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Prep boys hockey: East's 'WMD' line spells trouble for Greyhounds' opponents

Duluth East's top line consists of Ian Mageau (from left), Ryder Donovan and Garrett Worth. The Duluth East boys hockey team will play a Class AA state tournament quarterfinal today in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

PREP BOYS HOCKEY / CLASS AA STATE TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

Duluth East boys hockey coach Mike Randolph was asked prior to the postseason how his high-powered top line compared to talented trios of past East teams.

Specifically, how do Garrett Worth, Ian Mageau and Ryder Donovan stack up against the likes of Jake Randolph (the coach's son), Dominic Toninato and Trevor Olson, 2012 graduates who combined to produce 184 points as seniors?

That season the Greyhounds won 29 games, a year after winning 24 and losing the state championship game in triple overtime to Eden Prairie.

"Well," Mike Randolph started, "let's just put it this way: Dom, Trev and Jake played in three state tournaments and they played in one of the longest finals against Eden Prairie.

"Should I keep going?"

The production is remarkably similar. Worth has scored the most goals in a season by an East player (42) since some guy named Dave Spehar, and has added 22 assists for 64 points. Donovan (14-44—58), the junior center, and Mageau (17-35—52) have been almost as dangerous. Add it all up, and this group has tallied 174 points heading into Thursday's 1:15 p.m. Class AA quarterfinal against St. Michael-Albertville.

Still, Randolph's point was clear: The gaudy stats and 23 victories are nice, but before Worth, Mageau and Donovan join the program's pantheon of elite lines, they have something to prove. They'll get their chance this week at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

"We've worked the whole year to get to this point, and we've kind of been known as the big line, but it doesn't really mean anything until we go on the big stage and hopefully light it up and do well," said Mageau, who like Worth is a senior.

For now, Jake Randolph, Toninato and Olson have the upper hand via their playoff credentials, to say nothing of illustrious post-prep careers. Randolph and Olson are senior leaders at Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota, respectively, while Toninato is in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche.

Where Worth, Mageau and Donovan have the advantage stems from their nickname — the WMD line, courtesy of East assistant Brendan Brooks.

Destructive, indeed.

Donovan, a 6-foot-3 smooth-skating North Dakota commit, makes the unit click with his playmaking ability. Effective at creating chances by drawing in the defense when he drives to the net, Donovan relishes his pass-first role.

Especially when he's setting up Worth, Class AA's leading scorer.

"I know he can bury it every time you get it to him," Donovan said. "For the five chances it'd take me, it takes him one."

It only took Donovan one chance, though, in the Section 7AA final, which he tied with 74 seconds remaining in the third period. East went on to defeat Andover 3-2 in overtime to secure its 23rd trip to the state tournament. The Greyhounds are the bracket's No. 3 seed, while St. Michael-Albertville is unseeded.

Worth, Mageau and Donovan are longtime friends. In fact, it took some time Tuesday to get a photo of them together amid their banter at Heritage Center. The camaraderie reminds Randolph of his son's line, and it's emblematic of their chemistry on the ice. Just like it must be when they're rink-ratting at Donovan's backyard sheet known as "the Vault."

The three played on a line together occasionally before this winter, but not regularly. They figured that would change this season.

"It's been a great ride with these guys," said Worth, a Mr. Hockey finalist.

Much as Randolph draws comfort knowing his top line can light the lamp any moment, the coach is equally buoyed by the fact that they don't have to go it alone. The Greyhounds boast enviable depth, including a second line that produced a couple heroes in the section playoffs. Ricky Lyle (19-15—34) notched a hat trick against Duluth Marshall in the semifinals and Logan Anderson (9-19—28) redirected the game-winner against Andover.

The Big Three can be unstoppable, but they have help.

Randolph noted that while Grand Rapids streaked to a state title last year on the backs of Micah Miller, Gavin Hain and Blake McLaughlin, the Thunderhawks' supporting cast stepped up in St. Paul. In Class AA, the coach said, one line's not enough.

But his top unit is pretty darn good.

"They create a lot because they play off each other," Randolph said last month. "They're not stationary. They're constantly moving and looking for each other. It's fun to watch. I get caught watching it once in a while."

DULUTH EAST (23-2-3) VS. ST. MICHAEL-ALBERTVILLE (23-5)

What: Class AA state tournament quarterfinal

When: About 1:15 p.m. Thursday

Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul

TV: WDIO Ch. 10

Radio: KJOQ-AM 1490/KJOQ-FM 100.9

Internet: Prep45.com ($10.95 per day)