Boys hockey: Polars impeach Governors

North 4 - Johnson 1

The North High Polars traveled to Phalen Arena Tuesday, Dec.10, for a hard-skating, good end-to-end contest with the Johnson Governors and emerged on top, 4-1.

“It was a bit sloppy,” said North veteran mentor Jerry Diebel at game’s end. “But Johnson is that kind of club. They make you look ‘sloppy’ out there on the ice. But both teams played hard and gave a good effort.

“For the most part it was penalty free. I thought the checking-from-behind call was pretty much a marginal call. It was a good game and turned out all right for us.”

Diebel referred to a third-period call to the right of the North net in which a Johnson player was assessed a five-minute penalty for checking from behind. The Polars score a goal on that penalty.

Johnson head coach Steve “Moose” Younghans assessed the game tersely, “Our guys have to get better. We have to expect a better performance out of our front line.

“We are really, really young, and the other guys need the leadership. But we’ll improve. We’ll get better and be all right,” Younghans said.

Johnson never gave up

The Polars never trailed, but they were never out of the woods as Johnson kept pressing throughout the contest right to the very end when an empty-net tally shattered any chance of pulling off a Herculean comeback.

The opening tally came early in the second period after some first-period heroics.

North was on a power play when suddenly Johnson junior winger Jesse Solheid broke around a defender and went in alone on goal. He fired from pointblank range, and North net keeper Steve Orme came up big with a pad save.

Later, with a Johnson player in the penalty box, North whiz Justin Oliver had a breakaway on goal. Johnson goalie Samuel Moberg made a great glove save at the left post. 

After a scoreless first period, some North pressure paid off early in the second.

Adam Hildebrandt threw the puck to the corner to the right of the Johnson goal. Justin Oliver dug it free and fed it to Jack Murnane, who tipped it home at 1:39.

Just under two minutes later, Travis Zappa passed to Nate Rubbelke, who sent it back to the high slot. There Justin Oliver lined up, fired through a maze and saw his sizzler glance off the glove and into the net at 3:35 for what turned out to be the game-winner.

The Governors, down 2-0, didn’t quit and their efforts paid off when Solheid sent a pass behind the North net where Justin Howell quickly fed it to the left doorstep. Benny Lyons was on hand to find a mouse hole to push the puck into the North net at 6:19.

North carried its 2-1 lead into the third period when the questionable five-minute Johnson penalty changed the big number on the scoreboard.

A good feed from Hildebrandt found the blade of Oliver. The speedster cut through the circle to the left and fired a laser that caught the far right corner midway up on the net at 5:04 of the third stanza.

Late in the third, the Governors pulled their goalie in favor of a sixth attacker. A clearing pass was taken by Hildebrandt - he assisted on three-of-four North goals. He feed Murnane, who sent an ice melter into the open net just nine -seconds before the horn to clinch the contest for North.

Murnane’s second goal of the game put the 4-1 final up on the board.

Up next

The Polars will take on Simley at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, at the Veteran’s Memorial Arena in Inver Grove Heights. They return to Polar Arena Saturday, Dec. 21, to face Hill-Murray in a 7:30 p.m. drop of the puck.

The Johnson Governors will host Chisago Lakes at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, at Phalen Arena. They then head to Aldrich Arena to take on South St. Paul in a 3 p.m. game Saturday, Dec. 21, that will be a kickoff of the team’s celebration of 100 years as an East Side hockey power.

Following the game, the Governors’ “Pride of the East Side 100 Year Celebration” will continue with festivities at Jimmy’s Food & Drink banquet hall on County Road E in Vadnais Heights.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at

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