Buffalo divers heading back to state

Prep Bowl Champs

Bison look to rebound from rare ‘off’ season

Bison turn to depth to cover for key losses

BSU recruits dominant in opening two games

Former Buffalo great honored

BHS to perform hit musical West Side Story

Area teachers recognized at LEEA banquet

Journal-Press Internet Sports & School - November 19, 2015
Rob LaPlante

Journal-Press Sports Editor Rob LaPlante may be reached
by phone at 763-682-1221 or click here to email him

Buffalo divers heading back to state

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

It probably wasn’t too big of a shock by many to see Buffalo senior Rachel Bertram and sophomore Alex Zeiss qualify for the Class AA state swim/dive tournament.

Both divers qualified for their second straight state meet following a record-breaking day where they finished 1-2 in the final standings of the Section 8AA finals Saturday, Nov. 14 at VandenBerge Middle School in Elk River.

Bertram broke the pool and section record with a first-place score of 490.20 in the one-meter, 11-dive event. It was also an 11-dive personal record for Bertram, who earlier that week signed a National Letter of Intent to dive next season at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

It was the third pool record and fifth time Bertram has broken the Bison school record this season – three times in the six-dive event, and twice in 11-dives. Finishing second was Zeiss, who set an 11-dive personal record of 422.40.

With plenty of smiles to go around, some of the largest grins came for Bison eighth-grade teammate Olivia Yost, who advanced to the final-16 divers with a 16th-place finish and PR score of 311.05.

“Olivia is a champ,” Zeiss said. “I am so proud of her. She works so hard and she kicked butt. She has come so far and she will be so good. People need to look out for her.”

Yost, and junior Emily VanTassel have shown major improvements as first-year varsity divers. VanTassel just missed making the semifinal cut with a 21st place preliminary score of 129.90.

 “It was good to see my diving teammates do so well at the section meet,” said Bertram, who will be looking to improve off last year’s Class AA state runner-up finish.

Bertram went into Wednesday’s Class AA state diving preliminary round as the highest returning state qualifier. Her score of 423.00 was second to Stillwater’s Liz Click’s 463.25. Ari Brace of Hopkins finished third at 420.15. Both Click and Brace are now diving at the Division-I collegiate level.

On paper, Bertram would figure to be the favorite to win this year’s state diving meet. But going in, she’s set her own realistic goals.

“I just want to compete the best that I can,” she said. “The scoring is always different at the state meet, so I’m not worried about my score. I just want to do my best.”

 Zeiss is also hoping to improve on last year’s state showing. She finished among the top-16 divers with a 15th place score of 342.90.

Bison head coach Rachel Busch feels both divers have a chance this season to place even higher than a year ago.

“Rachel and Alex have strong opportunities to finish higher than they did last year,” Busch said. “Both girls have been focused during the season and soak up diving coach, Shannon Barclay’s advice. They have also put in numerous hours during the off-season to fine-tune their technique and learn more challenging dives.”

Zeiss said the ability to nail a few dives with higher degree of difficulty has been the key to her success.

“I have learned new dives and I have worked really hard this season, so I’m hoping to place above top-15 at state,” Zeiss said.

While she’s served as a mentor to Yost this season, Zeiss credits Bertram for giving her the same kind of leadership.

“I love Rachel. We both help each other and push each other and it will be so different without her next year. She’s like my older sister, but I know she will do great at Ball State,” Zeiss said.



The Bison just missed sending their first swimmer to state since senior captain Mika Bordak last did it her freshman year.

Bordak’s third-place time of 1:01.28 in the 100 butterfly was one place shy of the required top two to advance. Battling leg injuries, a healthy Bordak likely would have advanced in both the butterfly and 50 freestyle, where she finished sixth in 25.30.

“Mika was all smiles after finishing third in the 100 fly,” Busch said. “In preliminaries, she dropped 2.45 seconds from her lifetime best, which is outstanding, and moved up in seed from fifth to third. During finals she dropped another 0.04 seconds, to finish third. Mika raced smart and gave it her all.”

Buffalo advanced three relays, three divers, and five swimmers from the Section 8AA preliminary round.

A pair of freshmen finished top 16 in the 500 freestyle. Finishing 12th in 5:51.65 was Kaitlyn Schendel. Teammate Tianna Kosek was 16th in 5:59.58. Kosek nearly qualified for state in the sprints with a fifth-place time of 55.29 in the 100 freestyle. The finish earned her a trip to the top-eight medalist podium.

Eighth-grader Sydney Polzin finished 15th overall in 1:07.22 in the 100 backstroke. Senior captain Hayley Schendel was 11th in the 200 freestyle in 2:09.78.

Both Schendels, Bordak, Kosek, Polzin, sophomore Megan Murphy, and seventh-grader Kassy Shroyer teamed up in three different relay combinations to finish among the top eight in all three relay events.

The Schendel sisters, along with Kosek and Bordak also earned a trip to the medalist podium with a fifth-place time of 3:50.21 in the 400 freestyle relay. It was the third medal Bordak brought home over the weekend.

Despite the success, Buffalo’s team score of 168.5 landed them seventh out of eight section teams. Defending section champion St. Michael-Albertville defended their crown with a first-place score of 403.

Freshman Emma Lezer was one of three STMA swimmers to qualify for state, individually. Lezer was first in the 200 individual medley (2:07.29) and first in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.17). Sophomore Jordyn Schnell was second in the 50 freestyle in 24.72 and senior Carly Roberts was second in the 100 backstroke in 1:00.83.

