Throughout the 2007-08 hockey season five teams emerged as the leaders of the state: Roseau, Edina, Minnetonka, Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Hill-Murray; in that order. But as they say, that’s why they play the game. Hill-Murray beat #1 Roseau Friday in the semifinals and took home the Class 2A championship Saturday with a 3-0 win over #2 Edina.
“It’s a great feeling,” exclaimed Ryan Furne, who scored two goals in the win. “It’s a dream come true is what it is.”
“We got seeded fourth and we knew it was a tough road in front of us to get to the championship. Both teams played great and it just feels good to get the ‘W,’” said standout goalie Joe Phillippi. He added, “It’s unbelievable right now. We just worked hard as a team and we took it to ‘em, so it feels good.”
Furne got the Pioneers on the board at 2:30 of the first period when he turned over an Edina pass at center ice and took it in one-on-one with Edina goalie Derrick Caschetta and beat him five-hole. He scored his team’s second goal with 0:00.1 seconds remaining in the first.
“I was going in on a one-on-two and Alex Keller, #14 was yelling ‘Shoot the puck, not much time left’ so I just took the shot between the guy’s legs for a screen and luckily it went in,” explained Furne.
Head coach Bill Lechner added, “I think it gave us a lot of momentum. It’s a tough break because their goalie is a good kid and a good goalie, it’s a tough break on him, but that gave us a lot of momentum and a little room for error.”
They needed that room in the second period as Edina racked up the shots on Phillippi. He turned away 15 shots in the middle frame, while Hill-Murray only managed four.
“He’s been there all year,” said Furne of his goalie who made 31 saves on the night. “He’s been at Hill-Murray for four years. He was really up to the challenge.”
Lechner furthered the compliment. “Joey was outstanding. I told you guys this week that Joey was a little boy when he came to us as a freshman. He’s going out the door; it’s someone else’s opportunity [now]. He’s an outstanding young man that will do well in life.”
The Pioneers increased their lead in the third period on Lou Metcalf’s goal at 4:36 and things were starting to fall in to place. But there was always a fear in the back of their minds about an emotional let down after Friday night’s semifinal win over top-ranked Roseau.
“I thought it helped that we got that first goal,” said Lechner. “It was quick and it kind of settled us down to play and to get the guys believing that they could do it.”
“We’re always up to the challenge, you know,” Furne said. “Once we won the game against Roseau there was no letting up, we had to show up and play against Edina just like we did last night. It was a little less physical game. We moved our feet and moved the puck really well.”
It’s been 17 years since Hill-Murray has won a title. And Lechner admits that these days things are a little different, on and off the ice.
“It’s not a cliché, but these 20 guys are outstanding guys. In 2008, the challenges are to keep everybody happy. It’s very challenging with families and parents. And when the guys who don’t play as much, although we play pretty deep, the kids and the families of those people who didn’t play very much, they were right there the whole time. And that sends a message from the house to the locker room to the rink.”
Saturday’s win will put this group of Pioneers in the history books in Minnesota hockey, and maybe equally important, this matches what only two other Hill-Murray teams have done. Lechner tried to put it into perspective.
“In 2008, they took the state tournament. Their banner will hang in Aldrich forever. This was their night. They have to live for the alumni and the traditions and all those corny things that people either love us or hate us for. They’re the next generation. We’re going to be sad. Ten of those guys are out the door.
And they’ll reload. But it will be a tough job to replace the best. Lechner said, “We always try to be modest, and words are words, but actions speak louder than words. These guys worked hard and we belong in those conversations [with Roseau and Edina]. We were under the radar as a quality team but not a great team. I think we proved in the last three days that we can be a great team, as well.”
In 2008, they end the season not as a great team, but the best.