February 10, 2011 at 9:45 a.m.

Toohey nets three as Vikings win big amid program turmoil

Head Coach Randy Gendreau’s suspension and two ejections mar 7-2 victory over Pine City
Toohey nets three as Vikings win big amid program turmoil
Toohey nets three as Vikings win big amid program turmoil

Last Thursday, February 3 was an interesting day for the North Branch boys' hockey team both on and off the ice. On the ice against Pine City, Tommy Toohey celebrated Senior Night by scoring twice in the game's first three minutes and completing a hat trick in the third period to lead the Vikings to a 7-2 win over Pine City at Chisago Lakes Arena. Off the ice, the Vikings changed head coaches and squelched rumors that the team would merge with St. Francis next season.

Early on Thursday morning, February 3, a Press reporter received an e-mail from Viking head coach Randy Gendreau stating that Gendreau had been suspended from his coaching duties indefinitely. When contacted later in the day, North Branch Athletic Director Todd Van Erp, declined to confirm Gendreau's suspension and declined to say who would be coaching the team starting that evening. Van Erp confirmed that the Vikings would finish out their full schedule this season. And he addressed the persistent rumor that North Branch would merge its boys' hockey team with St. Francis starting next season. "I can confirm that we will not merge with St. Francis next season," said Van Erp. "We have over 30 varsity and JV players in the program and they will continue to play for North Branch. In fact, I am working on scheduling games for the 2011-2012 season as we speak."

However, on Friday morning, North Branch Community Relations Coordinator Pat Tepoorten confirmed that Gendreau had been placed on administrative leave pending investigation by the school.

Tepoorten didn't have a timetable or any comments on when or if Gendreau would return

North Branch 7, Pine City 2

When the game started, assistant coach Ralph Norrgard was on the bench and appeared to be acting as the Vikings' head coach. After Toohey's two first period goals, junior Calvin Miska also scored twice to give the Vikings a 4-0 lead. The Dragons scored the only goal of the second period, but the Vikings had the better of the play. "We had a lot of scoring chances in the second period," said Norrgard. "We hit the pipe twice, missed the net a couple of times and their goalie made some great saves."

Midway through the third period, with the score still 4-1 in favor of the Vikings, a Pine City player was checked and fell on top of the puck in front of the Viking bench. A few words were exchanged and somebody threw a punch. Within seconds all of the players on the ice, with the exception of the goalies, started fighting. It took the referees two or three minutes to break everything up, as some of the players paired off away from the pack and exchanged punches. When it was all over, one player from each team had been thrown out of the game and 30 minutes in other penalties had been handed out. The Vikings, who led the state in penalty minutes last season, are near the top again this season so a fight will only add to that tally. Luckily for the teams and the referees, all of the bench players stayed on the bench during the fight.

After a 15 minute delay, the hockey game resumed. Pine City scored a goal to cut the lead to 4-2. But the Vikings put the game away with three goals in a two minute span to give the Vikings just their sixth win of the season. After the game, Norrgard confirmed that he would be the head coach of the Vikings for the remainder of the 2010-2011 regular season and postseason.

The Dragons actually outshot the Vikings 37-29 for the game. Sophomore goaltender Hunter Miska stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced, including all 18 shots in the first period, to pick up the win. Calvin Miska added two assists to his two goals to finish the game with four points. Toohey had an assist and matched Miska's four points. Senior Michael SantaBrigida and junior Zach Fairbanks served as playmakers for the evening, contributing three assists. Rounding out the scoring were sophomore Ryan Mohar with a goal and an assist, sophomore Mitch Patten with a goal and senior Brendon Bartholmy and junior Zach Shepherd with one assist apiece.

Robbinsdale Cooper 6, North Branch 2

Following their big win over Pine City the previous night, the Vikings kept the game close against Robbinsdale Cooper for the first two periods. But the Hawks outscored the Vikings 4-2 in the third period to send the Vikings down to a 6-2defeat in a game played last Friday, February 4 at Chisago Lakes arena.

The Vikings trailed 2-0 at the end of two periods. Cooper scored just 25 seconds onto the third period to increase its lead to 3-0. Just over a minute later, Ryan Mohar scored, assisted by Mitch Patten, to cut the lead back to two goals. But with just over seven minutes remaining in the game, the roof caved in on the Vikings. The Hawks scored three goals in a span of just over a minute to take a 6-1 lead. Tanner Danks scored with two minutes left in the game, assisted by Mohar and Nik Miller, to finish the scoring on the evening.

"In battling a team from the North Suburban Conference," said Viking head coach Ralph Norrgard, "they usually have a lot of quick players and skilled shooters. Our layers met the challenge in the first and second periods. It was a total team effort with the defense helping Hunter Miska in the nets."

The Hawks outshot the Vikings 40-11 for the game.

The Vikings head north to play Proctor at 7:30 p.m. this evening. They return home to face Moose Lake this Saturday, February 12 at 6 p.m. and play their final home game of the season next Tuesday, February 15 at 8 p.m. at Chisago Lakes Arena.

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