High school hockey has adopted new rules. Since it's not the 24th yet, I feel marginally comfortable linking these new rules to you. Tuesday could decide if this is the last high school review I can put out to all the fine readers of this site. Let your and your House Members know that SOPA and PIPA are not the correct responses to online piracy. Is it really necessary to shut down sites like Google, Wikipedia, and Hockey Wilderness just to stop 16-year old kids from downloading music illegally? You have the power folks, not the pen-pushers in Washington. Remember they serve you, not the other way around.
On a much more pleasant note, Saturday is a great day to be a hockey fan in Minnesota. The Pagel Activity Center in Minnetonka will host Hockey Day Minnesota this year. In addition to some fine high school hockey, Bryan will be at the Roseville Oval to promote this year's Skate for the Troops, brought to us by Defending the Blue Line. Both will have great causes going on. Please take the time out of your Saturday to visit at least one of the two sites.
The #1 Greyhounds are rolling, to say the least. Still undefeated, the Hounds have navigated the toughest part of their schedule. Back-to-back wins over Minnetonka and Maple Grove established that Duluth East is the team to beat in Class AA. Complacency could become the worst enemy of Duluth, and the #7 Eagles are a good enough team that they could very well pounce on a Greyhound team that wasn't at their best.
The Eagles came out quickly, not willing to back down. Eden Prairie's top line showed that they could skate with anyone, getting some early pressure. Both teams were skating well in the 1st period until the Eagles took a penalty, giving an absolutely lethal Duluth East powerplay a shot with the man advantage. The best teams make their opportunities count, and East was no exception. Jake Randolph finished off a perfect passing play from Dom Toninato and Ryan Lundgren into an open net. The play was pretty even through the rest of the period, and it looked like East would end the frame with a one-goal lead, but a late East penalty gave Eden Prairie their first crack at the man advantage. The Eagles have a pretty good powerplay in their own right, and they also knew they had to take advantage of their opportunities against a good team. John Sullivan banged home a rebound past Paige Skoog to tie the game, 1-1. Luc Snuggerud and Mason Bergh got the assists.
Duluth East came out in the 2nd period with much more urgency in their game. The top line of the Hounds created a good scoring chance on the first shift of the period. The early momentum and hard work (Sorry Tom) led to another Randolph goal, as he was able to get a bouncing puck to settle down and score his second of the game. Andrew Kerr and Nate Kotter got the helpers on this goal. The goal really got East rolling in the game. The Hounds dominated play badly in the 2nd, playing great neutral zone hockey and putting pressure on the Eden Prairie net. Ryan Lundgren made it 3-1 when he was able to tip in a Randolph shot in the slot, with Meirs Moore getting the secondary assist. The Hounds kept pressuring, leading to a Dom Toninato goal from Moore. The Toninato goal seemed to deflate Eden Prairie, as the Eagles really had nothing going offensively through the rest of the period. The Eagles were able to escape the period without giving up any more goals, but they found themselves in a deep hole, trailing 4-1 to the top team in the state.
The 3rd period actually started much like the 1st period. Eden Prairie had their jump back, skating better than they did in the 2nd. The flat start hurt East, as Danny Halloran scored off a faceoff to get Eden Prairie back to within two. Brad Boldenow won the draw back to Nick Bentz, who fed Halloran for the goal. The game started to get a little chippy after the Halloran goal, as six penalties were called, three on each team that offset each other. The Eagles, after play settled down, got back to attacking the East zone. Skoog made some big saves in the 3rd period, as Duluth started to go into desperation scramble mode. They Hounds were hanging on to their two-goal lead. Duluth started to catch some breaks, as the Eagles were taking chances and activating their defensmen, giving the Hounds a handful of odd-man rushes. Neither side could capitalize, though, and East was able to remain undefeated. Eden Prairie played great in the 3rd, but the 2nd period doomed the Eagles.
