The early season jitters should be wrapping up in high school hockey. Just over 3 weeks in, high school programs are finally getting a feel for where they stack up against some of the top teams in their conference, section, and in the state. Class lines blurred as Class A powers clashes with AA powers. These are always good tests for both sides, as the top teams in Class A can hang with some of the very best in AA.
On a more personal side, November may have the prestige of being Movember, but December is really
Flucember, Deflember, well, since December and flu don't mesh very well, December is really flu season in Minnesota. If you feel like you're coming down with the flu, drink plenty of fluids, get your rest, and don't be a hero, head out, and infect everyone you know. It's not worth spreading around, no matter how much you love your boyfriend/girlfriend, your job, or going to a bar.
Anyways, enough out of the sick talk. Let's jump to some recaps.
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.
White Bear Lake vs. Duluth East
#15 White Bear Lake, a perennial State Tournament team, traveled north to take on the #1 Greyhounds of Duluth East. White Bear would strike early, 37 seconds into the 1st period on a Jake Wahlin goal. The Greyhounds would weather the early goal from White Bear and begin to establish themselves in the game. After a Bears penalty, Jake Randolph tied the score 1-1 on a PP goal from Dom Toninato and Meirs Moore. Ugly scene at the end of the 1st period, as Duluth East’s Ryan Lundgren delivered a check from behind, drawing a 2-minute minor and a 10-minute misconduct.
I’m still not sure how hockey in general can even bother calling a 2-minute minor on a check from behind. If the NHL was actually serious about stopping terrible boarding penalties and concussions, there would be way more grassroots movements against plays like this. I would honestly toss kids from the game, deliver the 5-minute major every time, bench the player from the next game, and totally discard the 2 and 10 penalty; however, I’m not in charge, so my voice doesn’t really count too much in this regard.
The 2nd period, oddly enough, started the exact same as the 1st period, as the Bears scored 37 seconds into the period again, this time from Thomas Delaney on the PP (still on the Lundgren penalty). Like the 1st, Duluth East would take control of the period after that. Jack Forbort tied the game 2-2, with Meirs Moore getting his 2nd assist and Alex Toscano getting the secondary assist. Randolph would score another PP goal, this time a 5-on-3, with the helpers going to Moore and Nate Repensky. Alex Toscano would finish the scoring for the period, and Duluth East had a 4-2 lead going into the 3rd period.
The 3rd period started with White Bear Lake having a visible jump in their step. Not sure what took so long, but the Bears finally started to press the issue. Duluth East, to their credit, stood their ground. Duluth East’s Hogan Davidson would score an early goal, giving Duluth East a 5-2 lead. White Bear continued to press, forcing Duluth East into 4 minor penalties in the frame. The Bears were finally able to capitalize on one of the late penalties, as Mike Abrahamson made it a 2-goal game with just over 2 minutes to play. That would be as close as White Bear would get, though, as Alex Toscano added an empty-net goal, sealing Duluth East’s victory, 6-3.
Rochester Lourdes vs. St. Cloud Cathedral
The #4 Rochester Lourdes Eagles came in to this game with a 3-0, but the #9 Crusaders of St. Cloud Cathedral would be their first true test. The Crusaders would be the first on the board, as Michael Kerber scored 4 minutes into the game to give St. Cloud Cathedral an early lead. Penalties, however, would slow down the Crusaders. Alex Funk would score a powerplay goal for the Eagles 13 seconds after the Crusaders went down a man, tying the score 1-1. Landon Farrell would put the Eagles up 2-1 in the period. Tommy Hall of St. Cloud Cathedral didn’t like something that happened during the play and took a 10-minute Unsportsmanlike Misconduct.
The 2nd period had no goals, as Rochester was able to take control of the game from St. Cloud Cathedral and slow play down. The Lourdes had an 11-8 advantage in shots after the period after giving up 15 in the first frame. The penalties also slowed down, as there were only 6 penalty minutes in the 2nd period as opposed to the 20 minutes racked up in the 1st period. The Crusaders were unable to capitalize on the only powerplay of the period after Ryan Nicolay went off for tripping.
The 3rd period was the perfect 3rd period for the Eagles, as they limited Cathedral to just 4 shots in the final frame. Connor Nellans scored an early goal for Rochester to put the Eagles up 3-1. After that, the defense and neutral zone play of the Lourdes went to work suffocating the Crusader’s attack. Cathedral could not get anything going on their two powerplays, and even shortened one by taking a tripping penalty 6 seconds after they went on the man advantage. Nellans would add an empty-net goal, putting Rochester Lourdes up 4-1. Cathedral went 0-4 on the powerplay while taking 22 penalty minutes. Not a good night for the Crusaders.
