NEW ULM - On Saturday night, "Scarlet Ice" - the best-selling book by former New Ulmite Roger Dier - came to life when players from the 1995 New Ulm High School and Mankato West High School hockey teams met in the second game of their two-game reunion series at the New Ulm Civic Center.
The series was played in commemoration of former Mankato West hockey player John Janavaras, who tragically died of meningitis in 1995 in the middle of the hockey season.
Each team upheld home ice advantage in the series, with Mankato West - wearing jerseys with a "JJ" patch on the chest - winning 7-3 Friday night in Mankato and New Ulm earning a thrilling 7-6 win on Saturday night.
Staff photo by Daniel Kerwin
The players from the 1995 New Ulm (in purple and black) and Mankato West (in red and white) hockey teams pose after their reunion game on Saturday at New Ulm Civic Center. New Ulm won the contest 7-6.
In February of 1995, history was made when the 3-20 Mankato West hockey team, inspired by the loss of their teammate during the season, shocked the Minnesota high school hockey community when they defeated a 19-3 New Ulm High School team 3-1 in a sectional playoff game.
Janavaras, a sophomore at West High School and a member of the Scarlet hockey team, was infected with menengitis during an outbreak in Mankato in January of 1995. On the way to the hospital, Janavaras told his mother that they needed to drop off juice and snacks for his teammates.
He later passed away. Seven people contracted the infection, but only Janavaras died.
The original players from the 1995 New Ulm and Mankato West hockey teams agreed to play the two-game series to promote charitable causes, with the proceeds going to both hockey associations and the John Janavaras Scholarship Fund.
KSTP-TV will be doing a news story on the games on its Monday morning 6 a.m. newscast.
For former New Ulm High School hockey player Dayton Larson, who led all of Minnesota hockey in scoring that season with 46 goals in 22 games, playing in the reunion series was a bitter-sweet affair.
"It will be nice to get back on the ice," said Larson prior to the series.
Larson - who played on a line with John McKenzie and Ben Dier - remembers that the 1995 sectional playoff game between the two teams went very differently than he had expected.
"It was a game where they were inspired by the loss of John and they took it to us," Larson said. "It was a battle, and I think that maybe we came in over-confident. They took it to us. They threw the 'Eagle Forecheck' on us and we did not know how to counter that.
"We had beat them 9-2 in Mankato two weeks earlier," added Larson, who scored a state-record five goals in 12 minutes in the second period of that 9-2 victory.
Larson said that the loss of a young Janavaras and the way that the game went along gave the sense that this game was not for New Ulm to win.
"There were a couple of things that were going on with the West team," Larson said. "First they lost John. But their goalie, Shane Ratcliff's mother, was diagnosed with some form of cancer. He was their starting goalie and he pretty much stood on his head. I really do think that there was a higher power on their side that night. We had a lot more talent than they did."
Larson said that the proceeds from Friday's game in Mankato will go to the Mankato Hockey Association and the John Janavaras Scholarship Fund, while the proceeds from Saturday night's game at the New Ulm Civic Center will go to both the Janavaras Fund and the New Ulm Hockey Association.