Eagan vs. Burnsville
The #9 Blaze have been a really nice story thus far in Class AA. Early wins over Hill-Murray and Benilde-St. Margaret's really put Burnsville in the spotlight, but the team hasn't been able to really ride that wave. Losses to Eden Prairie, Duluth East, Edina, and a re-match loss to the Pioneers has their stock on the downswing. A victory over the #4 Wildcats would put Burnsville right back in the limelight, but that's no easy task. Eagan has had some critics, but the duo of Zajac and Merchant are as deadly as they come in Class AA.
The Wildcats needed this win to stay relevant with the big three, but they didn't do themselves any favors early. A tripping penalty one minute in put the top unit for Burnsville on the ice with the man advantage. The Blaze capitalized, as Cory Chapman got Burnsville on the board early. Mason Wyman and Teemu Kivihalme add the assists on the Chapman goal. Burnsville had gotten of to the fast start that any team wants, but the Wildcats battled back like a top-ranked team does. Eagan got their feet moving and started getting pucks in deep, getting their forecheck going. The Wildcat forecheck paid off, as Zach Glienke finished off a nice play from Nick Kuchera and Sam Wolfe. It took just 11 seconds for Glienke to score his second goal, off a turnover caused by Wolfe. It didn't take long for the Wildcat top line to get in on the action, as Michael Zajac finished a two-on-one with Will Merchant, putting Eagan up 3-1. Cody Mason got the secondary assist to spring both Zajac and Merchant. Eagan was picking up steam, but a penalty with 2 seconds left would put Burnsville on the powerplay to start the 2nd period.
Like in the 1st period, Burnsville got an early chance on the man advantage, and the Blaze made it count. This time it was Wyman with the powerplay goal, coming from Tyler Sheehy and Kivihalme. The Blaze pulled back within one, but Eagan turned up their game. The Wildcats got back to pressuring the Blaze and playing physical hockey. Burnsville got a big scare in the 2nd when Sheehy went down with a lower-body injury. He was helped off the ice, but was able to return later in the frame. Sheehy's return, however, would not be enough, as Eagan got their quick-strike offense going again. Eric Peterson score a late goal from Will Peterson and Eli May to get the lead back to 2. 90 seconds after the Peterson goal, Nick Kuchera was able to put a wrist shot past Blaze goalie Chris Mallon to put Eagan up 5-2. Cullen Wilson capped off the Eagan scoring for the period with an unassisted wrist shot past Mallon. The period ended with the Eagan flurry and a 6-2 lead for the Wildcats.
Penalties was the name of the game for the 3rd period, with the new rules on display. Sam Wolfe took a boarding penalty, which now carried an automatic 5 minute misconduct. Eagan made the period even more difficult for themselves when Connor McGovern received a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for slashing a down player to the head. Hopefully MSHSL steps in and delivers an extra suspension for an absolutely stupid penalty. If the MSHSL doesn't deliver on a suspension, then Coach Mike Taylor should bench him for a game or two. Burnsville wasn't able to capitalize on either major penalty, even taking a penalty of their own to negate two minutes of the McGovern major. Zach Glienke capped off his hat-trick during the four-on-four, taking a pass from Cody Mason and making a nice move to score his third of the game. A late Burnsville interference penalty gave Eagan another powerplay opportunity, and Cody Mason capped off the scoring, firing a one-timer in from Merchant and Nick Kuchera. Eagan rolled up Burnsville in this one, 8-2.
Totino-Grace vs. Duluth Marshall
The #7 Eagles have been a tough team to get a read on this season. Totino does have impressive wins over Thief River Falls, Rodgers, and Mahtomedi, but the losses to East Grand Forks and Blake make the picture less clear. #5 Duluth Marshall, meanwhile, seems to be just below the top teams in Class A. The losses to Breck and St. Thomas Academy were close games, and the Hilltoppers have beaten the ranked teams they should beat in Hibbing/Chisholm, Delano/Rockford, and Rochester Lourdes. Both teams need this win to establish themselves against Top-10 Class A teams.
