Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turkey First, PeeWee A Hockey Second

By frederick61

Thanksgiving is around the corner and that means turkey first, hockey second. Black Friday is a liberation day for the hockey dads; they can watch their kids play all day while the wives are out shopping for the bargains.

It all starts on Black Friday and ends Sunday with four Twin Cities tourneys. D6 rivals Burnsville and Eden Prairie are hosting tourneys, D3 Hopkins has their tourneys, and D2 Mounds View and D10 Irondale co-host the Super Rink tourneys.

The Hopkins tourney is the largest as the Royals host 11 youth tourneys and total of 88 teams; the Super Rink is second with eight tourneys and 64 teams; Eden Prairie has three tourneys and 40 teams; Burnsville is the smallest with three tourneys and 32 teams. From sun up Friday morning to late Sunday afternoon, nearly 4,000 kids, coaches, tourney officials and volunteer parents will participate. For the fan, it is constant hockey on 12 sheets of ice, all within a 40-mile driving radius.

Each of the four tourneys features a PeeWee A tourney. Forty-four of the 100 or so PeeWee A teams in Minnesota will be playing. Seventeen of the top 20 teams from last year are playing.

Burnsville is hosting a 12-team tourney that pits D10 and D8 teams against each other in three pools with the added fervor of local rivalries. Hopkins has an eight-team tourney that has drawn some of the top teams, including Centennial who has been an early season surprise. The Super Rink’s tourney has an eight-team bracket play that opens with Wayzata Gold playing the St. James Canadians. Eden Prairie has a 16-team, four pool tourney that ends with championship and consolation rounds on Sunday.

Burnsville’s tourney uses a modified “silver stick” scoring system that awards up to 13 points a game. The most a team can win in pool play is 39 points; usually 25 points or more is good enough to advance either as pool champion or as wild card.

Anoka is favored to win the host’s Blaze pool, beating Minneapolis, Hastings and Burnsville. A wild card stretch would be either the Storm or Burnsville. The key game for the Tornadoes should be against Hastings.

In the second pool, Blaine’s performance in Friday’s games against Forest Lake and Rosemount will likely set the stage for pool determining winner. The key game should be the Bengals/Forest Lake game. Rosemount and Apple Valley have some talent at forward and could be a pool surprise. The Rangers and the Bengals both have tired in early season games, but at Burnsville, either one could win the pool and either one is most likely to take the wild card Forest Lake has the edge and wins this pool.

The third pool matches three tough teams and Rochester Black. The Black is Rochester’s D9 PeeWee A entry and is what some people would call an A-2 team. Early in the season, the Black may feel overmatched. It looks like it at Thanksgiving time. Andover’s Saturday draw has them playing Roseville in the AM and Eastview in the PM. That swings the pool odds to the winner of Friday’s game between the Raiders and the Lightning. The Raiders have the edge.

On Championship Sunday, Anoka would play Blaine and Forest Lake would play Roseville. Anoka should take the championship, beating Forest Lake.

At the Super Rink on Friday, a fan can put his head on a swivel and watch four sheets of hockey games by walking a 100-foot circle. The PeeWee A tourney has Wayzata Gold playing the St. James Canadians in what will be the most interesting game on the Thanksgiving holiday. A Canadian PeeWee A team has played often in this tourney, played well, but has usually fell to the older, more physical Minnesota teams. That scenario has changed this year.

Wayzata Gold is one of two balanced Wayzata PeeWee A teams. They had a good game against Waconia a few weeks ago, but have struggled since, losing to Stillwater and Lakeville South.
The second game matches Mounds View and Champlin Park. The edge goes to the Mustangs playing in their own tourney, but Champlin Park has played well in the past few years in this tourney. In the semifinals, the Mustangs take the Gold in a tough, physical game.

The other bracket matches Irondale and Mankato. The Knights won their first four games and will be coming out of a tough Spring Lake Park tourney the week before. The Mavericks won their season opener and will have hosted their own tourney two weeks before. The edge goes to Irondale.

Armstrong and Denfeld lock up in the last game of the opening round. Armstrong is coming out of the Spring Lake Park tourney, Denfeld out of the Superior tourney. Toughest call of the holiday, but the edge goes to Denfeld. That sets up a Maroon and Gold game in the semifinals with Irondale taking the Hunters. In the Super Rink championship game, the two hosts should battle with Mounds View beating the Knights.

Hopkins has a tough tourney this year. The upper bracket has the host Royals playing Rogers and it is a coin flip. Rogers gets the call. The second game matches Waconia and Jefferson. They played a week ago, Waconia winning 4-1. Waconia should beat the Jags again and should go on to beat Rogers in the semifinals.

In the lower bracket, Centennial and Orono meet in the first game. Centennial has played well in the early season and surprised people, but Orono is also good this year and could surprise the Cougars. It will be a close game. The Cougars should win and Woodbury should beat St. Louis Park, but don’t be surprised if the Orioles advance. Centennial takes Woodbury to advance to the championship game, but an Orono/SLP semifinal would not be a surprise. Waconia takes the championship, beating Centennial.

Eden Prairie hosts 15 teams in its turkey day tourney. They have four pools; North, South, East and West. In the South pool, Minnetonka and STMA look to battle it out for the No. 1 seed. OMG is a threat, but would have to beat those two teams in their first two games to advance. Lakeville North, the fourth pool team, has struggled in the early season. In a tough call, Tonka advances to Championship Sunday.

In the East pool, Elk River looks to dominate, while Stillwater and Edina are threats. The Elks should beat the Ponies in the single game on Friday and will play Edina in the second Saturday game. Edina has lost to the Elks and Stillwater this season. The fourth team in the East, Eagan has struggled in the early season.

In the West pool, two of the best teams in the state are matched, Lakeville South and Prior Lake. Both teams should open with wins in their single games on Friday, South beating Wayzata Blue and Prior Lake beating the Rochester Red. Then Lakeville South and Prior Lake play in a morning game. The West pool will be decided by who plays best at 7 a.m., on Saturday. In a tough call, the nod goes to Prior Lake.

The North pool matches Eden Prairie, Chaska, Farmington and White Bear Lake. Eden Prairie should sweep all three games. Farmington’s defense could slow the Eagles down. The Tigers forwards have improved but will it be enough? White Bear Lake has speed and great stickhandling skills, but the Bears were frustrated by good defensive positioning by North St. Paul last week in a game last week. Chaska lost to Eden Prairie a week ago in D6 action, 11-2.

On Championship Sunday, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka should meet in one semifinal game, Elk River and Prior Lake in the other. These are evenly matched teams; the nod here goes to Tonka and Prior Lake with Prior Lake taking the championship game. One side note, if Edina can edge the Elks in their pool play, it could be an all-D6 championship semifinals.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - October 20

This is part two of a pre-season preview of Minnesota’s PeeWee A hockey for this year.

By frederick61

District 9: Last year D9 allowed the Rochester Association’s top PeeWee team (the Red) to play an independent schedule and then D9 allowed the Red to come back into the district to be eligible to play for the state tourney. They were seeded #1 in D9 and proceeded to beat their D9 opponents handily and take the #1 seed to the South Regional where they were beaten soundly by Lakeville North 6-1 and Lakeville South 5-3 to end their season.

The Rochester Association has continued to seek dominance at the youth levels by placing all their best players on a single team and then working hard to get them the best competition. It has not paid off at the high school level. The association supports four high schools.

Last year, in Section 1AA, Rochester Century beat Rochester Mayo 4-3 in a quarterfinal game and then lost to Lakeville North 7-0. Rochester Marshall lost to Farmington 6-1. In Section 1A, Rochester Lourdes fared better beating St. Peter 11-0, Red Wing 4-2 and New Prague 2-0 to go to state. There, Lourdes lost to Hibbing 4-0, beat Alexandria 7-0 and lost to Breck 4-2.

When you have one top team that produces 12 kids or so a year and have to split the kids by four high schools, it is hard for each high school to compete. What is sad is that the Rochester has supported the association well, providing six sheets of indoor ice.

This past week, 80 or so Rochester PeeWee age kids tried out for traveling. D9 has decided the following: “League Structure Pertaining to Rochester Red Teams (2 – 2 point games or 1 – 4 point game): M/S/P to allow Rochester Red to play an independent schedule and be seeded by District Director for districts (Red Wing/Faribault).”

Rochester Association has decided the following: “PeeWees- PeeWee A Red -Metro team and PeeWee A Black - District team; PeeWee B Red and Black - Metro Teams and PeeWee B White - District team; PeeWee B2 Red, Black and White - District teams.”

The beat goes on. It appears that Rochester will enter one team in D9 called the Black which will have players ranked 15-30. Rochester will enter one team called the White in D9 PeeWee B which will have players ranked 60-75. They will have one PeeWee A Metro team (top 15 players) and two PeeWee B Metro teams (players ranked 31-60). This, they believe, will develop youth hockey in their area.

This year, Albert Lea will field two teams, an A and a B team, and will be fortunate if they have 25 players to choose from. The Rochester Red PeeWee A’s will most likely soundly beat Albert Lea this year at the PeeWee level. But equally likely, Albert Lea will most likely beat the Rochester High Schools this year in the Big 9 Conference – as the Tigers did last year.

This year, two D9 teams will play in the North Regional, along with three teams from D4 and D6. Most likely, D4 will surrender one or two of their seeds to either D6 or D9. Besides Albert Lea, Mankato and Northfield will be skating A level teams. Both teams had a good season last year with each winning a division crown. Northfield went on to make the South Regional and played well in pushing D8 teams before losing. Mankato came up a game short of the South Regional. Like Rochester Red, they lost to Lakeville South. Owatonna struggled early in the season and then put a nice win streak together that took them to the South Regional.

Dodge County also had some good play in season tourneys last year. They will be playing A level again this year. Austin appears to be fielding an A level team also. New Ulm and Faribault round out what should be a nine-team field this year.

In January, there is a chance to “re-district” with Minnesota Hockey. D9 should let Rochester go their way. Let them be an independent association. That is what they want. On the other hand, the Rochester Association could try and get the city fathers to pull up stakes and move the Rochester 50 miles north. Rosemount and Inver Grove Heights probably would object, but the U of M has some nice land that maybe available.

District 10: And the world of change never ends. In D10 this year, it appears the AA fever has hit. This year D10 will implement AA at the bantam level only. It will be interesting to watch how it works out. Last year at the bantam level, D10 had 8 A teams, 16 B1 teams, and 18 B2 teams. Now those teams will be split along AA/A, B1 and B2. Blaine is fielding one AA team with two B1 teams and one B2 team. Centennial is fielding one A team, one B1 team, and three B2 teams. Elk River is fielding one A team, two B1 teams and one B2 teams. That totals 13 teams (3 AA/A teams, 5 B1 teams, and 5 B2 teams). Last year these three associations fielded 12 bantam teams (3 A teams, 4 B1 teams, and 5 B2 teams).

D10 does not have a Bantam C league (only D2, D3, D5, D6, and D8 have Bantam C). The principle question, eventually, is will an Elk River or Blaine be permitted to have a AA, A, and B1 teams or will they only be able to field AA, B1 and B2 teams. It won’t happen initially, but could in the out years once the precedent is set. If the associations not skating bantam A today do not skate bantam A once this new level kicks in (and have to join the AA teams in a single D10 league), then the idea fails. That will take more than a one year trial period to figure out.

In either case, the intent of the new rule is to provide more opportunities at the A level for kids to participate in an A level tourney. The initial approach divides the A level teams into two tourneys. This will result in no impact to the Elk River, Centennial, and Blaine associations. Their three A teams will play AA or A and will have the opportunity to play in two tourneys. But their 22 B teams will play in one state tourney. That will be a problem.

This year, D10 will send two teams to the North Regional to join three teams from D11 and D12. Last year, Elk River peewee A team played a number of early season opponents outside of D10 and few D10 games. The Elks then strung a series of 20 D10 wins together to pull away from the field only to be almost caught by Centennial. They won the regular season championship by one point. Blaine and Rogers finished third and fourth. Blaine always has a strong physical team, Rogers program has been steadily improving.

Champlin Park, Anoka, Spring Lake Park, and Princeton rounded out the top 8 teams and made the D10 playoffs. The Elks swept the playoffs to take the #1 seed, but Centennial was upended by Blaine in the semifinals and eventually lost to Anoka in the game for the #3 seed. Blaine took the #2 seed. Elk River and Blaine made it to the state tourney.

