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Prep boys hockey: Minnetonka beats Duluth East 5-2 in Class AA title game

ST. PAUL -- Duluth East had been here before. For the fourth time since the Greyhounds won their third high school boys hockey state championship 20 years ago, East left the ice following the title game with the runner-up trophy. Top-ranked Minne...

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Duluth East players and coaches react after losing 5-2 to Minnetonka in the Class AA state championship game at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Saturday night. The Greyhounds finished the season as state runners-up with a 25-3-3 record. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com
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ST. PAUL - Duluth East had been here before.

For the fourth time since the Greyhounds won their third high school boys hockey state championship 20 years ago, East left the ice following the title game with the runner-up trophy.

Top-ranked Minnetonka held on for a 5-2 victory in the Class AA state tournament final Saturday night before 18,194 fans at Xcel Energy Center.

The third-seeded Greyhounds (25-3-3), who had handed Minnetonka (27-2-2) its first loss of the season in early January, threatened numerous times and even held a 31-30 edge in shots on goal, but could not score key goals when opportunities presented themselves.

“We had a lot of great chances off rushes. We created enough, but didn’t get a lot of puck luck,” East coach Mike Randolph said. “These guys battled till the end, but it was one of those nights.

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“I thought (Garrett) Worth could have had a hat trick, I thought (Ryder) Donovan could have had a hat trick, I thought (Austin) Jouppi could have had a hat trick. But that’s hockey.”

Donovan, a junior forward, had perhaps the most important chance to score. With East ahead 1-0 in the first period, Donovan slipped in through the slot and had a wide-open net to shoot at until Minnetonka goaltender Charlie Glockner got his left pad on the puck inches before it would have crossed the line.

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E.J. Hietala (2) of Duluth East hugs a teammate after the game. Clint Austin / News Tribune

Moments later, the Skippers scored on a power play and tacked on another goal before the end of the first period to take a 2-1 lead.

“A couple of those pucks go in and this is a completely different game,” Randolph said. “Minnetonka is sitting in here now (in the media interview room) and we’re coming in later (when the winners are interviewed). That sequence of Donovan just missing that chance and them coming down to score … sequences like that, our guys needed to bear down and bury it.

“But at the end of the day, we lost to a heck of a hockey team.”

The Skippers benefitted with some puck luck of their own to capture their first title in their sixth overall appearance in the first season under coach Sean Goldsworthy.

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Minnetonka senior forward Joe Molenaar scored the key goal 2:27 into the third period when Grant Docter’s pass went off Molenaar’s left skate and past East senior goaltender Parker Kleive for a 4-2 lead. Matt Koethe’s empty-netter with 1:28 to play closed the scoring.

The feeling left Greyhounds players crushed, much in the same way they felt after losing championship games in 2000, 2011 and 2015.

“It’s horrible,” senior forward Ian Mageau, a member of that 2015 team, said. “I felt the same way my freshman year, but this hurts even more. As a leader and it being senior year, it just kills. But there’s nothing you can do about it, that’s life.”

Andrew Hicks gave the Skippers a 3-1 lead at 3:17 of the second period when he put a screened shot from the point past Kleive.

Jouppi then ripped a wrist shot from inside the faceoff circle at 6:28, giving Glockner little chance at making the save. But Jouppi also clanked at least two shots off crossbars, another example of that razor-thin margin between winning and losing.

East scored first, but Minnetonka struck back twice in the first period.

Junior forward Ricky Lyle converted a nice pass from Jouppi 7:11 into the game for an early lead before Bobby Brink and Koethe scored 1 minute, 38 seconds apart to give the Skippers the lead.

Minnetonka dominated the pace of the period, putting 16 shots on Kleive.

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But it was the third-seeded Greyhounds who tallied first.

Jouppi, a 5-foot-7 forward, chipped the puck to himself off the side boards down the right wing and then found a hard-charging Lyle in the slot for the opening goal.

Donovan was robbed of a second goal moments later when Glockner and the Skippers turned around the momentum.

On a power play, Brink tucked the puck inside the right post off a pass from Docter to tie the game at 12:06.

Then Koethe turned on the jets to speed around two East defensemen and beat Kleive under the crossbar at 13:44.

  • Prior to the start of the second period, Minnesota Duluth women’s goaltender Maddie Rooney was introduced and received a standing ovation for her role in guiding Team USA to a gold medal over Canada in the Winter Olympics last month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
  • East placed four on the all-tournament team: Mageau, Worth, Kleive and senior defenseman Luke LaMaster.

Duluth East 1-1-0-2
Minnetonka 2-1-2-5 First period - 1. DE, Ricky Lyle (Austin Jouppi, Logan Anderson), 7:11; 2. M, Bobby Brink (Grant Docter), 12:06 (pp); 3. M, Matt Koethe (Joe Molenaar, Luke Loheit), 13:44.

Second period - 4. M, Andrew Hicks (Molenaar), 3:17 (pp); 5. DE, Jouppi (Luke LaMaster), 6:28

Third period - 6. M, Molenaar (Docter, Brink), 2:27; 7. M, Koethe (Docter, Charlie Glockner), 15:32 (en).

Saves - Parker Kleive, DE, 25; Charlie Glockner, M, 29.

CLASS AHermantown 4, Mahtomedi 0 Junior forward Justin Thomas scored two goals and added an assist to support Austin Hess’ 27-save shutout in the Class A third-place game at Xcel Energy Center.

Thomas scored 8:47 into the first period and again at 13:10 of the second. Senior Tyler Watkins added a power-play goal in between for the top-ranked Hawks (22-7-2), who saw their bid for a third consecutive state title go by the wayside in a 6-1 semifinal loss to Alexandria Area on Friday.

Elliott Peterson closed the scoring 1:16 into the third period and Hess, a senior backup goalie making his fifth start all season, made sure Hermantown finished in the top three in Class A for the ninth straight season.

Second-ranked Mahtomedi finished 22-8-1.

  • Orono won its first Class A championship by beating Alexandria Area 2-1. Landon Wittenberg broke a 1-1 tie 6:17 into the third period and goalie Evan Babekuhl made 15 saves.
  • Hermantown placed two on the all-tournament team in sophomore forward Blake Biondi and junior defenseman Darian Gotz.

Mahtomedi 0-0-0-0
Hermantown 1-2-1-4 First period - 1. Justin Thomas (Wyatt Sonneson), 8:47.

Second period - 2. Tyler Watkins (Jacob Herter, Darian Gotz), 2:05 (pp); 3. Thomas (Brady Baker, Zach Carlson), 13:10.

Third period - 4. Elliott Peterson (Thomas, Sam High), 1:16.

Saves - Josh Campbell, M, 29; Austin Hess, H, 27.

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