Some tight contests this week, as teams have found their grooves. The wins are becoming important, as contenders are looking to get the best Section seedings. No one wants to take the tough road through their Section Tournament, so the wins count now.
Teams are also looking to gear up for the Schwan Cup next week. Winning your respective division does add some prestige to the name, and the big-game players are going to have their shot at putting their mark on the Mr. Hockey award. The top teams in the state will be on one of the rinks, and an impressive showing in a big game goes a long way towards the voting at the end of the year.
Make the jump, and let's see how the week played out.
Grand Rapids vs. Eden Prairie
Both teams came into this game looking to get back into the win column, as the #7 Thunderhawks dropped their last game to Edina, while #8 Eden Prairie skated to a tie with Elk River. Both teams came out ready to play, with neither squad really gaining a big advantage in the 1st period. Grand Rapids had an early chance to take the lead, as Eagles forward Jack Keeley took an early cross-checking penalty, but were unable to capitalize. The Eagles, however, would make Grand Rapids pay for their penalties. After a tripping minor, Eden Prairie defensemen Luc Snuggerud blasted a shot from the point to put the Eagles up 1-0, with the assists going to Mason Bergh and Andrew Knudsen. The period would end with the single powerplay marker being the only goal of the frame.
The 2nd period was something straight out of a Wild game, as Eden Prairie did the scoring, but Grand Rapids really held the shot advantage. And early Thuderhawks interference penalty put the dangerous Eagles powerplay back on the ice, and the defending champions made it count. Austin MacLeod was able to score a goal in the dirty area right in front of the crease, giving the Eagles their second powerplay goal. Bergh, again, was able to tally an assist on the play. Andrew Knudsen would add an even strength goal, with Bergh getting his third assist on the goal. After that, it was all about the Eagles defense. The Thunderhawks had an extended 5-on-3 advantage, but was unable to put one past Derrick LaCombe. Grand Rapids put 12 shots on net, but came up blank, while Eden Prairie was able to bury two goals on 5 total shots. The score after two had Eden Prairie up 3-0.
The teams apparently decided to switch styles between the 2nd and 3rd periods, as the Eagles peppered Grand Rapids goalie Hunter Shepard with 13 shots, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Travis Underwood got Grand Rapids on the board with an even strength goal. Matt Soderberg and David Horsmann, but that would be all the scoring for the frame. Grand Rapids was unable to get any more offense going, with only four total shots in the period.
In a side note, there were two illegal checks to the head penalties called in the 3rd period. Kudos to the MSHSL for cracking down on hits to the head. This is where the grassroots movement away from hits to the head has to start. Players need to learn at early ages that hits to the head cannot be tolerated. They develop bad habits that carry on to the next levels, and when they finally grow into man-bodies, it means more injuries.
Warroad vs. East Grand Forks
The #13 Warriors and the #4 Green Wave put on a great game, as the two played each other tough with a game that could have went either way. The 1st period didn’t start pretty, though, as both teams took a checking from behind penalty 3 minutes in.
I said it last week, and apparently I have to say it again: the penalties and consequences need to be increased at this level. 2-minute minors just aren’t enough. I would much rather see 5-minute majors for every hit from behind, as well as an automatic suspension for the next game. These hits really have no place in high school hockey.
Anyways, the penalties settled down quite well after that. Zach Lawdermilt opened the scoring, as East Grand Forks took a 1-0 lead. Andrew Gregoire got the only assist on the goal. Warroad put more shots on net in the period and had their chances, but the 1st came to an end with a 1-0 Green Wave lead.
The 2nd period actually saw zero penalties called in the frame. Both teams were able to play a very disciplined brand of hockey. Neither side was able to gain a noticeable advantage over the other. Pretty even in the shot category, with both teams playing good defense to keep the chances down. Tyler Elson was able to get Warroad tied, with the assists going to Hayden Timm and Kyle Sylvester. That would be all the scoring for the period. 2-2 tie after 2.