Both teams came out ready to play, knowing that this was an important game in both the standings and confidence. The season is winding down, and this is when good teams start are really tuning up their games. Neither squad was willing to give an inch, as the speed and physicality was on display from the start. Both goalies, Rory Davidowski for Totino and Caden Flaherty for Duluth, were sharp as well. Both had to make some important saves in the opening minutes, as the 1st period was a lot of back and forth action. Hilltopper forward Judd Peterson opened the scoring in the game, as he finished off a nice play from Michael Damberg and Ryan Gotelaere to put Duluth Marshall up, 1-0. The Eagles had their chances to pull even, but the 1st period ended with just the one goal for the Hilltoppers.
The 2nd period had a totally different feel than the 1st. The teams became undisciplined as the physical play picked up. An early Totino-Grace penalty put a dangerous Hilltopper powerplay on the ice, which was clicking at 34%. The Hilltoppers made no mistake, as Jake Bushey put Marshall up 2-0 on a shot from the top of the circle. Gotelaere and Peterson got the helpers on the Bushey goal. The march to the box continued, as a post-whistle scrum sent a player from each team to the box, but Totino ended up with a double minor for roughing. Another man advantage led to another Hilltopper goal, as Anthony Miller banged in a Gotelaere rebound. The Hilltoppers kept the pressure on, leading to another goal, as Kris McKinzie was able to tap in a goal on a nice feed from Peterson and Matt Klassen. A Hilltopper interference penalty would give Totino-Grace an opportunity to get back in the game, and the Eagles jumped at the opportunity. Andrew McDonald took a Pete Sienko feed in the slot and put it past Flaherty. The Hilltopper penalties got the Eagles back in the offensive zone, and it started to spark Totino-Grace. The Eagles kept up the pressure, leading to better scoring opportunities. Kai Barber was able to cash in on those opportunities, as he found a Luke Mezzenga rebound and put it home. T.J. Roo got the secondary assist on Barber's late goal, and the Eagles found themselves back in the game, 4-2, as the 2nd period ended.
The 2nd intermission gave both coaches an opportunity to get their respective teams to settle down. The 3rd period was much more disciplined. 28 total penalty minutes were called in the 2nd period, so staying out of the box was key for both teams. Totino-Grace couldn't afford to spend time killing penalties, and the Hilltoppers didn't want to give the Eagles any extra opportunities on the man advantage. The Eagles clearly had the advantage in the period, as they played like a desperate team, flying around the ice and putting all the pressure on the Hilltoppers. Duluth Marshall was able to hold off the Eagles, as the defense kept the rebound chances down and Flaherty made the big saves when he was called upon. McKinzie of Duluth Marshall stretched the lead when a turnover led to an unassisted goal, giving the Hilltoppers the 3-goal lead. The Eagles didn't let the goal get them down, as they kept pushing, resulting in a Brennan Swan goal from Jeff Daugherty. The Eagles pulled back within 2, 5-3, but that was as close as they would get. Flaherty shut the door, and the Hilltoppers took this important game.
Breck vs. Moorhead
The #1 Mustangs (A) from the Breck School were looking to hang on to their top seeding against a very good #8 Moorhead team. If there was a style that would give the Mustangs headaches, it would definitely be the physical, grind-it-out game of the Spuds. Definitely an interesting matchup, as Breck had more to lose, but Moorhead had more to gain.
The Spuds came out with a bang, scoring on their first real line rush into the zone. Bryant Christian took a pass from Ben Welle and fired a shot past Jack Kenney. The Spuds did a good job of controlling the neutral zone, as the Mustangs couldn't generate speed into the Moorhead zone. The Spuds had Breck bottled up in their zone for much of the period and did a good job of just getting pucks to the net. Zach Quaife won a faceoff in the Breck zone back to Cody Rahman, who fired another shot past Kenney to put Moorhead up, 2-0. Logan Ness made it 3-0 when he fired a bad angle shot off the far post and in. Aaron Herdt got the lone assist on the goal. A Breck penalty gave Moorhead their first opportunity with the man advantage in an already tilted contest, and Moorhead poured it on. Thomas Carey hammered in a third chance after Welle and Nicholas Uglem couldn't beat Kenney. Moorhead skated off with a 4-0 lead in a period they owned, but a penalty at the end of the period meant that Breck had a chance to regroup and start the 2nd period with a full 2-minute powerplay.