Anoka had a good season but couldn’t get by White Bear Lake in the regionals. Spring Lake Park started well losing to Anoka in the finals of their own tourney in November. Champlin Park entered two tourneys late in the season and ended up playing Centennial three times in both tourneys. The Rebels lost. They played Centennial twice in D10 at the end of the year. They lost. Then they were eliminated in the D10 playoffs by Centennial. It was a quirky schedule the last month of the season for the Rebels.

Princeton came on strong at the end of the season, but fell short in the D10 playoffs losing to Champlin Park in overtime. They will not be fielding an A team this year.

Irondale in their first D10 season surprised everybody by leading the league for the first month. The Knights had a good year. Andover made the state two years ago, but failed to make the D10 playoffs last year. Coon Rapids played well in the Orono tourney in December and St. Francis had success in some year ending tourneys.

District 11: D11 covers the Duluth area. The D11 association’s field 5-6 peewee A teams each year joined by a Superior Peewee A team. This looks to be unchanged this year even though Cloquet, Duluth East, Hermantown, and Proctor will be joined by Duluth Denfield. It appears that the new “Hunters” are the formerly the Duluth Lakers? Duluth East is already to roll and will be playing D12 teams next week. Last year the Greyhounds had an up and down season and that ended with two straight loses to D2 teams in the East Regional (White Bear Lake and Tartan).

Hermantown came close to making the state tourney in the East Regional, beating Anoka and Blaine before losing 3-2 to Elk River in the championship game. Blaine then eliminated the Hawks in the #2 seed game 2-0 to end their season.

Cloquet showed some early season spark, won the D11 regular season title, but failed to make it out of the D11 playoffs. Duluth Denfield/Duluth Lakers had an off year after playing well the prior seasons. The Proctor Rails (no they are not named after the bird, but after the rails the iron ore trains ride on) are always the sentimental favorite. They played well at times. Last year, they hosted the Wisconsin Fire in their yearend tourney-the last tourney in which the now demised Fire team played.

This year D11 sends 3 teams to the North regional. They will be joined at the regional by 3 D12 teams and 2 D10 teams. That means there will be a lot of action between D10 and the Port City and Iron Range teams as the teams sort themselves out over the season.

District 12: D12 covers Grand Rapids and the Iron Range. That’s because the Rangers don’t acknowledge the Thunderhawks as “Rangers”. They never drove cars with red dirt caked on the sides.

But the Thunderhawks have been stealing all the “thunder” in D12 for the past few years. Last year, Grand Rapids went into a January funk at the Roseau tourney getting beat badly. They came back to sweep through the D12 playoffs, but their chances looked dim at the north regional especially after losing the opening game to Bemidji. The Thunderhawks came back to beat Bemidji to take the #2 seed to the state. At the state tourney, they pushed a great Farmington team to three overtimes before losing 3-2 in the opening round game.

D12 has one change this year; Eveleth-Gilbert has merged with Mesabi East. Greenway may not field an A team. If that happens, D12 would have 5 teams (Grand Rapids, Hibbing, Virginia, International Falls, and E-G/Mesabi East).

Hibbing struggled last year early on, but put it together at the years end to make it to the north regional also. At the regional, they surprised Thief River Falls 4-3 in the opening game, but lost the next two to end their season. Virginia squeaked by Mesabi East to make the regional, but ended up losing to Bemidji and Fergus Falls to end their season.

The real questions in D12 is “when’s that Nashwauk steel plant coming on line” or “how about the possible plants in the Aurora/Hoyt Lakes area”? Come on government regulators, the Range needs hockey players.

District 15: D15 went split personality last year when Moorhead went with two unbalanced A teams and then had their A2 Orange team forfeit their two D15 games to the A1 Black. What the A1 Black team forgot is that a forfeited game means that you also lose your “unfairplay” point. Add another forfeit late in the season to the Black win total and a potential late season forfeit and the Black’s D15 title was suddenly on the line. Not because they lost a D15 game, but because of forfeits. That also created a discussion on how the “unfairplay” point would work in a 4-point league game where two teams would play each other only once (D15 ruled that only one “unfairplay” point can be won thus turning the single game into a 5 point game). Such is youth hockey with too many adults.

Alexandria was the team that threatened the Moorhead Black. Unfortunately a late season loss cost them the opportunity to catch the Black. The Cardinals will host the State Tourney this year in the Runestone Community Center. The Center is named after the Kensington Runestone discovered in the Alexandria area over a 100 years ago.

Most people initially debunked the stone as a phony because they thought it had to be brought there by the Vikings. But recently new information has the Runestone being placed as marker by the Knights Templar who fled Europe after being ousted by the Catholic Church. They could have hidden the “chalice” in the Alexandria area. Maybe Dan Brown needs to write another book with Tom Hanks walking the streets of Alex. Alex has a Runestone Museum located at the tip of the….

D15 allows their associations a lot of flexibility in determining if they will field an A level team each year. In addition to the two Moorhead teams and Alex; Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, and Fergus Falls should field A teams. But after that, it is a guess. Little Falls, Park Rapids, Northern Lakes (Crosby and Pequot Lakes), Prairie Centre (Long Prairie and Sauk Centre), and Wadena have fielded A teams over the past 3 years.

In 2008, the Little Falls peewee A team made the state tourney. They sort came out of nowhere and just beat everybody up. Last year the bulk of that peewee team placed second in the Central Lakes Conference, winning 20 games, and they were the #1 seed in Section 6A. Little Falls has the best won/lost winning percentage in high school hockey over the last 5 years.

District 16: D16 covers the northwestern corner of the state. Over the past few years, D16 peewee A has been a two team race between East Grand Forks and Roseau with at least one (and sometimes both) making the state tourney. That left the other teams scrambling for the district’s #3 seed to the regional.

It changed last year. Bemidji and Thief River Falls dominated the league and the two teams took two seeds to the North Regional. East Grand Forks and Roseau had to scrap for the third seed. EGF won. The Prowlers eliminated EGF at the regionals, but neither TRF nor Bemidji could get by Grand Rapids. Bemidji played well all year and looked to be a state tourney entrant before being eliminated by Grand Rapids 3-2 in the North Regional game for the #2 seed.

Crookston played had some good games last year and proved to be tough. Warroad and Red Lake Falls round out the D16 league this year. This year, D16 team has only two seeds to the West Regional. So it will be a battle for one of those seeds especially since the West Regional looks so wide open. D15 and D5 will be sending three teams each.

One of the better Peewee A tourneys held every year is Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan Tourney. This year Bemidji, Crookston, and Roseau are entered. They will be joined by D5 top contenders last year, St. Cloud and STMA; and D15 perennial top contender, Brainerd. It should provide an interesting preview of the West Regional. Three weeks later, Roseau hosts their tourney and for the past few years have drawn the top teams in the state and pitted them against D16 teams. Roseau’s tourney should provide an interesting preview of the state tourney if they get the same teams they had last year.

November is almost here! So let’s play hockey.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - October 13

By frederick61

It is tryout time this October. And it has been a warm and sunny month, making it harder to be inside the ice arena watching the process. But if a parent can’t watch their kid tryout, they can enjoy the colorful fall days.

This could be the last year of the current state tourney. The PeeWee level (A, B1, B2 and C) structure will change next year to AA, A, B and C. In January 2012, Minnesota Hockey will decide on how to change the PeeWee playoffs to AA, A, B and C. Some people think that there is some advantage to modeling the youth structure along the lines of the Minnesota High Schools, requiring an association in a AA high school area to play AA hockey; and allowing an association in a A high school area to play AA or A.

It would force the AA designated associations to take the same tryout process used for the 60 or so kids this year and use the same tryout process next year to designate 60 or so kids AA, A, B and C. The AA and A teams would play in the same league since there would not be enough teams to have two leagues per district. At some point in the year, someone would have to split the AA and A teams would into two tourneys. The suggested date would be July 2012.
Such foolishness. It is 11-12 year kids learning to play a sport. No thought has been given to what happens at the B level. With B level teams (B1, B and B2) being far more numerous than the 100 or so PeeWee AA/A teams, why not add a B level tourney to increase youth participation in the playoffs? The B1/B could be combined and the B2 (C?) combined for three tourneys. Currently, the B2/C levels have little in year-end playoffs. But maybe that makes too much sense.

This year the PeeWee A/B state tourney will be played at Alexandria. The host Cardinals have played well in the past few years. But Moorhead has proven tough in the D15 playoffs the past two years. The West Regional winners will come from D5, D15, and D16. Still it would be nice to see the Cardinals playing in the state on their home ice; it would pack their arena.

District 1: This was the old TC District a few years ago. As the level of interest inside the Twin Cities dropped, D1 has evolved to a Mite, Squirt and PeeWee C league where outdoor ice is used to help keep costs down. It acts as a feeder to the Minneapolis Storm, Highland Capitals, etc. The emphasis is on development, not traveling hockey. D1 has one nice tourney in January open to all C-level Squirt teams. It is hosted by Edgecombe and played outdoors in St. Paul.

District 2: Hudson, D2’s third-place finisher in 2010-11, is gone this year. They have returned to play Wisconsin Association Hockey. It looks like North St. Paul will field an A PeeWee team after a year’s absence. With Highland Park in the league, there will likely be nine D2 PeeWee A teams. D2 will send two teams to the East Region to play three D3 entries and three D8 entries.

D2 always produces a balanced set of teams. Last March, in the D2 playoffs, only one of the top three Minnesota teams in the regular season (Roseville, Stillwater, White Bear Lake) made it to the North Regionals. Cellar dweller Mahtomedi and an invisible Tartan team (hope they post their scores this year) upset Roseville and Stillwater to take two of D2’s three seeds.

Still, Roseville, Stillwater and White Bear Lake always place in the top 4 or 5 spots in D2’s regular season. But this is a tough league since all of the D2 teams have played in a regional tourney the past few years. Mahtomedi, Tartan, Forest Lake and Mounds View played some great PeeWee hockey at times last year. Highland Park, after being in the regionals three years running, had an off year. And so enter the Polars from North St. Paul. This is always a fun league to watch.

District 3: This district is to be admired. Three years ago, because of the disintegration of the high school Classic Lake Conference, D3 was losing associations. Their PeeWee A teams were down to six and dwindling. But they stepped up and made some interesting changes by first inviting the Minneapolis associations to play. That move added Washburn and Southwest/St. Louis Park (or Minneapolis Park) teams at the PeeWee A level.

Last year they added two D5 teams, Crow River and Mound Westonka to the D3 PeeWees and got a bonus when St. Louis Park fielded an A team. However, D3 lost two teams when Washburn combined with Minneapolis Park to form the Minneapolis Storm (Park stood for St. Louis Park) and North Metro did not field an A PeeWee team. The D3 PeeWee A league last year had nine teams, Wayzata, Osseo/Maple Grove, Minneapolis Storm, Crow River, St. Louis Park, Mound/Westonka, Orono, Armstrong Cooper and Hopkins. Without making changes, they would have had only five teams.

Before the changes, Wayzata, OMG and Hopkins dominated play. Two years ago, Wayzata and OMG dominated D3. Last year, it looked as though those two teams would dominate again. But as the D3 season closed, both Wayzata and OMG were being pushed by the Storm, Crow River and Armstrong/Cooper.

This year Wayzata is planning to field two balanced A teams this year. Balanced is the “operative” word here, meaning the top Wayzata players will be split evenly between the two teams, unlike what Rochester and Moorhead did last year. Rochester fielded three A teams, but put their top players on one team; Moorhead fielded two A teams and put their top players on one team. Then both Rochester and Moorhead set a season schedule where they would not have to play the other A team.

D3 should be a 10-team league this year. They will send three D3 teams to the East Regional to join two D2 teams and three D8 teams.

The general feeling this year is that with Wayzata having two balanced teams, D3 should be a more balanced league. But Wayzata’s association has been stable in the support they give their teams. That consistency has been one of the reasons all their teams (not just PeeWee A teams) play well. With strong support and good coaching, it would not be surprising to see two Wayzata teams playing for the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the D3 playoffs in February.

