by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Osseo will entertain Maple Grove this Saturday at 3 p.m. in a Northwest Suburban Conference boys’ hockey game that features two teams facing different challenges.
The Crimson are trying to move forward from a tumultuous two weeks in mid-January when an off-ice incident led to the suspension of 13 varsity players and a one-day suspension of head coach Gary Stefano. On the ice, the young Crimson squad are holding their own. They are 9-5 and have pretty much secured the No. 3 seed in the section.
For the young Orioles, the rebuilding process is much tougher as they are 2-11-1 in the league and are hoping for a strong finish. Osseo’s main problem is the lack of scoring as witnessed by last week’s 6-0 loss to Anoka and a 2-1 setback against Armstrong.
“It’s been tough,” said Osseo co-head coach Kevin Willey. “The biggest thing we are doing is we’ve stayed positive.”
The Orioles might not have a good record but they showed in their 4-3 loss to highly-ranked Wayzata Jan. 27 that they can be a dangerous team, especially playing at home in the Tin Bin. Osseo battled Wayzata, which was ranked No. 1 in the state as late as Jan. 18, all the way and was tied with the Trojans 2-2 after two periods and 3-3 early in the third. Wayzata got the game winner on a power play goal. Jared Vance scored a pure hat trick for Osseo.
Willey said when the Orioles scored early, as they did against Wayzata, Andover and Champlin Park, the team responded with strong performances the entire game. When the puck does not go in, the team tends to lose steam.
“When we scored early… that picked everyone’s spirits up,” Willey said. “But when we got down and there just wasn’t enough talking going on. We are trying to find that, where we maintain that competitive edge throughout the whole game.”
Mason Hautala, Drake Simpson and Drew Lofgren are Osseo’s top scorers. The Crimson are led in scoring by Josh Passolt, Sam Valerius and Nate Erickson. Maple Grove has John Danielson and Calvin McKenney sharing goal-tending duties and Osseo rotates Alex Otto and Connor Dahlberg.
Maple Grove blasted Osseo 8-0 back on Jan. 3. The Orioles and Willey hope the Tin Bin’s unique environment will allow them to put up a much better game in this rematch.
“We play at home quite a bit here, and that is an advantage for us,” Willey said. “Everybody that comes in here talks about how cold it is. We love that aspect. We love that opposing coaches come in and have to wear stocking caps when they come to the rink.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]