The 3rd saw more even play, as both teams gave each other a good fight. Tommy Astrup broke the tie, giving Warroad an early 2-1 lead in the period. Both Timm and Sylvester added the helpers, giving the duo two assists each. The two squads continued to play even hockey, until Warrod took a slashing penalty. The Green Wave would capitalize on the opportunity, with Lawdermilt getting his second goal of the game, this time on the powerplay. Tight defense and good goaltending meant this game was headed to overtime.
True to form, the overtime was another tough played period. Credit both teams with giving each other everything they had. This is a night where it’s a shame that a team does lose. Lawdermilt was able to cap off his night with a hat trick, securing a big win for the Green Wave. Gregoire tallied his second assist on the OT goal. This was a night where the best players from East Grand Forks were just a fraction better than the best players from Warroad. Both teams put on a great game, but the Wave was just that much better.
Grand Rapids vs. Elk River
Both teams came into this game coming off a loss on Friday night. The Thunderhawks lost a tough game to Eden Prairie, while #14 Elk River took a 4-1 loss against Edina in a chippy game that had way too penalty minutes, especially in the 2nd period. Both teams played this game with the sense of urgency necessary after a loss. Good defense kept the chances low in the 1st period, as neither team wanted to turn the game into a run-and-gun scorefest. No scoring in the period, with the only powerplay going to Elk River.
The 2nd period was tilted in favor of Elk River. The Elks carried the play, but good defense from Grand Rapids kept them in this game. An impressive Grand Rapids penalty killing didn’t hurt the Thunderhawks either, as they were able to kill off the two powerplay opportunities for Elk River. The Elks put 13 shots on net opposed to Grand Rapid’s 5, but still no score after two. Credit both teams as well as both goalies, as the teams did have chances, but no one was able to capitalize.
The scoring finally came in the 3rd period, as the two teams opened up a little bit, desperate for the win to remain relevant in the AA standings. Grand Rapids took an early penalty, but Cody Mann was able to tally a shorthanded goal to put the Thunderhawks up 1-0. Elk River would respond, however, as Jake Jaremko would tie the game with an even strength marker, with the assists going to Austin Larseon and Adam Watzke. It would take the Elks 50 seconds to add their 2nd goal, this one being credited to Jered McLaughlin, unassisted. A tripping minor to the Elks would give Grand Rapids an opportunity to get back into the game, and Avery Peterson made it count. Cody Mann and Curtis Simonson got the assists, and the score was tied 2-2. Grand Rapids had their opportunities to put this game away in regulation with 22 shots versus the 5 by Elk River, but this game was destined for overtime.
The OT period saw more even play, as neither team wanted to make that one mistake that would end the game. Shots and chances were even, but Colton Budreau would give the Elks the win in this game. Jake Jaremko and Jered McLaughlin got their second points of the night on the OT winner. Corsi be damned. Elk River wins a well-played game, 3-2.
Eden Prairie vs. Burnsville
Coming off a loss to Edina, the Eagles faced another tough challenge against #5 Burnsville. The Blaze, off to a great start and really a surprise team, looked to add another feather in their cap by taking on the defending AA Champion. It didn’t take the Eagles long to get rolling, as Andrew Knudsen scored 26 seconds into the game to put Eden Prairie up 1-0. Hunter Warner and Danny Halloran got the helpers on the opening goal. The Eagles kept the pressure on, but Burnsville would score the next goal, compliments of Hunter Anderson. Cory Chapman got the lone assist, and the score was tied 1-1. Despite giving up the goal, the Eagles kept coming at the Blaze and were paid off, as Luc Snuggerud scored an unassisted goal to put Eden Prairie back on top, 2-1. Steven Spinner would stretch the lead, 3-1, with the single assist going to Harry Pajor. The period would end with the Eagles on top, 3-1.
