Sunday, December 30, 2018

The End

With the calendar year coming to a close, I’ve decided to end Minn Puck. There are multiple reasons behind it, but primarily I just don’t have the time/energy and want to rid myself of the obligation of having to update the site every time I watch a game - whether it’s a game report or rankings. It was apparent with the lack of posts this season. This was going to be the last season due to re-location in 2019, but decided now was the right time. Thanks for your support! See you around the rink.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Minn Puck Class AA Rankings - Week of 12/23/18

 Duluth East
 Maple Grove
 White Bear Lake
 Eden Prairie
St. Thomas Academy

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Class AA Rankings – Week of 11-25-18

Some teams started play over the Thanksgiving weekend and the results made for some movement within the rankings for this week.  Here is this week’s top ten with a new team on top:

1.     Minnetonka (2-0)
The Skippers pulled off a pair of convincing wins last week in The Opener showcase to claim the top spot from Edina in this week’s rankings. Minnetonka is coming out of the gate clicking on all cylinders and showing no signs of a state tournament hangover. Charlie Glockner has only allowed one goal in the two games played.

2.     Duluth East (0-0)
The Greyhounds sat idle last week but move up due to Edina and Andover dropping in the rankings among the top four teams. Duluth East opens against White Bear Lake on Friday.

3.     Edina (1-0-1)
The Hornets started the season with a nice win over Holy Family, but then could not find a way to put away Maple Grove the next night despite a 40-19 shot advantage as the game ended in a tie officially, 3-3 (Maple Grove won the Turkey Trot championship in a shootout). Edina started the year with players on the suspension list, so there are some internal happenings right now. On the bright side, Kevin Delaney has been a scoring machine with four goals in the two games.

4.     Andover (1-0)
Andover needed overtime to take care of a Moorhead team depleted of talent, so that does raise some questions. Perhaps it was first game jitters for the Huskies as this team is capable of more on paper.

5.     Cretin-Derham Hall (0-0)
Cretin-Derham Hall was idle this past week and begin season play on Saturday against Eden Prairie.

6.     St. Thomas Academy (1-1)
The Cadets split their two games at The Opener, despite having a couple key players, such as Brendan McFadden and Luke Herzog, absent from the team as they were participating in the Prep Bowl. St. Thomas looked overmatched against Minnetonka in the first game but held off a late surge from Cloquet-Esko-Carlton in game two to earn their first win. Not having their full roster available, St. Thomas was given the benefit of the doubt and did not move in the rankings.

7.     Chaska (1-0)
Eastview scored nearly thirty seconds into the game with Chaska, but the Hawks found their groove and shutdown the Lightning the last two periods for a 5-2 victory.

8.     Eden Prairie (0-0)
Eden Prairie was idle this past week and open play on Saturday against Cretin-Derham Hall.

9.     Hill-Murray (0-0)
Hill-Murray was idle this past week and open their season Thursday against Burnsville.

10.  Maple Grove (1-0-1)
The early season surprise as Maple Grove held their own against Edina at the Turkey Trot with an outstanding performance by goaltender Jack Wieneke, stopping 37 of 40 shots, for a 3-3 tie (the Crimson were the shootout winner). With a roster made of primarily underclassmen, this was a positive step in the right direction for this young team to build on.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

2018-19 HS Season Preview: Preseason Top Ten

Another high school hockey is back, and it feels good to write about it again after the offseason hiatus. Class AA is wider open this season as early indicators point towards more parity at the top of the rankings. Teams that were at the top last year return to prominence. A few young teams trying to prove themselves take a stake in the top ten. Here are the preseason rankings:

Player stats are from the 2017-18 regular season.

1. Edina

After finishing third at state last year following a regular season with high expectations, the Hornets look to have another strong season and start this year atop the Minn Puck rankings. They lose Mr. Hockey winner Sammy Walker, Ben Brinkman, and Demetrios Koumontzis, and will look to Mason Nevers, Jett Jungels, and Liam Malmquist to replenish the scoring. Jackson Borst and Brett Chorske will provide additional offense. Defensive depth is a strong suit for Edina with Jake Boltmann, Mike Vorlicky, and Mason Reiners. Edina should have the depth to be contending for a state title. Goaltending is a question mark, but then again, it was not a strong suit last year in Edina’s run to state.