The Knights also qualified for state their 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams. 

While the Knights remain one of Buffalo’s top rivals, Busch has nothing but praise when it comes to their conference rival.

“The STMA swimmers, divers, and coaches always compete with class,” she said. “They work hard in and out of season. They are a team filled with dedication to swimming fast and diving well. It is always fun to compete with them.”

State diving kicked off with the Class A girls competing at noon and Class AA starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis. State swim preliminaries start at the same time for both classes on Thursday, Nov. 19. All finals will conclude Friday, Nov. 20 with the same times for both classes.


Section 8AA Championships

(Saturday, Nov. 14 at Elk River)

* = State qualifiers

(Area scores only for finals and consolation)

Team scores: *1. St. Michael-Albertville 403, 2. Maple Grove 346.5, 3. Brainerd 336, 4. Rogers 270, 5. Moorhead 246.5, 6. St Cloud Tech 189.5, 7. Buffalo 168.5, 8. Elk River 143.

200 Medley Relay: *1. St. Michael-Albertville (Carly Roberts, Emma Lezer, Kristen Pieper, Jordyn Schnell) 1:48.41; *2. Rogers (Amber Secrist, Alaina Sylvester, Anya Larson, Beth Kelzer) 1:50.24;  7. Buffalo (Sydney Polzin, Megan Murphy, Kassy Shroyer, Kaitlyn Schendel) 2:01.82.

200 Freestyle: *1. Rose Gallagher (Maple Grove) 1:57.64; *2. Kenya Arends (Moorhead) 1:57.91; 5. Carly Roberts (STMA) 2:01.09; 7. Ashley Storm (STMA) 2:01.73; 11. Hayley Schendel (Buffalo) 2:09.78.

200 Individual Medley: *1. Emma Lezer (STMA) 2:07.29; *2. Katelin Winter (Moorhead) 2:09.56; 5. Kelsey Kocon (STMA) 2:18.60; 9. Jenna Kocon (STMA) 2:21.25; 13. Ashton Hobza (STMA) 2:25.04.

50 Freestyle: *1. Beth Kelzer (Rogers) 24.46; *2. Jordyn Schnell (STMA) 24.72; 4. Maddie Gallagher (STMA) 25.03; 6. Mika Bordak (Buffalo) 25.30.

1-Meter Dive: *1. Rachel Bertram (Buffalo) 490.20; *2. Alex Zeiss (Buffalo) 422.40; *3. Meredith Matchinsky (St. Cloud Tech) 393.05; *4. Tabby Roman (Moorhead) 377.85; 9. Olivia Lock (STMA) 353.00; 10. Therese Chambers (STMA) 344.65; 13. Isabella Baldwin (STMA) 321.65; 16. Olivia Yost (Buffalo) 311.05.

100 Butterfly: *1. Katie Streiff (Brainerd) 58.11; *2. Katelin Winter (Moorhead) 58.96; 3. Mika Bordak (Buffalo) 1:01.28; 4. Jenna Kocon (STMA) 1:02.66; 16. Madison Gondreau (STMA) 1:06.92.

100 Freestyle: *1. Beth Kelzer (Rogers) 53.57; *2. Kenya Arends (Moorhead) 54.13; 3. Maddie Gallagher (STMA) 54.69; 4. Ashley Storm (STMA) 55.18; 5. Tianna Kosek (Buffalo) 55.29; 11. Julia Pieper (STMA) 57.05.

500 Freestyle: *1. Rose Gallagher (Maple Grove) 5:16.83; *2. Sammy Soller (Maple Grove) 5:20.64; 4. Jordyn Schnell (STMA) 5:28.69; 9. Ashton Hobza (STMA) 5:43.00; 12. Kaitlyn Schendel (Buffalo) 5:51.65; 16. Tianna Kosek (Buffalo) 5:59.58.

200 Freestyle Relay: *1. St. Michael-Albertville (Ashley Storm, Jordyn Schnell, Maddie Gallagher, Emma Lezer) 1:39.50; *2. Maple Grove (Tia Johnson, Anna Ganser, Rose Gallagher, Hennessy Locsin) 1:40.35; 8. Buffalo (Hayley Schendel, Mika Bordak, Sydney Polzin, Tianna Kosek) 1:45.26.

100 Backstroke: *1. Hannah McKeag (Brainerd) 59.15; *2. Carly Roberts (STMA) 1:00.83; 4. Kelsey Kocon (STMA) 1:01.28; 15. Sydney Polzin (Buffalo) 1:07.22.

100 Breaststroke: *1. Emma Lezer (STMA) 1:04.17; *2. Alaina Sylvester (Rogers) 1:05.31; 4. Julia Pieper (STMA) 1:10.91; 6. Maddie Westendorp 1:11.39; 9. Madison Jurkovski (STMA) 1:13.17.

400 Freestyle Relay: *1. Maple Grove (Tia Johnson, Anna Ganser, Rose Gallagher, Hennessy Locsin) 3:40.87; *2. Brainerd (Alyssa Williams, Madelynn Gibbons, Katie Streiff, Hannah McKeag) 3:40.94; 3. St. Michael-Albertville (Carly Roberts, Maddie Gallagher, Julia Pieper, Ashley Storm) 3:41.24; 5. Buffalo (Tianna Kosek, Kaitlyn Schendel, Hayley Schendel, Mika Bordak) 3:50.21.


