The memories are there, as is the blueprint.
A year ago, the Robbinsdale Armstrong boys hockey team was rocked the high school hockey playoffs with an upset of defending AA state champion Eden Prairie in the Section 6 quarterfinals.
The recipe that night was one of playoff puck lore: goaltending, defense, and goaltending.
A full calendar year later, not much has changed.
The Falcons once again enter the tournament as massive underdogs in the always loaded Section 6AA field, meaning once again, the play in their own zone will be vital if Armstrong has any hopes of duplicating its shocker from a year ago.
“Our goaltender had to be the best player on the ice,” said head coach Dan Charleston. “He has to stop everything.”
If the start of the playoff plays out as expected, “everything” could come in bunches.
Armstrong was named the No. 8 seed in the playoff, and will begin it by hosting ninth-seeded Cooper Feb. 19.
Those two rivals played once already this year, with Armstrong winning 13-1 back on Jan. 19. A victory in the rematch would have the Falcons facing off with top-seeded Benilde-St. Margaret’s at Thursday, Feb. 21 at the St. Louis Park Recreation Center.
The Red Knights were state champions last winter, so the mountain would be equally high as the one Armstrong climbed in upsetting Eden Prairie a year ago.
Maybe even steeper.
“They are so good and so dangerous,” said Charleston, who was an assistant at BSM last season. “To beat them, we’ll have to play like the U.S. did when they beat the Russians. You have to attack them. You can’t sit back. We have to go-go-go. We have to play their game and in their face.”
Armstrong did just that last week in a road trip to Centennial, taking the No. 11 Cougars into overtime before eventually losing 2-1 in the extra session Feb. 14.
The Falcons also lost at No. 15 Elk River in the regular season finale, finishing the season just 4-18-3.
But the record is a bit deceiving. Ten of those defeats have been by two goals or less, and five have come by just a single marker.
“We’ve been playing good hockey, we just haven’t been rewarded for it yet,” said Charleston. “Hopefully that happens in the playoffs. Why not? Why not us?”
Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]inc.com