It was the beginning to a frigid, snowy, windy day. Usually, that’s an indication to stay inside.
For Minnesota hockey fans, many bundled up and braved the weather to partake in the state’s most important hockey holiday.
Hockey Day Minnesota began in Minneapolis 2020 with the city’s namesake high school team taking the ice on Saturday morning against one of Minnesota’s true blue-blood high school teams — Warroad.
Warroad took the victory 5-1 after a decisive, consistent effort.
“I think there was a feeling out process between both teams we’re unfamiliar with each other,” Warroad head coach Jay Hardwick said. “I was getting asked every year ‘When’s Warroad going to be in it? … Now, to finally be in it, and be part of it, it’s special.”
The boys from Hockeytown, USA used their size and skill to take over the game from Minneapolis’ squad in the first period.
The Warriors opened the scoring with a tally from Owen Meeker. He took the puck and gained some separation from a Minneapolis defender, and ripped the puck into the net to send the Warroad faithful into a flurry of cheers.
Meeker ended up with two goals in the victory.
“Right away, coaches were telling us not to stick handle,” Meeker said. “Just use your speed, get shots on net, that’s all we have to do really.”
The second goal came from Anthony Foster while shorthanded for the 2-0 lead. Foster disrupted the puck after his team cleared it to center ice, then broke free on a breakaway to send it behind the goaltender to cap the first period with a 2-0 advantage.
In the second, Warroad continued its dominance with another goal on a 3-on-2 play to enter the offensive zone. Forward Jayson Shaugabay capitalized on a nifty feed pass intended for a tip from forward Grant Slukynsky.
Slukynsky is currently the second-leading scorer in all of high school hockey. He is committed to Northern Michigan University and could start there in the 2021-22 season under former Gophers standout player and assistant coach Grant Potulny, who has led the Wildcats since he left Minnesota after 2016-17.
Warroad piled on the goals in the third period where the sun became an on and off issue. Two more goals for the Warriors, but the home team Minneapolis finally got on the board with a goal late in the third period.
Minneapolis head coach Joe Dziedzic said that although his team didn’t get the victory, the showcase of Minneapolis hockey cannot be understated.
“We’ve got some young talent that are hockey players,” Dziedzic said. “The girls had a great game and won in overtime, and we wish we could have kept a closer game … I think our exposure and just the attention on our program is something that we can take out of this.”