Thursday, March 24, 2011

Arctic Experience Keeps Ranum Cool Under Pressure

Having once competed on a playing surface requiring a perimeter of armed guards keeping watch for the odd curious polar bear, Micah Ranum knows a thing or two about competing under pressure in adverse conditions.

Photo by Tim Kolehmainen 
So trailing by two goals to two-time defending state champion Breck with one period to play in the state tournament quarterfinals wasn’t enough to rattle the Thief River Falls senior forward.

After a relatively quiet first two periods, the Prowlers’ leading scorer contributed two critical points—each in a dramatic five-goal third period blitz—to his team’s 7-5 come-from-behind victory over the Mustangs in the quarterfinals of the Minnesota Class AA boys' hockey tournament.

This wasn’t the first time Ranum had found himself in a dramatic setting.

When Ranum’s father accepted a position with Arctic Cat in Alaska following his sixth-grade year, he and his family spent the next four years living in the last frontier. While Ranum continued his hockey career there, it was another sport which provided his most memorable moment in Alaska.

Ranum was fortunate to have had the unique experience of playing in the first ever football playoff game north of the Arctic Circle. But the polar bear threat was not the only obstacle to overcome that day on that slick Barrow, Alaska turf.

“We played in a foot of snow and they were shoveling the field as we were playing,” said Ranum with a grin. “It was miserable as can be but I would do it all over again. I got to experience a whole different side of the world, it’s pretty amazing up there.”

Ranum’s performance against Breck—both on and off the ice—after the second period was pretty amazing itself.

Thief River Falls jumped out to a 2-1 first-period lead before Breck stormed back in the second with three goals of its own to carry a 4-2 lead into the final period. By all appearances, it would be a steep climb for the inexperienced Prowlers to catch and overtake the tournament-tested Mustangs. But Thief River’s captain refused to believe that and impressed it upon his teammates during the second intermission.

“I basically tried to keep everybody’s heads up,” said Ranum. “You can’t be down after that. It’s the state tournament, anything can happen and we proved that tonight.”

“Every once in a while you’ve just got to kick yourself in the butt and get your guys going,” added Ranum. “I’m not always the best with the vocal [leadership], it’s more with the show by example and I just didn’t quite get my chances in the first and in the third I just buried them. A little luck always helps.”

After an early third-period goal pulled the Prowlers within one at 4-3, a hooking penalty at 3:37 on Thief River’s Riley Soderstrom could have provided a momentum-crushing blow. But Ranum won the ensuing defensive-zone face off initiating a breakout which culminated 13 seconds later with Ranum assisting on Ryan Crosson’s game-tying goal.

Photo by Tim Kolehmainen
“Everything just fell into place for us because we just kept moving our feet, kept with the system, and everything paid [off],” said Ranum who initially wasn't supposed to take the draw but stepped in when the linesman tossed Crosson from the dot.

Breck coach Les Larson called the goal “a killer.”

“That’s a double momentum switch. You know, you’re supposed to get one and they get one,” said Larson. “Believe it or not I think that’s the first short-handed goal we’ve given up all year.”

“I thought that was a big one,” said Thief River Falls coach Tim Bergland. “We were within a goal, we had just scored, and then to get that short-handed goal was a big goal for us. Then obviously we had a lot of penalty left to kill. Once we killed that I liked the way we were going and we had a lot of momentum.”

After Derek Kayser gave Thief River Falls its first lead since the first minute of the second period Ranum’s goal with 2:15 remaining was thought to be an insurance goal. But the tally became the winning goal when Breck’s Thomas Lindstrom scored shorthanded for the Mustangs’ final goal just a minute later.

It was the second game-deciding goal in as many games for Ranum whose goal was also the difference in the Prowlers’ 3-1 win over Warroad in the Section 8A final. But Ranum humbly shrugged it off after the game.

“A goal’s a goal,” said Ranum. “It’s all for the team.”

The Prowlers' dream of capturing their first-ever state title was thwarted in a 5-0 semifinal loss on Friday to eventual Class A champion St. Thomas Academy. Determined not to head home empty handed, however, Thief River Falls bounced back on Saturday morning to shut out Hibbing/Chisholm 3-0 for third place to capture its first state hockey tournament trophy of any sort in school history.

A trophy made possible in part by the the third-period heroics of Thief River Falls' captain whose ice-water veins are of Arctic Ocean origin.