What is there to say?
Fifteen years ago, Doc Emrick wrote a great essay about Brendan Shanahan winning his first Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings and about how, as Shanahan sat in the locker room following the final game, he told reporters, "I never realized how humble winning this thing can make you feel."
This past week, the emotions have been on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, but the idea of just how humbling the game of hockey can be kept passing through my mind. It's humbling to think about how so much can be taken away so quickly. It's humbling to think about how small, in the grand scheme of things, this game actually is, when real life intervenes.
It's been incredible to see just how far throughout the hockey community this story has spread, and to witness the outpouring of support by people from the lowest to the highest levels of hockey. Part of it, I believe, is the humble acceptance that this could have happened to any hockey player. We all accept that there are certain dangers involved in playing a sport like this, but it will never feel fair when the price paid is that high.
Finally, it's humbling to know that no matter how much anyone wants to help, nothing they can do will ever be enough. But it has still been heart-warming and inspiring to watch people try. In an extremely difficult time, having that kind of faith and support endure through the most humbling of situations is incredible to watch.
The Top Ten (Pre-Christmas Ranking in Parenthesis)
1. Duluth East (1)
2. Minnetonka (2)
3. Maple Grove (3)
4. Eagan (4)
5. Benilde-St. Margaret's (5)
6. Moorhead (7)
7. Edina (5)
8. Eden Prairie (9)
9. Burnsville (8)
10.Grand Rapids (NR)
Despite a lot of action between top-ranked teams, there wasn't really a lot of movement. Minnetonka, Maple Grove, Eagan, and Benilde all lost a game since the last ranking, but each of their losses was to a higher-ranked team, and nobody else stepped up with a big win to earn a spot in the top five.
After the jump, we confirm Duluth East's awesomeness with some key results, chide whoever made Moorhead's schedule in the upcoming games of the week, talk college commitments, say goodbye to a legendary coach, and generally just try to make this whole thing seem fun again.
Duluth East 6 Minnetonka 2, Duluth East 4 Maple Grove 1- In back-to-back games, Duluth East solidified their number one ranking by beating undefeated #2 Minnetonka easily to win the Schwan's Cup, and then beating undefeated and new #2 Maple Grove easily a week later.
What makes Duluth East so much better than the rest of the pack? Against Minnetonka, I think it was their tremendous depth at forward that really proved the difference. The Hounds got two goals from Ryan Lundgren and a goal from Jack Forbort in the first half of the game on the way to a 5-0 2nd intermission lead. High school hockey is a game dominated by top lines, with the best teams maybe having a decent second line player here and there. For East to get that kind of production in a big game from guys that are maybe 6th or 7th on the list of forward scoring threats is pretty huge.
Against Maple Grove, what really stood out to me was the goaltending of junior goalie Dylan Parker. Parker has split time with senior Paige Skoog, a fine goalie in his own right, but Parker got the start in both big games for East, and proved why he deserved that spot. Maple Grove was able to go up and down the ice and trade chances with East a little bit, but East carries such a big advantage in goal that they can afford to trade chances with anybody and still come out ahead. I've seen a lot of very talented high school teams get let down by good, but not great goalies, but that's not the case with East. Parker is about as good as they come.
Losing a Legend
One of the more successful high school coaches in Minnesota high school hockey history, Charles "Lefty" Smith passed away this week at the age of 81. Smith coached the South St. Paul High School team from 1958 to 1968, and though he never led the Packers to a state title, he helped the team became a regular at the state tournament, amassing over 201 wins in his time there. His coaching success, as well as his experience managing SSP's Wakota Arena, earned him in the job as the University of Notre Dame's first varsity head hockey coach.
Two current high school hockey players made college commitments over the holidays. Minnetonka senior defenseman Joe Schuldt committed to Michigan Tech, while Benilde-St. Margaret's junior forward Dan Labosky committed to Colorado College.
Former Apple Valley forward Hudson Fasching committed to Minnesota. Fasching is playing with the US NTDP U17 team this year, and recently helped lead them to a silver medal at the World U17 Challenge, where Fasching was incredibly impressive.
Games of the Week
Minnetonka at Moorhead, January 6th, 8:00pm Moorhead Sports Center
Moorhead at Duluth East, January 7th, 7:00pm Duluth Heritage Center
Who is scheduling Moorhead's games? They have to play the #2 team in the state one night, then travel 250 miles and play the #1 team in the state less than 24 hours later. Moorhead is an intriguing match-up as far as teams that could knock off East, given that they have Michael Bitzer, a goalie capable of stealing a game against anyone, but I wouldn't expect Moorhead to have a lot left in the tank for that second game.
No mention of Moorhead can be complete without a mention of the town's most famous, and luxurious attraction, the Knudsen Family Farm.
St. Louis Park at Benilde-St. Margaret's, January 7th, 7:00pm, St. Louis Park Rec Center
Benilde postponed their game with Wayzata yesterday, meaning this will likely be the next time the Red Knights take the ice, in what should be an extremely emotional day. St. Louis Park is much improved, making this crosstown more interesting than it has been in a while, but hockey will probably be secondary here.
Edina at Burnsville,, January 10th, 7:00pm, Burnsville Ice Arena
For all the different match-ups between top ten teams we've had this year, this will be the first, and only regular season meeting between the two teams will likely play for the Section 2AA title, barring a colossal upset.