Ely Pee Wees blanked at state

ON THE BENCH - Blake Schaller, Peyton Gregory, Tommy Homer, Owen Brekke and Kaiden Zupancich watch Ty Walker pass the puck in the Pee Wee B State Tournament in Plymouth.

by Tom Coombe -

There were no David vs. Goliath-type victories, but state tournament experiences don’t discriminate.
A group of youth hockey players from Ely got their state tournament experience and time in the spotlight last weekend in the Twin Cities, even though they didn’t score any victories.
Moorhead Black blanked Ely 5-0 in the opening round of the State Pee Wee “B” tournament at Plymouth, while Chaska/Chanhassen ended the future Timberwolves’ storybook season with a 9-0 rout in Saturday’s consolation semifinals.
That knocked Ely out of the eight-team tournament at Plymouth, finishing a run that included dramatic district and regional championship victories in the preceding weeks.
The 11-to-13-year-olds faced long odds at state, especially given the size of the communities the team was matched up against.
Other than fellow Class A school Bagley, the rest of the state tournament field was made up of schools and communities many times larger than Ely.
Ely was kept off the scoreboard while goalie Ben Leeson, who had over 110 saves during the regional tournament, battled gamely to hold off the high-caliber foes.
Ely team members are Leeson, Andrew Marolt, Deegan Richards, Kadein Zupancich, Jace Hutbatch, Wesley Sandy, Blake schaller, Garrett Rohr, Owen Brecke, Tommy Homer, Ely Hall, Anya Moger, Brecken Sandberg, Alex Merriman, Ty Walker, Peyton Gregory and Eli Olson.
Andrew Saarela, a student at Vermilion Community College, served as head coach while John Payne was his assistant.
This was Ely’s first youth hockey team to advance to a state tournament since 2015, when the community also sent its Pee Wee team on to state.
That squad featured several players who were on this year’s Ely high school team, which won its first playoff game in more than a decade and defeated International Falls for the first time in program history.