New movie recalls epic overtime hockey game 25 years later

Aaron Briner of Monticello, Minn., Is an athlete whose hockey background leans towards boot-type pickup games. He was one of the Minnesota hockey chiefs who stayed up late to watch the final, as he did every year.

“I don’t have a magical memory of it,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “I was at home watching it, nothing special. The memory, for me, is just watching all these tournaments.

Twenty-five years later, Briner, inspired by sports documentaries including ESPN’s “30 For 30,” turned to the longest-running state hockey tournament game as his muse. His film “Marathon On Ice” is an hour-long documentary about the game, featuring old footage and over 20 interviews with former Minnesota players, coaches, announcers and other hockey minds. It should be available to stream at avenue18productions.com earlier this month.

‘Punch-counter punch’

Duluth East (23-2), the defending Class AA champions that year, was the favorite before the 1996 tournament. The Associated Press pre-game screenings noted Dave Spehar’s duo, the state player of the year; and teammate Chris Locker, who was also an all-state player.

The Greyhounds outscored their opponents 177-39, and goaltender Kyle Kolquist had a 1.70 goals-against average.

“Nonetheless, a loss for Duluth East to anyone except Apple Valley would be a major surprise,” according to the AP. “And even an Apple Valley victory in the game (semi-final) would be an upheaval.”

Apple Valley (24-1) was the tournament’s third team, supported by senior goalie Karl Goehring.

Throughout regulation play, the Eagles’ goals were all matched by goals from Greyhound – and Duluth East never led. Longtime sports writer Kevin Pates covered the game for the Duluth News Tribune – and called the first three periods a “punch-backlash”.

Then overtime, after overtime, after overtime, after overtime, after overtime.

Apple Valley’s Aaron Dwyer, a senior defenseman, described the match winner in an interview published in the 2017 Minnesota Boys High School State Tournament Guide.

“(He) got shot at the right point,” he said. “(Chris) Sikich was under the net, and I think he was trying to cross it. He bounced off a few guys’ sticks, and he came right up to me. I was right inside the net. blue line above the top of the circle, I took a slapshot, and it went down and in.

The 1996 Duluth East men's hockey team and its Apple Valley counterparts are the subject of a new documentary from a Twin Cities filmmaker.  (Image courtesy of

The 1996 Duluth East men’s hockey team and its Apple Valley counterparts are the subject of a new documentary from a Twin Cities filmmaker. (Image courtesy of “Ice Marathon”)

After the game, the Eagles’ Brad DeFauw reportedly went to hospital for treatment for dehydration. Locker, of the Greyhounds, was diagnosed as being in the early stages of shock – also dehydration.

Apple Valley won the tournament; East defeated South St. Paul in the third place game.

The following season, Apple Valley and Duluth East faced each other again during the regular season.

“I get chills just thinking about it,” Apple Valley center Erik Westrum, who scored three goals in the historic game, told Pates. “There were 16,000 people, you’re playing on the adrenaline rush and the game just keeps going. I think you treasure the moment more now because back then the moment has passed too quickly. ”

Without any goal

But there was more to the story than an epic back and forth between two legendary squads.

Pates revisited a controversial scenario in a follow-up report.

“The longest tournament game of all time – 93 minutes and 12 seconds – will unfortunately not be remembered for its excellent goalie, or East’s last minute goal in regulation, or for the resumption. of the wave by the sold-out crowd, ”he wrote. “It will be remembered for the goal that was not.”

Duluth East clearly won the game, Pates wrote, on a slap shot from Dylan Mills with 3:55 left in second overtime. In fact, Matt LaTour rocked the puck. Either way, the officials did not see it.

RELATED: ‘Hockeyland’ Movie Goes Inside Hermantown and Eveleth-Gilbert Teams

Shawn Roed did it. Duluth East’s current director of operations was a new teacher and coach at his alma mater and had a spot in the stands that night near the goal judge.

“When LaTour scored the wrong goal, we stood up; the game was over, ”he said.

But the game continued.

“So the rest of the game, in the back of our minds – they didn’t show the replay – ‘did that come in or did we see something? ”Said Roed.

That was the question of the tournament – and beyond. Pates wrote that an informal spectator poll unanimously agreed the puck went into the net.

Spehar said at the time that those rebounds were all part of hockey and Apple Valley deserved credit.

“But they continued to show the replay,” he added. “They must have played it 100 times on KMSP. I don’t know what they were trying to show. You only had to see it once to see it was in it.

It’s that scoreless scoring story that added to the lore of the game, Roed said. It occurs whenever the Greyhounds qualify for the State Tournament.

And that’s something Briner considered in his documentary, though he proceeded with caution in case it was still a raw topic decades later.

“It was a little tricky at the start – the goal that was disallowed,” Briner said. “I wouldn’t have (asked about it) five years ago. ”

Kyle Kolquist, Duluth East goaltender for the 1996 marathon game, made 49 saves in the game.  (Photo of "Ice marathon")

Kyle Kolquist, Duluth East goaltender for the 1996 marathon game, made 49 saves in the game. (Photo taken from the “Ice Marathon”)

“Ice marathon”

“Marathon on Ice” is Briner’s first feature film. He’s a sports enthusiast who has created some “workout documentaries” as he calls them. One is for a softball league with beer and the other is for a vacation in San Diego.

About 18 months ago, he decided to try his skills on a larger scale. His stipulation that he must be local, to facilitate access to interviews, aligned with the upcoming 25th anniversary of the hockey game he watched in his senior year of high school.

Briner started with the school’s athletic directors, then moved on to gamers – like East’s Locker, Spehar, Mills, Ryan Coole – and their VHS tapes and scrap albums. He interviewed six or seven players and a coach from both teams, including Mike Randolph. It got Wally Shaver, the play-by-play announcer, and Anthony LaPanta, who is the voice of the Minnesota Wild.

When Briner got an interview with the color commentator of the game, one of Minnesota’s biggest names in hockey, it took on tremendous significance.

“We knew it was real,” he said. “You can’t go to Lou Nanne’s and interview him without following up.”

Nanne is a former University of Minnesota defenseman turned US Olympian who played for and later coached the Minnesota North Stars.

Roed, who helped connect Briner with former players, said he’s seen bits and pieces from the film.

“It was such a special game,” he said. “The players, coaches and officials involved put on an incredible show. It brings back passion and memories.

"Ice marathon" is a documentary about the 1996 Minnesota Boys High School Hockey semifinal game between Duluth East and Apple Valley.  (Image courtesy of Aaron Briner)

“Marathon on Ice” is a documentary about the 1996 Minnesota Boys High School Hockey semifinal game between Duluth East and Apple Valley. (Image courtesy of Aaron Briner)

If you look

Catherine J. Martinez