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Proctor boys hockey parent Dave Reyelts (son AJ Reyelts, a Frank Brimsek Award finalist for Minnesota's top senior goaltender) on the 2023-24 Rails, who battled Hermantown tough in a 6-3 Section 7A semifinal loss Saturday afternoon at Amsoil Arena – "Leave it in a better place than when you arrived. A measure of success for sure, and in this case an understatement. AJ and his group of friends have done that with Proctor hockey. A group who started playing together as 4- and 5-year-olds did so for the last time last night. Endings are sad and all of us parents were heartbroken. However, this is not an ending – this is a beginning. A rebirth for Proctor hockey and this team and their coaches brought Proctor hockey back to life. The game, last night, was not what we all hoped for, but what was happening at the Amsoil was the success we had all dreamed of. Little Proctor hockey players in jerseys, with signs, with faces painted. The same kids who hang over the ramp at home, just to get a chance to high five their favorite player. Mom's and others proudly wearing Rails jerseys, a boisterous (and respectful) student section, the alums, some at a Rails game for the 'First Time in Forever,' the Rock Ridge fans starting a 'Let's go Rails' chant in pre-game. These boys have put Proctor hockey back on the map. They have changed the culture, raised the bar and set new expectations for Rails Hockey on the ice, but especially off it. And they did it together, from day one as little kids on the outdoor rink at the old barn until the final whistle last night at Amsoil. Thank you, boys. I, for one, couldn't be prouder of you all."

Takeaways from the Proctor-Hermantown 7A semi:

The RailsAJ Reyelts, a Lindenwood University (Missouri) recruit, lived up to his top billing and finished with 29 saves. He plays big and square in the net, is strong with his glove hands, is quick and athletic moving left to right, and – best of all – is tough to beat. Junior forwards Tanner Ross, the Rails' scoring leader with 49 points (19 goals), and Austin Bryant (37 points, including a team-high 21 goals) are explosive offensive players. Sophomore forward/defenseman Breckin Ross (26, 9) is a another diaper dandy to watch.

The Hawks – Junior power forward River Freeman (team high 39 points and 19 goals) is a rising college hockey prospect, who uses his size, strength, speed and shot to overpower opponents. I'm confident that he can play at the next two levels, although he also is a top baseball prospect at catcher. Lanky junior defenseman Henry Peterson (18 points) is a good get for St. Thomas and likely will be a Mr. Hockey finalist a year from now. Steady senior defenseman Drew Nelson (15) and senior power forward William Esterbrooks (34) will be difficult to replace.