Prep boys hockey: East escapes in overtime, advances to state tourney
A year ago, Logan Anderson became the rare freshman to crack the Duluth East lineup.
He finished the season a spectator, watching as the Greyhounds fell to Grand Rapids in the second overtime of an unforgettable Section 7AA championship game.
"I had to bench him in the section final because it was too big of a moment," East coach Mike Randolph said Thursday from the ice at Amsoil Arena.
A smile then spread across the veteran coach's face. He was getting ready to drop a soundbite.
"It wasn't too big of a moment tonight," Randolph said.
All the sophomore forward did was cap the Greyhounds' desperate rally from two goals down by redirecting Luke LaMaster's shot past Andover goalie Ben Fritsinger 4:50 into overtime, propelling East to a 3-2 victory and its 23rd state tournament.
Midway through the extra session, Anderson screened Fritsinger, blocking the goalie's view of LaMaster's wrist shot from the side boards. At the last instant, Anderson dropped his stick down and tipped the puck. Fritsinger, the star most of the night, never saw it.
In 10 or 20 years when someone looks back at this box score, they will see Anderson's name next to the game-winner. Don't be fooled, he said.
"It was all Luke," Anderson quipped, shortly after conceding: "This is the greatest day of my life."
It was shaping up to be another torturous title game at Amsoil, where East was stunned into the offseason by Grand Rapids the past two years. That's because Fritsinger was doing his best Hunter Shepard impression — seemingly poised to replicate the current UMD netminder's recent penchant for shutouts. The junior finished with 50 saves, none better than his glove theft of Jack FitzGerald's point-blank attempt with about 2:50 to play in regulation and the second-seeded Huskies (22-6) clinging to a 2-1 lead.
Trailing 2-0 entering the third, the top-seeded Greyhounds (23-2-3), favorites to represent this section at Xcel Energy Center ever since the curtain dropped on this season in November, found life when Brendan Baker redirected LaMaster's first assist five minutes into the period.
Randolph said he never panicked because he's observed firsthand his club's explosiveness. Still, East had come up empty on 25 shots through the first 34 minutes.
"We were pretty frustrated going into the third, but we were just like, 'We have this one shot — we have to believe. Just keep throwing pucks on net,' " forward Ryder Donovan said.
Donovan is known more for setting up goals than scoring them. But there he was notching the equalizer with 74 seconds to go in the Greyhounds' season.
It was the only point of the night for East's vaunted top line of Donovan, Garrett Worth and Ian Mageau.
"We just didn't know how to handle a two-goal lead in the third period," Andover coach Mark Manney said. "They played with some desperation."
Manney lamented missed opportunities, especially in the second, when East was uncharacteristically sloppy with the puck. The Huskies scored twice in the period, including a breakaway from Charlie Schoen that made it 2-0, but Manney said "we probably could have scored five that period" given the Huskies' numerous 2-on-1 rushes.
East started the third on a power play. As the Greyhounds buzzed, Amsoil — which has now hosted three straight overtime section finals — finally came alive. Baker's breakthrough really got the place rocking.
It wasn't quite as drama-free as these teams' last meeting — a 9-3 Greyhounds win in December that doubled as Randolph's 600th career victory — but it was certainly sweeter.
"I believe in these guys. I've seen this team score six goals in a period," Randolph said. "I'm proud of them, the way they stayed with it and found a way to win."
For Manney and the Huskies, Thursday's loss capped an emotional week.
Assistant coach Bill Thoreson, whose son, Gunnar, scored the overtime winner against Elk River in Monday's semifinals, attended his father's funeral Sunday. That same night, Manney was at a bantam game and received a call from his sister saying their dad had "collapsed and was in bad shape."
"I got in the car and started driving toward Moorhead, but my mom told me to turn around and await further instructions," Manney said. "Found out about five minutes later that he'd passed."
His father, John, an avid Moorhead Spuds fan, was 81.
Manney didn't inform his players until after their dramatic win over Elk River.
"We've been together, this group, for so long, that I felt like I can't put my burden on top of them," he said.
• LaMaster and Duluth Marshall's Willy Stauber on Thursday were announced as two of 20 candidates for the Reed Larson Award, given annually to the state's top senior defenseman. The winner will be announced next week, and for the first time since 2015 it won't be a Hermantown player. Former Hawks Dylan Samberg and Wyatt Aamodt have claimed the past two awards.
Duluth East 0-0-2-1—3
First period — No scoring.
Second period — 1. A, Luke Kron (Eric Chartier, Gunnar Thoreson), 1:09; 2. A, Charlie Schoen (Brandon McNamara, Chartier), 8:45.
Third period — 3. DE, Brendan Baker (Luke LaMaster), 4:57; 4. DE, Ryder Donovan (Austin Jouppi, LaMaster), 15:46.
Overtime — 5. DE, Logan Anderson (LaMaster), 4:50.
Saves — Parker Kleive, DE, 18; Ben Fritsinger, A, 53.