Key players:
Forwards - Mason Nevers (21 goals, 34 assists, 55 points), Jett Jungels (23 goals, 25 assists, 48 points), Liam Malmquist (13 goals, 12 assists, 25 points)
Defense - Jake Boltmann (2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points), Mike Vorlicky (1 goal, 12 assists, 13 points), and Mason Reiners (1 goal, 9 assists, 10 points)

2. Minnetonka

The defending state champions lose forward Bobby Brink to juniors and Luke Loheit to graduation, but retain top talent, primarily defensively, to make another run as one of the top teams in the state. Grant Docter and Josh Luedtke anchor the blue line, perhaps the top tandem in the state, and Charlie Glockner is a pre-season favorite for the Frank Brimsek Award, given to the top senior goaltender. The Skippers will rely mainly on Jack Bayless and Teddy Lagerback to contribute offensively. Mack Motzko, son of Gophers coach Bob Motzko, transfers in from St. Cloud Cathedral, and is expected to be a contributor offensively. The knock on this team is that they are not particularly deep but can shut down opponent scoring.

Key players:
Forwards - Jack Bayless (19 goals, 25 assists, 44 points) and Teddy Lagerback (17 goals, 14 assists, 31 points)
Defense - Josh Luedtke (6 goals, 21 assists, 27 points) and Grant Docter (7 goals, 19 assists, 26 points)

3. Andover

Andover came a couple minutes away from upsetting Duluth East and making it to the state tournament last season. This is a team on-the-rise and expected to make some noise in Section 7AA. They return two of their three 50+ point scorers with Charlie Schoen and Nick Dainty. Luke Kron should play a big role offensively. Defensively, they are junior heavy with prospect Wyatt Kaiser leading the way. Ben Fritsinger is one of the top goalies in the state with a 1.77 GAA and .929 SV% last season.

Key players:
Forwards - Charlie Schoen (26 goals, 28 assists, 54 points) and Nick Dainty (19 goals, 34 assists, 53 points)
Defense - Wyatt Kaiser (3 goals, 10 assists, 13 points) and Mitchell Wolfe (2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points)  

4. Duluth East

The runners-up from last year's state tournament are looking for another shot at winning the Class AA title. They come into this season losing two-thirds of the WMD line and Luke LaMaster. Returning is one of the top forwards in the state in Ryder Donovan. Fredrick Paine anchors the defense. The Hounds will need to rely on their young core of players to support Donovan in order to have a successful season. There is just too much uncertainty with the younger players on Duluth East to give them one of the top three spots to start the season.

Key players:
Forwards - Ryder Donovan (11 goals, 42 assists, 53 points)
Defense - Frederick Paine (4 goals, 20 assists, 24 points)

5. Cretin-Derham Hall

The Raiders return prolific forward Matt Gleason.  Cretin has a lot of depth at forward with four players with 20+ points last season: Matthew Gleason, Nick Davison, Grayson Milosch, and Zach Bridges. Depth drops off quickly on the defensive side and could be cause for concern. Outside of Danny Magnuson, the cupboards are bare.

Key players:
Forwards - Matthew Gleason (28 goals, 22 assists, 50 points)
Defense - Danny Magnuson (9 goals, 24 assists, 33 points)

6. St. Thomas Academy

The Cadets lose a lot of its roster from last year to graduation, but retain Rob Christy, Brendan McFadden, Ryan O'Neill, and Luke Herzog among the 20+ point scorers from last year. There is not much depth defensively, which like Cretin-Derham Hall, could be an issue this year. Tom Winges returns on defense. St. Thomas loses Atticus Kelly between the pipes, who was a major contributor to the Cadets' success last season. If they can get solid goaltending this year, St. Thomas will be a contender. With the questions on defense and in net, St. Thomas starts outside the top five.

Key players:
Forwards - Rob Christy (14 goals, 16 assists, 30 points) and Brendan McFadden (9 goals, 17 assists, 26 points)
Defense - Tom Winges (2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points)

7. Chaska

This Chaska team has been on the rise for the last few years that could culminate into a state birth bid. Minn Puck had their eye on this team last year as a top team coming into this season. The Hawks may be the most exciting team to watch among the top ten with four Division I commits in Michael Koster (Mr. Hockey candidate), Rhett Pitlick, Shane LaVelle, and Blaine Warnert. The questions facing Chaska are their conference schedule and lack of reputable opponents. They will need quality wins in their non-conference schedule to stay among the state's elite teams. In addition, outside of Michael Koster, there isn't much depth defensively. Of the teams listed in the top ten rankings, they may the most volatile to movement within the rankings.

