easy to do when you have a defensive team in front of you like I do."

That's the attitude Randolph was looking for when he chastised them for losing to the Hunters for the first time in 18 seasons.

"They bought into the fact that playing defense first gave us our best chance to win," he said. "We're not a high-scoring team, so we wanted to emphasize and sell the fact that we had to limit (opponents') chances and Dylan will be there when we break down."

Moorhead (14-12-2), which averaged fewer than four goals per game during the regular season and lost 5-1 to East in early January, had a difficult time creating chances.

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"Their 'D' played really tight, holding the blue line well and holding the red line and we had to just chip pucks behind them," Herdt said. "It's frustrating when they are playing that way."

Sophomore Jacob Dittmer had 29 saves for the Spuds, including robbing Tyler Sworsky of a goal with a glove save at the left post after making a pad save on Kolar's blast.

"Are you kidding me? That was probably his best save all year," first-year coach Peter Cullen said of the goalie who replaced longtime starter Michael Bitzer.

The win stopped a semi-trend of failing in the quarterfinal round. East had lost its first game three of the last four years, but now are one game away from equaling how far the 2011 team advanced.

Moorhead 0-0-0--0

Duluth East 0-1-0--1

First period -- No scoring.

Second period -- 1. DE, Jack Kolar (Alex Toscano, Phil Beaulieu), 1:13.

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Third period -- No scoring.

Saves -- Jacob Dittmer, M, 29; Dylan Parker, DE, 12.

CLASS A

DULUTH MARSHALL 4, MARSHALL 1

The Hilltoppers showed who the best Marshall team in the state is with the Class A consolation semifinal victory Thursday morning at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

Matthew Klassen and Connor Flaherty scored first-period goals, Anthony Miller added one late in the second period and Lane Eliason notched his second goal of the season in the third.

Backup Alex Murray recorded 17 saves, only failing to stop Beau Mikel's third-period goal, as Duluth Marshall (17-13) earned a spot in Saturday's fifth-place game against either St. Cloud Apollo or Rochester Lourdes. Game time is 10 a.m. at Mariucci.

Mason Campion stopped 58 shots, setting a state tournament record for saves in a regulation game, for the Tigers (14-12-1). Campion's 28 stops in the second period broke the single-period state tournament mark of 22 set by Duluth East's Chris Sall in 2005.

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Marshall 0-0-1--1

Duluth Marshall 2-1-1--4

First period -- 1. DM, Matthew Klassen (Jeremy Lopez), 13:39; 2. DM, Connor Flaherty (Jordan Fralich), 15:14.

Second period -- 3. DM, Anthony Miller (Lopez), 16:44.

Third period -- 4. DM, Lane Eliason (John McKenna, Kyle McKinzie), 7:40; 5. M, Beau Mikel (Brent Haukom), 10:38.

Saves -- Mason Campion, M, 58; Alex Murray, DM, 17.

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