The scene was a familiar one for Steele County Blades goaltender Adam Carlson. But it was also a reminder of a debut gone awry.
Carlson was raised in Edina, Minn., playing in the famed hockey hotbed from his infancy through last winter, when he departed after winning a state championship with Edina's Junior Gold A team.
Entrenched with a passion to still play, he decided to give junior hockey a try.
That choice eventually landed him with the expansion Blades, a team he would make his first start for in a late September visit back home to face the Edina Lakers.
"It was cool to have that be the place, but I got shelled," said Carlson, who yielded seven goals in a 9-5 defeat that evening. "I needed a chance to go back and re-claim my territory."
The opportunity finally arrived this past weekend, and as he sought out to do, Carlson made amends, finishing a perfect 29-for-29 on shots faced in leading the Blades to a 5-0 shutout of the Lakers Jan. 26.
It was far from a breakthrough for the Blades go-to guy in goal. Carlson is second in the Minnesota Division in minutes, and the shutout was his sixth of the year. But it did prove Blades head coach Jon Jonasson's assertion that, with Carlson in goal, they can be a definite factor down the stretch.
"He gives us a chance every night, and that's the best thing you can say about a goaltender," Jonasson said. "He can stand on his head if he needs to. He likes being our leader, and when he is on, he is nearly unbeatable."
That praise was easy for Jonasson to give, mainly because he's seen the behind-the-scenes work Carlson has used to shape his craft.
He's watched as Carlson makes multiple visits with his personal goaltending coach each week, and listened to the goaltender talk about his willingness to improve.
He's also scene what it looks like when Carlson is playing well, such as last weekend in Edina, and can't help but believe the connection between his work ethic and play between the pipes is no aberration.
"He's always trying to do something to make himself better as a goalie," said Jonasson. "He's worked really hard, and that is why he is playing well. All he thinks about is what he can do to improve, and at the junior hockey level, that is what separates the better players from the lesser players."
It is also could be what separates the Blades from opening their first ever Bush Cup Playoffs at home or on the road.
Steele County will enter this coming weekend trailing the Maple Grove Energy by five points in the Minnesota Division standings for that fourth and final home playoff slot.
The Blades also sit three points back of Edina, though both teams hold two games in hand over SteeleCounty.
But with eights games remaining in their regular season, the Blades still get Edina twice and Maple Grove once.
If they win those games (which begin Saturday, Feb. 2 against the Lakers) and take care of business in the other five, there is a chance that Steele County could cap its inaugural season by hosting a playoff series in March.
"I was talking to one of our board members, and he told me it has been like six years since any Owatonna team has had a home playoff game," said Carlson. "It would be a pretty big deal for the team, but for the town too. This whole season has been exciting to be apart of. That would be an awesome way to finish it off."
Elsewhere in the in the Minnesota Division of the MnJHL:
Dells Ducks: The Dells Ducks were idle this past weekend. The team returns by hosting the Minnesota Owls for three games Feb. 1, 2 and 3.
Edina Lakers: Edina dropped a pair of games last weekend, including a 6-3 defeat at first-place Twin Cities Jan. 25. Adam McMasters (Austin, Minn.), Derek McMasters (Austin, Minn.) and Andrew Bergquist (Bountiful, Utah) each scored once, and Shane Fitzpatrick had a pair of assists in the loss.
Hudson Crusaders: Hudson's Jan. 27 home game against the Edina Lakers has been postponed. A make-up date will be announced at a later date.
Maple Grove Energy: Maple Grove had its Jan. 27 visit to Twin Cities postponed due to the weather. The game will now be played at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Minnesota Owls: The Owls road-trip to second-place Rochester nearly resulted in an upset victory. Anthony Rohde (Villa Park, Ill.) scored twice and set up two others, Jarrett Sachs (North Branch, Minn.) also had a pair of goals, Nicholas Haase (Morganville, N.J.) assisted on four goals, and Mike Rice (Springfield, Pa.) made 57 saves as Minnesota fell just short in a 6-5 defeat Jan. 25.
Rochester Ice Hawks: Rochester outlasted the Minnesota Owls for a 6-5 victory Jan. 25. Miles Johnson (Ft. Wayne, Ind.) scored the game-winning goal with 1:37 to play. Trevor Sabo (Skokie, Ill.) helped set up that goal, and finished the game with a three points, and a trio of Ice Hawks assisted on a pair of goals in the win.
Twin Cities Northern Lights: The Twin Cities Northern Lights ran into the one thing that appears able to slow them down last week - the weather. Two nights after Gleb Kulikov (Dmitrov, Russia) scored a pair of goals and Dylan Blankenship (Fairbanks, Alaska) assisted on three in a 6-3 win over Edina Jan. 25 that extended their current winning streak to 11 games, Twin Cities had its Jan. 27 home game against Maple Grove postponed. The game is now scheduled to be played Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Games this week:
Friday, February 1
Minnesota Owls at Dells Ducks,
Rochester Ice Hawks at Maple Grove Evergy,
Edina Lakers at Hudson Crusaders, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday, February 2
Minnesota Owls at Dells Ducks,
Edina Lakers at Steele County Blades, 7:05 p.m.
Rochester Ice Hawks at Hudson Crusaders, 7:10 p.m.
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