Archive for Matt Kane

FEATURE: Lommel paid his dues

Matt Kane
Sports Editor

DELANO — “He’s been a rock for us all year. He has held us in so many games, and tonight was no different.”

These were the words spoken by Delano senior Michael Weber Feb. 26 following the Tigers’ 3-2 double-overtime win over Armstrong/Cooper in the Section 2A championship game when he was asked about goaltender Cade Lommel.

Photo by Matt Kane

Photo by Matt Kane

Lommel made 39 saves in the win, which put Delano in the state tournament for the third time in four season.

He is the third goalie to take the Tigers to state, following in line behind Jackson Hjelle (2017) and Aaron Kruse (2019).

“It’s an amazing group of goalies to play after. I am good friends with Jackson (Hjelle) and Aaron (Kruse),” Lommel said. “I saw Aaron after the game, and that was a special moment. He is a really good friend of mine.”

That deep friendship between Lommel and Kruse developed as the two battled for the starting spot a season ago.

Kruse was not the clear starter entering the 2018-19 season. Lommel started or played in seven of the Tigers’ first 12 games before Kruse took the spot, and carried Delano to  the state tournament.

Kruse finished with a 15-7-1 record and will be remembered in the annals of Delano hockey for his three shutouts in the Section 2A playoffs.

Lommel played in just three of Delano’s 19 remaining games, and finished with a 4-3-1 record.

Instead of sulking over his lack of playing time, Lommel became Kruse’s biggest fan.

“Last year, we had the opportunity to celebrate the teammate that Cade was in his support of Aaron, and we believe that helped Aaron play well once it was Aaron’s job,” said Delano coach Gerrit van Bergen after the win over Armstrong/Cooper. “Cade knew that, in a lot of ways, he was playing for Aaron tonight. And Aaron was here tonight, which is really special for the team and for Cade.”

Kruse couldn’t have asked for a better backup.

“Cade is probably the best teammate I’ve ever had. We both have a lot of respect for each other and nothing changed between us once I grabbed the starting job,” Kruse said. “He continued to support me in every way possible. He was always excited to see me or anyone on the team do well. He brought a positive attitude to the rink and worked hard every day, no matter the circumstance. I was extremely lucky to have him as my goalie partner.”

Lommel watched, learned, and supported his friend, as Kruse led the Tigers to the state tournament.

“He is great friends with Aaron, and Aaron taught him so much,” said van Bergen. “He admired Aaron and looked up to him, and he brought that into his game this year.”

At this year’s section final, the understudy was the star of the show.

As for standing tall in a tight section championship game, the humble Lommel wasn’t fast to put his performance at the level of Kruse’s 30-save performance a season ago in a 2-0 win over Orono.

“He had a shutout and I let up two goals, so I don’t know,” said Lommel, who will pitch at Creighton following his graduation this spring.

Kruse was impressed with Lommel’s performance.

“Cade played amazingly in the section final,” Kruse said. “He looked in control the entire game. The whole game he looked calm, and, in overtime when most people would tighten up, he kept his composure and stayed focused.”

Lommel’s current teammates know what he did for them against Armstrong/Cooper.

“Cade played a great game. We have to thank him,” said Jesse Peterson, who scored the double-overtime game-winner. “He played a great game.”

Lommel did see the Xcel Energy Center ice a season ago. He finished up the final few seconds for Kruse in a 6-4 loss to Greenway in the quarterfinals.

STATE HOCKEY: Delano edges Hutch; will play Monticello in consolation championship

Matt Kane
Sports Editor

St. Paul — It is not easy to beat a team three times in one season.

Delano found that out Thursday afternoon in the consolation semifinals, when it found itself in a battle with Wright County Conference foe Hutchinson for survival in the Class A state tournament.

It took a Cade Lommel save on a penalty shot with 50 seconds remaining in regulation and an overtime goal from Adam Brown for Delano to finally put Hutchinson away 6-5.

The win did give Delano three wins over Hutchinson. During the regular season, Delano won 2-1 at home and 3-1 at Hutchinson.

The win put Delano in a similar spot, the consolation championship game.

That’s where the Tigers finished its previous two trips to state, winning the game in both 2017 and 2019.

This time around, Delano will play Monticello at 3M Arena at Mariucci. The puck drops at 10 a.m.

Monticello got to the final game of the consolation round with a 6-1 win over Mankato East/Loyola Thursday morning.

STATE WRESTLING: Tschudi, Hajas medal at state

Matt Kane
Sports Editor

ST. PAUL — Delano’s Carson Tschudi finished his junior season as the fourth-place wrestler at 145 pounds in the Class AA State Tournament Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.

Senior Edward Hajas ended his high school wrestling career with a fifth-place finish at 220 pounds.

Tschudi and Hajas were both making return trips to state. They were two of Delano’s four wrestlers who competed.

