History in the making

ST. PETER – It had been a long time coming.

Marshall High School added boys’ hockey as a varsity sport for the 1997-98 season. Over the next 15 years, the Tigers had seen season after season end prematurely.

That all changed Wednesday night at Lund Arena on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College when Alex Buysse beat Kellyn Buss five-hole with 38.4 seconds remaining in overtime.

Buysse’s goal, off a centering pass from Corey Clark, broke a 2-2 tie with Hutchinson and sends the Tigers to their first-ever state boys’ hockey tournament.

“A lot of credit to Corey, he fed it out front perfectly and all I had to do was bury it,” Buysse said of his game-winning tally. “(The Hutchinson goalie) gave me a good five-hole look, so he made it real easy for me.”

The goal seven minutes, 22 seconds into the extra session came at the end of a long shift for both teams who had battled back and forth for nearly an hour of game time.

Clark scored a similar goal with 2:13 remaining in the third period to force overtime.

Marshall’s Andrew Bell drew a penalty with 3:00 to play in regulation, moments after Marshall had killed off its own similar penalty.

“We have so much faith in our penalty kill,” Marshall head coach Dave Coudert said. “We knew in this game we were shutting down their powerplay and we had all the faith that we could kill the penalty and gain momentum off of it.”

The Tigers did just that and Clark made a short-handed Hutchinson squad pay as he slapped home a rebound into a gaping net. Beau Mikel had the initial shot.

At the beginning of the season many thought that Marshall, the No. 4 seed in Section 3A, would not be in a situation to play for a chance at state. But the Tigers kept believing and strove to prove their naysayers wrong.

“We’ve been telling the kids all season that everyone’s been counting us out, ‘Marshall’s no longer a team to worry about,'” Coudert said. “We told the kids to put a chip on their shoulder and take an underdog role, and it paid off for us. The kids just had so much tenacity and just wanted to keep proving people wrong.”

When Clark tied the game at 2-2, fans and players alike had another chance to believe in the dream season.

“Pandemonium, that’s that tenacity on display from some of those seniors,” Coudert said of his team’s reaction to the game-tying goal. “They didn’t want to end that way. The kids just buckled down and went at it.”

Marshall scored the first goal of the game when Mikel and Clark reversed roles from the second score.

Mikel tapped a rebound past Buss 4:09 into the second period, after Clark threw a shot on goal from the half-boards.

“We knew their goalie was a little weak so we just wanted to keep throwing the pucks at the net,” Clark said of his team’s offensive strategy in the game.

Marshall outshot Hutchinson 38-34 for the game, abiding by the old Wayne Gretzky saying that “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

“We started saying that in the second intermission,” Coudert said. “When we played these guys earlier in the year five of our eight goals came off of rebounds. We just needed to get pucks to the net because anything can happen.

“Lunch pail, greasy, garbage goals win games in the playoffs and I’ll take three of those any day for a championship,” Coudert added.

Hutchinson responded with a pair of goals to take a 2-1 lead into the third period.

Logan Goosen netted a powerplay tally for the other Hutchinson 5:05 into the second period, while Tory Adams took advantage of a lucky break at the 12:27 mark to take the lead.

Marshall goaltender Mason Campion, who made 32 saves in the game and was outstanding during Marshall’s section tournament run, said the thought that his luck may have run out crossed his mind, but only for a second.

“I kind of thought about it, but then I was like ‘If I can stop 16 in the first period, I can stop the rest,'” Campion said. “You’ve got to have a short memory, I guess.”

The Tigers will find out their opponent for the opening round of the state tournament over the weekend. The puck drops at the state tournament on Wednesday at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.

The moment could not possibly get any sweeter for the 20 kids who get to represent the Tigers at their state tournament debut. Except maybe Clark.

When asked how long he would remind his older brother, who played three years for the Tigers in the early 2000s, that it was he who made it to state instead of the elder Clark, Corey’s response was a perfect example of what the state tournament means to a hockey player in Minnesota.

“Probably for the rest of my life I think,” he said.