Courtesy of Grand Forks Herald:
By: Virg Foss - Special to the Herald
Bryce Ravndalen vividly remembers sitting in the stands in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul in 2005 and watching Warroad complete an undefeated season by winning the Minnesota state Class A boys hockey title.
A freshman at the time, Ravndalen was playing on Warroad's bantam team, not the varsity. Still, seeing his school that featured current UND star T.J. Oshie win a state title left a lasting impression.
“I wanted to get down there myself and do what they did,” said Ravndalen, now a senior and the leading scorer for the Warriors. “I thought it was a pretty cool deal.”
Ravndalen did get to state last year, but the Warriors lost in the semifinals to Hermantown after leading 3-1 entering the final period.
“I still have that (bad) taste in my mouth,” Ravndalen. “We're a better team this year.”
Ravndalen has more hockey in his future. He's given a verbal commitment to St. Cloud State, likely for the 2009-10 season. He also was the first player signed by Dean Blais to stock the United States Hockey League franchise in Fargo that begins play next season.
Warroad (19-6-0) enters Thursday's quarterfinal round of the Section 8A tournament as the No. 1 seed and is undefeated (10-0-0) against other teams in the tournament.
“Certainly our kids know that when you're the No. 1 seed,” Warroad co-coach Albert Hasbargen said, “you're expected to win.”
The Warriors have met all expectations season, earning a No. 5 ranking in the last state poll.
Yet nothing will come easy in the tournament, Hasbargen knows.
“The top eight teams in the section are real close,” Hasbargen said. “You throw a couple of goals in there any time in any game and it will change the outcome.”
Warroad features the top-scoring line in the tournament in the unit of Ravndalen (24 goals, 31 assists), Dane Shaugabay (19-13) and Jeremy Hahn (10-22). In addition, Brock Nelson (12), Brett Hebel (10) and John Hellquist (9) are proven scorers.
Shaugabay, slowed by a wrist injury early in the year, has come back strong with 28 points in his last nine games.
It's a Warroad team long on experience. Seven of the seniors played in last year's state tournament.
“That's an advantage for us,” Ravndalen said. “We're used to playing in big games, and section games are usually barn-burners with no blowouts.”
Warroad's defense took a hit with an injury to Tai Larson. He's listed as questionable for the start of the section tournament, Hasbargen said. But Warroad has a solid goalie in Jared Paquin, who has a 1.42 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. He's had shutouts in his last two starts.
“We need to work really hard,” Hasbargen said. “We're not an overly skilled team. We have some skilled players, but we need to play well in the defensive zone and like anybody in the playoffs, we need to have good goaltending.”
The Section 8A tournament also features the state's second-leading scorer in senior forward Zach Lehrke of Park Rapids Area. He has 48 goals and 40 assists in 25 games.
Park Rapids (23-2), the No. 2 seed, is a bit of an unknown. The Panthers have not played many of the other section teams but did lose 3-2 to Kittson Central, the sixth seed in the tournament.