Seniors Matt Baker (285) and Tyson Kroells (120) each wrestled on the state mats for the first time. Neither found the medal podium.

READ MUCH MORE ABOUT THE DELANO WRESTLERS AT THE STATE TOURNAMENT AND FIND PHOTOS IN FRIDAY’S DELANO HERALD JOURNAL

STATE SWIMMING: Five state medals for Tigers

Matt Kane
Sports Editor

MINNEAPOLIS — The Delano/Watertown-Mayer (DWM) swimmers claimed five state medals Feb. 29 at the Class A State Swimming & Diving Championships at the UofM Aquatic Center.

Sophomore Nick Black and junior Colby Kern both claimed three medals.

Black’s fourth-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke was the top finish for a DWM swimmer on championship day. Black’s time was 53.39 seconds.

Breck/Blake’s Charlie Crosby won backstroke with the time of 48.51 seconds.

It was Black’s second medal of the meet. He opened with an eighth-place medal in the 200 medley relay. Black ended the day with an eighth-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay.

Black swam the 100 freestyle at the prelims Friday, Feb. 28, but did not advance on to Saturday’s meet. He finished 18th with the time of 49.49 seconds.

Black, Gentry Nuytten, Joe Coyle and Kaden Georges combined for the eighth-place finish in the medley relay at the state finals. Their time was 1:42.85.

Breck/Blake won the medley relay with the time of 1:32.66.

Georges, Per Anderson, Black and Kern finished eighth with the time of 3:20.37 in the 400 relay.

Winona won the 400 with the time of 3:05.61.

Kern’s first state medal was for fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle. He backed that with a seventh-place finish in the 100 freestyle. Kern’s 200 time was 1:45.31. His 100 time was 48.16 seconds.

Winona’s Jack Herczeg took the first-place medals in both the 200 and 100. His 200 time was 1:40.29. His 100 time was 44.65 seconds, which is an automatic all-American time.

Kern, Anderson, Georges and Will Merten finished 10th overall in the 200 freestyle relay. Their consolation heat time was 1:30.90.

Nuytten swam in the consolation heat of the 200 individual medley. His time Saturday was 2:04.77. That placed him 13th overall.

SEE PHOTOS FROM THE STATE MEET IN FRIDAY’S DELANO HERALD JOURNAL

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Strong Watertown-Mayer team eliminates Chargers

Matt Kane
Sports Editor

WATERTOWN — The end of the season came for the Dassel-Cokato girls in the round of 16 of the Section 5AA tournament Feb. 27 at Watertown-Mayer High School.

The No. 15-seeded Chargers were topped 63-35 by the No. 2 Royals.

Watertown-Mayer’s Maggie Czinano proved to be too much to handle for the Chargers.

Czinano finished with a game-high 20 points.

Libby Heilman added 13 points for the Royals.

Bailey Quern had a nice night for Dassel-Cokato. She socred 10 points.

Lora Mayfield and Camryn Patten each added eight points to the Charger cause.

Patten is the lone senior on the Dassel-Cokato team. She will be missed.

The game was still in doubt at halftime, when Watertown-Mayer led 32-22.

The second half was all Royals, as Watertown-Mayer out-scored Dassel-Cokato 31-14.

The Chargers finished with a 2-23 record.

Watertown-Mayer (21-7) continued to win. The Royals took care of No. 10 Maranatha 59-51 in the quarterfinals, and defeated No. 6 Annandale 52-35 Wednesday in the semifinals.

The Royals play No. 1 Providence Academy in the section championship game Friday night, March 6, at St. Cloud State.

 

WATERTOWN-MAYER 63, DC 36

Section 5AA Round of 16

Thursday, Feb. 27

Watertown-Mayer High School

1 2 – F

DC 22 14 – 36

WM 32 31 – 63

Scoring

DC: B Quern 10, Mayfield 8, Patten 8, Lee 4, Travis 3, Kraemer 2, Schmidt 1.

Watertown-Mayer: Czinano 22, Heilman 13, Killian 9, Mueller 8, Bumeister 5, Bamhart 2, Penegor 2, Foley 2.

FEATURE: The Halonen line

This winter was unique for the Halonen family of Delano, as it had one skater at every level from Mites to Division 1

Matt Kane
Sports Editor

DELANO — Six hockey games and/or practices. That’s quite a week of puck watching for most hockey lovers. For one Minnesota hockey family, however, that’s a light week.

Delano’s Carol Halonen is not a typical hockey mom. In her world, six games in a week is nothing. Try six games and/or practices in a single day. It happens in Carol’s world, especially this winter, when she has chauffeured and followed her six hockey-playing boys around the state of Minnesota and in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

“I just love it. Jim isn’t as into it as I am,” Carol said, referencing her husband of 25 years. “For me, if there is not a game one night, I am wondering what I am going to do.”

