The Rams will have to come together as a team to remain undefeated and capture their second straight state title. (Photo by Kim Drown)
Patrick Sandland can see the end coming. It could be this weekend, it could be next month, but it’s coming.
“I just hope it’s in the state championship,” said the senior defenseman.
While some members of the Roseau Rams are destined for the University of Minnesota, St. Cloud State or the United States League, many others will be pursuing careers outside the sport and this year’s effort to repeat as state champions represents a culmination of all those years growing up in a small town with unlimited ice time, where hockey is what you do when you’re not eating, sleeping or studying.
“Sometimes I think about it in practice,” Sandland revealed. “The season is almost over and I won’t be playing much hockey after that. Maybe some intramurals in college, but that’s all. It’s pretty crazy.”
Sandland wants to study mechanical engineering. He plans on attending Alexandria Tech next year and North Dakota State University after that. In the summer, he works as an aerial applicator, mixing chemicals for farming that are dropped by a crop duster.
“My father manages the airport and his friend does some farming nearby,” Sandland said. “So I work for him.”
Sandland counts a weekend road trip to St. Cloud and Brainerd as his season highlight to date, as it gave him a chance to hang out with all his teammates at a hotel – a ritual every hockey player has enjoyed at one time or another.
If Sandland and company want another road trip to remember – the state championship at the Xcel Center in St. Paul – they’ll have to first get through the sectional championship bracket, the second round of which occurs this weekend.
The No. 1-ranked Rams kicked off the sectionals in relatively easy style, demolishing the River Lakes Stars 13-0, with senior defenseman Tyler Landman garnering a hat trick. Roseau scored three times in the opening minutes to effectively end the game there.
Not that the Rams can take the sectionals lightly: One loss and they don’t even get a crack at the state championship. In effect, Roseau will now either end their season undefeated, or empty-handed.
For coach Scott Oliver, the game plan is simple.
“We really try to tighten up our systems play,” he said. “We want to win every period, like playing three mini-games. To win sectionals, we’ll have to win nine periods. Then we’ll take it even further and try to win every shift.”
The River Lakes blowout allowed Oliver to play every skater on the team and he even considered giving star goaltender Mike Lee – who has 11 shutouts in 24 games and counting this year – a rest in the latter stages of the game, but decided against it.
“Everything that happens in the playoffs needs to be positive,” Oliver said. “Mike is our go-to guy and you don’t want to ruin his routine.”
The next challenge for the Rams is a date in the sectionals with the Buffalo Bison this Saturday. The winner goes on to play either Moorhead or Brainerd in the final.
“Whoever comes out of our section will have a very good chance to win state,” Oliver said. “Obviously I’m partial to Northern Minnesota, but I like the way we play hockey up here.”
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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