The Mustangs needed to hit the reset button and come out like the 2nd period was a brand new game. The powerplay was exactly what they needed. Coming into the game, the Mustang powerplay was operating at over 50%. Conor Andrle was able to move the puck to Grant Opperman, who fired a bad-angle shot that found a way through Michael Bitzer to get Breck on the board. The powerplay goal got the Mustangs moving again. Moorhead kept up their gritty play, but Breck was skating better and getting more sustained pressure. Wesley Iverson found himself alone in the slot after and fired his shot past Bitzer to get the Mustangs within two. Andrle and Keegan Iverson got the helpers. Both teams got chances and looks. Moorhead wasn't able to cash in, but the Spuds had to still be feeling good with a 2-goal lead. The Mustangs were also feeling better, as they got on the board and skated much better in the 2nd period. The frame would end with Moorhead leading 4-2, but with Breck's offense, this game was far from over.
The 3rd started with another enforcement of the new rules. Keegan Iverson took a checking from behind penalty after the whistle, drawing a 5-minute major and a game misconduct. Not how Breck wanted to start the period. Down two, the Mustangs had a 5-minute kill ahead of them as well as losing a top-line player for the game. A quick Moorhead penalty halted any momentum the powerplay could have generated. During the kill, Grant Opperman forced a turnover in the Breck zone, took off on a breakaway, and made a nifty move to slip his second past Bitzer. It looked like Breck was going to escape without giving up a goal on the major, but Tony Uglem ripped a shot past Kenney off a faceoff to get at least one on the powerplay. Nicholas Uglem and Thomas Carey got the helpers on the goal. Moorhead was able to hold off a late Breck surge after the Mustangs called timeout, and the Spuds won a very important game, 5-3.
The loss moved Breck out of the #1 spot in Class A, allowing Hermantown to move up by virtue of being undefeated. Interesting note: the only two undefeated teams are from the Duluth area (Hermantown in Class A, Duluth East in Class AA). The #1 D1 college team is from Duluth. I think the argument could be made that Duluth has the best hockey in the state right now.
Edina vs. Minnetonka
In a final tune-up game before Hockey Day, the #2 Skippers played host to a youthful #5 Edina team. Minnetonka had rebounded nicely following their loss to East, rattling off 5 consecutive wins, including victories over Eagan, Moorhead, and Benilde-St. Maragret's. The Hornets have been a pleasant surprise to many. A young team, many picked next year to be Edina's year, but they have compiled a good resume thus far. The Hornets were definitely looking to avenge their first-round loss to Minnetonka in the Schwan Cup, where Minnetonka outplayed Edina.
The 1st period saw a balanced game with both sides getting some decent looks. The goalies and defenses came ready to play. For all of the offense that Minnetonka has, the Skippers defense is on equal par with their forwards. The team is committed to blocking shots and clearing out the front of their net, making life easier for Ciaccio or Behounek, whoever is playing that night. Edina also boasts a smart defensive core, with Willie Benjamin quietly moving up the ranks as one of the better goalies in the state. Neither side was really able to generate second and third chances, as the goalies and defense were sharp. A Minnetonka penalty gave Edina the only powerplay of the frame, and while the Hornets had good zone time, they weren't able to cash in. The 1st period ended with a 0-0 tie. Edina wanted a close game, and this had to be the exact type of road period they envisioned.