This winter has been different than all others for Carol, Jim, and their 11 children (seven boys and four girls), as, for the first and last time, none of those six hockey-playing boys are overlapping on the same team.

The hockey stars have aligned this winter to create the unique scenario where the six Halonen boys span every level of organized amateur hockey from the Mites level all the way up to Division 1.

“We have one at college, high school, Bantam, PeeWee, Squirt and Mites. Every level,” Carol said. “This will be the only year, because, next year, I will have two at high school and none at Bantams, and then PeeWees, Squirts and Mites.”

BLOGHalonenSix

Brian, Bruce, Wes, Dan, Lance and Adam make up the Halonen line of hockey players that spans each level from D-1 to Mites.

This year’s Halonen players are:

Adam: Mites ­- Delano Stars

Lance: Squirts – Delano A

Daniel: PeeWees – Delano A

Wes: Bantams – Delano B1

Bruce: Delano High School

Brian: Division 1 – Michigan Tech

The seventh son? That’s Chet. He is the oldest of the 11 children.

Chet led the hockey way, playing all the way through the Delano system until graduation in 2014. He is no longer a player. Instead, Chet traded a hockey sweater for the black-and-white stripes of a referee. He lives in the Detroit area and currently works games in the North American Hockey League (NAHL).

The four girls? They are (oldest to youngest) Greta, Judy, Katie and Emily. They, too, are or where involved in sports growing up, but only one, Judy, who graduated high school in 2019, dipped into hockey. She played through her 12U season.

That the group of girls did not break up the string of Halonen boys playing at all levels this season is a hockey miracle.

“It doesn’t happen too often, because there aren’t too many who have a college player and also a Mite. And that many boys,” said Carol.

“Families are not this big anymore,” said Bruce, who is skating with the Delano High School team this weekend in the Class A State tournament.

The closest situation to what the Halonen’s have this hockey season may have been Carol’s family, which grew up playing hockey in the Detroit area.

“My parents never had a college player. They had one at every level, but they never had a college level,” said Carol, who is one of 12 kids in her family (10 boys and two girls).

With 22 kids growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jim’s family of 18 boys and four girls certainly had the numbers for a string of hockey players like his own, but it didn’t happen.

Photo courtesy of Carol Halonen

All 13 in the Halonen family are quite comfortable in skates. Family Photos courtesy of Carol Halonen

Hockey Home

The aroma of freshly-baking bread (10 loaves per week) demanded the attention of the olfactory system as Carol spoke about her busy winter schedule while seated at the family’s dining room table, which mirrored the size of an NHL neutral zone.

“It’s just life. It’s not that amazing, really,” said Carol, who works as an insurance agent, and has an online calendar that requires a PhD to decipher. Jim works at Honeywell. “It’s a fun life. It’s busy, but what else would you do, right?”

As for costs, fees to play do add up, but the family is frugal when it comes to equipment and logistics.

“Hand-me-down equipment. I will find it at Goodwill or online or something,” said Carol. “We do a lot of carpooling. For travel, there is a bit of running around but it isn’t too bad.”

It’s a family effort.

“The kids help out. Everybody pitches in. It’s not that big of a deal,” Carol said.

Not a big deal to the Halonen family, maybe, but others around the Delano hockey community have taken notice of the well-oiled hockey factory that is the Halonen household.

“They truly are a hockey family. It’s remarkable to consider the time and organization it must take for Carol and Jim to ensure each of them is at the right rink at the right time, no gear forgotten, and so on,” said Delano varsity coach Gerrit van Bergen, who has coached Chet, Brian and currently Bruce at the high school level, and has had Wes and Dan at summer camps. “I know the boys are crazy about hockey, so I’m sure they are bugging their folks or the older siblings to get them there early.”

A freshman at Northern Michigan University this winter, Judy Halonen is watching the organized chaos involving her brothers and parents from afar for the first time.

“I am always impressed with how they handle the busy schedule. They also have carpools on each team, so that helps the boys get to games early,” Judy said of her parents. “There are some Saturdays that they are going from game to game all day. One day I called home and they had watched five games that day; all different ages.”

A sixth game in one day occurs when the family watches Brian’s college game at home on the computer or while in the car driving to another game. Judy attends Michigan Tech’s home games as Brian’s guest.

“It definitely takes up a majority of the winter, so it’s good that we all enjoy the sport,” said Judy, who played volleyball at Delano.

As for the Halonen shuffle in Delano on those busy days, the older kids drive the younger kids to and from practices when they can. Even the youngest organizes and packs up his own gear — usually a day early.

“Every Friday night, he comes up and he has his bag packed. He puts them right at the top of the steps; his bag and his sticks and everything. He’s ready to go for Saturday morning,” Carol said of Adam, age 5, who is the Mite. “He  knows how many days he has until hockey. He just loves it.”

