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Year of the Ram: Take it outside

Senior defenseman Mike Koenig has a goal and six points in 21 games with the Rams this season. (Photo by Cary Olson)

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Senior defenseman Mike Koenig has a goal and six points in 21 games with the Rams this season. (Photo by Cary Olson)

It’s difficult to say an undefeated team scoring more goals than they were at the beginning of the year is heading towards malaise, but that’s exactly what coach Scott Oliver hoped to prevent when he put together the schedule for his Roseau Rams this season.

This Saturday, the top-ranked Rams will travel to nearby Lake of the Woods to participate in the second annual Baudette Bay Classic – outside.

“Usually at this time of year you hit the doldrums,” Oliver said. “This was a neat way to have something to look forward to.”

Yes, the temperature in Northern Minnesota that day is expected to be just a tick or two under minus-10 Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) with a chance of snow, but Oliver isn’t worried about his troops.

“In this part of the country, everyone snowmobiles or goes ice fishing,” he noted. “So we have gear conducive to that type of cold.”

But what about the poor fourth-liners, third defense pairing or backup goaltender? Not to worry; local merchants have donated balaclavas and thin gloves for the boys to wear on the bench, while Polaris, the snowmobile giant and staple of the local Roseau economy, has given jackets to the coaching staff.

“It’s a pretty good deal,” Oliver said. “Plus everyone will see the Polaris logo when the cameras zoom in on the coaches.”

Ah, yes – the cameras. Once again the Rams will be broadcast across the state, this time as part of an all-day puck smorgasbord called “Hockey Day Minnesota,” to be shown on Fox Sportsnet Midwest. The Rams game will be shown at the end of the day on tape delay.

The festivities start with the hometown Lake of the Woods Bears taking on the Eveleth Golden Bears in the first half of the Baudette Bay Classic. Then the scene shifts to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, where St. Thomas Academy takes on Hill-Murray, followed by an NHL tilt between the Wild and the New York Islanders. An NCAA match between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Denver Pioneers comes next (ironically taking place in Denver, not Minnesota), followed by the showing of the Rams taking on a tough Blaine Bengals squad.

If the Rams want an advantage over the Bengals, maybe they can get it when the Blaine kids are in their houses – literally. As a nod to old traditions, the Bengals will be rooming with different Rams on Friday night at their homes in Roseau.

“It’s kind of a throwback game and this is a throwback tradition,” Oliver said of the billeting idea. “They’ll sleep over, then we’ll all have a pre-game meal Saturday morning and get on our buses – separately – and head to the game.”

As for preparing for the outdoor challenge, Oliver said he didn’t want to over think it.

“You’d like to practice outdoors beforehand,” he admitted, “but at this time of year I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Instead, the coach will use what he has to prep for the unpredictable outdoor conditions.

“Our rink is pretty cold to begin with,” Oliver noted. “And after a while there’s a lot of snow on the ice anyway.”

The Bengals will be a real challenge for the Rams, but if Blaine is smart, they’ll hit up this link to the Rams website and watch the YouTube video of defenseman Aaron Ness’s shorthanded goal against St. Cloud Tech Friday. The magic begins at the eight-second mark. Believe.

The Hockey News will be following the Roseau Rams high school hockey team every week, chronicling its journey on the road back to the state championship and providing an inside look at what its like to be a teenager on one of the most fabled varsity teams in America.

Click HERE to read previous Year of the Ram stories.

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