Key players:
Forwards - Rhett Pitlick (20 goals, 26 assists, 46 points), Shane LaVelle (18 goals, 13 assists, 31 points), and Blaine Warnert (10 goals, 6 assists, 16 points)
Defense - Michael Koster (14 goals, 41 assists, 55 points)

8. Holy Family

Holy Family lost a lot of their offense from last season to graduation but return Garrett Pinoniemi. Pinoniemi will need support from the likes of Trey Fechko and Lucas Jorgenson, who transfers in from Class A champion Orono. Defensively, Holy Family is led by Nikolai Charchenko, Dan Reddan, and Michael Spinner. Bailey Huber transfers in from Mahtomedi to play in goal. Even with transfer roulette, Holy Family still finds itself a top contender.

Key players:
Forwards - Garrett Pinoniemi (12 goals, 32 assists, 44 points)
Defense - Nikolai Charchenko (4 goals, 9 assists, 13 points)

9. Eden Prairie

Eden Prairie looks to rebound from their upset loss to Chaska in the section quarterfinals last year. Jack Jensen returns and will be up for the Mr. Hockey award, and the Eagles will need to find ways to replace scoring lost to graduation. Expecting John Mittelstadt, Sam Wilhite, Spencer Rudrud, Keegan Langefels, and Garrett Smith to step up to fill that void.  Eden Prairie adds another Mittelstadt in Luke, who will play on the blue line. If the underclassmen gel together, this could be a sneaky team playing for a Section 2AA title.

Key players:
Forwards - Jack Jensen (20 goals, 18 assists, 38 points)
Defense - Keegan Langefels (5 goals, 9 assists, 14 points)

10. Hill-Murray

Perhaps having the youngest roster among the teams on the top ten list, Hill-Murray looks to make a return trip to state despite a sub .500 record. Head coach Bill Lechner is one of the best in the state, which makes the Pioneers a threat most years. Nick Pierre was an eighth grade call-up last year that boasted 11 points in eight regular season games. He is one of the top young players in the state and could certainly have a breakout year. Michael Fleischhacker and Brent Oberle return as the top scorers from last year. Like Eden Prairie, the ceiling is high if everything comes together.

Key players:
Forwards - Michael Fleischhacker (16 goals, 11 assists, 27 points) and Nick Pierre (8 goals, 3 assists, 11 points in 8 games played)
Defense - Brent Oberle (5 goals, 17 assists, 22 points)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

State Tournament Expansion

By Michael Platzer

Class AA state quarterfinals were predictabley uncompetitive this year, which is again sparking discussion of a format change, namely expanding the state field of 8 to a field of 16 teams. Fans, coaches, sponsors, advertisers, and broadcasters all have legitimate arguements for change; not to mention increased revenues for the MSHSL.

The field expansion would likely be accomplished by advancing the two section finalists to the state field of sixteen. The section final would still be played, thereby retaining the prestige of winning these tournaments. The teams would then be reseeded based on a combination of section tournament placement and final state rankings. This would allow good teams from the sections stacked with elite teams to add even more excitement to the tournament, sections 2AA and 7AA come to mind this year--which go 5 deep with solid clubs.

Here is what the tournament field would have looked liked this year based on advancing the section semi-finalists to the big show--the rankings are speculative of course. Granted there would be some lopsided match-ups in the first round, by the quarterfinals the field would likely be more competitive than this year's field.

1. Edina
2. Minnetonka
3. Duluth East
4. St. Thomas Academy
5. Holy Family Catholic
6. Andover
7. Eastview
8. Wayzata
9. White Bear Lake
10. Centennial
11. Moorhead
12. Hill-Murray
13. St. Michael-Albertville
14. Lakeville North
15. Maple Grove
16. Lakeville South

With the already inherint difficulty of getting tickets for the semis and finals, how long will it be before March Madness is at The Bank?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Ramblings from the Rink

by Michael Platzer

Southwest Big 6: Edina, Minnetonka, Holy Family Catholic, Chaska, Eden Prairie, and Wayzata, sections 2AA and 6AA.

Section tournaments recently concluded, the best of the Southwest Big 6 are traveling to the 2018 MSHSL Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center, March 7, 8, 9, and 10. Edina and Minnetonka are head-and-shoulder-pads above the rest, both featuring formidable defense, elite team speed, and snipers galore--goaltenders beware!

