November 13, 2017 09:08 PM
Last season could not have ended more magically for Grand Rapids
The Thunderhawks defeated Moorhead 6-3 in the Class 2A state championship game, earning the school's first state title since 1980.
Monday, though, the whole process started again fresh.
It marked the first day of practice for the 2017-18 season for Grand Rapids and teams throughout Minnesota.
"Everybody is pretty pumped up," said Chris Marinucci, a former assistant and first-year head coach, whose team returns a number of key pieces from a year ago. Though that won't include senior forward Blake McLaughlin, a University of Minnesota recruit who tweeted Monday he would not be returning to Grand Rapids for his senior season -- a fact Marinucci confirmed.
Thank you Grand Rapids pic.twitter.com/55XajX5KXY— Blake McLaughlin (@blakemclaughli5) November 13, 2017
"People around town are talking about practice getting started. The town is excited. Our kids are excited. And so am I," Marinucci said.
Grand Rapids opens the season at archrival and neighbor Greenway on Nov. 28.
"It's a hostile environment for us there," Marinucci said. "You can never be sure how it's going to go.
"The hard thing is you only have two weeks to get ready for that first game. And one of those weeks is a holiday week. So there is a lot of stuff you have to cover in a short amount of time."
Meanwhile, in Class A, last season's state runner-up is back, though in a slightly different form.
Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake mounted a successful run to the Class A title game before falling to Hermantown.
Head coach Eric Nelson said the squad returns seven or eight players from the state tournament roster. But Annandale is no longer part of the cooperative because the combined enrollment threatened to push the program into Class 2A.
Nelson said there were just two Annandale players in the high school program last season. And the only player on the state tournament roster is playing junior hockey this season anyway.
"So that dynamic would have been different no matter what," he said.
But Nelson said last season's success has this year's group ready to get started again.
"Everybody is pretty upbeat," said Nelson, whose team opens play at fellow co-op Prairie Centre on Nov. 25. "They know we can't focus solely on getting back to the state tournament. But they want to make their own mark on the program."
Updated: November 13, 2017 09:08 PM
Created: November 13, 2017 08:15 PM
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