Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
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The Brandon-Evansville boys broke out of a bit of a funk by picking up a nice win over Hillcrest Lutheran Academy last Friday night. The Comets came into the night winners of five straight games. They were 8-3 in the Little Eight Conference and had already beaten Brandon-Evansville by 20 points on January 15. The Chargers made sure that didn't happen again as they erased a halftime deficit to win 54-47. "They've been playing as well as anyone in the conference," head coach John Holsten said of the Comets. "We had lost a lot of close games.
The Alexandria girls' hockey team saw its season come to a heartbreaking end at Ridder Arena on Thursday afternoon as the Cardinals fell 3-2 in overtime against Mound-Westonka. The White Hawks' Jessica Nkhata proved to be the hero as she tapped in a goal in the midst of a crowd that surrounded the crease with 51 seconds left in the extra session. That completely erased what had been a 2-0 lead for Alexandria. "We went out and gave it our all," an emotional Shanee Herd said after the game. "We have no regrets. We gave it our all, and there's nothing else we can do.
Red Wing's junior forward Nicole Schammel proved to be too much to stop for the Alexandria girls' hockey team as the Cardinals fell 6-2 in the Class A quarterfinals on Wednesday morning. Schammel came into the day with 120 points and 69 goals on the season. She left with four more after securing the hat trick in the first period and adding another in the second. "What a phenomenal player," Alexandria head coach Andy Shriver said. "Nicole gets out there and she doesn't draw that attention to herself.
The Brandon-Evansville girls finished tied for third in the Little Eight Conference after beating Battle Lake 58-40 last Thursday night. The Battlers came into the night a game up on Brandon-Evansville but left with an even conference record of 7-5. The two teams split during the regular season after Battle Lake beat the Chargers 38-33 on February 1. Brandon-Evansville held the Battlers at an arm's length throughout the night on Thursday. The Chargers hit eight threes in the game and were led by four players in double figures. Carlie Steffenson had 13.
WHAT State Class A girls' hockey tournament Alexandria vs. Red Wing WHEN Today, Wednesday, February 20, 11 a.m. WHERE Xcel Energy Center The Alexandria girls' hockey team survived a scare from an underdog Fergus Falls team to secure its spot in the state tournament last Friday. Now the Cardinals will play the same role that the Otters played as they try to pull off an upset or two in St. Paul this week. Alexandria will get that opportunity right off the bat as they open up the Class A tournament against a 25-2 Red Wing team today, Wednesday.
The Fergus Falls girls' hockey team was 13 minutes away from pulling off a big upset in the section finals in Detroit Lakes on Friday night. Instead, the Otters will have to settle for giving Alexandria the biggest scare of its season. There is likely little comfort in that for a Fergus Falls team that played well but had to watch as the Cardinals celebrated the 6A title with a 2-1 overtime win that will send them back to the state tournament next week. The Otters used a first-period goal to carry a 1-0 lead into the third period.
The Alexandria Blizzard will host its final home game of the regular season tonight, Friday, after splitting two games this past weekend against Granite City and Twin City. Alexandria fell to 0-6 on the season against the defending champs as the Lumberjacks handed the Blizzard a 3-1 loss on Saturday night. Scott Murray was a wall in net for Granite City as he turned aside 50 shots to pick up the win for his team. The Blizzard didn't help itself by spending a lot of time in the penalty box.
Osakis' first-year head coach Matt Hoelscher admitted after a 48-45 win over Brandon-Evansville on Tuesday night that he had circled this game on the calendar before the season started. Not necessarily because he figured it was bigger than any of the other 24 games on the regular-season schedule. He circled it because of who was leading the team on the opposing sideline. John Holsten guided the Alexandria boys' basketball program for 15 seasons before taking over in Brandon-Evansville.
Maybe this was exactly the kind of win that the Osakis boys' basketball team needed to gain some confidence. The Silverstreaks have been able to stick with some teams in the first half this year before the opponent created some distance over the final 18 minutes. Osakis never let Brandon-Evansville do that on Tuesday night. Instead, it was the Silverstreaks who created a double-digit lead early in the second half after taking a tie game into the break.
It can be hard to imagine anything surviving some of the elements that Minnesota winters can throw at wildlife across the state. From 40-degree below zero wind chills to a 15-inch snow fall, winter can make things harder on species like whitetails, turkeys and pheasants. But we likely underestimate how biologically wired these animals are to survive the harshest conditions that Mother Nature can unleash. "They're a lot tougher, a lot stronger and a lot smarter than we give them credit for," Glenwood Area Assistant Wildlife Manager Rich Olsen said.