High School Study Guide: There will be a test

Hopefully everyone had a very good Thanksgiving. I know for a fact that I ate way too much to be healthy. While I attempted to nap off the turkey and stuffing overdose on Friday, Minnesota High School Hockey began, with young men taking the ice, hoping their season ends with a trip to Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota's version of March Madness. Who impressed, who regress, and who loves sayings that rhyme? Make the jump and find out if your high school Alma Mater is in the discussion.

Note: There are so many good high school programs and teams that reviewing every single game is nearly impossible. If you don't see your team, apologies in advance. This will focus on the contenders, pretenders, and players making moves.

High school hockey came out with a bang, as the season began with some impressive post-Thanksgiving tournaments. One tournament that caught my eye in particular was the Turkey Trot at the Plymouth Ice Center. Maple Grove (#5), Edina (#9), and Wayzata (#11), three teams with real AA Title aspirations, rolled out, with Buffalo filling the 4th spot in the tournament. Friday's games saw Edina vs. Buffalo and Maple Grove vs. Wayzata.

Edina vs Buffalo

Edina took the first semi-final by a score of 4-0. Considering how many blowouts can actually occur at the high school level, Buffalo impressed me. Considering the major disparity in talent and depth, Buffalo never let this game get out of control. The first period was all Edina, with the shots going 12-0 in favor of the Hornets, yet Edina could not bury one. Score after 1 period was a 0-0 tie.

The 2nd period was much like the first, with shots going 12-2, once again in favor of Edina. This period, however, saw the Hornets light the lamp 3 times, as Andy Jordahal, Connor Hurley, and Miguel Fidler tallied their first goals of the season. With a 3-0 lead, the Hornets started getting their depth lines involved, yet Buffalo would not go away. Shots for this period were tied 8-8, with the lone Edina goal being scored by Tim Spicola. Buffalo never quit and got sublime goaltending from Tim Harkess, who blocked 32 of 36 shots while Buffalo could not get any traction in the first two periods.

Wayzata vs Maple Grove

Semi-final two saw Wayzata and Maple Grove square off in two very evenly-matched teams. Wayzata got the ball rolling early. Kage Tiller struck early on the powerplay, with the helpers going to Sam Majka and Kenzie Vold. 41 seconds later, Kenzie Vold put Wayzata up 2-0 with the assists going to Tiller and Majka. All three (Tiller, Majka, Vold) are seniors and will be asked to step up and add offense this year with the top-heavy departures.

Maple Grove got on the board late in the period, with defensman Jordan Gross tallying an unassisted goal. The 2nd period saw more even action, as Gross tallied his 2nd of the game, this one on the powerplay. Wayzata scored 27 seconds into the 3rd period, with Akash Batra scoring to put Wayzata back up 3-2; however, Spencer Bell of Maple Grove would equalize the game 2 minutes later, which was his 2nd point of the night. The 3rd would finish tied, and the teams got ready for overtime.

No scoring in overtime, but Maple Grove carried most of the play, with Wayzata only mustering 2 shots. Unfortunately, I was well on my way to Milwaukee, so I wasn't able to watch this tournament, and this is where life gets confusing. The StarTribune has the game ending in a tie, yet Maple Grove moving on as the winner. I'm assuming that they moved the higher seeded team, but if someone can confirm that or if there was a 2nd overtime with a goal, I would love the help. Anyway, long of the short of it, Maple Grove moved on to play Edina.

Maple Grove vs Edina

In the Turkey Trot Final, Maple Grove jumped out to an early lead, with goals from Spencer Bell and Dylan Steman. The 2nd period flow was broken up by a combined 8 penalties between the two teams. Uncharacteristic and undisciplined hockey from both teams slowed play down, which I find highly unusual, as both teams want a solid game flow. More of the same in the 3rd period, as the two teams combined for another 7 penalties. Spencer Bell was finally able to make Edina pay, scoring his second on the PP. Both teams got out of their game plan, but Edina was unable to cash in on 5 powerplay opportunities.

Maple Grove wins the Turkey Trot, showing why they are ranked at #5. They knocked off two Top-15 teams, won a close game, and had balanced special teams in a win against Edina. Don't sleep on this team being a real title contender.

Breck vs Duluth-Marshall

One other big game of note matched Class A powers in #2 Breck and #8 Duluth-Marshall. Led by Conner Andrle, Breck jumped out to an early 3-1 lead over the Hilltoppers. Andrle had a pair of goals in the first frame, along with an assist on Wesley Iverson's SH goal.

The 2nd period was the Wesley Iverson show, as he scored another goal and added an assist. Judd Peterson of D-M was able to score his first of the game, yet the Mustangs had a 6-2 lead heading into the 3rd period.

Kudos to Duluth-Marshall, as they began a late rally to get back into the game. After both teams traded goals, bumping the score to 7-3, Judd Peterson struck twice, one on the PP and one at even strength to finish the hat-trick and pull the Hilltoppers within 2 with 3:45 left; however, that was all the scoring that would occur, as Breck was able to lock down their two-goal lead and take the Marshall Hilltopper Tournament.

Hibbing / Chisholm vs Duluth-Marshall

Tuesday saw a plethora of more games with major implications, as #11 Hibbing/Chisholm fell 5-2 to Duluth-Marshall. Hibbing will be looking to make their way back to Xcel, but their road is not an easy one. The Bluejackets (no, not Columbus) were able to take an early 2-1 lead after the 1st period, but it was all Duluth-Marshall after that, as the Hilltoppers netted 4 goals in the last two periods.

