Hockey Day MN: Boys fall to Grand Rapids in freezing weather
In May of 2012, it was announced that the State AA champions, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, would be participating in the seventh annual Hockey Day Minnesota. As one of the most anticipated games of the season for the Red Knights, they would face the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks on Lake Pokegama.
On Saturday, January 19, hockey fanatics around the state woke up to their favorite holiday of the year, an almost religious celebration for these zealots: Hockey Day Minnesota. The sport these fanatics so deeply connect with is televised all day, ranging from high school hockey to the NHL.
Thirty-five M.P.H. winds blew across a sheet of ice on this chilly morning. With temperatures dipping sub-zero, red and orange jerseys skated up and down the frozen tundra. From the bench and stands, steam could be seen from every angle as freezing players and fans took breaths of the chilling air. A small blizzard blew across the ice, eliminating visibility. One could hardly see the whole length of the ice. “At times, you couldn’t even see thirty feet in front of you,” spectator Davis Melin said.
The bumpy ice on Lake Pokegama did not favor a skilled team like Benilde-St. Margaret’s, as they fell to the Thunderhawks 3-2 in overtime.
As the puck dropped, and skaters flew up and down the ice, backup goaltender Paul Lundberg sat frozen on the bench. Donning just wore one pair of socks, one Underarmour shirt, and one pair of chopper gloves, Lundberg literally froze. “Sitting on the bench in that weather is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever done,” Lundberg said.
It got so bad, that coach Ken Pauly had to keep him in the locker room during the beginning of the third period. “I didn’t want to be responsible for killing him,” Coach Pauly said. Taking off his skates, Lundberg rested his frostbitten feet by the fire. “The conditions had gotten to be so brutal that I thought it’d be irresponsible to keep [Lundberg] out there.”
While Lundberg stood frozen behind the boards, enforcer Seth Chumley body checked his way up and down the ice, leaving nobody untouched. On Fox Sports North, announcer Kevin Gorg couldn’t get enough of the big bodied competitor, as Chumley thrived in the spotlight. “I’ve been at Benilde for four years, and my role for four years has been the physical guy that goes in the corners, so I was just out there doing my job, trying to be physical and change the momentum of the game,” Chumley said.
Like Lundberg, the senior enforcer didn’t wear enough layers, and skating became the only way to get warm. “Since we weren’t very warm in the first place, whenever we got onto the ice, we had to give it our all because that was the only source of heat,” Chumley said.
Once both teams had adapted to the weather, the scoring started early when junior Spencer Naas slipped in a backhand past the extended leg of Grand Rapids goaltender Hunter Shepard just over a minute into the game. Sophomore Will Duda added to the lead when he scored his second goal as a varsity member, firing a shot over the right shoulder of Shepard. “It was an incredible experience just being a part of [Hockey Day] and scoring was unreal,” Duda said.
Going into the locker room – or warming tent, rather – with a 2-0 lead, the Red Knights thought they had control of the game. But the Thunderhawks came back in the second period, as junior Avery Peterson scored two consecutive goals to tie the game. With the score knotted at two goals apiece, both teams returned to the frozen tundra for one final period, or so they thought.
The third was highlighted by missed opportunities, and the rare switching of sides at half way through the period due to the high wind speeds. “It was really tough going against the wind. You’ve got 30 MPH winds with a cold breeze, and you could skate as hard as you can, but it would feel like you’re going nowhere,” Chumley said.
The third period ended scoreless, resulting in a sudden death overtime. A little under five and a half minutes into overtime, Thunderhawks forward Cody Mann took control of a bouncing puck in the neutral zone. Cutting to the outside, he used his speed to fly past the Red Knights defense, and slip the puck past goaltender Andrew Sprang.
The crowd erupted. Hundreds of freezing Grand Rapids natives burst into celebration as their home team defeated the number four ranked Red Knights on the frozen pond.
Despite the loss, Red Knights players and fans still had an incredible experience, but wouldn’t necessarily do it all over again. “I think it was a great experience, but I think it was like one of those things where people talk about going through basic training in the military. It’s a valuable experience and they really cherish it, but they don’t want to do it again any time soon,” Coach Pauly said.