A lot of crazy action, with some meaningful upsets. Plenty of teams played back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, so the kids are getting tested early. Top teams were pitted against other top teams, as the early weekend may have clued some in to who we should expect to see at the end of the season at Xcel Energy Center in March. A lot of games to cover, so make the jump and find out who moved up, who took a hit, and what teams are where they should be.
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.
If you like scoring, I hope you caught the first period of this game. 10 goals in this game, and all of them were scored in the first frame. It took 20 seconds before Totino-Grace tallied the first goal of the game. 36 seconds later, Andrew McDonald scored to make it 2-0, Totino-Grace. The game would settle down for just over 60 seconds before Riley Soderstrom scored for Thief River, making it 2-1.
Things would only get more hectic for the frame. The Eagles needed 22 seconds to regain the 2 goal lead, with Chandler Nauman making it 3-1. McDonald would add his second, and Gino Lucarelli would increase the lead to 5-1, with McDonald getting the assist on the Lucarelli goal.
At this point, it seemed like Thief River was losing control of this game and were ready to pack it in. Totino rattle off three straight goals and had a commanding lead, right? Nope! Evan Ose struck on the powerplay, and Soderstrom added his 2nd of the game a minute later, pulling the Prowlers to within 2.
Unfortunately, that's as close as Thief River would get, as McDonald netted his hat trick on the penalty kill. Austin Odberg scored on the PP for Thief River Falls late in the 1st period, getting the Prowlers back to a 2-goal deficit. The 1st period came to an end, with the score at 6-4 in Totino-Grace's favor, and that's how this game would end. Both teams would remember how to play defense after the 1st, and while both teams still had chances, the defense and goalies showed much more poise. The Eagles were that much better in the 1st period being led by Riley Soderstrom.
Duluth Marshall vs. St. Thomas Academy
In a big rivalry matchup, the #8 Hilltoppers made their way south to challenge #1 St. Thomas Academy. These two teams are very familiar with each other, as the Cadets have beaten Duluth Marshall twice in the Class A State Finals. This game definitely earned Game of the Weekend honors, as it matched perennial powers, had the rivalry and intensity, and was a close game that could have gone either way.
No scoring in the 1st period, as the teams were really feeling each other out. Neither team wanted to make that first mistake, so play was slightly tentative. Shots were only 6-4 in favor of St. Thomas Academy, so neither squad came out flying offensively. Zachary Isaacson took the only minor penalty of the period, so both teams were also playing very disciplined hockey.
The 2nd period started much like the first, with both squads really focusing on taking care of their end first. Neither team wanted to make a mistake and allow the opposition to open the floodgates. The Cadets began to find their legs, but Duluth Marshall would not break. Hilltopper Judd Peterson would continue his run to the Mr. Hockey as he scored the game's first goal, 9 minutes into the 2nd period. Less than 2 minutes later, Peterson would bury his 2nd of the game, giving the Hilltoppers a 2-0 lead. Class A may not always get the respect of AA, but Peterson is really making his case for the Mr. Hockey Award. I really came into the season believing that the award was Max Cotta's to lose, but there's no denying what Peterson is doing at Duluth Marshall. Henry Hart would finally get the Cadets on the board 30 seconds after Peterson's 2nd goal, and the period would end with the Hilltoppers on top of the Cadets, 2-1.
The third period gave fans more of the same disciplined, smart hockey. Wyatt Schmidt scored an early 3rd period goal for the Cadets, and the lead was gone for Duluth Marshall. Things would stay deadlocked, as both teams had to respect their opponent's ability to break games open. Grant Sattler was able to break the tie with a goal late in the period, and St. Thomas Academy went up 3-2. Normally, I would believe that St. Thomas Academy would be able to use their talent to lock teams out, but credit the Hilltoppers. They kept pressing, and with the goalie pulled and only 24 seconds left, Michael Damberg pulled Duluth even, sending this game to overtime.
Both coaches have to be given credit at this point. They were able to keep their teams in the game mentally, and both teams were well disciplined. The overtime period started to resemble the 1st period, with few shots and chances. Both teams understood that they could be facing off again at Xcel and didn't want to give the other squad the upper hand. While the Hilltoppers played well enough to win, the Cadets skated away with this win, as Andrew Commers scored the final goal, giving St. Thomas Academy the win, 4-3.
Wayzata vs. Duluth East
The #11 Wayzata Trojans have had some good showings thus far, but they faced quite possibly the toughest test in the early year by taking on #1 Duluth East. Duluth East set the early pace, using their depth and speed to gain an early shot advantage and really controlled the play, yet Wayzata goalie Alec Almquist kept his team in the game. The Greyhounds peppered Almquist early, but the 1st period ended with a 0-0 tie.
