Goaltender Mason McElroy is one of eight sophomores listed on the Benilde-St. Margaret's roster. Photo by Loren Nelson, LegacyHockeyPhotography.com
International Falls initially had two games scheduled with longtime borderland rival Fort Frances, Ontario, this season. But concerns about potential difficulties crossing the border forced the teams to scrap the rivalry games (the Broncos and Muskies play for a trophy adorned with a keeper-sized stuffed walleye) for a second-straight season and left International Falls coach Chad Baldwin scrambling to patch the holes in his schedule.
All of which leads us to the season’s longest road trip involving a Minnesota team. At least we think — and hope — no journey tops the nine-hour (according to Google maps) drive from Williston, N.D., to International Falls.
Williston, located in North Dakota’s northwestern corner, rarely makes the long haul to play Minnesota teams, much less venture deep into the state, as it will for a two-game series in International Falls Dec. 10 and 11.
Baldwin said he got the idea to contact Williston coach Tyler Jundt from former International Falls standout Drew Fisher, who played at Bemidji State with Jundt. Much to Baldwin’s surprise, Jundt was agreeable to playing the games in International Falls.
“I was all-in when they had no issue making the drive here,” Baldwin said.
Both McElroy and Koskie, the son of former Minnesota Twins infielder Corey Koskie, attended Providence Academy last year as freshmen and have been working through eligibility issues. Both, however, are expected to in the lineup for the Red Knights’ first game, Nov. 30 at Hill-Murray.
The Red Knights’ large and talent-laden sophomore class, headlined by Drew Stewart, a standout in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this fall, is reminiscent of Eden Prairie’s Kyle Rau-led group in 2009. The Eagles won the state Class 2A championship that year with 10 sophomores in the lineup, believed to be tied for the most of any state tournament team.
Winona Cotter’s much-anticipated return as a varsity program (the Ramblers competed in the MSHSL playoffs in the mid- to late-1980s) has been delayed, as the team issued a statement on social media Tuesday saying the Ramblers’ season opener Wednesday against La Crescent-Hokah had been postponed due to quarantine requirements.
Winona Cotter’s next scheduled game is for Friday, Nov. 26 against Marshall in the opening round of the Marshall Thanksgiving Classic.
Cotter played a junior varsity schedule last season and had been part of co-operative program with Winona for several seasons before that.
School district-imposed travel restrictions have forced St. Paul Johnson to cancel its two scheduled weekend trips into the northern region of the state, costing the Governors four games.
St. Paul Johnson, which has regularly played northern squads dating to its rivalry with Roseau starting in the 1940s and '50s, had initially scheduled a December trip to Crookston and to Hallock to play Kittson County Central. The Governors were also set to play at Red Lake Falls and in Baudette against Lake of the Woods in mid-January.