Minnesota high school hockey wild experience

During my nearly two years here in Fort Frances, I’ve got to experience a lot of neat things, ranging from covering bass tournaments to stock car racing.
But for whatever reason, I never had been able to see a Minnesota high school hockey contest, which is something I’d heard an awful lot about even before I made my way to Borderland.
So, thanks largely to the recent cancellations of extra-curricular events involving the Fort High Muskies, I finally had a chance to head over to Bronco Arena on Friday night to watch the International Falls Broncos take on the Virginia Blue Devils.
Having covered high school hockey both here in Fort Frances and in my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, I thought I had an idea of what to expect once I walked into the building. But I truly wasn’t ready for a few things that I caught my eye.
I already knew from the get-go how important high school hockey is in Minnesota, especially with the sold-out crowds at the Xcel Energy Center each year for the state championships and the number of top players who make their way into the NCAA ranks every season.
But I was expecting to see a full-fledged school band and cheerleaders on skates during the pre-game festivities.
Granted, I already had seen the Falls’ cheerleaders at the Ice For Kids Arena here the past two seasons when the Broncos would take on the Muskies. But it’s crazy to me that there is more pomp and circumstance prior to the games at Bronco Arena than I often have seen at college hockey affairs.
For the first half of the game, I decided to venture over into the Blue Devils’ student section, which was something else that I had found different from going to Muskie games over the last couple of years.
With the majority of visiting NorWOSSA crowds being parents of the players, it was nice to see actual spirit from the students of the opposing school coming to a regular-season game, which also is something that’s fleeting back home in the Soo.
The game itself started off rather interestingly, with the Broncos holding a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes, despite the fact both teams controlled the play for even portions of the first two periods.
But once the third period got underway, the Blue Devils came out like a house on fire with three unanswered goals in a 65-second span to take a 4-3 lead to silence the home crowd.
Following another goal by Virginia halfway through the frame, the Broncos suddenly came to life with a pair of goals in a little over a minute to tie the game up at five before overtime.
With the crowd already whipped into a frenzy, the Broncos had a chance to win the game on a penalty shot in the final minute overtime, but were unsuccessful in their attempt.
While a tie often is not the outcome that many players and fans desire, it probably was the best result for a game that was one of the craziest that I’ve ever seen.
It’s safe to say that my first impression of the world of Minnesota high school hockey is one that I’ll never forget, as I already can tell that the competitiveness and the excitement level is off the charts.
If you ever get the chance to go to a game a Bronco Arena, or a high school game, in general, be sure you don’t pass it up.