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State Class A boys hockey: Luverne beats Chisago Lakes Area

MINNEAPOLIS — First they made history for Luverne High School. Next, they made history for southwest Minnesota.

The LHS boys hockey team defeated Chisago Lakes Area 5-2 in the consolation bracket of the State Class A tournament Thursday morning — the first time ever that a Section 3A squad has won a game at the state level.

Luverne head coach Derrick Brown and his players said prior to the state tourney that their goal was to put Luverne and southwest Minnesota hockey on the map. They did that Thursday by scoring the game’s first four goals against Section 5A champ Chisago Lakes Area at Mariucci Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

“It was great to come down here and get a win, for sure. We got off to a fast start, put the puck in the net and went on from there,” said Brown. “The guys were ready to play this morning. You never know how they’re going to respond. That was our first loss of the season yesterday.”

In their tournament opener Wednesday, the Cardinals lost to second-seeded Hermantown, 6-3, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The loss dropped Luverne to 27-1-1.

But against the Wildcats, eighth-grade forward Jaxon Nelson tallied the Cards’ first goal at the 1:29 mark of the first period. Nelson scored again at the 3:54 mark. Senior Gunnar Olson scored goal No. 3 at 4:54 and Chaz Smedsrud made it 4-0 with a goal at 8:51.

Olson, who scored again in the second period, scored two of Luverne’s three goals against Hermantown.

Brown was duly impressed with Thursday’s start.

“We were generating a lot of good looks. When we were getting our chances early in the game, we were burying them. For a 10 a.m. game to get that good a start, it’s a testament to the guys,” he said.

Chisago Lakes Area, 20-10 with Thursday’s loss, got on the board with a Blake Lizotte goal late in the first period.

Luverne upped its lead to 5-1 with Olson’s second goal of the game at the 11.11 point of the second period.

Chisago Lakes Area scored the only third period goal on a shot by Trevor Lushanko.

Luverne assists were collected Thursday by Chaz Smedsrud, Andrew Verhey (two), Erik Tofteland and Logan Norman.

Kendall Meyer made 22 saves in net.

Luverne out-shot the Wildcats 14-7 in the first period. Both teams put 10 shots on goal in the second, and Chisago Lakes Area out-shot Luverne 7-5 in the third.

Chisago Lakes Area had five penalties for 10 minutes and Luverne had five for 18.

“It’s an honor to get this done. It’s a testament that our area can play hockey,” said Brown. “We’re growing. We’re coming. It’s taking time. But we’re growing.”

On Saturday at 10 a.m., Luverne will face Totino-Grace for the consolation championship at Mariucci Arena. On Thursday, Totino-Grace — the tournament’s No. 5 seed — defeated Orono 4-1.

“We’re going to have to play our best. But we’re excited about the opportunity,” Brown said.

Following Wednesday’s game, Brown noted that Mariucci Arena’s bigger, Olympic-sized ice sheet presented a new challenge for teams compared to the Xcel Energy Center. But against Chisago Lakes Area he said the fast-skating Cardinals were able to use it to their advantage.

“We were really flying around there,” he said.

And no matter what happens on Saturday, it’s clear that Luverne has already had a successful state experience fueled in no small measure by the leadership displayed by seniors Meyer, Olson, Norman, Jordan Dingmann, Dalton Smeins, Jackson Frankenhoff, Travis Frakes, Cole Walgrave and Andrew Jelken.

“It’s a great team effort. It’s a huge building block for our program. Our seniors have truly built a legacy,” Brown said.

Chisago Lakes 1 0 1 — 2

Luverne 4 1 0 — 5

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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