Holtz and Co. having up-and-down year

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 27, 2002

It was easy to foresee that Troy Holtz's first season as head coach of the Austin High boys' hockey team would be filled with ups and downs. But forecasting what would eventually happen last Thursday night at Riverside Arena was impossible.

Austin trailed Winona 3-2 after the first period of Thursday's Big Nine Conference clash at Riverside, which in its own right was improbable considering the past and personnel of both programs.

The Packers were displaying the same powerful offense that put up a 10-spot against Rochester Mayo in the season-opener. (That 10-5 win, by the way, was the first over Mayo in 12 years.) Somewhere in the middle of an eight-goal period, junior winger John Bastyr stood up in a frenzied search of a way to escape the Packer bench.

Email newsletter signup

He didn't make it.

Bastyr turned and vomited on the floor and on Coach Holtz's shoes, helping complete an already auspicious start to the coach's first season with the clipboard.

Bastyr has quickly established himself as an enforcer around the league, and after scoring his second goal midway through the second period he made his presence felt with a hit near the Winona blue line on Dustin Grossell. The recoil from the collision nearly knocked both players to the ice, and the reverb for Bastyr resulted in one of many firsts for Coach Holtz.

Minutes later, there on the Austin bench, was Bastyr's latest trip to McDonald's.

"It was a good game, until that," Holtz said after the game, standing in parachute pants and a spare pair of dress shoes he'd changed into during the second intermission.

Needed flair

It was the first intermission, however, that makes Holtz the coach he is and needs to be for this team.

From a distance, down a long corridor in newly renovated at Riverside Arena, you could hear a faint whisper of a coach losing his cool. Holtz even confessed to kicking the door to the lockerroom and nearly breaking his clipboard into 1,000 pieces. (No loss if he did -- Troy's wife Diana bought him a stack of clipboards in case of such occasion.)

Holtz's hockey squad neglected Winona's ability to score on a breakaway. Winona or not, the advantage on a breakaway in high school hockey goes to the player with the puck, not the Packers' pair of freshman goalies. AHS trailed 3-2 at the end of the first period.

One temper-tantrum later, the Packers put on a show. Senior co-captain Willie Granholm scored nine seconds into the second period and the rout was on. Eric Hansen scored his team-leading sixth goal, Mike Urlick netted his first varsity goal, and Bastyr added his second goal of the game just 15 seconds later.

Raising the bar

Expectations are always high at the onset of a new season in Austin High School hockey, even after 12-year head coach Denny Laumeyer retired from the job two years after guiding the Packers to the state tournament.

Enter Holtz, a 10-year assistant under Laumeyer, for what could have been a miserable opening week. The Packers hosted Rochester Mayo, a team Austin had not defeated in 12 years, in its season-opener, and two days later the team traveled to face top-ranked Rochester Lourdes.

Welcome aboard Troy.

"I have to admit, beating Mayo for my first win, it doesn't get any better," Holtz said after his coaching debut. "Absolutely, no doubt about it."

The Packers played even with Lourdes for two periods, but it was a 4-0 Eagles' lead after the first 15 minutes that had Austin beat.

The energy Austin had left in the latter half of that game is what will guide the team through this weekend's Granite City Varsity Hockey Classic in St. Cloud. The Granite City Classic, running Dec. 26-28, plays 20-minute periods instead of the standard 15. The Packers, currently 3-2 and the only remaining undefeated team in the Big Nine at 3-0, placed fourth last year.

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at :mailto:sports@austindailyherald.com.