Burnsville would come out flying in the 2nd period, scoring quick goals to get back in the game. After Snuggerud took a late 1st period penalty, the Blaze were able to capitalize, as Mason Wyman tallied a powerplay goal from Chapman and Teemu Kivihalme. Less than one minute later, Tyler Sheehy tied the game, 3-3, with the assists going to Jake Senta and Nick Bohn. The two quick goals gave Burnsville life, but Eden Prairie held their ground. The Eagles finally got paid off, as Andrew Knudsen put the Eagles back on top. Brad Boldenow and Danny Halloran were credited with the helpers, and the Eagles skated off with a 4-3 lead at the end of the 2nd.
To their credit, Burnsville just kept coming at Eden Prairie. They had their chances to get back in the game, but the Eagles continued to hold their slim lead. Danny Halloran was able to stretch the lead with and even strength goal, with the helpers going to Knudsen and Luke Sudman. Burnsville pulled their goalie with about two minutes left, but a pair of empty net goals from Halloran and Mike DeCesare sealed the victory for Eden Prairie. DeCesare’s empty netter came on a 6-4, as Eden Prairie took a late cross checking penalty. Good discipline by the Blaze, as the Eagles only had one powerplay opportunity, but Eden Prairie just had too much for Burnsville on this night.
Maple Grove vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s
A surprise team to some, the Maple Grove Crimson reached #3 in the AA rankings, becoming a major player in the state. Coming as an equal surprise, the Red Knights have fallen from #2 to #6 in AA. This may have been the biggest game of the week, as the Crimson look for a statement win while the Knights are looking to move back up in the rankings. The two squads came out firing, as both teams looked to take an early advantage. The goalies stood tall early in the period, making big saves while the defenses settled in. The first powerplay advantage went to a scary Red Knights powerplay, but it was the Crimson that struck first. Tony Paulson scored a shorthanded goal, unassisted, to set the tone late in the 1st period. The goal may have sparked Benilde, though, as Grant Besse struck on the powerplay 30 seconds after giving up the shorthanded marker. Jake Horton and Dan Labosky got the assists on the Besse goal. Minutes later, the Crimson took another late penalty, and the Red Knights made them pay again, this time from T.J. Moore, with Horton and Christian Horn getting the helpers. The late goal gave Benilde a 2-1 lead at the end of the 1st.
Benilde was able to carry the momentum of two late powerplay goals into the 2nd period, as Horn got his first of the game, with the assists going to Jack Glover and Jake O’Borsky. The Red Knights had a 3-1 lead, and looked to get rolling, but it was all Crimson after the early period goal. After peppering Ander Jecha, Maple Grove broke through in a hurry. Paulson scored his second of the game, with Drew Aspinwall and Dylan Steman gathering the assists. About 30 seconds later, the Crimson struck again, compliments of Shane Wolden. Aspinwall and Joe Franta were credited with the assists on the Wolden goal. It took 50 seconds for the Crimson to bury their third of the period, coming from Jordan Gross. Alex Mason got his first assist and Steman got his second assist of the game. Benilde was forced to call timeout, as the Crimson rattled off three goals in under two minutes. The Red Knights were able to settle down for the most part, but gave up a late period goal. Sam Valerius scored, with the assists going to Wolden and Spencer Bell. The 2nd period ended with Maple Grove leading 5-3.
The 3rd period was another tough contested period. The Crimson didn’t turtle, continuing their game that got them the lead. Benilde had their chances, but the Crimson played a good defensive game against a team that had the weapons. Jake O’Borsky scored a late period goal to make things interesting, with the assists going to Horn and Horton, but the Red Knights ran out of time to get the equalizer. Maple Grove won a big game, 5-4, and if they were flying under the radar prior to this game, they should be known now.
Duluth Denfeld vs. Hermantown
Before I get into this game, I have to comment here:
How good is the hockey program in the Duluth area. Can anyone name another city in Minnesota where there are 3 ranked public schools and a ranked private school? Seriously, Hermantown and Duluth Marshall are real contenders for the Class A State Title, Duluth East is #1 in AA, and Denfeld has quietly been building a winning program. Best city for high school hockey, in this author's opinion. Anyways, on to the game...
