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AREA ATHLETICS: Sticks and stones

Marshall wraps up inaugural hockey and curling tournament

Photos by Jake Przytarski Left: A member of the “Team Hennen” hockey team controls the puck during the Marshall Madness on Ice tournament at Red Baron Arena on Saturday. Right: A couple of sweepers track the stone during the Marshall Madness on Ice tournament at Red Baron Arena on Saturday.

MARSHALL — With the coronavirus pandemic putting a temporary halt on nearly all athletic events throughout the country, the inaugural Marshall Madness on Ice event held at Red Baron Arena filled the void for numerous men’s hockey players and curlers who came from all over to participate in the two tournaments on Saturday.

The full slate of on-ice action began with the first few matches of the bonspiel, which kicked off at 8:30 a.m. on the Lockwood Rink. The tournament started with eight different teams vying for the championship and ended with only two by day’s end as the “Sheetheads” and “What’s for Dinner” teams finished as co-champions.

John McKenzie, a member of the What’s for Dinner team comprised mostly of Sioux Falls, S.D. curlers, said he’s thrilled to see the level of interest in the sport growing locally after leaving the area post-high school graduation in 2008.

“Back then we didn’t even have curling in Marshall and it’s really cool to watch this sport kind of evolve,” said McKenzie. “When Cam (Bailey) mentioned that this was happening again I was so excited to bring a few people down.”

McKenzie hopes the event will lead to more growth in the future for the sport of curling.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Marshall continue to grow as a club and to take a few new steps. I’m really happy to come support as well, that’s the big thing,” said McKenzie.

Marshall native Jason Boerboom — whose experience with curling dates back three years through his time competing in local Sunday leagues — appreciates the fact that everyone has a chance to succeed in the event.

“This is our third year of curling. We curl in the Sunday night league during the season and we curled in three leagues last year,” said Boerboom. “It’s fun, most of the people are from Marshall (but) you do get some from Cottonwood and surrounding towns. It’s fun just because you get men and women playing on the same team and everybody’s got the same chance out there, nobody’s an expert.”

As the bonspiel continued throughout the afternoon and into the evening, the final seven games of the men’s hockey tournament were played in a round-robin style. After each team had played three games, Team Hennen and Team Baker remained the only two undefeated clubs and met in the championship. Team Baker would end up winning in a 4-3 final to earn the tournament title.

Team Baker — named after captain Brandon Baker– was comprised almost entirely of Division III players from Bethel University. One such player, Jordan Stone, said their inclusion in the tournament came as a result of a last-decision.

“We were looking for a tournament for our spring break and I think last weekend it got cancelled or we didn’t get in or something,” said Stone. “He found this one last minute somehow and he called the tournament director and he squeezed us in last minute.”

Another player making a last-minute decision to head to Marshall for the full day of hockey was fifth-round NHL draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs and soon-to-be Minnesota Golden Gopher Mike Koster, who’s current season with the Tri City Storm of the United States Hockey League was cut short as a result of the pandemic. Koster, along with teammate Nick Portz, joined Team Hennen for the tournament.

Originally from Marshall before moving to Chaska at age 10, Koster said it’s been fun to see some familiar faces.

“It’s a lot of fun. Our season got suspended indefinitely so my brother just asked me Friday if I wanted to come down, so I thought I might as well stop through on my way home. It’s pretty fun to see everyone again,” said Koster.

Though he unable to visit with Marshall graduate and current North American Hockey League player Mason Plante who’s up in Fairbanks, Alaska, Koster said it was fun to compete against his cousin Kaleb Welvaert, who suited up for Team Mellenthin in the tournament.

“The guys are pretty good out here (but) it’s just about going out and having fun though,” said Koster. “I played against a lot of the guys that were like a year or two older than me, so it was nice to see all of them and catch up with them. My buddy Mason isn’t here, he’s in Fairbanks, but I got to see his cousin Kaleb (Welvaert). I’m really good friends with those two, they’re my best friends so it’s been really nice to see them.”

Gathering all of the players and making sure that the tournament was a top-notch experience for all involved was a group effort, according to Jim Haynes. In addition to taking the ice as a player for Team Mellenthin in the tournament, Haynes joined forces with recreation coordinator Cam Bailey and marketing/events coordinator Julia Stuckey of Marshall Community Services among others to get the event off the ground.

“Honestly it’s hard to thank everybody, but I would say the city has helped in the fact that they can help promote this and set it up where we can invite teams for a pretty low entry fee, that’s big,” said Haynes. “Cody (Mellenthin) and his guys are great, I mean this rink is pristine and they made sure of it so that we provided a great environment that I think people will want to come back to.”

After running into the issue of possibly not having enough teams to make the tournament a reality, Haynes came away proud of the way it turned out.

“Honestly, it’s really been a pleasant surprise. The people that showed, up the teams that showed up and the level of competition (have been great),” said Haynes. “At one point we didn’t know if we’d actually have enough teams to play, so it’s been really enjoyable, and I think everybody is having a good time.”

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