District 4: As a result of D9 being formed, D4 went from being a 12-team PeeWee A league two years ago to a three-team no league last year. Only Luverne, Redwood Area and Marshall fielded teams. This year, Mason City, Iowa, is joining D4 to give them four teams, but a fifth would be nice. Sleepy Eye has combined with New Ulm the past years and likely to do the same this year. That leaves Fairmont, Windom and Worthington as candidates.

What is interesting about D4 is that this district’s associations make up the bulk of the Southwest high school conference (Morris is the only non-D4 high school in the conference). They share Section 3A with D5 teams from Litchfield, Hutchinson and New Ulm and have been only one or two games away from making the state tourney.

The D4 associations work hard to keep their youth costs down. It would be good to see one of their youth teams or one of the Southwest Conference high school teams make a run this year.

Luverne dominated D4 last year and was the sole D4 team in the regional tourney. The South Regional will be tough this year. D4 has three seeds to the South, but they have to play three D6 teams and two D9 teams. D9 and D6 should be courting D4 for an extra seed.

District 5: D5 changed going into last year. They lost two associations, Crow River and Mound/Westonka to D3, but gained St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids, and Becker/Big Lake. That turned the regular D5 season into a two horse race between St. Cloud and STMA. The regular season championship was on line when the two teams met in the middle of January. St. Cloud won 2-1. The Knights had another shot at St. Cloud a month later. But they overlooked a tough River Lakes team at home and lost 2-1. That eliminated them from the championship.

D5 will send 3 teams to the West regional this year. Teams from D15 (3) and D16 (2) will join them.

D5 spawns more high school state tourney contenders than one would think. Litchfield, Hutchinson, Willmar, and Sartell all came within a goal of winning their sectionals last spring. St. Cloud divides into multiple high schools and those high schools did not fare as well with one exception. Last year, #9 seeded St. Cloud Apollo beat #1 seeded Little Falls in Section 6 by a score of 3-1 in what was the biggest upset at the A level last year.

This year D5 should have 10 peewee A teams in their league. There are a number of questions to be answered though. The top one is will St. Cloud and STMA dominate again. But another one is will the numbers remain high enough for the Willmars and Litchfields to field competitive teams? Will a Sartell, River Lakes, or a MALM emerge like STMA has to take on the field? Has Buffalo found its stride in the new D5 to dominate as they did three years ago?

A year ago at the Spring Lake Park tourney, kids from Sauk Rapids really showed a lot of poise by playing a good team concept in November. Will the Storm be returning enough players to step up? D5 is really an unknown at this point as to who will emerge as champ.

District 6: Among the 13 districts, D6 is the one most feared or most hated. Any D6 team playing in any tourney is going to take on extra pressure as teams outside D6 love to hang a D6 win on the schedule. It’s a badge of honor. This year, D6 will send 3 teams to the South Regional playing teams from D4 and D9. With D4 having 3 seeds, look for D6 or D9 to pick up extra seeds.

For the past three years, the D6 regular season has been like a cook following a recipe. In the opening months, Edina looks the world beater, Eden Prairie knocks around, Burnsville stays home and wins, and Minnetonka gets beat bad a couple of times (just enough to say the Skippers aren’t good this year). Prior Lake just grinds it out. Jefferson struggles, Shakopee has a good opening month and Kennedy surprises a few teams.

Then Thanksgiving and Christmas tourneys hit and after the first of the year, Burnsville is on top and threatening to run away with the title, Eden Prairie has surprised a few people including Edina, and the Hornets are good enough (but not good enough for most). It becomes a three way race and the Skippers are there threatening to upset the apple cart. Prior Lake keeps grinding away.

In early February, Burnsville is hanging on to the lead with now four teams snapping at their skates. Particularly hard on the Blaze are usually Minnetonka and Prior Lake. Eden Prairie and Edina dual in a year ending two game set and “wow”, Burnsville, Edina, and Eden Prairie finish 1-2-3 or 2-1-3 or 3-2-1. The Skippers fall and Prior Lake keeps grinding away.

Edina or Eden Prairie eliminates Burnsville in the regional and Edina makes it to the state tourney semifinals. The Hornets have won the state title the last two years. This is their “three-peat” year.

It would be nice to see a change to the recipe this year. Burnsville may have that opportunity. They host the South Peewee A/B regional this year. Perhaps Prior Lake can make that move also; they have played well on Burnsville’s home ice.

District 8: Last year D8 had a twelve team league. It should be a 13 team league this year with Cottage Grove fielding an A team. The only other change is this year South St. Paul will lead the co-op effort between Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. D8 will send 3 teams to the East regional to join teams from D3 (3) and D2 (2). This will be a tough regional tourney.

Last year two teams emerged to take the D8 laurels all the way to the state tourney final four. Rosemount lost to Wayzata in the semifinals 4-1 and Farmington lost a tough championship game to Edina 7-3 in front of a packed crowd at BIG.

Farmington looks to be tough again this year and should retain their outstanding defense. Rosemount’s last year’s peewee class (ended up contending for both Peewee A and B state titles) is gone. The Irish will be in a re-vamping mode. Woodbury finished in third in regular season play last year and looked like a lock to make it to the regionals. But Lakeville North surprised them and ended their season. The two Lakevilles (North and South) both made it to the regionals last year. South ended Eastview’s hopes in the D8 playoffs and look to provide the main the D8 competition for Farmington this year. South has a number of returning players and may have one of the best peewee players in the state.

Apple Valley and Eastview moved from D6 to D8 last year. Apple Valley struggled and Eastview played in the middle of the pack and came close to making the regionals. Johnson/Como will be fielding a team; their kids won an international tourney this summer. Cottage Grove has 60 or so kids trying out for their peewee A team (some of them maybe kids who go to East Ridge and skated Woodbury last year). Sibley (or West St. Paul) had a good year end run, but came up short against Eastview in the D8 playoffs. Hastings always starts slow because they usually select their team around November 1 or later. The two Lakevilles moved their tryouts back to mid-October this year.

D8 would appear to be wide open this year. Farmington and Lakeville South look to be in the top, but they appear to be teams of opposing strengths; Farmington defensive should be strong and Lakeville South’s offense should be strong. Lakeville North, Woodbury, Eastview and Cottage Grove could be in the mix.

D9-D16 will be covered in the next issue of Let’s Play Hockey.

A few months ago at Shattuck, they had a promotional event. A peewee kid from Owatonna made an 89 foot shot through a hole no larger than the puck. It was an amazing shot. He should have won a $50,000 prize. But the Nevada company insuring the promotion (the payee) refused to pay the kid because his twin brother who was outside playing should have taken the shot. The Nevada company generously donated $20,000 to Minnesota hockey instead of giving the price to the peewee kid. But the Nevadans learned a lesson, give a Minnesota peewee kid a stick and he will find a way to score.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Minnesota's Best PeeWee A Players

By frederick61 The 2010-11 season is over and this is the final post. It recognizes kids for their play this past year and that is important to understand. A single good year does not make a future “NHLer” or a D1 college player. Time does. Still when a kid does well, they should be recognized. I want to start out with an apology. There are teams that I did not see at all this year. My apologies go out to the kids on these teams. The majority of the teams that I did not see were teams in the northern part of the state. For example, the only D16 teams that I saw were Roseau and Bemidji. The other five teams I didn’t see. In D12, I saw Grand Rapids and Hibbing play, but not the others. In D15, I saw Moorhead and Alexandria. Still, I saw all the D2, D3, D4, D6, D8, D9, and D10 teams more than once with the exception of Redwood Falls (D4) and St. Francis (D10). Finally, I saw the majority of the D5 teams play, but some only once. If a kid is on this list, he has to have outstanding hockey skills. That is my first criteria. I have seen hundreds of kids this year. The kids on this list caught my attention because of their play. The list is divided into three groups. The first group is limited to 10 players or less. This year, eight players made the first group. The second group is not limited by numbers. The first two groups are second-year PeeWees (to the best of my understanding), the third group consists of first-year PeeWees that will return next year. All kids listed played PeeWee A level last season. The difference between the first group and the second group is the level of maturity shown by the kid when he plays the game. This is a subjective measure and has evolved over time. The best example of “level of maturity” is Mark Parrish as a PeeWee. He was never that flashy, but goalies I knew that had to play against Jefferson in the late 1980s always rated him as the toughest player because he was “always there making the right play” and he never “blew his cool”. To me, the “level of maturity” is the most important criteria and kids often forget that as they complete a great play that results in an outstanding goal. My belief is that kids with level head thinking and understanding of the game are the most likely become future stars. These kids understand the game and how to apply the skills they have to make themselves successful. Goalies are included in the lists. This year only two made the lists. All the kids listed have superior hockey skills. They all have stood out from hundreds of other players. But to the kids who didn’t make this list, I have a reminder. It is only PeeWee hockey. Next year you will 3 to 4 inches taller and who knows what list you will make as a Bantam. Finally, one important thing to understand, I don’t know these kids personally. If I were to meet them off the ice, I wouldn’t know them or recognize them. Top PeeWee A players in the state (2010-11) Group One: 1. #13 Farmington - He made this list last year and led the Tigers this year. He is an “everything” defenseman in that whatever has to be done on the ice, he does it. Good size and fast and very mature in his play. 2. #14 Farmington - He also made this list last year (different number). When #13 wasn’t on the ice, he was. And together the two were the anchors of a strong defensive wall that led the Tigers to a 50-win season. He was big last year and grew this year. 3. #15 Elk River - If #13 for Farmington is an “everything” defenseman, then #15 for Elk River is an “everything” center and that makes him a great center. He has size and skill that complements a good work ethic on the ice. 4. #2 Grand Rapids - Another tough center/wing with size. He is a smart player along the boards with the ability to keep the puck going forward under pressure. He had a great goal against Elk River in the state tourney where he took a hard shot from the top of the right faceoff circle, followed his shot to the goal and rapped in a rebound after it trickled off the goalie’s right side. 5. #2 Sibley - A hard-skating center that started the season trying to carry the load for his line and ended up being frustrated in his early season games. He matured and developed over the season and ended leading an improved Sibley team in the D8 playoffs. He has great skills and good size to which he has added game situation awareness. 6. #16 Woodbury - A kid that plays a hard-checking wing that constantly tied up the opposition in the corners and came out to set up teammates in front of the net. He is a ferocious backchecker that ran down opposition breakaways and made them pay when he caught up with them. 7. #33 Blaine - Early in the season this Blaine goalie showed that he had the skills, but his play at the state tourney was focused and showed the kind of leadership that a goalie can contribute to the team. 8. #8 Edina - Early in the season, he and #23 carried the Edina offense and scored on some terrific passing. Though smaller, he is a smart heady player who can score. But more importantly, he knows how get his team a score. At the West Regional, in three games, he had four goals and five assists. Those stats show the ability he has to adjust his play to help the team. And he helped them to the state title. That puts him in this group. Group 2 1. #4 Woodbury - A skillful center that plays a hard-nosed game that will serve him well at the next level. A clever shooter and a great puck handler last year, he has added more game awareness to his repertoire. He will be an exciting player to watch as he matures. 2. #3 Farmington - A tough center with an aggressive forecheck that always came off the bench hunting for the puck. He had great range in chasing down the puck, aggressive play in establishing Farmington’s offense low in the opponent’s zone, and could score when needed. 3. #23 Edina - During the championship game, this forward leaped around a good Farmington defenseman lifting the butt end of his stick over the Farmington players head while maintaining control of the puck. The Farmington defenseman was upright at the time. It was a great move and it resulted in a clean break on the Farmington net and a goal. He has one of the hardest, most accurate shots in the state at this level and is a great goal scorer. He really improved his overall play over the year. 4. #12 Farmington - It took an injury to one of the Farmington defensemen to push this kid into the spotlight. He was always a good wing and goal scorer, but he was pressed into playing defense for the Tigers in the Regional and State tourneys. He played a great defense for the Tigers. He has good puckhandling skills, but excels in backchecking and working the puck offensively or defensively out of the corners. 5. #7 Rosemount - A smaller center with great offensive skills and plenty of speed. He was the cornerstone of a very fast set of forwards that drove the Irish to the state semifinals. He has a great shot with a quick release and great awareness in the offensive zone. 6. #6 Wayzata - He is almost identical in skill level and style of play as #7 for Rosemount. He is also a smaller center with great offensive skills and speed. He singlehandedly destroyed Elk River in the state tourney quarterfinals, scoring 3 of the Trojans' 4 goals and assisting on the fourth. 7. #4 Northfield - A steady defenseman for the Raiders whose play kept Northfield in the close games and triggered a number of their attacks. 8. #11 St. Louis Park - He lacks size, but plays a great center for the Orioles. He was on the list last year as a first year. A heady player that works all over the ice and constantly is checking, taking the puck and setting up his teammates. 9. #23 Prior Lake - Another big defenseman in a year where there were a number of big, skilled defensemen. Great passing skills and opportunist when scoring, he can control the game flow when he is “on.” He dominated a mid-season D6 game with Edina that ended in a 1-1 tie by eliminating the breakout on Edina’s trapping style of play. 10. #30 Grand Rapids - This kid looks like the prototype of an old-time goalie, stubby and athletic. Showed great skills at the state tourney in keeping the Rapids in their game with Farmington and made the outstanding save of the tourney in the Rapids win over Elk River. 11. #19 Eden Prairie - A hard-skating, big center for the Eagles that provided a lot of the scoring, usually off a rugged rush. He always attracted the opponent’s attention. He has a great, quick, hard shot that goalies find difficulty in reacting to and stopping. 12. #15 Woodbury - He is a big winger that played defense part of the season. A growing kid who plays the game with dedication and focus, he has great passing skills, a hard shot, and works hard in the corner. 13. #8 Woodbury - A kid who played wing, center, and defense for Woodbury. He has good size, good skating and stickhandling abilities, but his forte is as a playmaker at wing or center, something that is rare. 14. #20 Burnsville - Another big center that provided scoring punch for the Blaze. Very athletic with good puckhandling skills and an aggressive style of play, he was one of the reasons the Blaze won the D6 regular season title and at one point was 24-0 on the season. 15. #10 Roseville - He is one of those players that look good skating and solid in his overall play, but he is one of those kids with an instinct for scoring. He is one reason why Roseville won the D2 regular season title this year. 16. #15 Edina - This kid found his stride as the Hornets season ended. For the first part of the season, he played a good defense for the Hornets. A kid with good size, strong puck control and a good hard shot; he found another gear in January and became the fastest skater on a team of fast skaters. The best compliment on his play came during the State Championship game when a Farmington fan asked if the kid lying on the ice was #15 because “the Tigers really need that.” Group Three 1. Lakeville South #5 - Smart, smaller center with good skating and shooting skills who led a young Lakeville South team to the South Regional #2 seed game to the state tourney, losing to Rosemount. With him returning along with a number of other kids, the Hornets will be challenged. 2. Elk River #4 - A smooth skating center/wing that along with the Elks #6 gave Elk River a potent second line. His stickhandling is great and he has great hockey sense. 3. Forest Lake #6 - He is a young defenseman that plays tough defense first, but has that “scoring ability.” He is a kid to watch next year for the Rangers. 4. Elk River #6 - A smooth skating wing that is identical in size, style and play as the Elks #4. If he and #4 are returning first years (I didn’t get confirmation on that), the Elks will have a good year next year. 5. Eden Prairie #5 - This kid didn’t stand out until January when the Eagles beat Burnsville in a D6 game. He scored two late goals to win the game. He is a smaller kid with great hockey skills. 6. Eden Prairie #31 - It was hard not to miss this goalie. He really stonewalled Farmington early in the season to hand the Tigers one of their few regular season loses. In the West Regional, he gave up 10 goals in the four West Regional games the Eagles played (Wayzata twice, OMG, and Burnsville). A bigger goalie that is well schooled in the position and very athletic. So ends the 2010-11 season. I hope that you have enjoyed the posts and remind you that Let’s Play Hockey has kept all the posts online since the first post in early November. As a result, once you have figured out what region your district (hence team) played in, you have a sort of diary of your kid or your team’s hockey this past season. So it is now time to break out the baseball bats or soccer balls. Those tryouts should be starting. Have a good summer and until the 2011-12 season starts next November, I’ll just whisper it quietly. “Let’s Play Hockey.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - March 23

