Sunday, November 26, 2017

Turkey Tournament Postmortem

The two big Thanksgiving high school hockey tournaments in the Twin Cities have concluded with the annual Turkey Trot and inaugural The Opener. Between the two tournaments, four of the top five teams in Class AA were in action. While it's still early, we are beginning to see glimpses on how these teams are going to stack up this season and who the playmakers are. The first game is always hard to judge as there are first game jitters after an eight month layoff, new teammates, and in some cases, a new coaching staff. We will learn more as the season progresses and all top teams start their seasons.

Here's is how I think the next State of Hockey/Let's Play Hockey poll will shape out:

1. Edina

Edina showed why they are the top team in the state over the Thanksgiving holiday with impressive wins over #6 Holy Family and #15 Maple Grove. Lewis Crosby nets four goals in the opening game against Holy Family in a 7-0 rout, and Demetrios Koumontzis had a six point weekend (2 goals, 4 assists). In total, Edina scored 13 times officially in the two games, and I say officially, because Edina had a goal scored not seen by officials in the first period. It happened so quickly that is difficult to blame the referee for missing it. I believe that even the best NHL referees would have trouble with this one.

Puck (circled in red) is beyond the crossbar and deflected off the upper netting of the goal. It was immediately waved off by the covering referee. (Courtesy: CCX Media)
This is one team could be talked about for years to come, like the great Bloomington Jefferson teams of the 1990s. I do not believe they will run the table like Lakeville North did in 2014-15 due to the fact that Edina plays in the Lake Conference, and it is the toughest schedule in the state. Edina will not be tested against top teams until the Edina Holiday Classic in mid-December.

2. Duluth East

Duluth East remains in the same position as they were idle over Thanksgiving. The Greyhounds open their season on Friday against White Bear Lake, and then face Wayzata the next day. It will be a good indicator on where this team stands.

3. Minnetonka

Minnetonka participated in The Opener tournament and had both of their games go to overtime. The first night they defeated St. Thomas Academy, and then skated to a tie with Lakeville North in the finale after coming back in regulation to tie the score with 7 seconds left. Lakeville North goaltender Will Johnson deserves a lot of credit for the game he played, facing 45 shots, and shutting down many scoring opportunities by Minnetonka. Minnetonka's next test will be against Moorhead on December 16 in Moorhead.

4. St. Thomas Academy

St. Thomas Academy had a hard-fought, back and forth game against Minnetonka that ended in an overtime loss, and followed with an impressive win over a Moorhead team trying to find it's identity. St. Thomas Academy and Moorhead traded five goals over the first six minutes of the game. Before 2017 is over with, St. Thomas squares off against formidable opponents in Holy Family and Hill-Murray.

5. Moorhead

Moorhead defeated Lakeville North, and then had difficulties with St. Thomas Academy. The one bright spot with this team is Carter Randklev. He scored a hat trick in the final, and is proving to be in the Mr. Hockey conversation at year-end. The team needs to get back on track and find some more offensive weapons. The December schedule against the likes of Minnetonka, Cloquet, and Holy Family should begin to define what to expect from the team this season.

The rest:

Eden Prairie, Centennial, Hill-Murray, Holy Family, White Bear Lake

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