Prep Bowl Champs

Sophomore leads injury riddled Knights squad to first ever Prep Bowl championship victory

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

The St. Michael-Albertville football team has achieved plenty of hardware the past three seasons.

But none bigger than a 28-21 victory over St. Thomas Academy in the Class 5A state title game Saturday, Nov. 14 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis – the first state football title in school history.

Sophomore Mitchell Kartes scored a pair of one-yard touchdown runs. His second coming two seconds into the fourth quarter giving STMA a 28-14 advantage. After losing senior running back Eric Sjelin in the first half to an injury, Kartes – the other half of STMA’s two-headed rushing attack – rushed for 148 yards on 25 carries.

“It’s unfortunate that Eric got hurt, but we were all playing for him,” said STMA senior quarterback Jacob Veire. “Mitchell really had a look in his eyes.”

Sjelin wasn’t the only loss. Knight senior linebacker Evan Ronsen – a Star Tribune All-Metro Defense Second Team selection – watched the entire second half from the sidelines.

“I injured my lower back in warmups,” Ronsen said. “I played in the first and part of the second quarter. I had to stay out the rest of the game, which was pretty upsetting to me. It’s hard ending my football career that way. That was a low, but I’m happy for my team and proud of what they accomplished.”

Coming off a 31-28 state semifinal win over Mankato West, a game that saw seven lead changes, the Knights and Cadets exchanged first half leads with Sjelin giving the Knights a 7-0 lead on a nine-yard rushing score.

St. Thomas Academy tied the score 7-7 on an 83-yard passing score from junior quarterback Tommy Dolan to senior wide receiver Mac Brown. The Cadets grabbed their only lead of the contest with 4:06 left in the second quarter on a four-yard rushing score by senior running back Sean McFadden. The teams went into the locker room tied 14-14 on a one-yard score by Kartes with 55 seconds left in the half.

Without two key players, STMA head coach Jared Essler said the playbook had to be altered.

“Eric ran for 1,200 yards on the year and does so much for us,” Essler said. “We tried to focus on the things we do well and just to simplify things.”

Kartes’ heroics didn’t come as a surprise. The other half of STMA’s rushing duo also ran for 1,000 yards this season.

Arguably, STMA’s biggest weapon was held without a catch in the first half. But his first grab with 7:50 left in the third quarter was a big one. Weston gave the Knights a 21-14 lead on a 25-yard passing score from Veire. The play was set up on a 35-yard rush by Kartes down to the Cadet 25-yard line.

Kartes’ second score at 11:58 of the fourth quarter would prove to be the difference in the contest.

“Nobody plays more snaps on our team than Mitchell,” Essler said. “As coaches, we fight and argue when to get him off the field. We keep reminding ourselves that he’s only a sophomore. For him to play like this on the biggest stage is pretty amazing.”

The game didn’t end without the Cadets putting up a fight. Dolan’s second passing score with 4:16 left in regulation to senior running back Woody Hubbell from seven yards cut the deficit to 28-21.

The Knights defense forced the Cadets to turn the ball over on downs with 2:14 remaining. St. Thomas Academy’s defense would force the Knights to turn the ball over on downs at the Cadet 25-yard line, but with no timeouts left and 38 seconds left, STMA’s defense ended the game with its third sack of the game.

As time elapsed, players and coaches mobbed each other at midfield and later rallied in front of their student section celebrating the win.

 While STMA (12-1) has claimed two conference/division titles and two section championships in back-to-back years, gaining that elusive first state title win is something coaches and players will both cherish.

STMA’s only other Prep Bowl appearance resulted in a 28-7 defeat to DeLaSalle in the Class 3A title game in 1999.

“One of the things that group last year and the year previous did was lay a foundation for a culture of success – a culture of excellence that held each other to high standards,” Essler said. “Now we have a group that came in and knew the culture and knew the expectations. They did a job and stepped in and did a phenomenal job.”

Not to be outdone, Essler credited his fans that traveled in large numbers to see playoff wins in St. Cloud, Osseo, Prior Lake, and Minneapolis.

“I looked up in the stands and there were so many people wearing blue and gold,” he said. “It was really cool to see the town rally around us and give us so much support.”


STMA 31, St. Thomas Academy 28

(Saturday, Nov. 14 at Minneapolis)

St. Thomas Academy     7    7     0    7    –  21

St. Michael-Albertville    7    7    7    7    –  28


First quarter

STMA -- Eric Sjelin 9 run (Mitch Bourgerie kick) 6:16

STA -- Mac Brown 83 pass from Tommy Dolan (Mac Brown kick) 1:57

Second quarter

STA -- Sean McFadden 4 rush (Brown kick) 4:06

STMA -- Mitchell Kartes 1 rush (Bourgerie kick) 0:55

Third quarter

STMA -- Isaiah Weston 25 pass from Jacob Veire (Bourgerie kick) 7:50

Fourth quarter

STMA -- Mitchell Kartes 1 rush (Bourgerie kick) 11:58

STA -- Woody Hubbell 7 pass from Dolan (Brown kick) 4:16


Cadets leaders:

Passing: Tommy Dolan 10-21-160 (2 TDs); Andrew Tri 9-15-79 (1 INT).

