A Decade After Its Early-Morning Loss to Apple Valley in the State Semifinals, Duluth East Points to a Goal That Was Disallowed.

By Rick Shefchik, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Mar. 8–Mike Randolph watches a tape of the game at least once a year. Pat Westrum thinks about it at tournament time, or whenever he runs into Randolph.

The game in question was the epic five-overtime battle between Duluth East and Apple Valley in the Class AA semifinals of the 1996 Minnesota boys hockey tournament, won by Apple Valley 4-3 on a goal by Aaron Dwyer at 1:39 a.m.

Those still awake could tell themselves they had witnessed one of the greatest games in state hockey history.

“It always comes up,” said Randolph, who stays in contact with many of the players on that 1995-96 East team. “To be honest with you, I try to watch the game every summer. My tape’s wearing out. If anyone has a copy, let me know.”

Randolph’s son, Jimmy, who was a manager and will graduate from St. Cloud State this year, holds parties at which they watch the tape once or twice a year.

“He has new roommates every year, so they can’t believe he has a copy of that game and wants to see it over again,” Randolph said. “It’s probably got a few breaks in it.”

Westrum, who co-coached that Apple Valley team with Larry Hendrickson and whose son Erik had a hat trick in that game, said he saw Randolph a few weeks ago, and the game inevitably came up.

“He was giving me crap,” said Westrum, who runs a paper distribution plant, directs the Apple Valley youth hockey program and scouts for the Montreal Canadiens.

The particular point of discussion, as always, was the disallowed Duluth East goal in the second overtime.

“They showed the replay, but nobody knew if it went in or not,” Westrum said.

Randolph begs to differ.

He still recalls Matt LaTour coming to the bench and telling him he tipped in Dylan Mills’ slap shot.

“From my vantage point, I had no way of seeing it,” Randolph said. “The play went on, and there was no discussion ’til we went to the replay monitor between periods. We looked at it, and I felt as Matt did — the puck did go in.”

A day or two after the tournament, Randolph watched an ultraslow speed tape at a Duluth TV station thatshowed, in his opinion, the puck go into the net and out.

Not according to the officials, however, and their opinion was the one that counted. Despite the disappointment, Randolph is not critical of them, and agrees with the judgment that it was one of the best games in the history of the high school tournament. Westrum thinks so, too.

“It was so much fun,” Westrum said. “From the third period on, you were just watching as a spectator. The kids rotated themselves in. I don’t think there was a penalty called from the third period through all the overtimes.”

Randolph admits he brings up the game whenever he sees Westrum or anyone from Apple Valley.

“I’ve got to razz them a little,” he said.

Westrum remembers his team had the late game all three nights during the 1996 tournament and never got to bed before 3 a.m.

“The Duluth game was more toward 4 a.m.,” he said. “Our kids did not go to the rink except to play hockey. They got up, ate and went back to bed. After the Duluth game, Brad DeFauw had to get intravenously fed at the hospital.”

Westrum also recalls both teams ended up going with only two lines throughout overtime, which was a benefit to Apple Valley the following night when it defeated Edina for the championship.

“We went with our third line against Edina,” Westrum said. “They were strong, and that helped us win.”

Ten years later, Randolph has mostly fond memories of the game.

“Time heals, and there are human errors in the game of hockey,” he said. “You know that going in. The kids on the team helped me get over it. I remember the end of the game, how classy the kids were on both teams, even though they were very tired. I have the utmost respect for both teams. They laid it on the line.”

Rick Shefchik can be reached at [email protected] or 651-228-5577.

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