Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
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ST. PAUL – The Class A girls state hockey tournament began Wednesday with a thrilling game between second-seeded Blake and unseeded Alexandria. The Cardinals pushed the defending champs to a one-goal game, all while giving Red Wing a gentle reminder to bring its “A” game against New Ulm. The Wingers indeed took the ice in top form, scoring five times in the first period, and cruising to a 7-2 victory in the quarterfinals, and setting up a rematch with Blake in the seminfinals at 11 a.m. Friday. “We did talk about (the previous game),” said Red Wing head coach Scott Haley.
ROCHESTER – Pins. Technical falls. Major decisions. All have one thing in common: Bonus points, bonus points, bonus points. Those additional marks in the scorebook are often what separate two teams during a dual. And the extra points, while not necessarily glaring at the time, can make or break a season. Zumbrota-Mazeppa found out the hard way Saturday during the Section 1A semifinals at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
For 18 minutes, Sonju Gymnasium appeared as though it had gone back in time, to the land of basketballs with laces and peach baskets hanging from wooden boards. After a first half that featured a combined 36 points, Red Wing was able to open up the offense to a more modern-day standard to pick up a 53-38 Missota Conference victory over Northfield. “It was tough to get into a flow,” said Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen. “I thought we had some good looks, but our threes weren’t going. They did a good job defensively, and they played a bunch of different things.
OWATONNA – For years, the neutral-zone trap assaulted offenses throughout professional hockey. On Thursday, the same defensive system that the NHL has tried to leave behind made a cameo at the Four Seasons Center in Owatonna. New Prague clogged the space between the blue lines, and then collapsed to the goal crease, trying to keep Red Wing from gaining any kind of speed, or getting any open looks at the net. It took some quick thinking, and a mid-game adjustment, but for the fourth-straight season, the Wingers will represent Section 1 at the Class A girls state hockey tournament.
With two ranked teams taking the floor, and nearly every seat in the house occupied, Tuesday was to be a good night in Goodhue. The only problem was Kenyon-Wanamingo had a bit too much firepower for the Wildcats. After an 18-2 run to open the second half, the second-ranked (Class 2A) Knights boarded the bus with a 64-55 Hiawatha Valley League victory. “There’s probably no better team that we’ll face this year. Them and White Bear Lake, they’re just good at every spot.
Everything about Saturday’s Section 1A semifinal was familiar. There were the fireworks at the beginning, the methodical dissection in the middle, the accelerated clock at the end, and the emotional breakdown that followed yet another victory. OK, maybe the crying was out of the ordinary. But it was not out of place. Following an 8-0 masterpiece of a victory over Winona, Red Wing seniors Nicole Schammel, Emily Stegora and Hailee Johnson all collected points in the first period, then stood on the ice together in front of a strong home crowd for the last time.
Less than 24 hours after holding off Missota Conference foe Farmington, Red Wing was taken to overtime by Stewartville. The Wingers, seemingly reenergized by the Tigers’ 3-pointer that sent the game to an extra frame, outscored fellow Section 1AAA member Stewartville 13-3 in overtime to come away with a 76-66 victory. “They were not intimidated,” said Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen. “Not that anybody should be, but (Stewartville) really came to play.” After taking a 37-32 lead into halftime, the second-game-in-two-days legs came out of the Winger locker room.
The end of the game will be what it remembered, with Farmington misfiring on a couple of desperation attempts after Red Wing missed a key free throw. But the beginning of the second half was where the Wingers were able to forge a lead that would hold up through the final buzzer to beat the Missota Conference rival Tigers, 72-71. “I thought the first half we played pretty well, especially the last five or six minutes,” said Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen.
It took a little while for Zumbrota-Mazeppa to find its groove Thursday night, but once the Cougars did, Bethlehem Academy acted as though it didn’t hear the music. Trailing by two points early on, Z-M was able to slowly take over the game. With 9 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first half, the Cougars went up by 10.
I n late January, Republican Eagle sports reporter Kyle Stevens caught up with Olympic cross-country skier Jessie Diggins. The Afton, Minn., native was travelling through Europe, competing in the World Cup. On Tuesday, Diggins and the rest of her team are schedule to arrive in Sochi, Russia, for the Winter Olympic Games. What has the daughter of the Red Wing Slumberland owners been up to?