Rushing: Sean McFadden 11-60 (1 TD); Woody Hubbell 6-22; Dan Gehrz 2-4; John Jakubowicz 1-1; Hugh Burke 1-1; Mac Brown 1-0; Tri 1-0; Dolan 3-0.

Receiving: Brown 5-120 (1 TD); Hubbell 5-52 (1 TD); Charley Flanagan 4-38; McFadden 3-23; Gehrz 1-3; Austin Paterson 1-3.

Tackles: Alex Hallman 8; Jack Cordero 7, John Pursley 7, Nate Chaffee 6, Joe Markert 4, Burke 4, August Raarup 3 (1 sack), Andrew Allen 3, TJ Wright 3 (1 INT), Gus Forseth 2, 7 players tied with 1.


Knights leaders:

Passing: Jacob Veire 9-20-177 (1 INT, 1 TD); Mitchell Kartes 1-2-9.

Rushing: Kartes 25-148 (2 TDs); Eric Sjelin 8-27 (1 TD); Veire 5-13; Mitch Bourgerie 3-8; John Zimmer 4-2; Isaiah Weston 1-0.

Receiving: Austin Veire 3-57; Weston 3-52 (1 TD); Josiah Ferguson 2-30; Kartes 1-31; Elijah Rice 1-16.

Tackles: Emmanuel Akundu 5; Jake Ross 4; Zimmer 4 (2 sacks); Rice 3; Chance Freeman 3; Coltan Koenig 3; Kartes 2; Will Berning 2 (1 INT); Isaiah Nolan 2 (1 sack); Jeremy Moran 2; 10 players tied with 1.


Bison look to rebound from rare ‘off’ season

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

There is no statistic in sports that tracks team chemistry.

But last season’s 12-15 finish may have been a stat that best exemplified the Buffalo boys’ basketball team’s overall chemistry, instead of record.

Having endured his first losing season since a 12-13 record in 2004-05, Bison head coach Nick Guida admits that last year was a challenge.

“It just seemed like whenever we got things figured out a little bit a year ago, some sort of distraction or injury would happen,” Guida said. “We had great kids, but we could never find that rhythm. It was frustrating, but there is a lot of growth opportunity for me as a coach and for our kids as players to go through something like that.”

Prior to last year, Buffalo had posted at least 20 wins in seven of the past eight seasons, including a 23-7 record and Class 4A state tournament berth two years ago when this year’s senior class were sophomores.

Nobody is left from the 2013-14 state qualifying team that lost to eventual state champion Lakeville North, but senior guards Matt Montplaisir and Dusty Willert remember that year fondly.

“We were on the bench that year,” said Willert, who is one of three returning guards that saw regular playing time a year ago. “But they had a really deep senior class that year and at the end of games they played some of the seniors that didn’t play as much, so we didn’t get much varsity experience our sophomore year.”

Willert, Montplaisir and junior Dylan Rohlin gained valuable playing time at the guard positions a year ago. Mix in senior varsity newcomer Brandon Weber, and junior guard Mitch Gabrelcik, and the Bison have five guys who all play similar styles.

“We have more shooters this year. We have a lot of good shooters,” said Willert, who showed flashes a year ago of being a top scorer, particularly from the three-point line. Willert drained six threes and scored a career-high 18 points in last season’s 74-62 season opening home win over Osseo.

With shifty, quick guards potentially being a strength to this year’s team. One thing noticeably missing is the big bodies last year’s seniors provided.

All six of the departed seniors tipped the scale over 200 pounds and stood at least six feet in height. The largest of that corps was 6-foot-10 center Matt Laidlaw. There was also 6-4 forward Cory Thielman, 6-3 guard Jared High, 6-2 forward Taylor Spier, and 6-1 guards Jonny Senger and Zach Dahl.

“We don’t have a whole lot of size, so speed is definitely going to be a priority for us,” said Montplaisir, who is recovering nicely after missing most of the football season with a nagging knee injury. “The leg feels good. I’ll be fine.”

Senior Tommy Bean has the most experience as a post player. The 6-5 forward, along with 6-4 junior forwards Noah Evans and Andrew Johnson, and 6-3 forward Tristan Hardt are the tallest listed players on the varsity roster.

“It will be a challenge, but it’s no different than challenges we’ve faced in the past with size,” Guida said. “I think we will post our own problems to other teams when it comes to disadvantages in size. We’re a smaller, but quick team. They also have to guard us.”

Of the taller forwards, Bean, Johnson and Evans provide height and size. Something that could be a huge asset in landing them varsity time.

“They’re physically a little stronger,” Guida said. “If we want to compete with the best teams in our conference and the best teams in the section, you’ll see the best teams in the metro are pretty physically gifted.”

Buffalo finished third in the Mississippi 8 West standings a year ago with a 7-6 mark. But with second place Rogers and conference champion St. Michael-Albertville both graduating most of its starters, Buffalo players are confident they can reclaim that conference title they owned the previous two seasons.

STMA lost all five of its senior starters from last year’s team that advanced to the Class 4A state tournament. Also gone is long-time head coach Tim Anfenson. First-year head coach Derek Johnson replaces him.

Also gone is Section 8-4A opponent Bemidji. The Lumberjacks dropped down to Class 3A. Replacing Bemidji is perennial Section 6-4A power Maple Grove. The Crimson are coming off a 23-4 season and return all five of their leading scorers from a year ago.