Judd Peterson buried another two goals in this game. Along with an assist in the game, Peterson now has 8 goals (Judd scored 3 goals and an assist against Providence Academy in their semi-final tournament game) and 3 assists for 11 points. He could be making an early case for Mr. Hockey considerations, but I would be wary before buying his stock. He's only taken 8 shots all year, which means he has a 100% shooting percentage. That's a totally new meaning to lights out. I know we at Hockey Wilderness hear the word a lot, but this is a case where regression is bound to happen.

Breck vs Mahtomedi

#2 Breck was in action again as the Mustangs took on #17 Mahtomedi. Breck jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first, and that frame would prove pivotal, as Mahtomedi was able to balance the game out. Both teams traded markers in the 2nd period, and while Breck poured in 4 goals in the 3rd, Mahtomedi was able to tally 3 of their own goals.

Matt Colford of Breck had a big night with a hat-trick and an assist for a 4-point night. Wesley Iverson quietly had another two points. The difference in this game? Special teams. Mahtomedi had 5 powerplay opportunities, but was only able to cash in on one. Breck only had 3 chances on the PP (Good discipline by Mahtomedi. Maybe the Wild could learn something from these kids. DON'T PLAY WITH FIRE!!!), yet the Mustangs put in two PP goals.

Benilde-St.Margaret's vs St. Cloud Tech

There were also some major blowouts Tuesday, as the #3 Red Knights of Benilde-St. Margaret's embarrassed St. Cloud Tech 16-0. Whether the Red Knights were trying to pad Mr. Hockey Stats or their coach decided to make a statement, I view this as a classless win. 10-0 after two periods, and the Red Knights chose to pour in another 6 goals in the final frame. With a display like this, I won't be weeping if BSM gets bounced before the State Tournament again this year. This isn't the BCS, where computers decide who gets ranked where. Benilde has to navigate their section, so lighting up a smaller Class A school that a splits players with St. Cloud Cathedral, St. Cloud Apollo, and Little Falls doesn't prove much to me.

Burnsville vs. Minnetonka

#10 Burnsville, another school with tournament aspirations, made their way north to take on #4 Minnetonka, led by Max Cotta. Get used to the name, because he will be in the Mr. Hockey discussion. This Thursday game is the first good test for Burnsville to see how their depth stood up against some of the perennial powers. Burnsville drew first blood only :37 seconds into the game on a goal by Cory Chapman.

Burnsville would take a 2-0 lead on a PP goal from Dan Ames, with Chapman getting one of the assists. Cotta would get Minnetonka on the board with a PP marker of his own, and the Skippers would get the equalizer late in the 1st period, compliments of a Jack Teal goal. The Blaze had to be happy skating off with a 2-2 tie on the road, but that's about as close as it would be for the rest of the night.

The depth of talent for Minnetonka was just too much, as Cotta, Connor Thie, Vinni Lettieri, and Sam Rothstein put the Skippers up 6-2. Chapman would bury his 2nd of the game for Burnsville in the frame, but the Blaze were all but out of this one. Lettieri would add a SH goal early in the 3rd, and Minnetonka was on cruise control at that point. SEVEN, that's right, SEVEN Skippers had multi-point games against a Top-10 team. The Skippers are for real, and they have the top-6 talent to hang with any team in the state.

Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. Hill-Murray

Coming as the Red Knights first true test, #6 Hill-Murray put on a valiant effort to prove their are still a premier program in the state; however, this classified as an impressive victory for BSM. While the final score reads 3-2, the game was never really that close. The Pioneers had the early lead, as Conrad Sampair buried a doorstep goal, with the assist going to his brother, Charlie Sampair. Benilde held a slight majority in shots, but the Pioneers got out of the 1st with a 1-0 lead.

The 2nd period was a totally different story. Benilde would score all three of their goals in the frame, with Grant Besse scoring the first. Christian Horn and Jake Horton would add tallies in the period, both being assisted by Besse. All three goals for the Red Knights came in the dirty-goal area, as the Knights showed their size and skill by really dominating play in the period. Benilde put 21 shots on goal versus 1 by the Pioneers.

The 3rd period evened out again, but BSM showed they also have the lockdown defense to keep teams off the board. Hill-Murray pulled their goalie, John Dugas, but fell just short, as Andy Faust added a late goal for the Pioneers, but there were only :13 seconds left in the game after that. Dugas did everything he could to give his team an opportunity to win, but there was just too much Benilde in the 2nd period. As disgusted as I was with Benilde's win over St. Cloud Tech, I was equally impressed with this victory over Hill-Murray. This was a win that showed me something.

Upcoming games to note

Friday, Dec. 2nd:
#4 Totino-Grace vs. #6 Thief River Falls

Saturday, Dec. 3rd:
#8 Duluth Marshall vs. #1 St. Thomas Academy
#6 Hill-Murray vs. #10 Burnsville
#9 Edina vs. #14 Lakeville South
#11 Wayzata vs. #1 Duluth-East
#2 Eagan vs. #7 Eden Prairie

Thursday, Dec. 8th:
#3 Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. #10 Burnsville
#5 Maple Grove vs. #12 Blaine

There are a lot of other games with ranked teams, especially on Saturday. For a complete listing, check out the StarTribune's complete schedule.
For a look at the State Rankings, check out the Let's Play Hockey rankings.

Some interesting story lines for the upcoming games. Justin Kloos, the highest scoring returning forward from last year out of Lakeville South, hosts Edina. I believe Kloos needs Lakeville South to show well in order to gain name recognition over some of the players who skate for bigger name programs if he wants to take home the Mr. Hockey Award.
Wayzata had a very good showing against Maple Grove. Can the team produce results against the pre-season favorites in Duluth-East?
In a lesser-known game, New Prague vs. Rochester Lourdes on Tuesday re-matches the Section 1A Final from last year. This could be a good indicator as to which team will represent the section in the State Tournament.

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