By frederick61

Next week will be the final post of the 2010-2011 season. Some have said this year was a little off in that the talent of the past few years seems less. But I doubt they would say that after attending this year’s state tourney. It was one of the best and though I thought the venue would be a little off from those of the past few years, it turned out to be a great choice. Congratulations to D6 and Bloomington for putting on a great tourney.

On a nice sunny Friday afternoon, eight teams met to contend in the opening round of the Minnesota Hockey PeeWee A State Tournament. The tourney was played at the Bloomington Ice Gardens on Rink 3, the Olympic size sheet.

The arena was packed for the opening Friday sessions, the semifinals and the final games. The Farmington fans especially turned out in numbers and really rooted their Tiger team onward.

It was great to see them cheer and their presence made the tourney great. At one time, during the Wayzata game, when the Tiger fans thought that a penalty should have been called on a Trojan player, they all raised their arm in unison. But for all the cheering and support the Tiger fans gave their team, they did it in a great team spirit. It was not negative.

The first game matched Wayzata and Elk River. The two teams had played each other once before on Championship Sunday of the Edina Tournament, the day after New Year’s Day. The Trojans won that game 4-3. Both the Trojans and the Elks came to Friday’s game having won 20 of their last 22 games. The Elks had dominated the East Region, winning three straight to take the #1 seed, Wayzata had to work hard in the West to take the #2 seed after losing their opening regional game to Eden Prairie 3-2.

The Trojans struck first early in the first period when a Wayzata center picked up the puck in a corner and swept around the net to beat the Elks' goalie on a low left corner wrap around shot. Both coaches had the same strategy in the first period, match their number one lines and skate them every other shift. But the Trojans' early goal was the only first period goal. Wayzata outshot Elk River by a margin of 2-1 in the first period.

In the second period, both coaches changed their lines and the play evened out. No team could dominate the play. Late in the second period the Elks scored on a neat passing play. An Elk forward picked up the puck on the blue line, skated parallel to the blue line until he found a passing lane to a forward down low to the right of the net. The goalie pulled over to face the forward as the pass came to his stick, but instead of shooting, the forward made a second quick pass to the second forward on the goalie’s left for an open net goal.

Wayzata went on a power play with under three minutes left in the second period. In pressing the attack, they lost track of the penalty time and an Elk forward made a leading pass to the Elk player coming out of the penalty box behind the Trojan defense. He scored the breakaway goal on a hard shot to the lower left side of the goalie to give the Elks a 2-1 lead at the end of the second period. Second period shots were even.

The third opened with the Elks scoring their third goal in the first minute of play off a deflected shot from the blue line. But the Trojans caught a break with less than 9 minutes to go when an Elk clearing attempt along the ice got caught in the ref’s skates. A Trojan forward gained control inside the blue line and fed a pass to a breaking center. He scored his second goal.

That got the Trojans going as they pressured the Elk defense inside their zone. They scored off a deflection to tie the game with less than six minutes to go. With just under two minutes left to play, the Trojans kept working hard. It resulted in keeping the play in the Elks' defensive zone. A pass from inside the blue line found an open wing and he put the puck in the net to score the winning goal. Final score 4-3, the same score the last time the two teams played.

Farmington and Grand Rapids played in the second game of the upper bracket early Friday evening. As good as the Wayzata/Elk River game was, it could not top the Farmington/Grand Rapids. That game went to three overtimes before the Tigers scored the winning goal.

The first period was a very physical game as both teams had their opportunities to score. The Tigers finally scored a power play goal in typical Tiger “mob” style. The Tigers got the puck low and pounded away on the goalie until the puck was in the net.

Action in the second period slowed. The refs were calling offside very closely. Farmington began to dominate the play as the period wore on, but could not score. The second period ended with the score 1-0, Farmington leading. The Tigers had held Grand Rapids to four shots on goals in the first two periods. The Grand Rapids goalie had an outstanding game.

Farmington continued to pressure the Grand Rapids defense in the third period. With just under two minutes to go in the game, the Thunderhawks tied the game 1-1 by banging in a rebound goal. That sent the game into a 5 minute stop time, 5 on 5, overtime. The Rapids hung on as Farmington pressured the Thunderhawks in their defensive zone and the first overtime ended 1-1.

The second overtime period was a five minute stop time period, 4 on 4. Again the Tigers pressured the Rapids in their own zone, but couldn’t get past the Thunderhawks’ goalie. On the Tigers one chance on nice setup that resulted in a Tiger forward shooting at an open net, he missed high.

After breaking to clean the ice, the third overtime period started, 10 minute stop time, 3 on 3. At the seven minute mark, Grand Rapids drew a penalty creating a 4-3 penalty kill situation for the Thunderhawks. Again the Tigers stormed the goalie, finally putting the winning goal in the net. The score was 2-1 in a well-played game for both teams.

Note that the tourney brochure did not specify the overtime situation; it called out the rule to be followed in the event of overtime. That left it to the adults to interpret and as the kids know, when it comes to youth hockey, adults will not interpret it correctly. In later overtime games, the format was changed.

Edina and Blaine met in the evening game. The Bengals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, Edina came back to cut the lead to 2-1 at the end of the first period. In the second period, the Hornets started to swarm with a trapping style of defense that sprung their forwards loose on a number of 2 on 1 rushes. They scored two goals with the last goal coming off a trade mark rush. Leading 3-2, the Hornets then drew a break when a Blaine forward attempting to clear the puck behind his net on a blind clearing pass, put the puck in his own net to give the Hornets a 4-2 lead.

Edina added another goal to take a 5-2 lead into the third period. The Bengals could not stop the 2 on 1 rushes in the third. They added two more goals to win 7-2.
The Hornets had at least 20 rushes into the Bengal zone with a least 2 on 1 advantage. At least half dozen players carried the puck into the zone on those rushes at one time or another. All of them used the extra rink width and looked to pass the puck first and shot the puck only when that was the best alternative. The Hornets played the game well and with discipline.

The final game Friday started late (after 9:00 pm). The delay was caused by two things; the Farmington/Grand Rapids triple overtime and delays after every re-surfacing caused by having to let the ice set.

Rosemount used their speed at forward on the larger rink to beat Moorhead Black. They consistently moved to the outside and found open spaces, the bigger Black forwards could never quite get the leverage needed to knock the smaller Irish forwards off the puck.

Still it was a close game. The first period ended 0-0. The Irish scored twice in the second period to take a 2-0 lead and won 4-0. The Black had their chances, especially if they could get the puck down low in the Rosemount zone. Once there, they used their size to tie-up the smaller Irish players in their zone.

The Irish still skated a mixed set of lines, playing only seven forwards. That slowed their offensive punch and resulted in more individual play.

Saturday matched Elk River and Grand Rapids in the opening game of the session. Both teams were coming off disappointing loses to play in one of the two loser goes home games in the state tourney under the new format.

Grand Rapids survived a slow start. The Elks applied pressure but could not score and the first period ended 0-0. The second period started out with a bang. The Elks opened the scoring when a low hard shot found its way into the Rapids net less than three minutes into the period.

Twenty seconds later, the Rapids tied the score 1-1 on a goal off a rebound when the goalie made the initial save on a hard shot from the top of the right faceoff circle. The puck dropped and slowed in the left side of the crease only to be knocked into the net by the same Rapids forward that took the initial slot. It happened in less than a second, the Rapids forward was really flying.

Two minutes later, the Elks regained the lead on a wraparound goal 2-1 that caught the goalie by surprise. The Elk’s forward accelerated on the wraparound as he went behind the net. The wraparound seemed to be the new fad this year.

In an unusual play late in the second period, the Thunderhawks put the puck on the net from center ice, and all five players skated off in a change. The goalie froze the puck expecting a whistle, but with no Rapids players on the ice, nothing happened while his five forwards waited for him to make a pass.

Grand Rapids had started to dominate the play as the second period ended. But after cleaning the ice, the third period got rolling with an Elk River power play goal on a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that bounced weirdly off the underside of the upper part of the goalie’s stick and into the net.

With the Elks leading 3-1, the Rapids came back to cut the score to 3-2 with 10 minutes remaining. The goal was scored off a rebound when the goalie tried to trap a hard shot with his pads while on his knees.

Two minutes later the save of the game happened. The Grand Rapids goalie dove towards the right side of the slot to clear a loose puck, but the puck bounced weirdly and ended up on an Elk River player’s stick about five feet in front of the sprawled goalie. The Elk River player lifted the puck towards the open net over the goalie lying flat on his stomach. The goalie responded by kicking the puck to the left out of the net with one of his skates. Think about it.

