Updated: March 08, 2019 11:10 PM
When the 1955 Minnesota Boys State Hockey Tournament started Thief River Falls Prowlers were among the favorites to win the championship. They were the defending champions, but only had four players back from that championship team's 12-man roster.
The Prowlers opening game wouldn't be an easy one. They were facing Minneapolis South which had eight players back from its 1954 tournament team that had won the consolation title.
The quarterfinal contest between the teams from the north and south was as close as many anticipated. In fact, it was so ridiculously close it took eleven overtime periods to determine a winner.
"It was a back and forth game," Roger Evenson said on a recent snowy morning at his St. Louis Park home. Evenson was the goalie for Minneapolis South.
South struck first with an unassisted goal by Dale Rasmussen. Thief River Falls countered with second period goals by Loren Vraa and Glenn Carlson to take a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Midway through the third period South's Jerry Westby scored the equalizer that eventually sent the game to overtime at 2-2.
"Everybody was trying their hardest to score that third goal," Evenson says.
In fact, they tried and tried and tried to score for overtime after overtime after overtime. It was the early evening game so the series of five-minute overtimes with short rest breaks in between was delaying the next game between St. Paul Johnson and Roseau.
After seven overtimes Minnesota State High School League officials asked the coaches if they wanted to suspend the game and resume the next day. "I think both coaches said no," Evenson recalled, "They wanted to complete the game that night so that's what we did."
But not until four more overtimes and maybe the most unusual state tournament game situation in history.
Tournament officials decided after nine overtimes to let the players from Thief River Falls and Minneapolis South get some rest before resuming their game.
"They decided to let us go to the dressing room and rest and let poor St. Paul Johnson and Roseau come out and play their first period," Evenson said.
The Johnson and Roseau players had been watching the game with their skates on because they knew it could end at any moment.
"We had to give those other teams a rest," Herb Brooks told Sports Illustrated in a story about the game many years later. Brooks played for St. Paul Johnson and later became world famous for coaching the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic team.
After Roseau and Johnson finished their first period with Johnson leading 1-0, Minneapolis South and Thief River Falls played their 10th overtime period during the first intermission. As you know by reading this far, no one scored in that overtime either.
"We played our first period, then they played their tenth overtime," Brooks said. "Then we played our second period. I remember thinking we were going to finish our game before they finished theirs."
In fact, St. Paul Johnson and Roseau were still at 1-0 with Johnson leading after two periods. That game looked like it, too, could end up in overtime.
While resting in the locker room before the 11th overtime Evenson and his teammate Dick Koob marveled at what was happening. "I said 'You know, we are making history.'"
They didn't know it at the time, but the previous longest game in the tournament's previous ten years dating back to 1945 was four overtimes.
Finally, during the second intermission of the Johnson-Roseau game just before 12:30 a.m., Minneapolis South and Thief River Falls finished their historic game. Minutes later South star Jim Westby scored just under two minutes into the 11th overtime to beat the defending champions and advance to the semi-finals.
St. Paul Johnson finished their game with a 1-0 victory over Roseau, narrowly avoiding their own overtime game. Johnson went on to defeat South 3-1 in the semi-finals and beat Minneapolis Southwest for the championship.
But 65 years after that historic 11-overtime game, the now 82-year-old Evenson is proud of the 55 saves he made in that game. It's a record that stood until the early 1970s. He said he is mostly proud of what his team accomplished making the state tournament two years in a row during the glory days of high school hockey in the city of Minneapolis
"I'm very proud to have played for South," he says.
Updated: March 08, 2019 11:10 PM
Created: March 08, 2019 10:59 PM
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