The very slight edge goes to the Hornets for brick-wall defense; lightning-fast transitions; and surgically-precise up-ice rushes geared to feeding the trailer. The Skippers surpass all in overall team speed and creative offensive chaos.

Holy Family Catholic is the odd-man out of The Tourney, losing a double-overtime heart-breaker to Tonka's Skippers. A spectacular performance by the goalkeep wasn't enough, as the Fire's strength, offensive puck control, was disrupted by the speedy Skippers.

Chaska, Eden Prairie, and Wayzata were the best of the rest, and could defeat each other or any superior opponent on any given night at the rink. Young Chaska is comparable to Minnetonka of yesteryear, but suffered significant injuries to key players, including goaltender. Eden Prairie features elite talent, but sometimes sloppy puck-work. And Wayzata remains the perennial blue-collar tough-guy team, but lacks scoring proficiency. Which all added up to ultra-competitive sections this year, which will continue into the foreseeable future, barring the rumored exodus of key players.

Addendums from the Box:

Also-Rans: Holy Family Catholic and Andover are arguably the two best squads not in this year's post-season finale at the X.

Tourney-Watch: Can St. Thomas Academy's physical defense disrupt the Hornets' or Skippers' always impressive offensive output?

Crystal Puck: Barring departures, Chaska and talented, disciplined Eastview will be top 20 staples in 2018-19.

Apologies to 2AA and 6AA Benilde-St. Margaret's, Cretin-Derham Hall, and Prior Lake as I did not attend any of their February games.

Class AA 2018 Boys State Hockey Tournament

The eight teams are set for the Class AA 2018 Boys State Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center, March 8-10. There were some surprises this year as number one section seeds White Bear Lake and Moorhead were upset by Hill-Murray and St. Michael-Albertville, respectively.

#2 Edina (26-2-0) vs. Lakeville North (16-10-2), Thursday, 11 am

Edina is coming into the state tournament on a roll, allowing only one goal in each of its three section playoff games. Edina's section final opponent in 6AA, Wayzata, a team ranked towards the bottom of the top ten all year, was no match for the Hornets as the contest finished in running time. During the regular season, amongst other teams making it to state, Edina took one of three against Minnetonka, and recorded victories against Centennial, Hill-Murray, and St. Michael-Albertville. This is team loaded with talent, and are very capable of winning the state title. Mr. Hockey finalist Sammy Walker, Mason Nevers, Jett Jungels, and Demetrios Koumontzis all finished the regular season with 20 or more goals. Sammy Walker might be the most exciting player to watch in the state with his speed and playmaking ability. Ben Brinkman anchors the blue line for the Hornets, and is very capable of scoring. Garrett Mackay has played well in net as of late for the Hornets, allowing just six goals in the last five games. He enters the tournament with a respectable .915 SV%. I like this Edina squad a lot. In their two losses to Minnetonka, the Hornets were without key players, either due to injury or off-ice situations. A fully loaded, healthy Edina team would by the favorite to win it all.

Lakeville North punched their ticket to state by squeaking out a 4-3 victory over their inter-city rival, Lakeville South, in the Section 1AA championship. This North team may not be as talented as previous years, but they nearly pulled out a victory over Minnetonka in The Opener Thanksgiving showcase, and defeated Eastview twice this year, a team ranked in the middle of the state's top 20 in the final regular season poll. They have played a schedule that included opponents such as Duluth East and St. Thomas. Against the Greyhounds, the Panthers narrowly lost 6-5. North was in and out of the bottom tier of the top 20 rankings all year. The team has one scorer with 40 or more points, and the goaltending duties have been split during the season. Will Johnson boasts a .925 SV%. This team is generating the least amount of buzz among teams in the tournament, but are capable of making games close against top teams.

Pick: Edina

Players to watch:

#10 Sammy Walker (Minnesota, Mr. Hockey finalist) - 32 goals, 36 assists, 68 points
#18 Mason Nevers - 22 goals, 38 assists, 60 points
#17 Ben Brinkman (Minnesota) - two-way defenseman with 11 goals, 33 assists, and 44 points

Lakeville North:
#14 Spencer Schneider - 25 goals, 20 assists, 45 points
#  7 Blake Brandt - 13 goals, 25 assists, 38 points
#25 Shane Griffin - 19 goals, 19 assists, 38 points

#3 Duluth East (23-2-3) vs. St. Michael-Albertville (23-5-0), Thursday, 1 pm

Duluth East is the lone greater Minnesota representative at this year's tournament and return after a two-year hiatus. The Greyhounds needed the third period and overtime to comeback against Andover in the Section 7AA Final to get to St. Paul.