Three minutes later, Grand Rapids tied the score 3-3 on a shot from the point that was tipped into the net. They scored the winning goal on a wraparound and added a 150 foot open netter to end the scoring. Grand Rapids beat Elk River 5-3 to send the Elks home.

The second game Saturday matched Blaine and Moorhead Black. It was the second loser goes home game. Both teams had taken tough loses in the opening round and it showed. Both teams came out flat and the first period ended in an eventless 0-0 tie.

The pace picked up in the second period and both teams had their scoring chances. But neither team could find the net. The second period ended with the score 0-0. The game was evenly played, the shots on goal after two periods, Blaine had 13 and the Black had 12.

After Blaine scored early in the third period, the Black came back late in the game to tie the score 1-1 and send the game into overtime. The tying Black goal came on a triple rebound shot as the Black stormed the Blaine goalie. Blaine won the game in overtime on a power play goal. The Blaine goalie had an outstanding game.

The opening game of the semifinals matched Wayzata and Farmington. In a bit of irony, after beating Elk River 4-3 in their only meeting earlier in the season, Wayzata lost to the Tigers 4-1 to get knock out of the Spirit of Duluth tourney. Now the Trojans were playing the same Tigers after beating the Elks 4-3 on Friday.
The two teams had been there before. And they played the best game of the tourney Saturday.

Both teams came to skate. In front of a packed crowd that one could have hung out the SRO (maybe) sign, they skated hard. Wayzata opened the scoring when a Trojan forward went left into the Farmington zone, put a shot on the net that rebounded to the right onto another breaking Trojan forward who drove the puck into the net.

That was the only first period goal. Farmington tied the score 1-1 with 10 minutes remaining in the second period when a Tiger forward picked up the puck in the corner of the Trojan’s zone and sprinted out in front of the sprawling Wayzata goalie to tuck the puck in the far corner of the net.

Wayzata came back a minute later to score a power play goal and take a 2-1 lead. They scored on a hard shot from the blue line that was timed with a forward coming into screen the goalie as the shot was fired. It was a nice play.

Farmington came back to tie the score 2-2 with two minutes left in the second period. The goal came of a hard shot from the slot that trickled through the goalie’s pads and into the net.

The first two periods were well played by two great teams. The score was tied and the shots on goal were even (Wayzata 15, Farmington 14).

The third period opened with Farmington taking a 3-2 lead. The Tigers scored on a nice short passing give and go play from the blue line that broke a Tiger free on the goalie. He put the puck in the net. That was the opening the Tigers needed.
The rest of the period, the Trojans tried to break the Farmington defense and couldn’t. They had their chances, but couldn’t break through.

Farmington did not sit back and let the Trojans attack. They in fact attacked the Wayzata net repeatedly, but were quick to defend on the transitition. Something their defensemen had done all season.

Pulling their goalie with two minutes to go, the Trojans applied intense pressure as their six forwards attacked the Tiger net. After a number of Trojan chances to score, the puck bounced lose in the slot, and a Farmington forward one timed the puck into the open Wayzata net 150 feet away to give the Tigers an 4-2 lead with less than a minute to go. Farmington added another empty netter as the whistle blew to win 5-2.

It was a great game that either team could have won played in front of a packed, cheering, crowd. Both teams deserved to win. It was great peewee hockey.

The second game became anticlimactic. The crowd dispersed as Edina and Rosemount took the ice. The Irish had beaten a tough Moorhead Black team in the opener, but was now facing an Edina team, playing only seven forwards. Edina had beaten a tough Blaine team the day before, but they “put it in cruise control” in the later part of the game.

The first period was evenly played. Both teams had their scoring opportunities, but the Hornets scored the only goal on a breakaway off a trapping play. The Edina forward drove the puck with precision into the upper left corner of the net. Shots on goal for the first period were even, Edina 5 and Rosemount 4.

In the opening minutes of the second period, Rosemount drew two back to back penalties creating a 5 on 3 advantage for the Hornets. Edina scored a 5 on 3 and a 5 on 4 power play goal within a minute to take a 3-0. Two minutes later the Hornets added a shorthanded goal to take a 4-0 lead.

With less then 10 minutes to go in the second, an Irish forward drew a 2 and 10 for checking from behind to further weaken the Irish bench. Edina added a late period goal to take a 5 goal lead into the third period.

The Hornets won 10-1. Rosemount had a great season. They won some great tourneys in December, but suffered from mid-January on with a key injury that created a short bench. It is hard to take 13 forwards and play a whole season with all that goes on with kids.

Championship Sunday was the first sunless day of the tourney. The Elk River and Moorhead teams had gone home, leaving three games and six teams to fight for four trophies. Blaine beat Grand Rapids 3-1in the early morning consolation championship. The Bengals came back from losing to Edina 7-2 in the opening round to win two straight. They were the only two digit district team (D10) to win a trophy.

Grand Rapids had a great tourney also. They lost one game by one goal in three overtimes, beat a tough team by one goal and lost a tough game to the Bengals. The Thunderhawks ended their season on a high note.

The third place game was played before a quiet crowd. Wayzata jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period. Both teams skated the first period in zombie like fashion. In the second, both teams started to move the puck and the pace picked.

The Irish became more aggressive, using the wider ice surface and had recovered some of their neat passing. The key play of the game came with seven minutes left in the second period.

The Irish were on the power play and moving the puck well in the Wayzata zone as the Wayzata penalty ended. The Irish kept the puck down low around the Wayzata net searching for an opening, but became victims of their own passive passing, giving up a soft pass that was intercepted by a Wayzata forward and turned into a 2 on 1 breakaway resulting in a 3-0 Trojan lead.

After that the Rosemount passing game was gone. The players played their positions well, tried to form and reform their attack as they had in the past, but the Irish on the receiving end of a pass couldn’t control the puck resulting in a loss of possession.

The Trojans kept the pressure on the Irish in the third period. Each team scored once to make the final score 4-1.

Wayzata had a great season winning the Eden Prairie turkey day tourney and notching 48 wins on their hockey sticks and taking third place in the state. Rosemount had a great year also, winning the Spirit of Duluth tourney and the Bloomington Tourney in December, notching 45 wins, and taking fourth in the state tourney.

Both these teams had lost players prior to the state tourney, but Wayzata with 15 forwards (two out), was the stronger team; Rosemount with 13 forwards (one out) skated only seven forwards for the tourney. Full strength these two teams played an unforgettable game in early December that the Irish won 6-5. The passing and skill the two teams demonstrated in that game was exceptional for a PeeWee game.

Oddly enough, both associations played in the State PeeWee B Championship on Sunday at Stillwater. Wayzata Blue won that game 6-1.

The Olympic sized rink at BIG was packed for the Championship game between Edina and Farmington. Two thirds of the fans were cheering for Farmington. The game was intense even during the warm-ups. The first period was great. Edina went to their bread and butter plays (trapping trying to create 2 on 1 rushes) that had worked before, but the Farmington defense stymied the Hornets.

With three minutes left in the period, an Edina defenseman rushed the puck into the Tiger’s zone deep into the corner and made a hard pass though the Farmington defense to the front of the net hitting a breaking Hornet forward who one timed the puck into an open net. But Tigers came roaring back, set-up down low in the Edina zone and eventually “mobbed” the puck into the net. The Edina goalie did not make it easy for the Tigers. The first period ended 1-1; Farmington outshot the Hornets 12-6.

In the opening minutes of the second period, Edina scored a 2 on 1 breakaway goal to give the Hornets a 2-1 lead. Then history repeated itself. Edina drew the all the second period breaks as the refs blew their whistles.

It started with the puck lying in the Edina crease in full view of the fans and at least one ref. The ref on the far side blew a quick whistle because she didn’t see the puck even though the other ref could. It denied the Tigers the tying goal. The ref was roundly booed by 500 or so Tiger fans. She couldn’t kick them all out, but they were just boos.

A minute later, with Farmington on the power play, a puck was being chased down by an Edina forward and a Farmington defenseman. The Edina forward initiated contact and locked up the Farmington defense. He created a high stick forcing the smaller Farmington player’s stick into the air. A third Farmington player came into take the puck and made contact with the Edina player who spun down and flat on the ice surface. He laid still and after being looked at by the medical, got up and skated to the bench looking as if he had a broken arm or dislocated shoulder. The medic grabbed a bag and quickly went over to the Edina bench.

It was reminiscent of last year’s White Bear Lake/Edina state tourney game where the refs just starting calling penalties on the Bears in the second period with the Bears leading and ignoring contact initiated by Edina.

Reacting to the kid on the ice, the ref called an elbowing penalty on the Farmington player and later added another Tiger penalty eventually creating a 5 on 3 advantage for Edina. Edina scored on a wraparound goal just before the first of the two Farmington penalties ended to take a 3-1. They later added another power play goal to take a 4-1 lead. With the period winding down, the Hornets scored a shorthanded goal to take a 5-1 lead into the third period.

The injured Edina player, one of the biggest and strongest players on the team, was back on the ice for his next shift and skated the rest of the game. He never missed a shift and was out on the ice when the game ended.

The refs had learned their lesson though, when in the third period, the same player initiated contact with a Farmington defenseman that then fell awkwardly with a loud noise against the boards. No call.

But the damage had been done. The Tigers came out firing in the third period. After skating off what remained of another Edina power play, the Tigers attacked the Edina zone and scored a rebound goal to cut the lead to 5-2. But the Hornets caught another break, when a rebound came loose in front of the Tiger net and was kicked in by a sliding Farmington forward. The game was over. Both teams added one more goal to make the final score 7-3.

Edina had some unsung heroes in their win. Their better players did what they had to, but the Edina coach made a wise decision in choice of starting goalie. The goalie played an extremely tough game down low and matched Farmington’s strength. It showed in shots on goal. Farmington outshot the Hornets 32-27 despite losing by four goals. Most 5 on 5 situations ended up in front of the Edina net with the whistle being blown.

The second is the emergence of one Edina defenseman, #15. In the last two months of the season, he either grew or figured out something. He was the fastest kid on the ice and the ultimate game breaker.

Farmington played a great tourney to end a great season for the Tigers. Taking second in the State Tourney is a great accomplishment. Both Edina and Farmington ended their season with more than 50 wins.

Back in the first week of November, the first post this season had this as part of the lead: “Edina, defending 2010 champion, would have to travel the 10 miles from Braemar Arena to get to BIG. But to get there, the Hornets will play 50 or so games, win or place in the D6 playoffs to get a seed to the West Regional, and win one of the two West Regional seats (a tough regional this year with Wayzata, Osseo/Maple Grove and St. Michael/Albertville likely to be in the same tourney) before the Hornets can travel those 10 miles.”

The Hornets did. Congratulations Edina. Two state titles in a row. Next year is the opportunity to “three-peat”. To the other 100 or so teams next year, the Hornets have thrown the gauntlet down.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - March 11

By frederick61

It is now down to the final eight teams for the PeeWee A championship this year. Five months ago, over a hundred PeeWee A teams opened their Minnesota hockey seasons. In 10 days, the remaining eight teams will competed for the state title at the Bloomington Ice Gardens on rink 3. One team will be left and crowned champion.

This year, the rink is important. BIG’s rink 3 is an Olympic sized sheet (15 feet wider than the standard 200’ by 85’ sheet) of ice. That will help the team with the most speed and passing skills. Teams that rely on defensive strategies will have to work extra hard in the wide open spaces. The South, East and West Regionals were played in smaller rinks, especially the West Regional at Torrey.

Congratulations to the eight state tourney seed winners. Moorhead Black and Grand Rapids are representing the North Region, Farmington and Rosemount are representing the South Region, Elk River and Blaine are representing the East Region, and Edina and Wayzata are representing the West Region. Five of the eight teams won their regular season district titles (Moorhead Black D15, Grand Rapids D12, Farmington D8, Elk River D10, and Wayzata D3). Rosemount finished second in D8; Blaine finished third in D10, and Edina finished second in D6.

