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Raiders make dream come true

Danny Tesch's hat trick clinches state title

By Michael Hohberger

mhohberger@postbulletin.com

STILLWATER

The Rochester Raiders won the adapted floor hockey state tournament Saturday with a 4-3 win over the Robbinsdale/ Hopkins/Mound-Westonka Robins at the Stillwater Area High School gymnasium. It is the first adapted floor hockey state title for Rochester, and for senior forward Danny Tesch, this win has been three years in the making. The third-year player said a championship was his ultimate goal.

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"Since last summer, I've been dreaming about a state title," Tesch said. "I put in a lot of extra work."

That work has paid dividends. It was Tesch who scored the winning goal against the two-time defending state champion Robins. With just over eight minutes to play on Saturday, Tesch carried the puck into the offensive zone. From just above the left face-off circle, he sent a laser into the net breaking the 3-3 tie.

"I saw the goalie," he said. "Then I saw a little section of the net that was open and I just fired it."

It was one of three goals in the game for Tesch, and one of nine in the tournament. Tesch scored one goal in the Raiders' 5-2 semifinal win over Dakota United on Saturday morning, and five goals in a 6-3 quarterfinal victory over South Suburban on Friday evening.

"Danny is one of those players that only comes along every so often," said Raiders head coach Gene Campbell. "He's an Eric Strobel-type. All you have to do is open the gate and let him play. He's the best player in the state, bar none."

Freshman forward Billy Johns gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead in the championship game when he put in the rebound of a Tesch shot at 10:44 of the first period. At 12:42 of the second period, Tesch made it 2-1 Raiders with a wicked shot from his own blue line. Tim Wittenberger, an eighth-grader, had an assist on the goal. The prettiest goal of the game came right before the second period expired. Johns circled behind the Robins' goal to the right, then slid the puck across the crease to a wide-open Tesch on the other side. That put the Raiders up 3-2 going into the final period.

Tesch said he works well with his linemate, Johns.

"We're both from Lake City so we have a little connection there," Tesch said.

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The Robins tied the game with 10 minutes to play, but Tesch put the Raiders in front for good with his third goal two minutes later. He pumped his fist a couple times as the noisy cadre of Raider fans roared its approval. Jimmy Kuehn picked up an assist on the play.

Rochester's defense made the lead stand up. Freshman goaltender Ryan Stack and senior defenseman Eric Rud were all but impenetrable. Rud blocked numerous shots and cleared away rebounds; Stack made 16 saves, none bigger than the point-blank shot he stopped with less than a minute to play and the Robins furiously trying to tie the game.

"It feels great," Stack said. "I was watching the state ice hockey tournament and looking at their goalies. That was really cool."

When the game ended the team mobbed Campbell, their first-year head coach. Campbell, the longtime hockey coach at Rochester Lourdes, took over the Raiders from Mark Morrey this season. His assistants were Brian Tesch and Lance Dahl.

"The kids kept getting smarter all the time, and our shifts were getting better all the time," said Campbell, who received about a year's worth of hugs in the 15 minutes following the game. Raiders players were also in high demand for photographs. Jimmy Kuehn, Paul Kuehn and Andy Sorensen couldn't stop smiling, even when they weren't being photographed.

Tesch said the Raiders have come a long way during the season.

"Back in November, we weren't looking too good," he said. "At our holiday tournament we were looking better, then we just continued to improve throughout the season. It sure was nice to win this."

NOTES: Tesch and Rud were named to the US Bank All-Tournament Team... Johns scored two goals, and Wittenberger and Phil DuBois one each in the Raiders semifinal win... Former governor Jesse Ventura was in attendance Saturday.

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