The Bison do not face the Crimson in the regular season, but do face a challenge of five road games in their first seven contests. Included is a rematch of last year’s Section 8-4A quarterfinal matchup when the Bison open their season at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 against Elk River.

Five non-conference matchups follow against top teams: St. Cloud Tech, Wayzata, Moorhead, Chanhassen, and New Prague.

“I am excited about our schedule this year,” Guida said. “Our conference always poses a number of challenges, and this year is no different. Right now we’re looking at 10-12 kids amd where they can play. It’s a fun process to go through, but it’s going to take a little time to see who can be on the floor on a Friday night.”

“The ultimate goal is always to make state, but we have smaller goals that we set throughout the season,” Montplaisir said. “Conference games are big for us. There are some pretty big rivals that we want to beat.”

But unlike last year’s team that had the size and stats, this year’s team is confident that another run at state will happen, and it won’t come down to stats.

“There were some issues last season between players,” Willert said. “Last year it seemed the seniors and juniors were divided at times. I loved the guys last year and they were good at accepting us. But this year’s senior class gets along with the junior class a lot better.”

“This year’s team has a lot more team chemistry,” Montplaisir said. “That will be huge.”


Bison turn to depth to cover for key losses

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

Unlike his first two seasons as head coach of the Buffalo boys’ hockey team, Aaron Johnson will not have the luxury of throwing one of the state’s top lines to the ice.

With the graduation of Gunnar Goodmanson, Jerame Schuetzle and Jake Ramsey, the Bison are looking to replace nearly half of its offensive production. The line accounted for 124 of the team’s 272 total points and 60 of the team’s 106 goals.

Goodmanson’s 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists) were team leading. Schuetzle also posted career highs (22-20—42). Ramsey finished with (15-17—32).

“When you have a guy like Gunnar, you don’t just replace him with one guy,” Johnson said. “He was our leader and our top player the past couple years who scored big goals for us. We’re going to miss him, but I think the group that we have is more than capable of filling his shoes and leading us to some good things this year.”

Injuries and suspensions forced the top line to miss a combined total of 12 games. It also forced a number of younger players to expand their roles to help fill in the gaps.

Senior Kevin Kemp was one of the players who excelled with increased playing time. Kemp came into his junior year having just two assists in 26 career varsity games. Last year he tallied career highs in goals (10), assists (13), and finished fourth on the team with 23 points, which leads all returning scorers this season.

Junior forwards Cade Stensby (8-10—18) and Tom Rooney (9-4—13) also were asked to step up as first-year varsity sophomores.

“The injuries and what not gave our group of sophomore forwards a chance to play a lot last year,” Johnson said. “It also gave our junior forwards like Kemp and Brady Hartman to play bigger roles than they might not have had. Now as seniors, those guys, along with Rooney, Stensby, and junior Blake Habisch, I think are ready to carry that scoring load.”

The injury bug hit Habisch hard last season as he was limited to just two games. Skill wise, Habisch may have the most. His speed and skating ability stands out in practices. But missing an entire year of skating may limit him early in the season.

“Not having him last year, we’re hoping it doesn’t take him too long to get adjusted to the high school game,” Johnson said. “I think he can fill part of that skill that we’ll be missing. But I think they key this season will be our depth. We have a lot of options with our forwards. There are 13-14 forwards who we’re still trying to figure out who will be our top 12.”

Line combinations in the annual scrimmage fest held Nov. 13-14 at Buffalo Civic Center included a top line of Stensby and Kemp on wings, with Hartman at center.

Hartman scored 12 points last year and posted a career-high three assists in a 17-1 road win Jan. 31 at North Branch. Three other assists came in the first four games of the season, when the Bison were playing without Goodmanson.

Although scores and statistics were not kept, Johnson was particularly happy with his new first line in scrimmages against Hopkins, Andover, White Bear Lake and Elk River.

“Those guys have good chemistry. They want to play together,” Johnson said. Every time they were on the ice during scrimmage fest, they were in control of play and created scoring chances.”

While scoring wasn’t an issue last season, Hartman said all the shuffled lineups due to players in and out of the lineup became a challenge. Buffalo started the year losing four of its first six games.

“Last year was really frustrating,” Hartman said. “We were moving around so many different lines trying to find some chemistry. At the same time, some of those young guys filled in roles that typically the older guys would fill. It’s nice to have them have that experience coming into this year.”

With a healthier lineup in the second half of the season, the Bison challenged for another Mississippi 8 title before losing a pivotal 6-0 road game Feb. 12 at St. Michael-Albertville in a conference title showdown.

That game still lies in the back of the players’ heads coming into a new year where conference is still the main goal.

“We really want to take conference again this year,” said Hartman, who is one of five captains on this year’s squad. “We need to come to the rink every game with a competitive attitude and to push everybody to get better.”  

While Buffalo’s top line has the experience, its second line of Rooney, centering Habisch (1-0—1) and senior Gavin Welch (4-3—7), may be the most explosive.

“Blake and Tom like playing together,” Johnson said. “Those guys have been playing together since they were little guys. They have good chemistry. Gavin provides a big body that can provide the same speed as them.”

Along with Hartman, Kemp and senior defenseman Mike Sawdey all are wearing the captain-C on their jerseys. Rooney and junior defenseman Nick Mueller will wear the assistant-A on theirs.

Sawdey (1-3—4) returns as the most experienced blueliner. He played in nine games as a freshman, 23 as a sophomore and 22 as a junior. A stay-at-home defender, Sawdey said he is hoping for big things for both himself and the team.