How could Adam not love hockey. Naturally, that love trickled down.

“These little guys ­— Bruce, Wes, Dan, Lance, Adam — they’ve all been really into it since they were really little. Probably from watching the older boys,” Carol explained. “Adam, my baby, was 18 months when he started skating. He couldn’t talk, and I was downstairs tying somebody else’s skates, and he pointed to the rafters because he wanted some skates. I’m like ‘ah,’ but he insisted, so I put them on. He went out there and he skated. He was little.”

A little big man according to his older brothers.

Adam Halonen, age 5 and the Mite in the family, isn't afraid to mix it up with his older brothers on the ice. Photo by Matt Kane

Adam Halonen, age 5 and the Mite in the family, isn’t afraid to mix it up with his older brothers on the ice.
Photo by Matt Kane

“He thinks he’s one of us,” Bruce, the high school player, said of Adam. “When you are young and all of your brothers are out there playing, you want to be playing with them. It’s fun.”

‘Out there’ meaning the family’s backyard rink. It is the best training ground a hockey player could ask for.

“On the outdoor rink, you have an older brother, like Brian, pushing you to compete. That’s what makes you better — when you play against players who are that much better than you.,” said Bruce. “We have a lot of people to get a good game going. Family games are fun. We are never short a player.”

Adam is one of the best rink attendants the family has.

“He’s always out there shoveling, and, before he has hockey with all of his friends, he will be out there scraping it,” said Bruce. “He will be out there 20 minutes early getting it all ready — getting the nets and pucks, and having it all set up.”

Those family and neighborhood games have developed quality players and teammates, a trait the Halonen boys carry with them to their organized Delano teams.

“With all of them, their love of the game is so deep and they have all had a few of the same characteristics — they love to be the first ones on the ice and the last ones off; they work very hard in the offseason to develop their strengths; and they all love to learn about the game to continue to improve,” said coach van Bergen. “As coaches, we have really enjoyed each of the boys so much, and they are a big part of our brotherhood.”

The conclusions of those organized games and practices rarely mark the end of the day’s ice team for the Halonen boys.

“They come home from practice, and they head downstairs and get their skates back on, and they are right back out on the rink,” said Carol. “For me, it’s really nice. They are completely happy all winter long.

“It’s my babysitter,” she said of the rink, which is framed perfectly by the large picture window in the living room.

The entire family — boys and girls — use the outdoor rink.

“They love it. Then they come in and they are tired,” said Carol, whose escape from her hockey-crazy house often includes, what else, hockey — for herself with a group of women in Plymouth.

When the boys are tired after skating in a neighborhood pickup game, they walk back to the house with their skates still on to the basement, which doubles as a warming house, locker room, dry land training facility, and equipment room, where dozens of pairs of skates still hang in the rafters.

Tech Time

On weekend nights, those outdoor pickup games are sometimes shortened to allow time for the family to gather around a monitor to watch Brian and his Michigan Tech team.

“It’s fun to play with them all on the backyard rink, and it’s fun to watch Brian every Friday and Saturday night,” said Wes, the Bantam in the family.

Brian Halonen has a big fan club at home in Delano while he plays at Michigan Tech. Photo courtesy of Michigan Tech Athletics

Brian Halonen has a big fan club at home in Delano while he plays at Michigan Tech.
Photo courtesy of Michigan Tech Athletics

“The boys are all really excited. Everybody likes to check up on him and see how his games are going,” Carol said of the family’s pride for Brian, who is a sophomore with the Huskies. “It’s quite an accomplishment to play D-1 hockey. There are not that many in the country.”

Brian is one of four former Delano players from the Class of 2017 currently playing Division 1 hockey. The others are Ben Meyers (Minnesota), John Keranen (Army) and Andrew Kruse (Air Force), all of whom sharpened their skills at the Halonen rink.

Brian is hoping to continue his hockey career after Michigan Tech. He participated in the Dallas Stars summer camp a year ago and will do the same with the St. Louis Blues this summer.

“It’s a start. Don’t hang your hat on it, but, if he keeps working at it, we will see what happens,” said Carol, a proud mom, of Brian’s future.

Professional hockey is in the bloodline.

Carol’s nephew Blake Pietila is currently in the Anaheim Ducks system playing for the San Diego Gulls in the AHL. A Michigan Tech product, Pietila appeared in 38 games for the New Jersey Devils, the team that selected him in the 2011 Entry Draft.

Right now, Brian isn’t thinking about professional hockey, as he is concentrating on his time skating with the Huskies. Michigan Tech is 19-15-3 heading into this weekend’s WCHA first-round series at Northern Michigan.

It’s probably safe to say Brian’s parents and 10 siblings will be watching from afar — after all of the brothers’ other games, of course.