The #12 Duluth Denfeld Hunters have been a mid-ranked team for the last few seasons, but are still looking for that breakthrough season where they are put in the elite category of Class A hockey. Their Class A counterparts on top of the hill in Hermantown have known success, as the #3 Hawks have a State Title and multiple trips to Xcel. The Hunters would need a quick start to hang with the Hawks, but got the exact opposite of what they were looking for. Less than a minute into the game, the Hunters put the Hawks on the powerplay. While Denfeld was able to get the kill, it set the tone for the period, as the Hunters were on the defensive through the 1st. Hermantown kept applying pressure to Denfeld, and they finally broke through on a Jared Thomas goal, with the assists going to Jeremy Amys and Andrew Mattson. The Hunters were able to escape the period without yielding another goal, but they were really on their heels. Denfeld had 1 shot on goal versus the Hawks 17.
The Hunters came out in the 2nd period with their legs moving, and it showed right away. Hermantown got into early penalty trouble in the period, even giving the Hunters a 5-on-3 advantage for a minute. Unfortunately for Denfeld, they were unable to cash in the the early powerplay opportunities, and in tough games, special teams makes a big difference. On the other side, Hermantown did what good teams do and they weathered the storm. After some early penalties, Hermantown struck again, this time in a 4-on-4 situation. Defensman Brian LeBlanc got the goal, with Mattson and Thomas getting the helpers. Another Hermantown penalty put the Hunters back on the powerplay, and this time Denfeld was able to cash in. Alex Thompson got the Hunters on the board, from Nick Forbort and Levi Talarico. Hermantown would answer shortly after, though, as LeBlanc got his second of the game, this time unassisted. Both teams then traded 5-on-3 scenarios, with the first powerplay going to Hermantown. The Hunters got the kill, giving the team a boost. Hermantown would then take two minors of their own on the same play late in the period, setting up the Hunters for a 5-on-3 for the 3rd period. The 2nd period ended with a 3-1 Hermantown lead, but nearly 2 minutes of 5-on-3 for Denfeld.
Alex Thompson got Denfeld going early in the 3rd, scoring on the man advantge, with Talarico and Bill Grillo getting the helpers. Denfeld kept up the pressure on Hermantown, and the Hawks continued their march to the penalty box. In a 3-2 game, the Hawks kept leaving doors open for the Hunters to get back into the game. A late-game penalty to Hermantown gave Denfeld their best opportunity, but Hermantown would be the team to celebrate on this man advantage. Denfeld gave up two shorthanded goals on the single advantage, one going to Mattson from Jared Kolquist and Thomas. The second goal went to Thomas from Mattson. The Hawks would finish this game with a 5-2 win, but a lot of questions surrounding Hermantown. They took a lot of penalties, and against teams like Breck or St. Thomas Academy, the Hawks will get blown out of the water. On the Denfeld side, they have to feel like they let one get away. Only 2 powerplay goals on 9 total Hermantown penalties has to be disappointing for the Hunters. Both squads have room for improvement, but both will be challenging for the Lake Superior Conference.
Upset of the Week:
Wayzata Trojans defeated Hill-Murray Pioneers 5-4
The Trojans weren't expected to be serious contenders after graduating a lot of top-end talent. They had a suspect loss to the Prior Lake Lakers and hadn't beaten a top-ranked team. That trend changed when Wayzata upset #12 Hill-Murray.
Team on the Rise:
Maple Grove Crimson. It seems odd to list a team coming into the week ranked #3 as a team on the rise, but the victory over pre-season #2 Benilde-St. Margaret's is a statement win.
Team on the Fall:
Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars. The came into the season ranked in the top 20, and since they the team has not impressed. Maybe the ranking was based on tradition, but this version of the Jags has not lived up to the name. The Jaguars are winless thus far in the season.
Upcoming games to note:
Well, I've been talking about it for two weeks now, so it should come as no surprise that the Schawn Cup is the series to note. Next week's review will be the Gold Division bracket in depth, along with score postings and some thoughts from the Silver and Bronze Divisions.