Duluth Marshall vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s
In one of the big A vs. AA matchup, the #6 Hilltoppers (A) made their way to the metro area to take on the #2 Red Knights (AA). Benilde was able to come out and control the flow of the first period, but Duluth Marshall was able to hold firm and keep the Red Knights off the board. In fact, Duluth Marshall was able to score first, as Conner Flahery put the Hilltoppers up early, with the helpers going to Ryan Gotelaere and Matt Klassen. The Hilltoppers played a period much like the Wild, forcing poor shooting percentage shots and allowing goalie Christian Coffman to make the saves.
Benilde came out in the 2nd period and showed why they are considered the best challenger to Duluth East. The Red Knights were able to hem the Hilltoppers in their own end and really take control of the play. T.J. Moore got the Red Knights rolling early in the period, with the assists going to Dan Labosky and Grant Besse. After a Zachary Issacson interference penalty, the Red Knights went up 2-0, with Moore scoring again. Besse and Labosky added another assist each, demonstrating why they really are a top line in the entire state of Minnesota. Play got a little chippy at the end of the frame, as both teams sent two players each to the box. The 2nd period ended with the Red Knights having the advantage on the scoreboard, 2-1, but the shots for the period really showed how lopsided the tilt became, as Benidle outshot Marshall 28-4 in the period.
Judd Peterson of Duluth Marshall continued his torrid pace this year, scoring and early powerplay goal to tie the game 2-2. The early goal, however, would not prove enough of a spark, as Benilde would answer 33 seconds after the goal. T.J. Moore would cap off his hat trick, with Bessy and Labosky each getting their 3rd assists of the game. Seth Chumley would add another Red Knights goal, creating a 2-goal spread. Christian Horn would add a late period goal, making this game academic. The Red Knights took this one by a final score of 5-2. The Bessy-Labosky-Moore line really is one of the best in state and will give the Olson-Randolph-Toninato line from Duluth East all they can handle.
Totino-Grace vs. Hermantown
The Duluth area got a double-dip of great hockey action, as they were treated to a Saturday game between the #5 Eagles of Totino-Grace and the #3 Hermantown Hawks. The Eagles looked totally out of place in the 1st period, as the shot total read 17-1 after one period. Totino-Grace just did not come out prepared to play in this one, and they found themselves in an early hole. Jared Thomas finally got Hermantown on the board at the 11:35 mark, with the assists going to Jeremy Amys and Andrew Mattson. Chris Benson buried a late chance for the Hawks, and Hermantown skated off with a 2-0 lead after the 1st.
Apparently the Eagles woke up in between periods, because Totino-Grace finally showed up and tested Hermantown. T.J. Roo scored early in the 2nd, cutting the deficit to one. The Hawks would respond quickly, though, as Neal Pionk was able to get the lead back to two. Chris Benson would score on Hermantown’s first powerplay, as Pionk added the only assist on the goal. A late Jared Kolquist penalty would put Totino-Grace on the powerplay, and Andrew McDonald made the Hawks pay for the mistake. The Eagles had a much better 2nd period, and found themselves back in the game after two, with the score reading 4-2.
Jason Krych took a late 2nd period penalty for the Eagles, and Brian LeBlanc netting a powerplay goal very early in the 3rd to put Hermantown up 5-2. Andrew Mattson recorded his 2nd assist on the LeBlanc goal and tallied one of his own, with Amys and LeBlanc getting the assists. Jake Zeleznikar would add an unassisted goal for Hermantown, putting the Hawks up 7-2. Carter Roo scored a late goal for Totino-Grace, but the score was 7-3 with less than 2 minutes to play. Hermantown, after trading chances in the 2nd period, came out and regained control of the third.
This was a good game for the Hawks against a highly ranked team in Totino-Grace. Six members of Hermantown had multi-point games, so the Hawks seem to have more balanced scoring than years before. The powerplay went 2-3, so while they didn’t get a bunch of chances against a disciplined Eagles squad, the Hawks made their opportunities count.
Grand Rapids vs. Edina
#7 Grand Rapids, looking to add their statement win, took on #8 Edina in a clash of AA powers. While both teams are playing well this year, this is also a meeting of serious State Tournament traditional powers, as both the Thunderhawks and Hornets have plenty of hardware from the Tournament to prove their heritage. The Thunderhawks struck early, with Nate Mondry tallying a goal that Travis Underwood assisted on. The first period played out pretty evenly, but just over midway through the period, play became scrappy at best. Both teams took a double minor and an extra minor at the 10:09 mark, totaling up 10 minutes between four players. Both teams also took minor penalties to put the opposition on the powerplay, but neither PP unit was able to capitalize. The 1st ended with a 1-0 Grand Rapids lead.
