Coaches: Rival hockey game's tie was meant to be
Would it have been Braedon Hyland's wish to see Saturday's Woodbury-East Ridge game end in a tie?
Coaches on both sides of the 2-2 draw thought so.
"A tie was meant to be," said Royals boys hockey coach Wes Bolin. "It was probably the impact that Braedon had on the game. A tie was what he probably had in mind."
Raptors coach Doug Long agreed.
"It seems fitting, yeah," he said.
The game began with a tribute to Hyland, an East Ridge senior who died Oct. 14 from injuries sustained in an Afton automobile crash. The driver, fellow East Ridge Blake Sowle, survived the crash.
Players from both teams took to the ice in a first-ever pregame ceremony for East Ridge: the retiring of a player's number.
Hyland's No. 23 became the first number ever retired in the program's three-year history.
"He'll be the only player to ever wear that jersey," Long said.
Hyland had built friendships among students at both East Ridge and Woodbury. That bond appeared evident at the game, held at Cottage Grove Ice Arena - East Ridge's home ice. Arena officials said the turnout was unprecedented and put attendance well above capacity.
During the pregame ceremony, alternating East Ridge and Woodbury players formed a circle on the ice that surrounded members of Hyland's family.
As a junior defenseman in the 2010-11 season, Hyland played in 25 games, logging nine points.
Long said Hyland had a special motor on the ice - one that usually meant he'd come up with the puck if he went in for a battle in the corner.
"He was tenacious anytime that puck was near him," Long said. "Anytime that puck was on his stick, that engine was going."
After the ceremony, Long and the Raptors coaching staff left the players to themselves for pregame preparation, knowing "it was kind of an emotional room," the coach said.
With only players inside, one of the Raptors - Long didn't know who - got up and gave a pregame speech he said was powerful.
"He gave one of the most poignant, motivating speeches I've heard from a young kid," he said.
Once the game got under way, scoring began in a hurry.
Woodbury senior forward Chase Myers-Beck found the back of the net 25 seconds into play. Fellow seniors Blake Kelley and Evan Erickson assisted on the play.
The second period was "all East Ridge," Bolin said.
Scoring resumed just 16 seconds into the second period, when East Ridge junior forward Tyler Fitzsimmons scored on Woodbury goalie Josh Erickson.
East Ridge seized the momentum at 8:43 in the second period when junior defenseman Tyler Hart scored, with assists going to Ryan Karrow and Jack Greeley.
"They were able to capitalize on the momentum they got," Bolin said.
The Royals drew the game to a 2-2 tie at 16:58 in the second period, when Zach Wahlin put a shot past East Ridge goalie Andrew McDonough on a Woodbury power play. Royals junior Ryan Winter assisted on the play.
Neither East Ridge nor Woodbury found paydirt again in the game, despite scoring opportunities for both teams.
"I thought we played pretty well in the third," Bolin said. "I felt that we were going to get one. It just didn't happen."
East Ridge (2-1-1 overall) now pivots to Thursday's road game at Eastview. Long said the game will give his Raptors an early look at a possible section opponent.
Meanwhile, Woodbury (3-0 overall) looks for a return to the win column Thursday when it plays host to Suburban East Conference foe Cretin-Derham Hall - the Royals' traditional hockey rival.