Randolph to coach Northern Lakes hockey

John Gilbert

Duluth East junior Curran Conrad made a dive for home plate with the winning run in the last of the seventh ... 

... but Blaine catcher Myles Clark tagged Conrad out and the teams went 11 innings before Conrad singled home the winning run. (Photos by John Gilbert.)

While countless Minnesotans have spent recent nights gazing at the unique show of Northern Lights in the springtime sky, Miike Randolph instead has instead been looking at Northern Lakes High School to continue his record-setting hockey coaching career.

Northern Lakes is a young and thriving consolidated Class A high school hockey conglomerate based in the Pequot Lakes/Chain of Lakes area of Central Minnesota, and after finding surprising early success in recent years, Northern Lakes decided to upgrade its program, when it had a coaching vacancy.

Northern Lakes listed its  opening for  — just as Randolph was perusing hockey coaching job vacancies all around the state. In an amazingly swift and efficient sequence, Randolph applied for the job last week and when the school called him at his Duluth home on Monday and offered him the position, he agreed to accept it.

“I have to say, it’s the most attractive high school hockey coaching job in the state,” said Randolph, shortly after agreeing to Northern State’s offer on Monday. “Northern Lakes made it to its first state tournament a couple years ago, and they lost 6-1 to Alexandria in the Section 6 (Class A) final in this past tournament. And their Bantam A team finished third in the state tournament, so they have a lot of players coming up.”

Randolph just two weeks ago was informed that St. Thomas Academy was not going to offer him a new contract, after what was considered a very successful three years, two as head hockey coach. After coaching 32 years at Duluth East, Randolph said he definitely wanted to continue coaching, so he started looking elsewhere for hockey coaching openings.  

His top assistant, Tom Klein, will join Randolph at Northern  Lakes. “TK is going with me,” said Randolph. “So we’re already getting all my plans in order for our summer youth camps, and we’re going to work.”

Randolph remains at 707 career coaching victories — tied with retired Rochester Mayo coach Lorne Grosso for the Minnesota state record. A St. Thomas loss to Cretin-Derham Hall in the Section 2, Class AA final prevented him from securing the record this past season. He was cut adrift and replaced by Mark Strobel in a bit of internal turmoil at St.Thomas Academy, but when told he would not be rehired, Randolph stressed that he never considered retiring.

Most of his victories were at Duluth East, where his teams made 18 trips to the state tournament and won two championships. Northern Lakes, which is a combination of small Class A schools in the rapidly growing Pequot Lakes area, plays its home games at the arena at Breezy Point, which is a popular resort just north of Brainerd.

Baseball marathon:   Nearing the end of the regular high school baseball season, some exceptional games were logged last week. Among them were a couple of dates that involved some energetic scheduling. Roseau came to Duluth from the Borderland to face Marshall and Esko in a split doubleheader on Friday.

A day later, Duluth East took on a pair of large Twin Cities programs with a split doubleheader at Wade Stadium against Blaine and Eden Prairie. Carter Boos pitched Marshall to an 8-1 victory Saturday at Proctor with a 6-inning 1-hitter, a day after starring at shortstop against Roseau at Wade, when he doubled in the first Marshall run, then scored the second himself on Charlie Hayden’s hit for a 2-0 victory by the Hilltoppers. Tanner Carlson pitched a 3-hitter in the Friday game, shutting out Roseau with 7 strikeouts and no walks, although Marshall also only had three hits.

Roseau also was blanked against Esko, 10-0, making it a couple of long bus trips without scoring a single run. But the highlight of the weekend was at Wade Stadium, where Blaine and Duluth East squared off. East scored in the first, but Blaine went up 2-1 in the top of the third and made it 3-1 in the fourth, before East cut it to 3-2 in the fifth. In the last of the seventh, East got two baserunners on in quest of the tying run. Dylan Cole, who had come on in relief for the Greyhounds, hammered a double to left-center, driving in the tying run, and the second base-runner, sprinting around third, tried for the game-winning run. At full speed, he arrived an instant after the throw, and as Blaine junior catcher Myles Clark made a big-league play to trap the throw, Conrad made a desperate dive for the plate. Clark got the tag on him and he was called out, leaving the teams 3-3. Curran Conrad came up with a chance to win the game, but was called out on strikes to end the inning.

The teams continued to battle and threaten through the scoreless eighth inning, as well as the ninth, and 10th innings. Both sides had a runner picked off first in the extra innings, and both sides had clutch pitching and defense carrying them. In the last of the 11th, Joey Nick singled to left, and Dylan Cole followed with a single, making him 4-for-6 for the day, and with nobody out East tried a suicide squeeze, but it went foul, leading to a strikeout. Another strikeout.

That brought up Curran Conrad, who had struck out to end the seventh. This time, Conrad singled to left, bringing home the winning run for a 4-3 East victory. Cole, after six innings of scoreless relief and his 4-6 batting, was the hero until he willingly shared the honor with Conrad. The Greyhounds later Saturday lost 6-3 to Eden Prairie to complete the long day of baseball.

Carter Boos singled home Marshall's first run in the third inning, then scored himself in a 2-0 victory over Roseau at Wade Stadium.