WINONA, Minn. — An illegal check during a high school hockey game in southeast Minnesota erupted in a brawl that resulted in 10 ejections a week after a prep player for another team was paralyzed.
The check at Thursday night’s was similar to one that paralyzed Twin Cities hockey player Jack Jablonski on Dec. 30. The brawl in Winona on Thursday night broke out after a check from behind by an Owatonna player sent a Winona player into the boards face first. The Winona player retaliated by throwing punches at the Owatonna player and soon other players joined in the melee, which lasted about 30 seconds.
Five players from each team were ejected. KAGE Radio reported they will receive a one-game suspension according to Minnesota State High School League rules.
“Everyone (except for the goalies) just skated into a mob behind the net. Everyone got into it,” Eric Lear, the color commentator calling the game for HBC-TV in Winona, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.
Jablonski, a Benilde-St. Margaret hockey player, suffered a spinal injury in a tournament game against Wayzata. Doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis on Friday upgraded his condition from critical to serious.
Winona coach Fran McDevitt told the Star Tribune that he has no doubt Thursday night’s outburst during his team’s 4-3 defeat stemmed from the devastating hit on Jablonski during a junior varsity game.
McDevitt said the hit “square in the back” was neither malicious nor dirty, “but it was definitely dangerous,” because the Winona player was facing the boards.
Before the game, there was a moment of silence for Jablonski, McDevitt said. He added that collection jugs also were put out to help the Benilde skater’s family.
Owatonna coach Josh Storm said he talked with his team about Jablonski’s injury “at length” on Wednesday, and “the beginning of my pregame speech (Thursday) was about hitting from behind.”
“I’m kind of sick to my stomach about it today. I couldn’t sleep last night,” Storm said.
McDevitt said he has no quarrel with officials ejecting the players. Storm agreed and added that one of his players will have to sit out a second game for verbally confronting an official after the game.