The team's primary season scoring came from it's top line, nicknamed the WMD line, that consists of Garrett Worth, Ian Mageau, and Ryder Donovan. Factoring in playoff stats, each of these players have at least 50 points for the year. Garrett Worth is certainly worthy (no pun intended) of being in the Mr. Hockey talk this year. Luke LaMaster is the rock the defense, but goaltending has been spotty for Duluth East, which could be the make or break for this team over the three days at Xcel Energy Center. Over the course of the season, Duluth East has played tournament teams Minnetonka, Centennial, and Lakeville North, securing victories and all three games. Duluth East has been ranked in the top five all year long, and the win over Minnetonka proves they are a viable contender for the championship.

St. Michael-Albertville is making their first state tournament appearance in school history after defeating Section 8AA top-seed Moorhead, 6-5. The Knights come into the state tournament on a 12 game winning streak. They were beat out by Centennial for the last state seed. The northwest suburban community had played a beefy schedule this year that featured Edina, Holy Family, and Moorhead. St. Michael-Albertville got most of it's production from Adam Flammang and Luc Laylin. The Knights will need goaltender Justin Damon to play well to allow them to hang with the top teams.

Pick: Duluth East

Players to watch:

Duluth East:
#  5 Garrett Worth - 42 goals, 22 assists, 64 points
#22 Ryder Donovan - 14 goals, 44 assists, 58 points
#23 Ian Mageau - 17 goals, 35 assists, 52 points

St. Michael-Albertville:
#11 Adam Flammang - 25 goals, 22 assists, 47 points
#  9 Luc Laylin - 12 goal, 32 assists, 44 points
#  2 Blake Spetz - 14 goals, 21 assists, 35 points

#1 Minnetonka (24-2-2) vs. Hill-Murray (13-11-4), Thursday, 6 pm

Minnetonka return to state for the first time since 2010 after defeating Holy Family in double-overtime thriller in the Section 2AA Final at Mariucci Arena. Holy Family was three seconds away from going to state until the Skippers tied it in regulation.

Minnetonka had been ranked in the top five all season long, with it's only blemishes against Edina and Duluth East, two schools in the state tournament. Minnetonka has beaten Edina twice this year. What makes the Skippers a contender, like Edina, is their depth, and the top two lines are capable of putting the puck into the net. Bobby Brink and Jack Bayless are around 50 points on the year and have great chemistry together on the ice. Josh Luedtke, one of the better defensemen in the tournament, has 31 points on the year. Charlie Glockner is capable of playing well in big games, and Minnetonka will rely on him.

Hill-Murray enters the tournament with a young team and an experienced head coach in Bill Lechner, who for my money, is one of the top coaches in the state.. This team qualifies as young when and eight grader and freshman are on the varsity roster. The Pioneers knocked off White Bear Lake, a team that had been in the top ten all year, in Section 4AA. It has been an up and down year for Hill-Murray. They had a respectable showing at the Schwan's Cup over Christmas, going toe-to-toe with Centennial, but they could not carry that winning formula throughout the rest of the regular season. However, they shutout Moorhead to end the regular season as the school pushed the youth movement on the roster. Seniors Michael Fleischhacker and Joey Petronack bring leadership as captains to this inexperienced squad. Hill-Murray is a great underdog in the tournament, and they will certainly have their work cut out for them against Minnetonka. They will need to capitalize on Skippers mistakes to stay in the game.

Pick: Minnetonka

Players to watch:

#29 Jack Bayless - 22 goals, 28 assists, 50 points
#  9 Bobby Brink (Denver) - 16 goals, 33 assists, 49 points
#10 Joe Molenaar - 29 goals, 8 assists, 37 points

#  9 Ben Helgeson (Wisconsin) - 19 goals, 16 assists, 35 points
#12 Michael Fleischhacker - 18 goals, 11 assists, 29 points
#19 Brett Oberle (Minnesota-Duluth) - 5 goals, 20 assists, 25 points

