First taste at state

ST. PAUL For the first 17 minutes on Wednesday, the Marshall boys’ hockey team experienced shock and awe at the hands of the Breck Mustangs.

Playing in the first state tournament game in program history, the Tigers quickly learned that the state’s best, like No. 2 seed Breck, waste little time getting acclimated to the Xcel Energy Center. A trio of goals in the opening period by Breck, combined with an 18-3 advantage in shots for the Mustangs, set the tone for what ended up as a 6-1 defeat for Marshall.

Breck, located in Golden Valley, took the early lead when David Husband redirected a Lucas McCormick centering pass into the goal two minutes, one second into the game. Senior captain Thomas Lindstrom put the Mustangs up 2-0 a little over a minute later with a cross-body wrist shot from the slot, while Michael Orke snapped home a rebound for the third Mustang goal at the 11:17 mark of the period.

The Tigers looked flat-footed in the first period, as the moment and Breck’s size, speed and skill took their toll.

“Yeah, you’re going against the second-ranked team in the state, the first period we had to shake off some rust and realize that we could skate with them and that they put their skates on the same way that we do,” Marshall head coach Dave Coudert said.

Marshall, however, settled into its game between the first and second and played evenly with the Mustangs for the majority of the last two periods.

Trailing 3-0, Jeremiah Barker made history for the Tigers when he tipped in a shot by Andrew Bell to score the first state tournament goal in program history 3:13 into the middle period.

Barker’s goal was his first of the season and caught the junior by surprise.

“When I tipped it in I didn’t realize that it had gone in, I only saw a flash of it,” Barker said. “Honestly, I couldn’t believe it myself. I was like, ‘I just scored a goal at the Xcel Energy Center.’ It was just a great experience and I’m glad my parents were here to see that. I’m sure it was special for them, too.”

Coudert said Barker’s goal was a galvanizing moment for his team, which was out-shot 40-17 for the game but just 22-14 after the first period.

“We kept on saying, ‘Who’s going to be the first person to get a goal for Marshall in the state tournament,'” Coudert said. “Jeremiah went out there and got a sweet goal and it elevated us 100 percent. It was a great moment. We were having fun, the boys were having fun. That’s when we are at our best, when we’re having fun. We knew someone was going to be a hero for us, and to have it be Jeremiah, someone who doesn’t see a whole lot of ice time on a regular basis.”

Breck answered back with the game’s final three goals. Two came against Marshall junior goaltender Mason Campion, who stopped 34 of the 39 shots he face, while the sixth and final Mustang goal came against senior Adam Cavazos.

The 6-1 final was far closer than many were anticipating given the records and histories of the two teams involved. Breck improved to 25-3-1 on the season with the win and is making its 10th overall and fifth-consecutive appearance at the state tournament. Marshall was debuting in St. Paul, in just its 15th year of varsity hockey, and drops to 14-11-1 overall.

For Campion, and most of the Tigers, the result Wednesday was less important than the experience of playing in the 69th annual boys’ state hockey tournament.

“It’s a once in a lifetime thing,” he said. “I didn’t really expect us to go here this year, but you’ve got to work hard every game and see what happens. It’s great that Marshall got to go for the first time ever and even though we just lost, I don’t care. It was fun to be out there. It’s something you dream about when you start playing hockey.

“I think we did better than expected,” Campion added. “I don’t think they expected us to come out here and play that close for that long.”

Considering the history of Section 3A teams at the state tournament recently, Campion may not be far from the truth. Representatives from the section are 0-5 in quarterfinal games since 2009 and have just one win at the state tournament in that time.

The resiliency of the Tigers, though, won praise from Breck head coach Les Larson, who has two state championships as the bench boss for the Mustangs (2009, 2010).

“My hat’s off to Marshall,” Larson said. “This is our fifth year here (in a row) and in the past that section has been weak, weaker than the others. It wasn’t today. I feel like those guys were a very, very competitive team. They came out and they played really hard and when you consider that it’s their first time here, so maybe the first period they were getting their feet wet. They played a tough game. Those kids played tough.”

With their first game and first goal at the state tournament under their belts, the Tigers will look to snare the program’s first state tournament win when Marshall takes on the Duluth-Marshall Hilltoppers at 10 a.m. today at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.