Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-2 overtime win against the Dallas Stars:
Elk River gave us two great gifts on Hockey Day Minnesota. First, the event started at the legendary Handke Pit and it was a perfect venue with the host city doing a wonderful job, as the event went off as smooth as the glimmering sheet of ice. Then, Elk River native Nate Prosser scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Stars, moving the Wild to 6-1-1 on Hockey Day. He is the first defenseman in team history to score the game winner in back-to-back contests.
It’s been quite a season for the defenseman. Prosser was a healthy scratch for eight of the first nine games. However, the blueliner was a pro, coming to the rink everyday and continued to work hard. He never complained and always had a smile on his face, even when bloody, and now that work is paying off. Hollywood couldn’t have written a script this good for the finale of Hockey Day.
For the third-straight Hockey Day, a Wild rookie took home a first-career goal puck. Tonight, Erik Haula scored on a great individual effort after a defensive stop, a heads-up move and a breakaway snipe. Stars winger Erik Cole was at the point and tried to get a turnaround slap shot on goal. He would’ve been better off just throwing it in the corner, because Haula blocked the shot and raced the other way. The rookie bounced the puck off the wall past Cole and broke for open ice. He then fired a laser past Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen, low to the stick side. Haula displayed the speed and skill that University of Minnesota fans have been treated to the last three years. Tonight, he showed all of the State of Hockey what he brings to the lineup.
Last season, Mikael Granlund scored in his debut on Hockey Day against the Colorado Avalanche and Chad Rau scored his first in a Wild sweater in 2012 against the Stars.
Ryan Suter might not have the hardest shot from the blue line. However, his release is what sets his wrister apart from other blueliners; Suter is the Doc Holiday of defensemen, he gets his shot off quicker and with more accuracy than a gunslinger in an old Western.
Tonight, he scored his sixth of the season with a little help from Stars defenseman Jordie Benn. Suter took a cross-ice pass from Torrey Mitchell, walked the blue line and snapped a wrist shot on goal. The puck deflected off of Benn’s stick and past Lehtonen. It was a good break for the defenseman, but he got it through the first Stars forward Tyler Seguin, who was attempting to block the shot. Suter rarely gets his shot from the point blocked, which creates deflections and rebounds, and sometimes bounces like tonight.
Between the second and third periods, Minnesota legend Lou Nanne was presented with the State of Hockey Legacy Award for his contributions to the sport in the state. This season will mark the 50th year of calling the Minnesota State High School Tournament, starting in 1964.
Nanne’s playing career started at the University of Minnesota. He played for the 1968 United States Olympic team and the Minnesota North Stars, skating in 635 games all for Minnesota. Off the ice after his playing days, he helped manage numerous United States National teams. He was also the General Manager and President of the North Stars. Prior Legacy Award winners include Lou Cotroneo, Neal Broten and Glen Sonmor.
For the first time, I attended the high school portion of Hockey Day. It was also my first time visiting the Handke Pit. The setting was amazing and with rink at the bottom of The Pit, it was actually pretty warm when the sun was shining down (although I did have on about seven layers). Word is that 4,000 fans attended the Elk River vs. Stillwater boy’s game.
I don’t want to go into detail about everything I saw in Elk River because I’ll be writing a story for Wild.com later this week (that’s what they call a teaser folks). WildTV was also there and will be putting together a video, including an interview from native Joel Otto, who was there for the ceremonial puck drop before the game. However, I will say I was completely impressed with the event. For someone who doesn’t get all that excited about pomp and circumstance, I got chills as we walked up to The Pit with U2’s “Beautiful Day” blasting over the speakers and the sun shining down on the ice sheet, and I don’t even like that song. It’s an experience I won’t forget and Hockey Day Minnesota should be on every hockey fan’s bucket list.