#4 St. Thomas Academy (25-2-1) vs. #5 Centennial (19-6-3), Thursday, 8 pm

St. Thomas Academy joins the state tournament after defeating Easview in the Section 3AA Final. It was not an easy fight for the Cadets as they were tied with the Lightning for two periods before taking over play in the third period. St. Thomas has been one of the powerhouse teams all year, ranked in the top five all season long. Against top seeded Minnetonka in the tournament, the two meetings this season have resulted in a loss and tie for the Cadets. Unseeded Hill-Murray and Lakeville North are other state tournament schools St. Thomas has faced, coming away with victories. Payton Matsui and Ray Christy have the majority of the points this season, while St. Thomas features one of the top goaltenders in the state in Atticus Kelly, who boasts a .941 SV% and 1.25 GAA, and is up for the Frank Brimsek Award. Kelly's big saves in the section final allowed St. Thomas to advance to play in St. Paul. This is a dangerous team, and a hot goaltender could put them in Saturday night's championship game.

Centennial advanced to the state tournament as the top seed in Section 5AA. At the start of the season, Centennial was considered by many pundits to be a top five team in the state. After starting the year strong, the Cougars struggled with the middle part of the schedule, and fell outside of the top ten. Lucas McGregor is Centennial's most explosive player, and his performance often dictates a game's outcome. The Cougars have played Duluth East, Hill Murray, and Edina this season among state tournament teams, but did not score a win against the trio, with the best result being a tie at the Schwan's Cup against Hill-Murray. The lack of depth is one knock against Centennial, and unfortunately that will eliminate a deep tourney run.

Pick: St. Thomas Academy

Players to watch:

St. Thomas Academy:
#14 Payton Matsui - 28 goals, 30 assists, 58 points
#15 Ray Christy (Colorado College) - 15 goals, 43 assists, 58 points
#30 Atticus Kelly - 21-1-1 record, .941 SV%, 1.25 GAA

#11 Lucas McGregor - 28 goals, 40 assists, 68 points
#14 Hayden Brickner - 22 goals, 26 assists, 48 points
#  8 Carter Wagner - 18 goals, 29 assists, 47 points

Semi-finals (Friday):
Edina over Duluth East
Minnetonka over St. Thomas Academy

Championship (Saturday):
Edina over Minnetonka

Sunday, February 25, 2018

2018 Section Semifinal Satuday

Holy Family 5, Prior Lake 2

This was the second head-to-head matchup between Holy Family and Prior Lake of the season with Holy Family winning the first meeting, 7-2, on February 8th. Holy Family defeated Chanhassen in Thursday's Section 2AA quarterfinal, 6-0, to make the trip to the section semis at Braemar Arena. On the other side, Prior Lake was victorious over section newcomer New Prague, 5-3, for the right to play in Saturday's game. Holy Family had been ranked in the top ten for much of the year, while Prior Lake was mainly on the outside of the top twenty, looking to make the climb. They had quality regular season wins against neighboring communities Eden Prairie and Chaska, which helped them get the number three seed in the section tournament.

I did not originally have plans to go to this scheduled noon game, but decided with the impending snow to catch this one just in case the road conditions were to deteriorate enough to make travel difficult for the later games in the day. My gut feeling on this game was likely to be a one-sided contest in Holy Family's favor, and that ended up being true. This game never felt in doubt from the opening minutes. In the first period, you could sense Holy Family was is in a different class than Prior Lake with their speed and puck movement. They just play well as a team and have great chemistry. Holy Family would go down the ice skating around the opposition. Prior Lake had to play mistake-free hockey to have a chance, but cycling the puck in the attacking zone resulted in many puck control mistakes in the attacking end, leading to odd-man scoring chances for Holy Family. The fast-paced first period was dominated by Holy Family as they scored a pair of goals, and only yielded three shots to Prior Lake.

The second period was more of the same, with Prior Lake playing a little bit better. Prior Lake finally got on the board during a stretch of undisciplined play by Holy Family as Jackson Jetting converted a 5-on-3 power play at about the halfway point of the period, but it never felt like they were going to steal it away. The only way Prior Lake was going to win was if Holy Family was going to hand them it. At the end of the second period, Holy Family doubled their goal count from the first period, and lead 4-1.