The Trojans wouldn't be able to keep the Hounds off the board forever, and Duluth East used their depth to create scoring chances. Conner Valesano scored shorthanded to give the Hounds an early period 1-0 lead. Dom Berglund would add another Duluth East goal to make the score 2-0. Jack Forbort would score 40 seconds later to pump the lead to 3. The period would end 3-0, and while Wayzata had done a good job up to that point of keeping the top line of Duluth off the board, the depth of talent proved too much for the Trojans in the 2nd period.
Jake Randolph would finally get the top line on the board for Duluth East, with the primary assist going to Dom Toninato; however, Wayzata turned up the heat in the 3rd. Alec Waszczenko got the Trojans on the board, making the score 4-1, but that would end the scoring for this contest. Another disciplined game between two good teams, as there were only 3 total powerplays in this one.
Major concern for Duluth would have to be how quiet the Toninato and Randolph were. Trevor Olson missed this game, but the two that were present need to be able to dominate close games. The depth of Duluth East is tough to match, but the big game players have to show up in big games. This type of outing from the senior leaders could hurt the Greyhounds when they need them most.
Hill-Murray vs. Burnsville
Coming off a tough loss to Benilde-St. Margaret's, the #6 Pioneers looked to get back in the win column against #10 Burnsville, also coming off a tough loss to Minnetonka. Both teams came out and felt each other out, knowing how important getting in the win column was. A close game, both the Pioneers and the Blaze played good defense while picking their spots to attack offensively. Hill-Murray started to get into penalty trouble in the middle of the period, but the Blaze could not capitalize on the powerplay. The same could not be said for Hill-Murray. Following a Burnsville penalty, Zach LaValle converted a powerplay marker, with the primary assist going to Andy Faust. The period would end 1-0 in favor of Hill-Murray.
The 2nd period would feature more of the same from the first, as both teams were in the game defensively. The score wouldn't change until the Pioneers took another penalty. 10 second after Conrad Sampair took his 2nd penalty of the game, Hunter Anderson was able to tie the game 1-1. Andy Faust would put Hill-Murry on top again with an even-strength goal, but Tyler Sheehy of Burnsville would respond 21 seconds later. The score would remain tied 2-2 after 2 periods of play.
The 3rd period, however, was all Burnsville. Hill-Murray took 8 penalties on the night, and while Burnsville only scored 2 powerplay markers, the fatigue from killing penalties began to set in. Burnsville played inspired hockey and really dominated the last frame. Cory Chapman would break the tie for Burnsville 13 minutes into the 3rd period, and the wind was taken out of Hill-Murray's sails. Jake Senta would add another goal for Burnsville, giving the Blaze a 2-goal lead. After Charlie Sampair took a boarding penalty, Burnsville's Nick Bohn would cap off the scoring with a powerplay tally. Burnsville avenged a tough loss with a 5-2 win over a quality opponent.
Eagan vs. Eden Prairie
Eagan came into this game ranked #2 and favorites to make a deep run in the State Tournament. The Eden Prairie Eagles, coming off an impressive win, had the #7 ranking, but are more known for losing Kyle Rau. The Eagan Wildcats came out early and controlled the play, dominating in just about every category except goals. Eden Prairie was able to keep the puck out of their net despite being badly outshot, 14-3. No penalties in the period, as both teams started out with the disciplined needed against a top-10 team.
However, the 2nd period was a totally different game. The Eagles were able to get back into the game, as their tournament experience helped level off the playing field. Eagan struck first, as Will Merchant was able to tally an even strength goal, with Michael Zajac getting the assist. Eden Prairie would respond, with Andrew Knudsen getting the Eagles on the board, tying the game 1-1. John Sullivan would add a late goal for Eden Prairie, and the Eagles would skate off the 2nd with a 2-1 lead.
Penalties, though, were the real story of the 2nd period. Combined, the teams added up 24 penalty minutes in the 2nd period alone, but only 4 total powerplay opportunities. Eagan had a golden opportunity to take a 2-1 lead, as Eden Prairie sent both Derrick LaCombe and Harry Pajor off at the 9:11 mark, but the Wildcats were unable to capitalize on the 5-3.
The 3rd period was much like the 1st, with Eagan resuming control of play. Both teams got an earful during the intermission, as only one more penalty was called during the game. Tyler Leddy was sent off early in the 3rd, but Eagan could not find the equalizer on the powerplay. Despite being outshot 13-4, the Eagles were able to hang on and win this game by a score of 2-1. Important win for Eden Prairie, as they look to prove they were not a one-trick team last year. Tough loss for Eagan, who also were out to prove that they are more than just a ranking.
Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. Burnsville
The #3 Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights rolled through their first games, while Burnsville had an impressive bounce-back win against Hill Murray. How would the #10 ranked Blaze respond after a win? The two squads focused on defense early, as Burnsville knew Benilde could roll up goals in a hurry while the Knights saw how the Blaze buried Hill-Murray late in a game. Shots were even at 7 a piece, and the period would have ended tied had Burnsville's Matt Benolkin not taken a late slashing penalty. The Red Knights went on the powerplay, and Dan Labosky made it count, with Grant Besse getting an assist. Benilde took a 1-0 lead into the locker room, playing a great road-game 1st period.
Burnsville was looking to improve a powerplay that went 2-8 against Hill-Murray, and improve they did. Perhaps the team worked on the PP during practice on Wednesday, but they came out clicking all night. Alec Anderson of Benilde was sent off for a cross-check, giving Cory Chapman the opportunity to bury a PP goal with 16 seconds left on the man advantage. Jonah Johnson would take the next Red Knight penalty, and this time Mason Wyman made Benilde pay. Just like that, Burnsville had a 2-1 lead, thanks to special teams. Wyman would add a late period goal, and Burnsville ended the 2nd period up 3-1. Hunter Anderson assisted on all three goals in the frame for Burnsville.
The powerplay wasn't done for Burnsville in this game. Patrick Graham went off for boarding, and Tyler Sheehy put up another Blaze PP goal, with another assist going to Hunter Anderson. The game got away from Benilde-St. Margaret's late in the frame. Burnsville's Jake Maxson was about to be sent off for a cross check, but the powerplay was nullified by Jake O'Borsky, who took a terrible spearing major. 5 minutes plus the ejection tells the tale of frustration for Benilde. Patrick Graham would take a late penalty, and Hunter Anderson would put up another powerplay goal 24 seconds later.
Poor discipline from Benilde-St. Margaret's took them totally out of this game. Burnsville went 4-5 on the powerplay, with Hunter Anderson being the key. 4 of his 5 points were on the man advantage, and he contributed on every Burnsville goal. Like Judd Peterson, Anderson put himself into the Mr. Hockey conversation. 9 points (2G, 7A) in 3 games thus far for the 6'5", 205 lbs senior forward.
Upset of the Week:
Holy Family Catholic defeated Academy of Holy Angels 8-4
For a team that still prides itself as a premier hockey program, this was not a pretty loss by the . Holy Family Catholic is a team AHA should beat.
Team on the Rise:
Burnsville Blaze. The team took a tough loss to a very good Minnetonka Skippers team, but were able to rally with quality wins over Hill-Murray and Benilde-St. Margaret's. These are two incredibly talented teams, so don't sell the Blaze short on these two wins.
Team on the Fall:
Little Falls . Not a good start for the Flyers. Little Falls lost to Hibbing/Chisholm in their opening tournament, then lost back-to-back games to Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl and International Falls on Friday and Saturday. Both games were on the road, which was a brutal travel schedule for a high school team, but this was not what a team that wants to get back to the State Tournament wants to see early on.
Upcoming games to note:
Friday, Dec. 9th:
#15 White Bear Lake vs. #1 Duluth East
#4 Rochester Lourdes vs. #9 St. Cloud Cathedral
Saturday, Dec. 10th:
#5 Eagan vs. #17 Lakeville South
#7 Grand Rapids (AA) vs. #10 Warroad (A)
#6 Duluth Marshall (A) vs. #2 Benilde-St. Margaret's (AA)
#5 Totino-Grace vs. #3 Hermantown
#1 St. Thomas Academy (A) vs. #10 Hill-Murray (AA)
Tuesday, Dec. 13th:
#11 Duluth Denfeld vs. #12 Hibbing/Chisholm
Thursday, Dec. 15th:
#2 Benilde-St. Margaret's (AA) vs. #5 Totino-Grace (A)
#1 St. Thomas Academy vs. #4 Rochester Lourdes
#7 Grand Rapids vs. #8 Edina
Some of the story lines for this week:
Justin Kloos had the only goal for Lakeville South against Edina. I noted last week that Lakeville South doesn't have the name to boost Kloos up the Mr. Hockey standings, and now he's being passed by guys like Max Cotta, Judd Peterson, and Hunter Anderson. He desperately needs a big showing against Eagan to boost his stock.
Duluth Marshall had a tough, but impressive, loss against St. Thomas Academy. Can they build off a good performance against a Benilde-St. Margaret's team coming off a loss to Burnsville?
Totino-Grace gives Hermantown their first challenge this season. Are the Hawks the same team that challenged St. Thomas Academy last year, or have the departures of Adam Krause and now Garret Skrbich left a major hole in Hermantown's top-end ability?
How will Hill-Murray bounce back from tough losses? The road doesn't get any easier for the Pioneers, as the Cadets from St. Thomas Academy are up next.