He credits last year’s senior captain, Reed Morehouse, for helping develop into a leader he is today.

“He taught me almost everything he knows,” Sawdey said. “He was a great hockey player and a great person. With him teaching me that stuff, it’s really easy not to put a lot of pressure on myself this year. We have a really good D-core, so there’s not too much pressure on me coming back.”

Joining Sawdey on the blueline is Mueller (2-12—14), who leads all returning defensemen in scoring. Senior Noah VanderKooi (1-3—4) played in 24 games as a junior. Junior Nick Hanson (0-3—3) played in 12 games as a sophomore.

Senior Ben Zitur solidifies the defense returning for his second-year as the Bison’s starting goaltender.

Zitur posted a 12-10-0 record a year ago with three shutouts. Although, Buffalo posted a 15-11-0 overall record a year ago, late-season losses to STMA and a first-round 5-2 home playoff loss to Brainerd didn’t sit well over the summer.

“That playoff loss was hard to sit on,” Sawdey said. “We learned to have a short memory in the off-season. But coming into this season, we need to use that as fuel to maybe make a run for a section championship.”

Buffalo’s season gets underway for real with a 3 p.m. home game against Osseo.


BSU recruits dominant in opening two games

Passolt’s four goals lead CC past Bison; Halluska’s five lead Bison past Wildcats

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

The Bemidji State University women’s hockey team must be licking their chops.

The first two games of the Bison girls’ hockey season saw two of their committed recruits make a regular appearance on the scoresheet.

Chaska-Chanhassen Storm Hawk junior forward Lydia Passolt’s four goals and two assists sparked No. 14 rated CC girls’ hockey team past the Bison 7-2 in Buffalo’s season opener Thursday, Nov. 12 at the Chaska Community Center.

Passolt – the niece of Fox 9 News Anchor Jeff Passolt – were one of two future Beavers skating in the game, along with Bison senior captain Abby Halluska, who assisted on both Bison goals. The first by junior Jilli Hovland, the second by senior Payton Rudiger.

After a first period that was even both on the scoreboard, 1-1, and shots on goal, 8-8, CC’s top line would break open a close game scoring four times in the second period.

Following Hovland’s first period goal, it was Passolt’s line of senior Sofia Poinar, a Minnesota State University-Mankato recruit, and senior Mollie Wise that started to take charge.

“Their first line is really a dominant one,” said Bison head coach Ray Dahlof. “There’s a lot of goal scorers and they certainly did some damage.”

Passolt tallied two more goals in the final period to close out the scoring. Watching her future BSU teammate torch her current ones, Halluska admitted was a weird feeling.

“I’m proud of her (Passolt) and it’s good for our future together as teammates,” Halluska said. “But it was frustrating sitting on the bench and saying to yourself, ‘oh God, there is another one’”

The Bison earned their first victory of the season with a 12-0 win Tuesday, Nov. 17 at Chisago Lakes.

The victory extended the Bison’s conference win streak to 26 games. Halluska scored five goals and one assist in the win.

Senior Allison Roethke scored a goal and added three assists and Rudiger scored a goal and added two assists.

Next up for Buffalo (1-1) is a 7 p.m. road game Friday, Nov. 20 at St. Francis. It marks the third of four straight road games to open the season.

“It sucks that we don’t get a home game to get us going,” Halluska said. “But with two conference matches right away, we want to go 2-0.”

“The conference games are really important for us,” Dahlof said. “Nothing is automatic in this game, so we have to be ready and go play hard.”

Chaska-Chanhassen 7, Buffalo 2

(Thursday, Nov. 12 at Chaska)

Bison    1  1  0  -  2

Storm Hawks   1  4  2  -  7

First period: B -- Jilli Hovland (Abby Halluska) 6:50; CC -- Sofia Poinar (Lydia Passolt, Mollie Wise) 7:03.

Second period: CC -- Emilee Anderson (Passolt, Wise) pp, 5:03; CC -- Kali O’Keeffe (Nina Mork) 7:57; CC -- Passolt (Wise) 10:57; CC -- Passolt (Wise, Poinar) 15:08; B -- Payton Rudiger (Halluska) 15:55. 

Third period: CC -- Passolt (Anderson, Wise) 2:31; CC -- Passolt (Wise, Poinar) 10:17.

Goalies: B – Karly Schmidt (loss) 30 shots, 23 saves; CC – Bailey Jackson (win) 16 shots, 14 saves. Shots: B – 8-4-4 – 16; CC – 8-16-6 – 30. Power Plays: B – 0-2; CC – 2-2.


Buffalo 12, Chisago Lakes 0

(Tuesday, Nov. 17 at Chisago Lakes)

Bison    6  4  2  -  12

Wildcats           0  0  0  -    0

First period: B -- Taylor Thompson (Jilli Hovland) pp, 5:39; B -- Payton Rudiger (Ali Klein, Abby Olson) 6:43; B -- Rachel Stendahl (Abby Halluska) 7:18; B -- Allison Roethke (Rylan Bistodeau) 7:36; B -- Halluska (Stendahl, Roethke) pp, 16:42; B -- Halluska (Stendahl) 16:59.

Second period: B -- Halluska (Paige James) 1:52; B -- Halluska (Roethke, Thompson) sh, 4:43; B -- Rudiger (unassisted) 12:37; B -- Halluska (Rudiger) 13:29.