Garrett Pinoniemi scored for Holy Family just 35 seconds into the third period. With a four goal lead, Holy Family went into a more conservative, prevent style game to kill the remaining time in the game. Frustrations started to set in for Prior Lake as the game got a bit chippy towards the end of regulation. With under three minutes to go, Prior Lake's Preston Underhill charged at Holy Family goaltender Conan Hayton with a cross-check to the head. Hayton laid on the ice for a few minutes after his mask flew off and back of his head contacted the crossbar following the hit as medical personnel treated him. Video of the hit can be seen here. While this was going on, coaches on both sides argued with each other in front of the divider that separates the benches. The officials made the proper call here with a 5 minute major and game misconduct assessed to Underhill. This is something you do not like to see at any level. Deliberate head contact can not be tolerated. Fortunately, Hayton was able to continue, and the final minutes finished without any further incident.

Holy Family goaltender Conan Hayton is cross-checked in the head by Prior Lake's Preston Underhill. Screenshot from video courtesy of MN Hockey Hub

With the win, Holy Family takes on the top seed in the section, Minnetonka, at Mariucci Arena in the section championship on Wednesday at 8 pm. Minnetonka defeated Chaska in their semifinal contest, 4-1.

Section 2AA bracket

Wayzata 3, Cretin-Derham Hall 2

After the noon game wrapped up at Braemar, the snow was not flying too bad yet, and the roads looked good, so I made the trek from Braemar to Bloomington Ice Garden for the Section 6AA semifinal between Cretin-Derham Hall and Wayzata. Unlike last year, I was not greeted with long lines to purchase tickets and to my surprise, it was an empty arena at 2:15 pm for the 3 pm game. The weather may had something to do with it. The rink lights were dimmed, and the Wayzata coaching staff was chatting amongst themselves in the lobby to the main rink. The concession stands was not even open yet. I was just grateful to not have to deal with any hassles as this was the game I really wanted to see on Saturday, and it did not disappoint.

An empty rink at Bloomington Ice Garden around 2:30 pm. Minn Puck photo.

The first meeting between these two teams took place back on December 16, an overtime thriller that Wayzata won 5-4. Wayzata came in as the number three seed, while Cretin was the higher seed at number two. Cretin has been ranked in the top ten for most of the year after beating Eden Prairie and skating to a tie with White Bear Lake early in the season. Wayzata had flirted on the fringes of the top ten over the season as they had an up-and-down year and dealt with the strength of schedule of the Lake Conference. The paths that each team took to reach the Saturday semifinal - Wayzata defeated Blake in the quarterfinals, and Cretin defeated Holy Angels.

Both teams were feeling each other out in the first period as there was not much offensive activity with a total of 11 shots recorded for the period, but three goals were scored as Wayzata netted two, and Cretin scored in-between the Wayzata goals. That is pretty good shooting, or luck, with nearly a quarter of the shots taken resulting in goals. Cretin came out showing they were the faster team, but Wayzata brought the physical presence. There was a back and forth feel to the game, like two heavyweights trading punches.

The second period was bogged down with penalties as the officials called the game tightly, which resulted in little 5-on-5 play. Checks that resulted in a player going into the boards were called. Typically, you see fewer penalties in the playoffs as the better teams tend to be more disciplined. At the conclusion of the period, the public address announcer jokingly made the comment going over the penalty summary that there were too many to read. The game sheet noted eight combined penalties for the period, evenly split between the two schools. Wayzata got more into an offensive rhythm, registering 13 shots and Griffin Ness scored the lone goal of the period to put Wayzata up 3-1. I could start to sense there was an upset in the making. Wayzata is one of those teams that knows how to come through when it matters most.

The third period saw more 5-on-5 play as players were not matching to the penalty box one after another like the previous period. Cretin cut the deficit to one goal a little more than a minute into the period. Momentum definitely swung around to Cretin's side following this goal for the remainder of the period as they were hungry to tie the game.

Late third period action between Wayzata and Cretin-Derham Hall. Minn Puck photo

Cretin had a breakaway opportunity to tie with a couple minutes left, but could not score. They nearly got the equalizer again during the final seconds of the game when there was a mad scramble in from of the Wayzata goal. The puck stayed out of the net, and the referee emphatically waved his arms to signal no goal. I never saw the puck go in the net from the Cretin side of the arena at any point in the sequence.

This was an entertaining, hard fought battle between the two teams. Between this game and Eden Prairie vs. Chaska from Thursday, I was fortunate to see two quality games over three days. Wayzata pulled the rabbit out of the hat again!

Wayzata gets their Lake Conference nemesis, Edina, in the section championship for a second straight year. Last year, Wayzata shocked the Minnesota hockey scene by defeating heavily favored Edina to punch their ticket to the state tournament. I expect Wednesday night's rematch at Mariucci to provide the same kind of drama as last year. Wednesday's section championship will be the third meeting of the season between the two schools. Edina won both games, 3-1, and 4-0, respectively. However, there is the old adage that it is difficult to beat a team three times in one season. That certainly was true last season. Will it happen again?

