Sophomore Shael Hechter, a member of the St. Thomas men’s club hockey team, was one of the many hopefuls who competed in the Red Bull Crashed Ice event this weekend at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
Hechter said he didn’t perform the way he had hoped, finishing 49th in the national shoot out, where only the top 32 skaters move on to the elimination round.
Hechter’s team, the Benders, finished 30th in the team competition, in which the top 12 teams move on to compete for the championship.
Crashed Ice features ice cross downhill, one of winter’s extreme sporting events, which combines hockey and downhill skiing. The track challenges athletes with steep turns and high vertical drops. It’s been on tour throughout the world for 14 years, but this year is the third time it has made a stop in St. Paul.
During the team event Friday, the team Couch Garden Crew, made up of brothers Marco and Luca Dallago of Austria, John Fisher of Canada and Andreas Wirnstl of Germany, took first place. The Crew defeated the team Living the Dream in the final. In the small final, Prestige Worldwide beat Team ‘Merica. In the first team competition final in Helsinki, Living the Dream took first, while Couch Garden Crew took the silver.
Marco Dallago is ranked No. 1 in the men’s standings after finishing first in Helsinki. Marco carried his success from Friday into Saturday’s men’s singles competition. Dallago took home the gold in Saturday’s competition in front of 120,000 fans, a record for any Red Bull Crashed Ice event.
The Austrian battled his way through five rounds of determined skaters. Dallago met Living the Dream team member, Scott Croxall, who has finished second and third the last two years in St. Paul.
Cameron Naasz and Andrew Bergeson, both from Minnesota, filled out the final. Dallago said the race seemed like just a blur.
“Everything happened so fast I can’t remember, honestly,” Dallago said. “I crashed on the final straight away, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’m in first, now I messed it up again.’ I stood up as quick as I could and tried to finish. I’m pretty happy.”
Naasz said the hometown crowd motivated him throughout the night.
“They really pumped me up out there,” Naasz said. “You look down there at 100,000 people, and you know they’re all out there for you, cheering for you and booing the Canadians. It fires you up a little bit, and it definitely helped.”
With crowd support, three Minnesota skaters finished in the top eight. Bergeson said he is hopeful Americans can take over this sport.
“Now, to have two of us in the final four, and three in the top eight, that’s a big step in the sport here and it’s really awesome to see this happen,” Bergeson said. “Hopefully we can chase these Canadian guys and get a lot more Americans in the finals.”
The next stop for the athletes is in Moscow on March 8. The final competition to decide the overall winner of the season will be held in Quebec City on March 22.
Jesse Krull can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.