Luc Snuggerud and Steven Spinner remember their state tournament experiences vividly. The Eden Prairie duo made it to the state stage twice in their youth careers, winning the Bantam A title in 2011 and finishing fourth at the state high school hockey tournament in 2014.
But when asked about both, neither recalls the scores. Instead they remember the sights, the sounds and the fun.
“You can’t really explain being in a state tournament,” said Snuggerud, currently a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. “You’re out there with all of your best friends and it’s a pretty speechless experience at every level. It’s a humbling feeling, just being able to go through it and play in the spotlight. It’s incredibly special.”
Snuggerud and Spinner, a future UNO Maverick and current forward for the United States Hockey League’s Omaha Lancers, sat down to reminisce about both tournament trips.
Minnesota Hockey: What do you remember about that Bantam A championship run?
Luc Snuggerud: That was my first time ever playing in a state tournament for hockey. I remember it was in Virginia, Minnesota. They had a really cool rink so it made for a good atmosphere at the games. It was pretty special playing with all those guys you grow up playing with, and it being the first time we played on the big stage, it was definitely a lot of fun. The championship game, we went into overtime, maybe double overtime, and came out with a win. It made for a pretty intense hockey game and it was just a lot of fun.
Steven Spinner: I remember it was in Virginia, Minnesota. I don’t think we really planned on winning it. We definitely didn’t expect to win right away in our first state appearance. There were a lot of good teams but we came out on top.
MH: What about that team made it work so well?
LS: We had a lot of talent on that team. I think the biggest thing with that team is that everyone got along with each other. Everyone loved coming to the rink and hanging out with each other every day.
SS: I think we just had everyone buy into the systems. Everyone knew their role and we had everyone doing everything they could to win a state championship. That and we were all having fun together. I think having fun is one of the most important things. If you go (to state) and you’re completely serious, you may have a lot of success but you’re not going to get the full experience. You need to enjoy the time. Enjoy being on the ice with your buddies. If you do, you’re almost unbeatable. I think having fun is one of the main factors of winning a championship.
MH: Were there any similarities between your Bantam state run and the high school run?
SS: I think the high school state tournament was the same thing as Bantams. We just kind of went there and had as much fun as we could. Obviously it’s a bigger stage and we’re all more mature, but we had a lot of fans there cheering us on just like we did when we were younger. It was the best experience of my life.
MH: Most of your team was able to stick with each other throughout your entire youth careers. How special is that?
LS: I think that’s really cool that you’re growing up and spending so much time throughout all the years playing with the same kids. You all finally make it to a state game and it’s a pretty special feeling knowing that all those years of hard work playing outside on the pond with your buddies – it finally pays off.
SS: I think that’s the best part of making it to state, playing with your buddies. We had been playing together since we were 4 years old. To go all the way through high school playing with them, winning Bantams and going to state in high school was just the cherry on top. We had a real connection and that’s something so unique to Minnesota. I see guys here in the USHL who don’t really have friends from their area. They have friends from all over the U.S. through hockey and that’s great, but I have friends back home. That’s where all my hockey friends really are. Every day I’m still talking to those guys.
MH: Any advice for this year’s state participants?
LS: Once you get to state you have to enjoy the experience. A lot of people don’t even get to reach that experience and that’s what makes it so cool. It’s a hard thing to do. It’s what you work for all those years, each and every season. All that time playing outside with your buddies. All those practices and the heartbreak that comes with some seasons of not making it. When you finally do, it’s pretty special. It’s hard to describe but it’s just very special.