Section 6AA bracket

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Minn Puck Class AA Power Rankings - 2/4/18

The top ten teams are starting to become clearer as we head down the final stretch of the regular season. After an absence of the Minn Puck Power Rankings, they return this week.  Here are the ten teams making the cut:

1. Edina


Last week:
vs. Centennial, W 3-2
vs. Wayzata, W 3-1
vs. Hopkins, W 20-0

Edina keeps rolling along with nice wins over top 20 teams Centennial and Wayzata. Centennial gave the Hornets a little bit of a scare early, but Edina came back to earn the victory. Edina largely controlled play in the Wayzata game, and had no troubles against Hopkins. The third, and final, regular season matchup against Minnetonka awaits the Hornets on Saturday. The two teams have split victories this season.

2. Duluth East


Last week:
vs. Anoka W 4-0
vs. Superior (WI), W 7-0
vs. Elk River, W 7-0

Duluth East posted shutouts in each of their games last week, and this team has been playing impressive down the stretch, scoring 58 goals, and allowing just seven goals during their nine game winning streak. The Hounds get Cloquet and Lakeville South this week.

3. Minnetonka


Last week:
vs. Benilde-St. Margaret's, 7-3
vs. Eden Prairie, W 7-4

Minnetonka comes in at number three this week, scoring seven goals in each of their games this past week. In both games, it took the Skippers a little while to get going as Benilde hung with them for a period and Eden Prairie was competitive for two periods. Conference foes Hopkins and Edina await this week.

4. St. Thomas Academy


Last week:
vs. Cretin-Derham Hall, W 2-0
vs. Hill-Murray, W 5-1
vs. Duluth Marshall, L 4-3

St. Thomas Academy is number four this week as they lost on the road in overtime to Duluth Marshall after starting the week with a nice win over Cretin. The Cadets last loss before last week was to Minnetonka at the beginning of the season. The Cadets stay in the east metro this week as they take on Mahtomedi and Henry Sibley.

5. Cretin-Derham Hall


Last week:
vs. St. Thomas Academy, L 2-0
vs. Mounds View, W 5-0
vs. East Ridge, W 4-3

Cretin is number five, a position long held by Holy Family this year. Cretin lost a well-played game against St. Thomas Academy last week, showing that the margin between the two teams is little. St. Thomas finished the week with a pair of wins, despite a late charge from East Ridge. The Raiders take on Roseville and Stillwater this week.

6. White Bear Lake


Last week:
vs. Stillwater, W 4-1

Just one game this past week for the Bears, as they defeated Stillwater. White Bear Lake travels north to take on Hibbing and Grand Rapids this week.

7. Holy Family


Last week:
vs. Lakeville North, W 4-1
vs. Blaine, W 3-2

After losing big to Cretin-Derham Hall the week before last, Holy Family beat Lakeville North quite handily and got an early scare from Blaine. Orono, Prior Lake, and New Prague are the opponents this week for Holy Family. Holy Family has pretty much hit their ceiling on their own accord - they will need to rely on losses from teams above them to move up any further in the rankings as we head towards the conclusion of the regular season.

8. Moorhead


Last week:
vs. St. Cloud, W 3-0
vs. Bloomington Jefferson, W 4-0

The Spuds finished last week with a pair of shutout wins. Moorhead has been playing well defensively down the stretch with five goals against in the past seven games. The team is off this week as they prepare for their final two games against Brainerd and Hill-Murray next week.

9. Brainerd


Last week:
vs. Sauk Rapids-Rice, W 12-3
vs. Roseau, W 5-2

Brainerd keeps winning quite easily over the last four games. This is a team that looks to give Moorhead a run for their money in Section 8AA. The Warriors take on Alexandria and River Lakes this week.

10. Wayzata


Last week:
vs. Edina, L 3-1
vs. Grand Rapids, W 7-1

Wayzata comes in as the final team in the power rankings this week. They played competitively against an Edina team that could provide for interesting sectional theatrics, and then the Trojans traveled north to the IRA Civic Center and won big. Wayzata gets Eden Prairie and Hopkins this week before having to face Lake Conference powerhouses Minnetonka and Edina next week to close out the regular season.