Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.
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CANNON FALLS – The past two years were unkind to Zumbrota-Mazeppa. In 2014-15, the Cougars got just one win, followed by seven wins in 2015-16. Following Thursday's 58-46 Hiawatha Valley League victory over Cannon Falls, Z-M already has surpassed that two-year total at 9-1. After years of futility, the Cougars appreciate being the ones to deliver the lumps to other teams now.
RANDOLPH – Through the first eight games of the season, the Randolph girls' basketball team was having trouble with its identity through a 4-4 stretch. But now, following a 58-27 home Southeast Conference victory over Glenville-Emmons on Tuesday, the Rockets are rolling with a four-game win streak. “It's been fun,” said Randolph junior forward Hannah Neil. “We are finally starting to play as a team with all the different ages.”
With the team anxious to end a four-game losing skid, there’s a delicate balance for Red Wing boys’ basketball coach Drew Olinger to maintain. While the players are anxious to make plays in order to stop the struggles, playing hero ball can be detrimental if it strays away from the game plan. “It’s a hard place to be because it sometimes sounds like ‘Don’t hustle’ or ‘Don’t work in transition’ or ‘Don’t be aggressive,’” Olinger said. “We want those things but it’s making sure we have our teammates’ back and the teammates can help them in the correct situations.”
What Red Wing was able to do in the first period against Champlin Park Thursday, that's the way the Wingers' boys' hockey team plays at its best. After the visiting Rebels scored a goal 30 seconds into the game, Red Wing managed to put the surprise deficit behind them and score three straight goals. The rest of the game, that was a lesson to the Wingers about never letting off as Champlin Park scored six goals over the final 34 minutes in a 7-4 non-conference win over Red Wing at Prairie Island Arena.
CANNON FALLS – The system for Goodhue is thriving. At the start of the season, the Wildcats were missing key cogs like Ben Opsahl, Nicholas Thomforde and Cooper Davidson due to injury. Opsahl has made his way back to the lineup, but Thomforde and Davidson aren't expected to return until February. But, the next man steps up and the success continues for Goodhue, which moved to 6-0 on the year after a 56-42 Hiawatha Valley League win over Cannon Falls on Tuesday night.
The way the Red Wing boys' hockey team played Thursday, Anthony Boser doesn't want to blink and miss it. The Wingers' co-head coach walked off the Prairie Island Arena ice with his elated squad following a 5-1 Big Nine Conference against Rochester Century. All three facts of the team were dominant at different points. All five goals came from Red Wing's top line. The fore-check and defense kept the Panthers' offense away from the net, and Wingers goaltender Zach Harding stopped 24 shots that happened to get by the defense.
After two periods Monday, Red Wing saw itself trailing Big Nine Conference rival and Section 1A standout Northfield 2-1. With five seconds before the second intermission the Raiders took the lead on a Madi Goldsworthy score to retake the lead. The first two periods went less than ideal for the Wingers. But Red Wing has been down after two periods before and know how to attack the situation.
Replacing some top-end swimmers from last year, including a two-time state champion, is a daunting task for any team. But the Red Wing boys’ swimming and diving team still has plenty of top-end talent diving back into the water this winter. So what could have easily been a rebuild seems more like a reload with experience and talent up top mixed with youth and potential down the line. “We got a lot of good guys in upperclassmen but a lot of potential in the lower ranks,” said senior Konner Brickey. “Hopefully we can capitalize on that.”
Drew Olinger patrolled the sidelines of Sonju Gymnasium in a Red Wing boys’ basketball jacket. But when he came out of the locker room after the game, the Wingers’ first-year coach was smiling, with wet hair and a gray hoodie that seemed out of place with his black slacks. After getting his first win of the season Friday, a 67-54 Big Nine Conference victory over Rochester Century, there was cause for celebration in the locker room.
MINNETONKA – Getting to the top is hard enough. Staying on top is a whole different challenge. On Saturday, Goodhue learned that lesson first-hand. In a showdown between two of the top Class 1A teams in Minnesota, what was pegged as a marquee game turned into a laugher with Mountain Iron-Buhl rolling through the defending state champs 78-34 at the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins High School Saturday. It was a humbling experience for the Wildcats, but one that head coach Josh Wieme doesn't want the team to forget.