The associations represented are of all sizes. Of the eight associations with PeeWee A teams playing in the state, Wayzata has the most traveling teams (A and B level). The Trojans fielded 8 teams with approximately 130 kids playing. Edina had 6 teams and 105 kids playing; Blaine had 5 teams and 80 kids playing; Moorhead had 4 teams and 70 kids playing; Elk River had 4 teams and 65 kids playing; Rosemount had 4 teams and 61 kids playing; Farmington had 4 teams and 56 kids playing; and Grand Rapids had 3 teams and 45 kids playing.

Two associations, Wayzata and Rosemount, have a PeeWee B teams in the PeeWee B state tourney at Stillwater’s Blizzard arena.

The team with the best winning percentage (games won versus all games played) is Farmington (91%). Wayzata and Edina have won 82% of their games, Rosemount has won 80%, Moorhead has won 76%, Grand Rapids has won 71%, Elk River has won 70% and Blaine has won 57%. None of the eight teams won all of their last 10 season games.
Team that played the most games this year is Edina (61). The team that played the least games is Moorhead Black (37).

Only home team to win their regional is Moorhead Black (won the North Regional played at Moorhead). St. Cloud, Anoka, and Rochester all failed to advance.

Two districts (D10 and D8) have two teams in the state tourney.

The teams with the most standout players on the roster are Edina (three) and Farmington (three).

Team that should be the most dangerous on an Olympic sized ice is Rosemount if they have their lines settled.

Team with the easiest path to the championship game this year-none.

Rosemount and Farmington have only one goalie. The other six teams have two goalies on their team.

Most improved team over the season is Edina.

Of the three regional tourneys (East, West and South that I saw), the West Regional at St. Cloud’s Municipal Athletic Complex was the best venue. The two sheets of ice (Torrey and Rische) have a common set of glass doors that allowed the fans to easily move from watching games on either sheet. The seating is close to the ice. The peewee A games were played on Torrey and the PeeWee B games were played on Rische. The best game played Saturday turned out to be the PeeWee B game between New Prague (skating 11 forwards) and the Wayzata Blue.

Rochester’s Graham Arena hosted the South Regional. They have a good setup and they have a nice walking track around the rink that the PeeWee A’s played on. Some arenas do not allow fans to stand on the walkway that overhangs the ice, but Graham does.

North Regional (D12, D15, D16) - Grand Rapids opened the tourney beating Fergus Falls 15-3. The Thunderhawks winning was not a surprise, but scoring 15 goals against the Otters was a surprise. The Otters had gone 7-2 in February and had played better defense. Bemidji beat Virginia 7-1 in the second game of the upper bracket in their first meeting of the season. The Lumberjacks have played solid hockey all year.

Bemidji beat Grand Rapids 6-3 in the upper bracket semifinal game. This was a “small surprise”, Grand Rapids looked due to beat the Lumberjacks and it didn’t happen. In the first loser goes home game in the upper bracket, Fergus Falls beat Virginia 4-2.

The Moorhead Black beat East Grand Forks 6-2 and Hibbing upset Thief River Falls 4-3 in the lower bracket Friday evening games. The Black win was no surprise. Hibbing’s win over Thief River Falls was. That set up a Moorhead Black/Hibbing semifinal game that the Black dominated beating the Bluejackets 10-0. In the loser goes home game Thief River Falls beat East Grand Forks 4-3.

The second set of loser goes home games were played Saturday evening. Fergus Falls beat Hibbing 6-5 and Grand Rapids beat Thief River Falls 5-3. Hibbing had a great end to their season, playing well in the last month. The Prowlers had a great season beating Woodbury, Bemidji, Chaska, and Moorhead Black among others.

Sunday morning, Grand Rapids beat Fergus Falls 6-0 in a loser goes home game. The Otters had a great regional tourney. The championship game Sunday, Moorhead Black beat Bemidji 4-3 to take the #1 seed. In the Sunday afternoon game for the #2 seed to the state, Grand Rapids beat Bemidji 3-2. Bemidji loses their second meeting in the regional to the Thunderhawks. Never give a tough team a second chance.
Moorhead Black takes the #1 seed and Grand Rapids takes the #2 seed to the state tourney.

South Regional (D4, D8, D9) - The South Regional looked like a D8 mini-tourney for the two regional seeds this year. That is something nobody could have predicted a year ago when the draw was set.

Farmington struggled six days before in beating Lakeville South 2-1 in overtime. But in Friday’s opening game of the South Regional, the Tigers jumped out to a quick lead and beat the Cougars 7-0. The Cougar’s defense failed them. In the second game, Lakeville North beat the Rochester Red 6-1. The Panthers played steady hockey and shut down the Red’s offense.

That set up a semifinal match between two D8 teams. Farmington beat Lakeville North 8-2. In the first loser goes home game of the tourney, Lakeville South beat the Rochester Red 5-3 to end the Red’s convoluted season.

Most associations, especially outstate, are happy to represent their local areas. In a way, Rochester’s association has that same pride, but they want to deny where they are geographically located when it comes to PeeWee hockey.

The creation of D9 put emphasis on Rochester as one of the key leaders to furthering youth hockey in Southeast and South Central Minnesota. The association, in effect, snubbed the surrounding associations by saying they did not offer competition. Unfortunately for the 17, 11-13 year old, kids on the Rochester Red team who just want to play hockey, they have had to carry the brunt of that claim. Let’s hope, next year, things change.

In the best game of the South opening round, Luverne beat Owatonna 6-5 in overtime. Both teams played well and both teams had the lead. Each team has the game in hand only to have the other team come back. If it wasn’t for sudden death to suddenly end the game, Owatonna would probably have come back to tie the game after Luverne scored. It was a good game for both teams.

Northfield had improved in the last month of the season. It showed in the South Regional. They played a tough defense and kept the game close with a top rated Rosemount team. Midway through the first period, the Irish scored a breakaway goal to take a 1-0 lead and the Raiders defense shut the Irish down until the start of the third period. In the first minutes of the third period, the Irish scored on two breakaway goals to win 3-0. At the start of the third period, the Irish had outshot the Raiders 28-5.

In Saturday’s second semifinal game, Rosemount beat Luverne 15-1 in the first meeting between these two teams this year. The Irish skate 13 forwards and the Cardinals skate 9 forwards. Clearly the Cardinals tired against a better team. Northfield beat Owatonna 3-1 to end the Huskies season. The Huskies had a great season winning 72% of their games (including winning 14 of their last 15 games before the South Regional).

In Saturday evening’s first loser go home game, Lakeville South beat a tired Luverne Nine 14-4 to end the D4 champs season. It would be great to see them back next year in a stronger D4. In the second game, a stronger Northfield team, playing with a deeper bench then normal years, gave Lakeville North a scare before losing 5-3.

The Raiders also had a great season and are one of the success stories in PeeWee A hockey this year. After years of playing in D8 and never making the D8 district playoffs or contending in regular season, the Raiders won the D9 East title this year, took the D9 #2 seed to the South Regional and played well in the regional. Not exactly the definition of a “loser” in a loser goes home game.

Sunday’s games in the South Regional turned into that mini-D8 tourney. Lakeville South beat Lakeville North in a surprise, 8-3. In five games between the two Lakevilles this year, South won three. More importantly, the Cougars won the last game. The Panthers played well in the South Regional and ended their season on strong note this year.

Farmington and Rosemount played for the championship. This was their fourth meeting and each game had some championship at stake. In the first three games (Spirit of Duluth title, D8 regular season title, and the D8 playoff title), the teams had split the games 1-1-1. They were all close games.

On Sunday in Rochester it was not close; the Tigers beat the Irish 8-2. Rosemount then played Lakeville South for the South Region #2 seed in the afternoon and beat the Cougars 7-1 to end the Cougars season. Lakeville South is a young team and if two of the younger players return, they will be strong next year.

Farmington takes the #1 South seed and Rosemount takes the #2 South seed.

East Regional (D2, D10, D11) - The East Regional is full of surprises this year and those surprises produced some surprises. White Bear Lake beat Duluth East 5-4 to open the East Regional Friday afternoon. The game figured to be a tough game and it was. In the second game in the upper bracket, Elk River beat Tartan 5-1. That set up a Saturday semifinal game between White Bear Lake and Elk River. The Elks beat the Bears 9-0. Tartan beat Duluth East 5-4 in the first loser goes home game Saturday to end the Hounds season.

In Friday evening’s first game was a dandy. Hermantown beat Anoka 3-2 on the Tornadoes home ice. That was a surprise, the Hawks came to Anoka to play hockey. In Friday evening’s second game Blaine beat Mahtomedi 8-4. Though the win over the Zephyrs was not a surprise, Blaine was the surprise team in the East regional. The Bengals beat some quality teams, but had ended regular season play on a mixed note. They had been an up and down team. Mahtomedi had finished in last place in D2, made a great run in the district playoffs strengthened by their newly found defense, but couldn’t beat the Bengals.

That set up a Hermantown/Blaine matchup in the second semifinal game Saturday. The Hawks beat Blaine 4-3 to put Hermantown in the East Championship game on Sunday. That was another surprise, the Hawks getting to the championship game. Anoka beat Mahtomedi 7-6 in overtime in the loser goes home game. Anoka had a 6-4 lead late into the third period. The Zephyrs came back to tie the score 6-6 and sent the game in overtime. Mahtomedi made a strong run at the end of the season and in the process should demonstrate to other kids that the success of a season is how the team (and you) are playing when it ends.

In Saturday’s two evening loser goes home games, Blaine beat Tartan 7-1 and White Bear Lake beat Anoka 6-3. Tartan had a great season culminating with playing in the East Regional. Anoka won some good tourneys during the season beating top rated teams in the process.

Sunday morning’s loser goes home game matched Blaine and White Bear Lake. The Bengals won 4-2 to end the Bears season. The Bears had an up and down year playing tough hockey.

The Sunday East Championship game matched Elk River and Hermantown. The Elks won 3-2 to take the #1 East seed to the state tourney. Hermantown lost to Blaine 2-0 for the #2 West seed to the state.

An interesting note is that three of the four losers in this year’s regional game (Bemidji, Burnsville, and Hermantown) lost the game for the #2 seed. Only Rosemount won.

In the East Regional, Elk River takes the #1 seed and Blaine takes the #2 seed.

West Regional (D3, D5, D6) - The West Regional champion is Edina and Wayzata takes the #2 seed. Too many that is no surprise. But Wayzata is surprise. The Trojans had to play their way back into contention after losing to Eden Prairie in the opening round. Edina, on the other hand, just walked through their opposition and in doing so notched their 50th win of the season.

St. Cloud and OMG opened the Friday afternoon session in a game that figured to be close. It wasn’t. St. Cloud scored two goals six seconds apart at the five minute mark of the first period. Except for that outburst, the first period was evenly played. Both teams had scoring opportunities. OMG came out storming in the second period and despite many quality chances, could not score. St. Cloud added a goal and rolled from there to a 6-0 win. OMG couldn’t get their offense moving in a defensive oriented game.

In a David and Goliath match in the second game, Edina beat Sartell 11-2. Sartell hung in for the first seven minutes until called for a roughing penalty. Twenty seconds later, the Hornets scored a power play goal to take a 1-0 lead. They never looked back and worked the puck, taking high quality shots on goal. The first period ended with the Hornets leading 3-0, adding two goals in the final minutes of the period. In the second period, Edina continued to work the puck and added seven goals to take a 10-0 lead into the third period. Sartell finally got some pressure on the Edina and scored two successive power play goals, Edina added one as the period ended.

That set up a Saturday semifinal game between Edina and St. Cloud. Edina, taking a page from Farmington, turned their defense lose at add to their offensive power in the regional. In this game it worked with the defense scoring an unassisted goal in the opening minute of the game. St. Cloud came back to tie the game 1-1 a minute later, but the Hornets added two more goals to take a 3-1 lead. The first period was penalty free, the second period was penalty marred.

Edina continued to applied tremendous pressure, but couldn’t score until one the Huskie centers drew a checking from behind. Thirty seconds, later the Hornets scored a power play goal to take a 4-1 lead. The Edina forwards added one more goal to take a 5-1 lead into the third period. Seven penalties were called in the second.

In the opening minutes of the third period, both teams scored as the Huskies opened their game up. At the 10 minute mark, the Huskies took three tough penalties and ended up down two players on the ice. Worst, just minutes after getting one of their centers back on the ice (having served the checking from behind penalty), they lost another center for the rest of the game on a misconduct penalty. Edina added a power play goal and a late goal to end the scoring 8-2.