The Skippers wanted to speed the game up, letting their offensive talent take over in the 2nd period. They were able to get the puck in deep early and get their potent forecheck working. The work paid off, as Erik Baskin won a battle along the boards, moved the puck to Jack Ramsey, who found Sam Rothstein in the high slot. Rothstein went top shelf to put Minnetonka up, 1-0. The goal got Minnetonka rolling, who took control of the pace of play. The Skippers had Edina hemmed in their own zone until the Nanne line was able to get a rush back into the Minnetonka zone. Louie Nanne had a great look, but fired his shot off the post. The shot seems to wake Edina back up, who started grinding out tough plays against Minnetonka. The grind finally paid off for the Hornets, as Dylan Malmquist tied the score at 1 apiece with a shot that beat Ciaccio five-hole. Connor Hurley and Parker Reno got the helpers on Malmquist's goal. The Hornets had some momentum going, but a penalty would put a top powerplay on the ice. Minnetonka created chances, but couldn't solve Benjamin. The kill boosted Edina, as Louie Nanne scored once he came back on the ice. Tyler Nanne paid the price behind the net, found Louie in the slot, and Louie made it count. Edina now had the lead, 2-1. Edina looked like they would get out of the 2nd with the lead, but a late tip by Charlie Huminski off a Baskin shot pulled Minnetonka even. Michael Prochno got the secondary assist on Huminski's first goal of the season. The 2nd ended with a 2-2 tie, and Edina still had to feel good. The game was still close, and Minnetonka really hadn't been able to open the game up.
The Hornets and the Skippers came out for the final period, ready to open up the game a little more. The teams traded some early end-to-end chances, but Benjamin and Ciaccio both stood tall. Another Edina penalty gave Minnetonka another chance to take control of the game, but the defense and Benjamin kept coming up big. Edina wasn't backing down this time. Their first game at Xcel saw Edina really shrink away from the speed of Minnetonka. This time around, Edina was going to make Minnetonka pay the price. The Skippers weren't getting anything easy this time around. Edina kept putting pucks in deep and going to work. You could tell the Hornets brought their lunch pails to this game and gave a workman-like effort. The hard work (Sorry Tom) paid off, as a late bounce went Edina's way. As Malmquist put the puck towards the net, it hit a Skipper in the skate. The puck ended up on Andy Jordahl's stick, who made no mistake. Nick Leer got the secondary assist, and the Hornet's found themselves with a 3-2 lead with just over a minute left. Edina was able to hold off the final minute Skipper attack to win a huge game, 3-2.
Total statement win for Edina. I'll admit that I thought Edina was a little too raw this year to compete, but the young guys are really buying in. They play good defense, they get timely scoring, and the resume is starting to become hard to ignore: wins over Lakeville South, Grand Rapids, Elk River, Eden Prairie, Blaine, St. Thomas Academy, White Bear Lake, Burnsville, and now Minnetonka. Edina may be putting teams on notice.
Team on the Rise:
St. Cloud Cathedral. They got a reader shoutout last week. I'll make it official this week. Wins over Delano, Little Falls, Warroad, Mound-Westonka, and a one-goal loss to Hermantown, along with an 11-4 record have moved the Crusaders up to #8 in Class A.
Team on the Fall:
Burnsville Blaze. The early season magic is wearing off. The Blaze haven't won a game against a Top-10 team since the beginning of the season. They're struggling to live up to the early hype. A loss to Lakeville South isn't helping matters. The Blaze may have peaked at the wrong time.
Upset of the Week:
Hastings Raiders defeated White Bear Lake Bears, 3-1.
White Bear is normally a state contender. The Bears are a team that people look to when they talk about Section 4AA. Hastings isn't a known hockey power. The conference loss opened the door for Roseville and Stillwater, as well as knocked White Bear Lake from the rankings.
Lakeville South defeated Burnsvillle, 6-3
Edina defeated Minnetonka, 3-2
Upcoming Games to Note:
Saturday, Jan 21st:
#2 Minnetonka vs. #1 Duluth East
#3 St. Thomas Academy vs. #2 Breck
#8 Moorhead (AA) vs. #12 Warroad (A)
#7 Eden Prairie vs. #9 Wayzata
Tuesday, Jan 24th:
#19 Roseau vs. #8 Moorhead
#7 Eden Prairie vs. #17 Lakeville South
#5 East Grand Forks vs. #6 Thief River Falls
Thursday, Jan 26th:
#9 Wayzata vs. #2 Minnetonka
#11 Blaine vs. #3 Maple Grove
#10 Hill-Murray (AA) vs. #3 St. Thomas Academy (A)
#11 Blake vs. #2 Breck