Park of Cottage Grove forward Gavin Moss buries a goal off a breakaway rush in the second period of Saturday's 3-2 win over Cretin-Derham Hall at Highland Arena in St. Paul. Photo by Drew Herron, Legacy Hockey
Something is cooking at Park of Cottage Grove.
Long mediocrity or yesteryear’s doormat, this new Wolfpack brand of hockey has inserted itself into a wide-open Section 3AA race, and with some high-end talent from its junior captains leading this way, Park has its sights set on what every team is aiming for.
“March 7,” first-year coach Jeff Corkish said.
As in still being on the ice as a team on March 7 ... At the State Tournament for the first time in the school’s 50-year hockey history.
This year, the Wolfpack just might get there.
In what is surely the state’s deepest division without a front-runner, St. Thomas Academy, Rosemount, Eastview, Cretin-Derham Hall and Park reside in the state's wildest section.
Park took a big step forward Saturday afternoon at St. Paul's Charles Schulz Arena with a 3-2 victory over No. 15-2A Cretin-Derham Hall.
It also earned the program's first victory over its Suburban East Conference mates in many years, if ever.
It also has people asking ... Why not Park? Why not now?
“This win is probably the most important victory for our school in a while,” Corkish said.
It showed the Wolfpack have the top-end talent to go new places, as a junior corps of captains lead the way.
Park’s top forward line of juniors with Jackson Rudh, Gavin Moss and Owen Corkish was dominant. Rudh scored twice on rocket shots in the first period. Moss added another on a breakaway beauty off a turnover, and Park was in control.
Rudh is the catalyst while Owen Corkish is a 200-foot-centerman and a pass-first unselfish facilitator. Moss uses blazing speed to win puck races and disrupt plays that generate transition offense. That’s how it works as three pieces of a fast, high-energy puzzle for the Wolfpack.
“They don’t work when there are only two,” coach Corkish said. “That line works because all three of those guys understand each other so well. Since they were 6 years old, when Owen would have two goals, Jack would have the assists. The next day it would be the reverse."
“Playing like that, it’s bonded into our game,” Owen Corkish said. “We understand how to use each other’s skill sets, and it’s always worked."
Against the Raiders, it was Rudh, as it has been 16 times this season. He now has a team leading 26 points through 14 games for the Wolfpack.
“Jackson is electric with a high skill level,” coach Corkish said. “He understands how to get himself into position to get shots, and he’s a finisher.”
Coach Corkish praises Rudh’s hockey IQ and work ethic, says he asks the right questions and is clearly driven to get better. Last year’s weak side of his game was defense. This year, he feels that might now be his strength.
“He’s 100 percent committed to be a hockey player forever,” coach Corkish says.
Rudh credits the chemistry and interworking pieces of the line construction.
“It works because Moss is a speed guy who can fly, and that creates a lot of space for me,” Rudh said. “And Owen is a playmaker who does things that I just don’t understand how he thinks of it, but he finds me. I have the easy part, because they are the ones getting (the puck) to me. I just go to the net and these guys set me up.”
Junior captain and top defenseman Caden Schwartz loves to watch the symbiosis of that line from a step or two back.
“That speed is insane and all three of those guys have hands that are so sick,” he said. “They’re just so nasty. The chemistry is unreal, and you know every day that they will find the back of the net."
Both of Rudh’s goals in the first were on laser shots.
“His shot, it’s ridiculous,” linemate Moss said. “Every time, it’s like, wow.”
Rudh, Moss, Owen Corkish and Schwartz are all junior captains who have been playing together in Cottage Grove since mini mites.
It’s a special feeling, said Jeff Corkish, who is in his first year as varsity head coach and is Owen’s father. He said there is a special bond within the group, and a special commitment for those involved to chart a new path for Wolfpack Hockey.
“Most of these juniors have played since Mites onward here,” he said. “All these coaches, we’ve been coaching them since then, and all these families have been together since then. It’s so special to be a part of a team that’s 100 percent from Cottage Grove. There is so much pride playing for your community, and not everyone has that.”
It’s part of a bigger commitment.
“This is the first group from Cottage Grove that has made that commitment to stay here, and keeping every group beneath them here is our goal. To show everyone here that we can succeed here, have a chance here, develop here and then move to play junior and college hockey from this program. That’s what we want to create. Community first!"
Section 3AA Seeding:
“In this section, give it seed one through five … who the hell do you want? It’s just who shows up that night. But to be in that group, you give yourself a chance, that’s what we are doing.” - Jeff Corkish
CDH senior captain Chuck Owens fires off a shot during a furious finish in the third period. Photo by Drew Herron, Legacy Hockey
Jackson Rudh scored twice and linemate Gavin Moss added another as Park of Cottage Grove downed Cretin-Derham Hall 3-2 Saturday afternoon at Highland Arena in St. Paul.
It was a historic victory for the Wolfpack, who picked up their first win in recent history, perhaps ever, against their Suburban East Conference and Class 2A, Section 3 mates.
Rudh scored twice in the first period, both off rocket shots from the high slot, as the Wolfpack (8-6-0) jumped out early and led from start to finish. Rudh has 16 goals and 26 points through 14 games.
No.15-2A Cretin Derham Hall (7-6-0) came alive with a furious effort in the second half of the third, cutting the deficit to one goal, only to have the comeback attempt end there as scoring chances clanged off the post and crossbar.
Phoenix Cahill and Andy Brown scored for the Raiders.
Aiden Miller stopped 22 of 24 shots to earn the win for Park.
Final shots were 24-19 in favor of Cretin-Derham Hall.
Park centerman Jackson Rudh celebrates after scoring his second goal of the opening period of Saturday's 3-2 win over Cretin Derham Hall. Photo by Drew Herron, Legacy Hockey