Against Sartell, Edina outshot the Sabres 35-8. Almost all of the Hornet’s shots were quality scoring opportunities. Against a tough St. Cloud team, the Hornets outshot the Huskies 52-17. About 60% were quality scoring chances.

OMG and Sartell would play the loser goes home game for both teams. Sartell’s kid had overcome the shock or glazed eyes of having played Edina and came to play. Still in the defensive mode for most of the first period, the Sabres held OMG scoreless for first 11 minutes until OMG scored a power play goal to take a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period. In the second period, Sartell finally found their offensive. After OMG scored two more goals halfway through the period, the Sabres came back to make the score 3-2. OMG added a late period power play goal to take a 4-2 lead into the third period. Shortly into the third period, the Sabres gave up a shorthanded goal to OMG. OMG added two more and the Sabres scored to make the final score 7-3.

Wayzata and Eden Prairie meet in Friday evening’s first game of the opening round. The Trojans were favored and though here was the Trojans would beat the Eagles, beat Burnsville in the semifinals and lose to Edina and then Burnsville in the game for the #2 seed. It was the right idea, but the wrong teams. The Eagles beat the Trojans 3-2 sending them backward in the regional.

The Trojans ran into the same tough goal tending that Farmington and Edina faced earlier in the season. They outshot the Eagles 2-1, but could only score twice in a well-played game with few penalties. The Trojans scored first to take a 1-0 lead at the end of the first, the Eagles came back to tie the game in the second period. The game was tied 1-1 as the third period started. It was just a good game between two good teams.

In the second Friday evening game, Burnsville and STMA met. This was the first game between the two teams and they spent the first period testing each other. The first period ended 0-0. Most of the second period was a repeat of the first with the Blaze mounting more pressure as the period wore on. With four minutes left in the period, the Blaze finally scored. A few seconds late, STMA drew a 2+10 for checking from behind, and the Blaze scored a power play goal and added another goal to take a 3-0 lead into the third period.

The Blaze broke the game open in the first five minutes of the third scoring three goals to take a 6-0 lead. STMA added a late goal to make the final score 6-1.
That set up Eden Prairie and Burnsville playing in the semifinal. Three of the West Regional Semifinalists were D6 teams. The Eagles had lost their last two games to the Blaze 4-2 and 4-1. On Saturday morning, they didn’t “have it” defensively. Offensively, they put pressure on the Blaze, but couldn’t score. The Eagles jumped out to a 1-0 in the first period, but then gave up two first period and two second period goals to trail 4-1 going into the third period.

Eden Prairie came out flying in the third period and outshot the Blaze 17-2 but could score only one goal. The few quality chances the Blaze had in the first two periods were good enough to produce the four goals. One of the reasons is that the Blaze had a mismatch on the lines that resulted in a couple of those goals. But t was a game where the Blaze played defense more like the Eagles and the Eagles defense softened.

The Eagles upset of Wayzata; put STMA in a tough position in a loser goes home game. Instead playing Eden Prairie, the Knights had a bunch of angry Trojans to contend with. Wayzata stormed the STMA net for the first two periods, outshooting the Knights 24-4 and taking a 3-0 lead into the third period. The Knights could have used a few Greeks “carrying gifts” as the third period opened. They played the third period even with the Trojans but neither team could score. The game ended 3-0. Where is a Trojan horse when you need one?

The opening loser goes home game on Saturday evening matched Eden Prairie and OMG. This time, the Eagles left nothing to chance. They came out screaming and attack the OMG net. They took amassed 15 shots on the OMG net, a number of them quality chances and scored twice to take a 2-0 lead at the end of the period. More importantly, OMG did not get a shot on the net in the first period as the Eagle defense stiffened. OMG came storming back in the last two periods, outshooting the Eagles 9-1 in the third period, but could not score. The game ended 2-0.

The second game matched St. Cloud and Wayzata. The Trojans rampage continued. They outshot the Huskies 25-10 in the first two periods. The Huskies hung with the Trojans in the first period, 1-1. The Trojans broke the game open in the second taking 4-2 lead and eventually winning 6-3.

Sunday morning, Edina and Burnsville met for the West Regional championship and the #1 west seed to the state tourney. This is the third straight year that the Blaze played the Hornets for the right to advance to the state and for the third straight year the Blaze lost. Edina beat Burnsville 3-0 in a game that Edina dominated in the first and third periods and the Blaze in the second period. Edina scored a goal in each period, but Burnsville couldn’t.

Two years ago, at Cottage Grove, the Blaze lost to the Hornets on Championship Sunday after beating Edina in regular season and district playoffs. Last year, at Prior Lake, the Blaze lost to Edina on Championship Sunday after beating Edina in regular season and in the playoffs.

Wayzata and Eden Prairie played in the other Sunday morning game. The Trojans got the jump on the Eagles outshooting them 29-7 in the first two periods to take a 4-1 lead into the third period. But this time the Eagles came storming back in the third period, scoring two goals to close the gap to 4-3 with a minute to go in the period. The Trojans hung on to win the game.

That set up the game for the #2 West seed to the state tourney between Burnsville and Wayzata. The two teams had not played each other this season. The Trojans came out flat, the Blaze came out flatter and gave up three first period goals to the Trojans. Down 3-0 at the end of the first period, the Blaze came back in the second to pressure the Trojans and narrow the score to 3-1. But they could not score in the third as Wayzata returned to the ice and continued to pressure the Blaze. The final score was 3-1.

Edina takes the #1 West seed and Wayzata takes the #2 West seed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - March 2

By frederick61

Five months ago, over a hundred PeeWee A teams opened their Minnesota hockey seasons. Last week 99 of those teams started their district playoffs. The district playoffs ended this past Sunday and 32 teams survived. This week, the four regional tourneys start. Each opening game for each regional tourney will be at 2:00 Friday afternoon. The North Regional will be played at Moorhead; the South Regional will be played at Rochester; the East Regional will be played at Anoka; and the West Regional will be played at St. Cloud.

An interest point this year is that all the regional host associations have their PeeWee A team in their regional, Moorhead/Moorhead Black, Rochester/Rochester Red, Anoka/Anoka, and St. Cloud/St. Cloud.

The following 32 teams advanced (listed by their district).

The District 2 playoff champion is White Bear Lake. Mahtomedi is the #2 seed and Tartan is the #3 seed. Mahtomedi and Tartan’s appearance in this year’s regional means that all of the eight original D2 associations have made regional appearances in the last four years (including the North St. Paul). With a total of 11 seeds available to D2 in those four years, that is a balanced league. The one new association this year, Highland, made the regionals three of those four years as a D1 representative.

The District 3 playoff champion is Wayzata. Osseo/Maple Grove is the #2 seed. Wayzata ran away with the league when it came to winning games. The Trojans won 15 of 16 games in regular season. They had one tie game (Mpls Storm 0-0). But the Trojans lost 6 “unfairplay” points (the equivalent of 3 games) and that turned D3 into a 3 team race with OMG and the Mpls Storm.

D3 officially added three teams this year (Mpls Strom, Crow River, and Mound Westonka) and St. Louis Park fielded a peewee A team (splitting from the Mpls Park team last year). That grew D3 from 5 teams a few years ago to 9 teams. The bonus is the new Mpls Storm, Armstrong, and Crow River all had strong years. These D3 moves make the league more competitive in the future.

The District 4 playoff champion is Luverne. No other teams advance from D4. Luverne team has to be admired for their efforts to play competitive Minnesota Hockey. To play a home and home schedule with the two other D4 teams, Redwood Falls and Marshall plus a D9 West Division schedule, the Cardinals had to travel an average of 270 miles to play away weekend games. And they played in Fergus Falls tourney (400 miles round trip) and in Owatonna’s tourney (350 miles round trip). They almost took the D9 West Division title, losing out to Mankato the last day of regular season play.

The District 5 playoff champion is St. Cloud. St. Michael/Albertville took the #2 seed and Sartell took the #3 seed. D5 added teams and lost teams this year. St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids were the new peewee A teams in D5. Crow River and Mound/Westonka left for D3. St. Cloud had a near perfect season their first season in D5. They won all 18 games and to took 53 out of a possible 54 points. But what started easy became tougher as the season progressed for the Huskies. The Huskies won their first 9 D15 games by an average score of 8-1 and their last 9 by an average score of 6-1+. Sauk Rapids played in a district tourney for the first time in a few years and showed they could compete.

The District 6 playoff champion is Edina. Burnsville took the #2 seed and Eden Prairie the #3 seed. This season, in the end, paralleled last season. The only difference is Burnsville took the #1 seed and Edina the #2 seed. Eden Prairie has taken third the last two years. Prior Lake and Minnetonka made runs, but lost at the end of the season. Jefferson put things together at the end of the year, but finally lost to Burnsville in their fourth playoff game in four days. Go Jags, next year. D6 had five top teams and then five teams that struggled. The five that struggled showed promise at the end of the year.

The District 8 playoff champion is Farmington. Rosemount took the #2 seed and in a surprise, Lakeville North took the #3 seed. Lakeville South won the play-in game beating Mankato 9-3 to take D4’s #2 seed. Farmington has played “like a rock” all season, never panicking and always in the game.

The District 9 playoff champion is Rochester Red, a team that decline to play D9 regular season games. The #2 seed went to a surprising Northfield and the #3 seed to Owatonna. Mankato won the fourth seed and the right to play the play-in game. The Rochester Red should not be in the regional tourney representing D9 after declining to play a regular season schedule. Rochester’s reason for doing so is that the D9 teams offered them “no competition”.

The District 10 playoff champion is Elk River. Blaine took the #2 seed and Anoka took the #3 seed. Centennial did not make it out of the D10 playoffs. The Cougars lost a key game to Blaine with an ineligible player (who had played the opening game of the playoffs won by Centennial) benched for that game. That created some controversy. The problems were caused by adults interpreting rules and the rule has no stated purpose (in this case to many penalties in a game).

The District 11 playoff champion is Hermantown. The #2 seed went to Duluth East. This D11 had a similar player ineligibility problem where the player played. Only the adults in D11 chose to have Proctor forfeit their win over the Duluth Lakers. It resulted in the Rails having to play Duluth East six hours after the forfeit was announced. The Rails lost. So they went from celebrating a good win for them to losing two games and being eliminated from the playoffs in six hours. The Vikings could have used the D11 adults in New Orleans last year.

The District 12 playoff champion is Grand Rapids. Hibbing took the #2 seed and Virginia (in a surprise) took the #3 seed. The Thunder now roll into Moorhead.

The District 15 playoff champion is Moorhead Black. Fergus Falls took the #2 seed. The adults were at work again earlier this month in D15. Moorhead Black had scheduled only 13 D15 regular season games (others played 14 games). The Moorhead association had the Moorhead Orange team forfeit their two D15 games to the Black at the start of the season and Little Falls later forfeited. Even though the Black won all 10 games they played, the three forfeits cost them their “unfairplay” points. As the season ended, Alexandria was closing in on the Black. A first place finish in D15 this year meant an automatic seed to the North Regional. So the adults declared the last game the Black played with Northern Lakes (the only Northern Lakes game on the schedule) as two games and worth four points.

Of course, that was probably the plan all year, just that people didn’t know that and that was their fault. Of course, the winner and loser could get only one “unfairplay” point for the actual game played. The loss of the “unfairplay” point may have cost Northern Lakes the #7 seed. The Lightning ended up with the #8 seed and lost to the Black in the opening playoff game. Little Falls, the #7 seed, beat Alexandria in the opening game 3-2. That upset was part of the reason Alex did not make it out of the D15 playoffs.

Each coin has two sides. There is arrogance if the adults only see one side. The kids see things like this quickly and see it as unfair.

The District 16 playoff champion is Bemidji. Thief River Falls took the #2 seed and East Grand Forks took the #3 seed.

North Regional (D12, D15, D16) - The North Regional was set a week ago. Last week, one of the favorites to take a seed to state, Bemidji, beat Detroit Lakes 5-1 in pre-Regional tune-up. The tournament will be played in Moorhead. All regional tourneys will open at 2:00 on Friday afternoon, March 4th.

