About this time last year, Roseau Rams right winger Jason Fabian was experiencing brutal, crushing pain on two different levels.
The first level was emotional: Despite the fact Roseau had won the sectional championship, Fabian would not be playing in the state tournament.
The reason for that comes from the second level of pain: In that sectional final, Fabian skated into the Moorhead zone to cut off a breakout, caught a rut in the ice and went skates-first into the boards.
“I broke my fibula in half,” he recalled. “Tore some ligaments, too.”
With his leg incapacitated, Fabian had the bittersweet experience of watching the Rams take the state title without him.
“I lost a lot of sleep over that,” he said. “That wasn’t fun at all.”
As if that wasn’t enough, fate decided to continue the dog-pile: When the pins finally came out of Fabian’s leg in July, he was felled by a staph infection, which kept him sidelined until August.
This year, Fabian has a second chance to taste the glory of a state title and be on the ice when it happens.
“I’m super-excited,” he said of this weekend’s state tourney.
As a senior, this will be Fabian’s last kick at the can and likely his last shot at hockey glory; the 6-foot-3 star athlete was all-conference in football and was also named the conference’s most valuable receiver.
At a school of only 400-plus kids, many of the Rams’ hockey stars also hit the gridiron – along with Fabian, goalie Mike Lee, fellow St. Cloud State commit Nick Oliver and captain Dustin Moser were all-conference picks as well.
But Fabian is seriously entertaining offers for his football and track and field exploits from post-secondary schools. His favored destination is North Dakota State, a I-AA program that knocked off the Big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers last season.
But back to the task at hand.
Roseau’s march to a second straight state title begins tonight against Blaine, whom the Rams defeated 1-0 in a blustery outdoor game late in the season. As the No. 1 seed in the tourney, the Rams were done no favors in drawing the Bengals, according to coach Scott Oliver.
“This year’s field is tougher than last year,” he said of the eight-team bracket. “The team we’re playing could have been the fourth seed, maybe even the third.”
The Bengals will naturally bring more of an up-tempo pace to the game than they were able to on the frozen pond at Baudette Bay and Oliver knows it.
“I don’t think you saw either team at its best that day,” he noted.
The Bengals are lead by the top line of center Ryan Johnson with wingers Steffen Hansen and Mike Schaber and have been getting great goaltending of late from Danny Harper.
For the Rams to be successful, Oliver knows his team must stick to its system, just as they did in tearing apart the field in the sectionals.
“For us, it’s the first period of the first game,” the coach mused.
And Fabian? He scored the only goal of the outdoor match against Blaine, which balanced out one of the major drawbacks of the contest.
“It was just awfully cold,” he said. “People were getting frostbite on their toes.”
Fabian and the Rams won’t have to worry about the wind-chill tonight, but with throngs of screaming fans packing the Xcel Energy Center, they will have to prepare for some major heat.
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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