Snocross, Prep Puck Off to Hot Start

UMD Teams Offer Post-Holiday Feast

John Gilbert

Riding a snowmobile is a rare combination of being exciting, often exhilarating, and a uniquely high-tech way to have fun. Taken to extremes, the snow machine you buy from a dealer is close to being high-performance enough to race.

The most sophisticated snowmobile racing is conducted in the AMSOIL Snocross Nationals, and the season-opening event is annually held at Spirit Mountain on Thanksgiving weekend. It happened again this year, and was even more spectacular than usual.

Usually, Tucker Hibbert of Pelican Rapids rides his Arctic Cat to victory in the Pro Open category, for the top professional racers. He won Saturday’s feature, indicating it might be more of the same this year. But Tim Tremblay won the Dominator sprint race Friday night on his Ski-Doo, and Polaris rider Kody Kamm won Sunday’s final finale.

Kamm had to hold off the charging Hibbert Sunday, but the highlight of the weekend was that all three top manufacturers – Arctic Cat, Polaris and Ski-Doo – shared the top prize money with different winning performances each day. Polaris, of course, is made in Roseau, while Arctic Cat is built in Thief River Falls.

Another key element of the race weekend was to gain further appreciation for the amateur classes – Pro Am Women, Pro Lite, Sport Lite, Junior, and the age categories for boys and girls. All of them competed on the well-groomed track atop Spirit Mountain.

The Saturday half of the event will be televised by CBS-Sports on December 12 at 9 a.m., and the 14th at 10 p.m., and the Sunday final day on December 19 at 9 a.m., and again on the 21st at 10 p.m.

Randolph: No More Scrimmages

Duluth East kicked off another big season last Saturday by beating Wayzata 4-1 at Heritage Arena. But something was missing.

Missing from East’s lineup were a few players, most notably forward Luke Dow and defenseman Alex Spencer, both seniors. A string of injuries knocked out several players during some preseason scrimmages, which have long been coach Mike Randolph’s maneuver to get the Greyhounds ready for what is annually the toughest schedule in the state.

“Next year, I’m not scrimmaging,” Randolph said after the Wayzata game. “We’re missing seven players, although some of them are back now. But it’s getting ridiculous. I’ve got control of my players.”

Randolph wouldn’t say which teams got carried away and led to enough injuries that he had to cancel a scrimmage last week. The season is hectic enough, as East played at Cambridge Tuesday, and will play at Apple Valley Thursday, then come home to Heritage to face Andover at 1 p.m. Saturday.

This is looking like a strong season for East, and for Grand Rapids, Hermantown, and maybe Cloquet-Esko-Carlton before it’s over. In East’s case, watching the Wayzata game was impressive.

Brendan Baker scored two goals in a 3-goal second period, while Ian Mageau and Ryan Peterson got the others, and goaltender Kirk Meierhoff was solid. Here’s the bottom line: Baker was solid, and a little lucky, by getting his second goal off the stick of a defenseman, but he was not listed on the East roster. He is a ninth-grader, listed on the adjacent junior varsity. But getting a chance to play – possibly because of the injuries – Baker is going to make it difficult for Randolph to send him back to JV.
Mageau is a sophomore, Meierhoff a junior, and Peterson a senior, but the lineup is indicative of East’s talent and depth.

Hermantown, by the way, remains in Class A while arch-rival Marshall moves up to Class AA. But the class system was proven imperfect Friday, when the Hawks beat Wayzata from Class AA 5-3 with Ryan Sandelin scoring the last two goals after Wayzata had scored twice in the third period for a 3-3 tie.