Third period: B -- Bistodeau (Olson) 10:33; B -- Jamie Byrne (Roethke) 11:09.

Goalies: B – Karly Schmidt (win) 11 shots, 11 saves; CL – Anna Kittleson (loss) 41 shots, 31 saves; Lerfeld Megan 11 shots, 9 saves. Shots: B – 20-15-11 – 46; CL – 5-3-3 – 11. Power Plays: B – 2-4; CL – 0-4.


Former Buffalo great honored

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

Charles “Vic” Kline has been honored a lot over his 80 years of existence. The multi-talented, four-sport athlete that graduated from Buffalo High School in 1953 received one of his highest honors Saturday, Nov. 14 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Six individuals were honored in the Century of Golf Gala event held in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Colorado Golf Association. Kline was named golf professional of the century.

The criteria used for selecting the People of the Century were they had to be living individuals whose contributions to the game have transcended the state of Colorado and the sport, and who have been recognized nationally or beyond for what they’ve accomplished.

Kline’s golf career started as the first individual from BHS to ever qualify for the Minnesota State High School League state golf tournament. BHS didn’t have a golf team in 1953, but he was one of two golfers to represent the school and qualified for his only state golf tournament during his senior year.

“I golfed that year at Buffalo Heights Golf Course,” Kline said. “It was still a nine-hole course, so we shot the nine holes, twice. I made districts in Willmar.”

Golf was only a small portion of his athletic talents. He was a standout at BHS in football, baseball and basketball. He and his wife, Nadine, reside in Arvada, Colorado.

Kline said he returns to Buffalo once a year for his class reunions. He made an exception in 2012 when he returned twice, once for his class reunion, the other for the 60th anniversary celebration for his 1952 Bison football squad that was honored at halftime of the Bison’s Oct. 5, 2012 home game against Moorhead. He was the captain of the team that went undefeated and more impressive, unscored on.

His athletic excellence continued into college where he received a scholarship to play both basketball and golf at the University of New Mexico (1957-61). The four-year gap between high school and college was the result of him joining the Air Force (1953-57).

At UNM, Kline won two New Mexico State Amateur Golf Championships and one New Mexico Publinks Championship. Vic also played on the New Mexico Fallstaffers AAU basketball team and in the National AAU Championship. Kline began his pro golf career in 1964 where he was the head pro at the Albuquerque San Mateo Golf Center. Three years later he was working at the Adams County Golf Course in Colorado. In 1970, he became the director of golf at the Indian Tree Golf Course in Arvada.

As a player, he won the Colorado Open in 1968 and was a five-time Colorado PGA Player of the Year. He won the Rocky Mountain Open in 1977 and the Colorado Open Match Play Championship in 1978. Kline played in the US Open, twice. Kline said his best round of his career was a 60 on a par-72.

Among today’s current pro golfers, Kline said Jordan Spieth is his favorite.

“There are about four or five people that are outstanding golfers,” Kline said. “I enjoy the young people coming up in the game, but how I judge them is by their conduct as a professional. Jordan is a real pro.”

Kline retired from his profession in 2004. Since then, he’s been an honoree of several Colorado PGA Awards, including: Horton Smith Award, Bill Strausbaugh Award, President’s Award, Warren Smith Award, Golf Professional of the Year and the Vic Kline Leadership Award. In addition to being inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, he was awarded the organization’s Golf Person of the Year Award in 2001.

His devotion to his home state of Colorado came at the expense of his playing career.

“As my career moved on, I decided to be more of a club pro,” Kline said. “I just didn’t care for all the travel as a player.”

In 2000, Kline was presented the national PGA of America Golf Professional of the Year Award, and in 2005 he was inducted into the PGA of America Golf Professional Hall of Fame. The icing of the cake for all the past achievements came last Saturday at the Broadmoor, where Hall of Fame golfer Jack Nicklaus was present.

“I’m honored and humbled to be named golf pro of the century,” Kline said. “I’ve had a very successful career.”



BHS to perform hit musical West Side Story

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

Nearly two decades after debuting the 1957 Broadway hit musical “West Side Story,” Buffalo High School Theater Director Tracy Hagstrom Durant is bringing it back for round two starting with a 7:30 p.m. performance Thursday, Nov. 19 in the Performing Arts Center.

Thursday’s performance is the first of four shows. All performances from Nov. 19-21 will start at 7:30 p.m. There will be a Sunday, Nov. 22 matinee showing at 2 p.m.

Both Hagstrom Durant and BHS Music Director Mike Walsh were directors in the original BHS production that took place in 1994.

This popular musical depicts two New York teenage street gangs – the Sharks and the Jets – with two different ethnic backgrounds.

The Sharks, led by gang leader Bernardo – played by senior Joshua Polzin, moves his Sharks gang from Puerto Rico into the Jets’ territory. Riff, the gang leader of the Jets, played by senior Jonny Miller, decide to take matters in their own hands by challenging the Sharks to a rumble.

The plot thickens when Tony, a former gang member of the Jets, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo.

“It is one of my all-time favorite musicals,” Hagstrom Durant said. “The music is difficult and amazing. The dance is challenging and emotional. The themes and messages are timeless, which is actually sad.”

While diversity has come a long way since the musical first was released in 1957, the themes West Side Story portrays still exist.