Edina was able to come out and gain control of play for the 2nd period. An early penalty kill helped springboard the Hornets and get momentum on their side. Dylan Malmquist scored a powerplay goal for Edina, drawing the score even. Tyler Nanne and Anthony Walsh added the assists on the Malmquist goal. Bo Brauer would put Edina in the lead for the first time in the game, with the helper going to Louie Nanne. Edina would skate off with the lead, 2-1, going into the 3rd with the momentum.
The Hornets came out in the 3rd and continued where they left off in the 2nd, with Andy Jordahl stretching the Edina lead to 3-1, with Malmquist adding the assist. The chippy play continued in the 3rd. After Grand Rapids was called for goalie interference, both teams sent another two players to the box. A goalie interference penalty now had 5 players in the box, with Edina still going to the powerplay. Bo Brauer would capitalize on the powerplay, getting the assists from Connor Hurley and Malmquist.
The penalty trouble wasn’t over though, as Jordan Stejskal of Grand Rapids delivered an illegal check to the head before Brauer scored, giving Edina another powerplay. That powerplay was negated 20 seconds later, however, as Edina’s Miguel Fidler delivered his own illegal check to the head. Edina then gave Grand Rapids a glorious chance to get back in the game, as Alec Oesterreich took two separate interference penalties on the same play, giving the Thunderhawks a four-minute powerplay. Grand Rapids would give up two minutes on the powerplay, when David Horsmann delivered a cross check 30 seconds into the powerplay. Nick Koerbitz would get Grand Rapids back in the game with a powerplay goal after Horsmann left the box, and the score read 4-2. Travis Underwood would score for Grand Rapids late in the period, but that would be all the scoring for this game. Edina was able to hold on and win a tough game 4-3.
48 combined penalty minutes tells the tale of this game. Grand Rapids was only 1-6 on the powerplay, while Edina was 2-5 on the man advantage. The Thunderhawks really gave away their best chance to get back in the game early in the 3rd when Horsmann went off. These are not plays and styles either Edina or Grand Rapids can continue when they play the top teams like Duluth East, Benile-St. Margaret’s, or Minnetonka. The three big schools have dynamic powerplays that will burn any team that gives them 6 powerplay opportunites.
Upset of the Week:
Little Falls defeated Rochester Lourdes 5-2
This is not the same team that was led by Ben Hanowski. Little Falls stumbled out of the gate, going from #9 in Class A to unranked. Rochester Lourdes is the favorite in their section, but they can be upset if they don't come to the rink every night to play.
Team on the Rise:
The Spuds didn't receive a lot of praise early in the season, but they keep winning and people are noticing. A conference win over the Roseau Rams may be the statement win needed to push Moorhead up the rankings. While Roseau isn't the same team as years past, they are always going to put a good team on the ice, so this win does mean something. In addition, this does avenge the Hockey Day Minnesota loss Moorhead suffered on their pond.
Team on the Fall:
Academy of Holy Angel
The losses are piling up, and now the Stars have fallen out of the Top-20 rankings. A recent loss to conference foe Chanhassen has the Holy Angels looking up in a conference they're used to dominating. The road doesn't get any easier, as the Stars host Breck, then are matched up against St. Thomas Academy in Round 1 of the Schwan Cup.
Upcoming Games to Note:
Friday, Dec 16th:
#7 Grand Rapids vs. #8 Eden Prairie
#13 Warroad vs. #4 East Grand Forks
#14 Elk River vs. #9 Edina
Saturday, Dec 17th:
#7 Grand Rapids vs. #14 Elk River
#8 Eden Prairie vs. #9 Edina
Tuesday, Dec 20th:
#7 Thief River Falls vs. #13 Warroad
#8 Eden Prairie vs. #5 Burnsville
#3 Maple Grove vs. #6 Benilde-St. Margaret's
Thursday, Dec 22nd:
#7 Grand Rapids (AA) vs. #6 Duluth Marshall (A)
#16 White Bear Lake vs. #12 Hill-Murray
#12 Duluth Denfeld vs. #3 Hermantown
Some of the story lines for the week:
This upcoming week is used for teams to get ready for the Schwan Cup. The Schawn Cup is important for teams in the fact that they can finally get a litmus test on where they are. This is the 2nd best high school hockey tournament out there, after the State Tournament. 3 divisions for the boys where any team can take their respective Cup.
For an in-depth look at this year's Schawn Cup, visit the National Sports Center website.