by DAVE PEDERSEN
SUN PRESS Newspapers
It never gets easier in a boys hockey semifinal game in any sport, but Delano-Rockford may have been thinking playing for a trip to state was even more possible after the twist of events last week.
Delano-Rockford opened the Section 2A playoffs with a 5-1 victory over Chaska last week. The anticipated meeting of the No. 3 seed against No. 2 Mound-Westonka on Tuesday, after this issue went to press, never happened.
After six players for Mound-Westonka were suspended for much reported school incident, the hockey team lost to No. 7 seed Blake 6-4.
“We have seen Blake before, but it was nearly three months or 23 games ago,” said Delano-Rockford coach Steve Brown. “So a lot has likely changed. We are real excited for the opportunity to compete in the section semis and hope to see the finals on Thursday.”
A victory over Blake would put Delano-Rockford against what is expected to be No. 1 seed Breck at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28. The section champ opens state tourney play Wednesday, March 6 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Against Chaska, Eric Ylitalo scored two goals and one assist. Other goals were by Mike Krueger, Justin Oja and Levi Peterson. Goalie Adam Gangroth made 26 saves.
“We were incredibly disciplined and smart throughout the game,” said Brown. “Chaska gave us some real difficulties early as they played a very different style, but the guys adjusted really well in the second period.”
Brown said the top forward line of Ylitalo, Adam McLain McLain and Oja have played extremely well the last three weeks.
“They have been able to combine their varsity experience with their skating speed and a tenacious style of play,” says Brown. “They just complement each other really well.”
Brown said Ylitalo is a big, fluid and deceptively fast skater who is a very creative player in the offensive zone.
“Adam McLain is the smallest forward on our team, but he is very aggressive offensively,” adds Brown. “Adam loves working in the corners of the ice and is so effective at making plays in small areas. Adam is also a very skilled passer which has really benefitted Ylitalo and Oja.
The coach adds how Oja is a good skater with a powerful stride. All three are “team players, each is very willing to sacrifice for the overall team.”
Contact Dave Pedersen at [email protected]