“Unfortunately, we are still struggling with the same issues in our world today,” Hagstrom Durant said. “Young lovers caught between prejudice and warring groups, racial hatred and the tragedy that results from it. However, there are images of hope that shine through at the end of the show.”

Junior Mallory Rabehl plays the role of Maria. Caught in a crossroad of love, Rabehl said the multiple emotions she displays is what excites her most.

“It’s really exciting and really nerve wracking,” Rabehl said. “It’s a really big role for me to take on. Maria explores so many different emotions that I’m not used to acting. There is anger, hate and sadness. It’s just a different kind of role and it’s been kind of fun.”

It was only a year ago when Rabehl first watched the movie West Side Story. Once she saw it, she immediately fell in love with it, particularly Maria.

“My favorite part is the very end. Maria goes kind of crazy and goes off the deep end, because something very sad happens,” Rabehl said. “It’s just really cool to be able to do that.”

Unlike Rabehl, senior Sam Haggen, who plays Tony, was a fan of West Side Story at an earlier age.

The ability to star in a lead role in one of his favorite musicals is what excites Haggen the most.

“This is going to be awesome,” Haggen said. “This was my favorite musical since I was eight years old. I love the music. It’s my favorite part and I’m excited to be able to sing it for real.”

As one of the veteran members on the cast, Haggen said one of the more difficult things to portray for this particular musical is the violence and hate.

“The hardest part is being mean to each other,” Haggen said. “We’re all friends.”

While West Side Story is new to this year’s cast of students, the musical has a connection similar to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which BHS students studied in ninth grade.

Due to the high number of dance scenes, Hagstrom Durant has had to rely a lot on her choreographers. Lead choreographer Debb Bestland is assisted by junior Ingrid Nelson.

“The dancing is very difficult,” Hagstrom Durant said. “Debb is a master at creating dances that challenges the students, but also setting them up to show off their skills. She features kids beautifully. The theater kids have been asking for a musical that will stretch their dancing abilities...they got it!”

Two members of the Jets, junior Anaya Bergstrom and Jonny Miller, were also assigned roles as dance captains.

Another area of concentration is the nailing of the Puerto Rican accents.

“We have been working with two of our Spanish teachers and the kids are improving daily,” Hagstrom Durant said.

When asked what was her favorite part of the musical, Hagstrom Durant mentioned all the hard work leading up to the four shows.

“I love the collaboration between the actors, the directors, the tech kids, the volunteers, and everyone involved,” Hagstrom Durant said, “I also enjoy having former BHS theater students helping out. Brandon Aldrich, a first-year English teacher at BCMS is our assistant director. Jamie West is our volunteer stage manager, working with our tech kids. It makes me so proud to now work side-by-side with my former theater students. They are both very talented and help out in ways we cannot begin to measure. This musical will make you laugh and cry.  That is my favorite type of theater experience. It takes us through a myriad of emotions.”

Doors for all four showings this week will open 30 minutes prior to each performance. Tickets can be purchased at the BHS activities office and at Gartner’s Hallmark at a cost of $5 for adults and $3 for students. Tickets will also be available at the door.


Area teachers recognized at LEEA banquet

“We all know we are not in control of many situations. How we react to them is totally up to you.  The difference between chaos and harmony can be directly related to the culture you have created in your classroom,” said Willow Sweeney, keynote speaker at the 2015 Leadership in Educational Excellence (LEEA) event held Wednesday, Nov. 4 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. 

 Over 500 people attended the event to honor 155 educators who were recognized with a plaque and certificate from Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.  Each of the honorees were nominated by their school or district.  Represented at the event are public, private, parochial, charter schools, the Meeker and Wright Special Education Cooperative and the Wright Technical Center. There were 40 school districts/agencies represented.

“Culture is created consciously and unconsciously. You get to decide how your room feels when anyone enters,” Sweeney said.  “Bring your positive energy to classroom, then teach science.”

The evening began with a welcome and congratulations by Mark Schmitz, executive director of Resource. “I have been a teacher, principal and most recently a superintendent. I look at my experiences as a teacher as the ones that have given me the most value in my life…and, often the most humbling. Many times the gift you give students may not be about what you teach it is the relationships you create with children.”

The Presiding Superintendent for the evening was Scott Staska from the Rocori school district. “I am honored to represent the superintendents in our region and bring their congratulations.  The honorees here are often the reason many kids come to school.  You make every child a priority,” he said. 

A message of congratulations from Minnesota’s Commissioner of Education, Dr. Brenda Cassellius, was printed in the program.

“I want to congratulate all of the educators that are being recognized this year at the LEEA Banquet and Recognition Ceremony. Thank you for your hard work, dedication and commitment to the children of Minnesota.  I encourage you all to keep working creatively to reach your students and to share with your colleagues what works. You are making a real difference. I hope you have a wonderful celebration. You have earned it.”

“You many never know your legacy and the lives you have touched,” said Ken Anderson, Board Chair of Resource Training & Solutions. “I was recently at a restaurant with a friend and former teacher, Mr. Lutgen. The waitress recognized him and said that she remember when he told her she had a nice smile and gave her a smile pin. And, to this day she has it on her nightstand.  “On behalf of the Resource Board of Directors, congratulations and keep up the good work,” said Anderson.

The event is coordinated by Sandra Cordie, Director of Educational Program. This banquet marked the 24th anniversary of the LEEA event.  To date, there have been 3,499 educators in the Central region who have received this recognition.