I don’t really remember too much now that I think about it. It’s the best time of your life. It’s the biggest stage and louder and more crazy at the ‘X’ than at the World Juniors.
As a silver medalist at the 2019 World Juniors, Noah Cates knows the big stage.
But in his mind, one stage reigns supreme: State.
Noah, of course, scored one of the biggest goals in Minnesota history, an overtime game-winning spin-o-rama to capture the Section 4AA title and send Stillwater to the state high school tournament in 2016. It was the No. 1 play on ESPN’s SportsCenter that night. The Ponies won their quarterfinal matchup against Farmington, 4-1 – Noah tallied a goal and two assists. Stillwater fell to the eventual state champs from Wayzata in the semifinals.
Noah, now a forward for the UMD Bulldogs, still dreams of state, and shared his memories with Minnesota Hockey.
Minnesota Hockey: What are some memories you have of the state tournament as a kid?
Noah Cates: We would go every year for sure. We’d skip school and go to the expo. You weren’t really at school all week. You were at the ‘X,’ just hoping to be there one day as a player. It was always such a great experience. It just made my dreams come true playing for a state title at the ‘X.’ Playing on that big stage with your friends that you grew up with – that’s what you dream of.
Minnesota Hockey: Were there any players you looked up to when you went to the tourney?
Cates: Adam Johnson (Hibbing/Chisholm) was a stud. And of course Kyle Rau’s (Eden Prairie) diving goal to win it – you dream of being in that moment.
Minnesota Hockey: To send your team to state with that viral spin-o-rama … do you still think about that goal?
Cates: It was very special to have that. It was a crazy play – they (Hill-Murray) were changing. My teammate kind of iced it down. I was one on one. I just tried that move and man I’m so glad it worked out. It was just a lot of fun for the team and the fans.
It was more of an on-the-pond move. I’m not really sure why I decided to try that there.
Minnesota Hockey: And to make it to the ‘X’ … what was that like? What stands out to you?
Cates: Just the pure atmosphere and the bands. The hype of the bands. Everyone in the state is watching. You feel like you’re the center of the hockey universe in Minnesota, or maybe even in the entire country. The other guys who aren’t from here, they don’t understand how big and how great it really is, so they ask about it. There’s a buzz around here and it’s hard to explain. You have to be there.
Minnesota Hockey: Did you get a lot of support from the Stillwater community?
Cates: A ton. We needed to fundraise some more money for hotels and getting there and stuff, and it was done in a day. The whole community was so proud. That’s what it’s all about.
Minnesota Hockey: Advice for those about to play in the state tournament?
Cates: Stay in the moment. It’s a blur. I don’t really remember too much now that I think about it. It’s the best time of your life. It’s the biggest stage and louder and more crazy at the ‘X’ than at the World Juniors. And you’re there with your lifelong friends. There’s nothing better.