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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 22 2013

Rosemount Irish roll at Squirt International hockey tournament

FARGO – The scrappy Hermantown Flyers had the momentum after pulling to within 3-2 after two periods. A few parents from their opponent, the Rosemount (Minn.) Irish, showed some concern.

Comments like, “I don’t like this,” were heard at the Southwest Youth Arena in Fargo. No fear. The Irish scored two quick goals to start the third period, and the final of 8-2 went like most of their other games this season.

Well, like about every game these current Squirt hockey players have ever played. They were 80-0 coming into this season, and the win over Hermantown at the Fargo Youth Hockey Association Squirt International Tournament kept them unbeaten on the season.

Yes, that is Rosemount – not Edina, Eden Prairie, or any other customary Twin Cities youth hockey powers. It wasn’t long ago when the Rosemount Squirt program lost more games than it won, but its success this season is part of a trend that is seeing the outer-lying suburbs get better and better.

Osseo-Maple Grove, which edged the Fargo Freeze Blue 3-2 in the second round Friday, is also considered a favorite to reach the final round in the Squirt International, a 128-team hockey festival that brings in teams from around the country.

“We’re kind of a growing suburb,” said Rosemount head coach Troy Campbell. “We’re getting a lot of younger families moving in right now, and we’re really seeing a big growth in our youth hockey program.”

Specifically, he said there are 450 kids with 275 Squirt-age or younger, with 100 of those solely Squirts, which typically consist of fourth- and fifth-graders.

“Those are huge numbers for us, which helps,” Campbell said.

The current Rosemount Squirt team has been together since they were barely old enough to skate, around 4 years old. So far, it’s been one of those groups that has grown in ability, surpassing most teams in the country.

Al Hintz, the communications director for the Squirt International, said the latest Squirt power rankings had the top five teams in the country from the Twin Cities. Power rankings in the country you say?

Campbell said the state rankings done by a site called Youth Hockey Hub does its homework and is pretty reliable.

“They’re actually pretty accurate,” Hintz said.

The current Rosemount bunch is considered the next group of players coming through the system that should feed a successful high school team. Rosemount has struggled in general – the Irish are 10-15 this season.

“Our high school has struggled, but a lot of that is based on numbers,” Campbell said. “We had pretty small numbers.”

Not for long.

“With us, we have to get out and recruit our kids a bit to get them to join but once they do, they love it,” Campbell said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia