Like Texas and football and Indiana and basketball, high school hockey and Minnesota are a perfect match.
For one goalie, hockey pucks and his pads have turned out to be quite the match as well – enough of a pairing to make him a likely national record holder.
On Saturday night, Morris/Benson senior goaltender Tony Bruns faced a staggering 110 shots in his team’s season-opening game against Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato. He stopped 98 of them in a 12-0 loss.
Those 98 saves are believed to be both a state and national record.
Per the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota State High School League lists a 76-save performance by River Lakes’ Spencer Theis in a 2008 game against Brainerd and Moose Lake Area’s Gage Mohelsky’s 76 stops against Princeton in 2012 as the most in a regulation (no overtime) game. An 84-save game by Jamey Ramsey of Flint Northern (Michigan) in 1987 is listed as the national record by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“I was a little surprised,” Bruns told the Star Tribune. “My whole career I’ve had a lot of shots, but never that many. I thought it was just like any other game.”
According to the Star Tribune, in his four seasons as a starter, Bruns routinely has made 40, 50, 60 and even 70-plus stops in a single game.
“There is no doubt he was busy,” Morris/Benson coach Jeremiah Day told the paper. “After a while as a coach you lose track of how many saves he has.
“I actually had a question about a penalty at the end of the game, so that was why we were looking at the scoresheet on the way home. And then we saw the save total and thought, ‘Oh my, what is going on, is that some sort of record?’ “
Bruns has finished among the state’s leaders in shots faced and saves each of the past three seasons, peaking at No. 3 in the state in both shots (1,018) and saves (888) in 2014-15. Last season, he made 75 saves in – coincidentally – a 12-0 loss against the same Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato program.
As the co-operative program has struggled with numbers, Bruns’ save totals have gone up. As the team went 2-21-0 last year, Bruns had games of 75, 56, 53, 53 and 50 saves.
The Storm had just 12 players suit up against Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, a team that is projected as one of the state’s best in Class 1A. Meanwhile, of Morris/Benson’s 11 skaters, three are new to hockey.
“There were several times that, when we would shoot, he would kick out a rebound and then make two or three or four more saves,” Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato coach Chris Olson told the Star Tribune. “He was kicking his legs out and snapping saves. I was like, ‘Holy cow.’ ”
Because the team is low on players, they haven’t had the luxury of a backup goaltender for the past several seasons. That means more saves for Bruns, both on Saturday and for the near future.
“I kept calling for a shift change,” Bruns joked. “But they didn’t listen.”