Osseo gets a taste of outdoor puck

Osseo’s Chris Madsen races up ice during the Orioles outdoor game against Coon Rapids Jan. 19. (Photo courtesy of Rich Moll of richmollphotography.com)
Osseo’s Chris Madsen races up ice during the Orioles outdoor game against Coon Rapids Jan. 19. (Photo courtesy of Rich Moll of richmollphotography.com)

It was on a much smaller scale than what played out in Grand Rapids Jan. 19, but the Osseo boys hockey team got its taste of Hockey Day Minnesota as well.

The Orioles visited Coon Rapids for a Northwest Suburban Conference matinee that afternoon, taking the outdoor ice sheet at the one-year old Coon Rapids Ice Center.

There were adjustments that needed to be made. The sun and wind were sure to have an affect. The cold, however, was nothing the Orioles weren’t prepared for.

And if you’ve ever stepped foot inside the Dick Vraa Memorial Ice Arena, known affectionately to those around Osseo as simply “The Tin Bin,” you’ll understand why.

“We practice and play in a pretty darn cold rink,” said co-head coach Kevin Willey. “We were ready for the cold.”

For further proof of the climate inside that rink, ask Willey to see the three pucks that have split in half during practice the past couple weeks.

Coincidently, the same thing happened in the third period during the outdoor game in Coon Rapids.

“I’ve never seen anything like it” said Willey. “If you include the game, we’ve had four pucks shatter in the last couple weeks. I don’t know what is going on, but I guess that’s a pretty good sign of how cold its been in there.”

Unfortunately, at least in terms of results, Osseo’s season has been equally cold.

The Orioles lost in Coon Rapids that afternoon, falling 3-1. They rebounded to defeat Champlin Park at home Jan. 24, but that was Osseo’s first victory since defeating Robbinsdale Armstrong in overtime Dec. 13.

There have been plenty of positive signs during that stretch. Osseo played well in its holiday tournament trek to Warroad, and the team had another strong showing in a 3-3 draw vs. Andover Jan. 17.

But until last week’s win over Champlin Park, that was about it.

“It’s been tough,” said Willey. “The biggest thing we are doing is we’ve stayed positive. We scored early against Andover and that picked everyone’s spirits up. It was a different change in the overall feel of the team in that Coon Rapids game. We got down and there just wasn’t enough talking going on. We are trying to find that, where we maintain that competitive edge throughout the whole game.”

The good news is that beginning this week there are still seven regular season games left before the teams heads into the section playoffs, when in recent history, Osseo has managed to peak.

Four of those games will be played on home ice, including two of the three the team plays this week.

The Orioles hosted No. 1 Wayzata Jan. 29 and then Armstrong at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31 before heading to Anoka for a 3 p.m. start Saturday, Feb. 2.

“We play at home quite a bit here, and that is an advantage for us,” Willey said. “Everybody that comes in here talks about how cold it is. We love that aspect. We love that opposing coaches come in and have to wear stocking caps when they come to the rink.”

In fact, one might say it has an outdoor touch to it, which is something the Orioles verified in Coon Rapids two weekends ago.

“It was an awesome experience,” said Willey, who added that plans are already in the works to do it again next winter. “It’s not that often you get to throw the eye-black on to go out and play a high school hockey game.”