Grand Rapids opens the tourney against Fergus Falls. Bemidji plays Virginia in the second game of the upper bracket. The Thunderhawks and the Otters have not met this year. Grand Rapids has a 13-5-1 record since the first of the year. Their five losses have been to Bemidji 4-3, Moorhead 3-1, Edina 11-2, Woodbury 5-3, and Hermantown 4-2. They tied Bemidji 3-3. The Otters have gone 7-2 in February. They lost to the Fargo Flyers Gold 12-4 and Moorhead 9-0. Grand Rapids should win the first game.

Bemidji and Virginia have not played each other either. Bemidji has lost five games this year (Edina twice, Thief River Falls, St. Cloud, and Farmington). The Lumberjacks have played solid hockey all year. Virginia has struggled all year. But the Blue Devils put things together at the right time and beat Mesabi East (on home ice) and Greenway for their regional ticket. Unfortunately, Virginia draws the North Regional favorite in their opener. Bemidji should win.

That would set up a Grand Rapids/Bemidji semifinal. The two teams have met twice this year. Bemidji won the first meeting 4-3. The two teams tied 3-3 three weeks ago. It will be a tough game, but the Thunder rolls on this game. Grand Rapids wins. Fergus Falls and Virginia would meet in a loser goes home game. These two teams have not met this season and have played few common opponents. It shapes up to be a toss-up, but the nod goes to the Otters.

The Moorhead Black plays East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls plays Hibbing in the lower bracket. The Black beat the Green Wave twice this season 5-3 and 3-2. The Black lost their last two regular season games to Wayzata at home, 5-3 and 6-2. EGF has struggled in 2011 playing just over .500 hockey. The Black win.

Thief River Falls had a great start to the season, but have played under .500 hockey in 2011. The Prowlers and the Bluejackets have not met this season. Hibbing has played well since finishing second in the Mariucci Tourney (losing to Mahtomedi 4-3) in mid-January. The Bluejackets are 7-2-1 in the 10 games since and have showed improvement. That is always a good sign at regional time, but the Prowlers should win.

That sets up Moorhead Black and TRF in the lower bracket semifinal game. The Black and the Prowlers have split their two season games, the Black losing 7-6 and winning 3-2. Both games were overtime games. The Black home ice advantage should help. Moorhead Black wins. East Grand Forks and Hibbing met in the loser goes home game. The Green Wave own an early season 6-1 win over Hibbing. This is a tough game to call, but EGF gets the nod.

The second set of loser goes home games are played Saturday evening. If everything goes to form (and if you believe that will happen, there’s some nice buildable land of Highway 72 that’s for sale), Fergus Falls would play Thief River Falls and EGF would play Bemidji. TRF has two regular season wins over the Otters, 7-1 and 6-2. The games were played around the first of the year. The Prowlers should win. Bemidji has beaten the Green Wave three times this year 6-1, 5-3, and 6-4. To beat a good team four times in a season is always tough, but tough describes the Lumberjack team this year. Bemidji wins.

Sunday morning, Bemidji and TRF play in a loser goes home game. These two teams have played three times also. The Prowlers won the first game in early December 3-0, lost the second game in late January 4-3 in overtime, and lost the D16 championship game 4-0 two weeks ago. Bemidji wins.

The second game Sunday would match Grand Rapids and Moorhead Black in another tough game to call. These two teams played each other in the Roseau tourney at the end of January. Moorhead won 3-1. That was neutral ice. The Black win to take the #1 seed.

In the Sunday afternoon game for the #2 seed to the state, Bemidji would play Grand Rapids. Bemidji wins their second meeting in the regional. Never give a tough team a second chance. Moorhead Black takes the #1 seed and Bemidji takes the #2 seed to the state tourney.

South Regional (D4, D8, D9) - The South Regional is shaping up as follows: In the South Regional opening round games at Rochester, Farmington plays Lakeville South and Rochester Red plays Lakeville North in the upper bracket. Luverne plays Owatonna and Northfield plays Rosemount in the lower bracket.

The South Regional looks like a D8 mini-tourney for the two regional seeds this year. That is something nobody could have predicted a year ago when the draw was set.

Farmington won the D8 regular season and won the D8 playoffs. But they play the rest of the season with 12 players and will be going with three kids on defense. But they play a great defense. All three are outstanding players. Lakeville South is a young team and should be dominant in the next year.

The Tigers and the Cougars have played twice in the last month. In late January, the Tigers won 9-1 and in the D8 playoff semifinals, the Tigers won again 2-1 in overtime. It should be close again. But the nod goes to Farmington and their tough defense.

In the second South Regional game on Friday afternoon, Rochester Red and Lakeville North meet. Rochester teams normally close strong at the end of the season. This year is no different, the Red have won their last 6 games since losing to Hibbing 3-1 two weeks ago. Lakeville North played with a short bench most of the last month, but had all their players back for the D8 playoffs. It showed as they beat Woodbury 3-2 to end the Predators season. Rochester has the home advantage. But the nod goes to the Panthers in a tough game.

In Saturday’s first semifinal game, Farmington would play Lakeville North. The Tigers beat the Panthers 5-1 at the end of January when the North had the short bench. The game will be closer, but Farmington wins. Lakeville South and Rochester Red would meet in the loser goes home game. The Red should lose, Lakeville South beat them 3-1 in their only meeting in the Eden Prairie turkey day tourney. But the nod goes to the Red because of home ice.

Owatonna and Luverne meet in the opening round of play Friday evening. The three teams played early in the season. Luverne won the first two games 8-6 and 5-4. The Cardinals lost the third game 6-4. But they have not played each other since early December. Both teams will be prepared to play this game; they have been in the past. Owatonna should win. In the second game Friday evening, Rosemount plays Northfield. This will be an interesting game. The Raiders have a full team and won their last seven games before losing to Rochester Red 7-1 in the D9 championship game. They have a tune-up game against Apple Valley before the tourney. Rosemount is one of the top teams in the state and should win.

In Saturday’s second semifinal game, Rosemount would play Owatonna in the first meeting between these two teams this year. The Huskies will need to find a “higher gear” to match the Irish speed to win. But it sets up a possible Saturday evening match with Rochester Red again. Luverne and Northfield would meet in a loser go home game. The two teams have not played each other this year. A deeper bench should help the Raiders to a win.

The Owatonna/Rochester Red game Saturday evening would be the third game between these two teams this year. It would be a loser go home game. The Red has won the two games, 9-0 and 7-1 and should win again. But the Huskies can be tough and it is hard to beat a tough team three times in a season. The second game would match Northfield against Lakeville North. These two teams match-up in size and style of play and it should be a close game. The Panthers win.

Rochester and Lakeville North would then meet for the second time in the tourney Sunday morning. North prevails. Farmington and Rosemount have a repeat of the D8 playoff finals played last Sunday. Farmington won 2-1. Both teams will be tired; both are playing with short benches. The Tigers win again.

That sets up a Lakeville North/Rosemount game for the last South seed to the state. The two teams have met twice. Rosemount beat North 7-0 in the Bloomington tourney and beat them 7-1 in regular season play. But this may be Lakeville North’s year. The Panthers win.

Farmington takes the #1 seed and Lakeville North the #2 seed.

East Regional (D2, D10, D11) - The East Regional is set as follows: In opening round Friday, White Bear Lake plays Duluth East and Elk River plays Tartan in the upper bracket. Hermantown plays Anoka and Blaine plays Mahtomedi in the lower bracket. The games will be played at Anoka.

The East Regional is full of surprises this year. The D2 playoffs produced two with Mahtomedi and Tartan winning seeds. Mahtomedi was seeded 8th and Tartan was seeded 4th in the district playoffs. In D10, the #6 seeded Anoka won a regional seed. In D11, the #3 seeded Duluth East took one of the two D11 regional seeds.

Seeds in hockey are a reasonably accurate predictor of tourneys outcome, more so then in other sports. Starting this week, in the Boys High School hockey tourney, 17 of the 18 Class A and Class AA sectionals have the #1 seed remaining, 13 of the sectionals have the #1 and #2 team remaining, and 9 of the sectionals will have the #1 and #2 seeds in the championship game. Only one sectional, Class A Section 6 has no #1 or #2 seed in the championship game (#3 Willmar plays #5 Alexandria).

White Bear Lake and Duluth East open the East Regional Friday afternoon. These two teams have played each other three times. Early in the season, the Hounds beat the Bears 3-2. In the past month, the Hounds lost to the Bears 5-4 and beat the Bears 4-2. Duluth East played in the White Bear Lake’s tourney the first week in February and struggled, losing to Eden Prairie 9-1 and Elk River 5-1 before beating Lakeville South 6-1. The Bears also struggled in their tourney, losing to Blaine 3-2, beating Winnipeg 4-1 and losing big to Edina 10-0 in a penalty marred game. In another tough call, the Bears get the nod. Both teams will be prepared to play this game.

Elk River owns a very early season 10-1 win over Tartan and the Elks have been playing well in the past few weeks stringing 7 wins together. Five of those wins are over teams that made the Regionals (OMG, Anoka, STMA, St. Cloud, and Blaine). The 8-3 win over Blaine in the D10 championship game was impressive. They also won their last 10 league games. Tartan played in the Super Rink turkey day tourney (did not place), Hudson’s tourney (took 3rd place), Northfield’s tourney (won), and Red Wing’s tourney (won consolation title). Elk River played in Eden Prairie’s tourney (did not place), Duluth’s tourney (won 3rd place), Edina’s tourney (did not place), and White Bear’s tourney (won 3rd place). The two teams meet in the regionals after traveling different development roads. It will be an interesting game, but the Elks should win.

On Saturday, Elk River would play White Bear Lake in one semifinal game. The Elks lost to the Bears 5-3 in the Eden Prairie turkey day tourney in their only meeting of the season. But the Bears have been an up and down team. The Elks should win. Duluth East and Tartan would play in the loser goes home game Saturday. The two teams have not played each other this year. Both teams have similar size and style and it will come down to desire. The Titans have really “hung in there” in the D2 playoffs. They get the nod here.

In Friday evening’s first game will be a dandy. Hermantown plays Anoka on the Tornadoes home ice. The Hawks took a quick tour of the cities on Valentine’s Day weekend and ended up getting beat by two D3 teams, Armstrong 4-2 and OMG 4-1. They returned home to beat Grand Rapids 4-2 and sweep the D11 playoffs. Anoka has won 10 of their last 14 games and has proven to be a tough tourney team. They won the Spring Lake Park tourney beating Shakopee, Mahtomedi, and Spring Lake Park, lost to Burnsville 3-1 in the Star of the North championship game in Grand Rapids (after beating Duluth East 8-4 in the opening game), and won their own tourney beating Rosemount in the Championship game 3-2. On their home ice Friday, the Tornadoes win.

Friday evening’s second game matches Blaine and Mahtomedi. Blaine has been an up and down team and has sprung some surprises this season, most notably is their 5-4 win over Wayzata in the Duluth tourney in mid-December. Unfortunately they lost the next day to Rosemount 7-0. In the White Bear Tourney a few weeks ago, they lost a tough game to Edina 11-0. The Bengals are better than that. Mahtomedi showed potential in the Spring Lake Park tourney in November, especially in their forwards passing and scoring. The Zephyrs had it all working in the D2 playoffs plus good defense. The Bengals should win, but a Zephyr win would not be surprising. Hermantown and Mahtomedi would then play in the loser goes home game. The two teams have not played each other this year. Hermantown should win.

Saturday’s semifinal game would match two D10 teams, Anoka and Blaine. Blaine has beaten Anoka three times this year. The Bengals won 3-2 and 5-2 in regular season play and beat Anoka 3-1 in the D10 playoffs a week ago. But this game will be at Anoka in front a good crowd and it is tough to beat a good team four times in a season. The Tornadoes win.

Saturday’s two evening games would have Tartan playing Blaine and Hermantown playing White Bear Lake. Tartan and Blaine will be playing each other for the first time this year, the Bengals should win. Hermantown and White Bear Lake have not played each other either. The Hawks win.

Sunday’s championship game would match Elk River and Anoka, two D10 foes. The Elks took first, Anoka placed sixth in the regular season. The Elks took first in the D10 playoffs and Anoka took third coming from behind. The Elks have beaten Anoka 5-4 and 5-3 this season. But this game will have the fans screaming over the balcony seats at the Anoka Arena. Anoka wins.

Sunday morning, Blaine and Hermantown play a loser go home game. Though they have played a lot of common foes, they have not played each other. Hermantown was a little stung losing to Armstrong and OMG two weeks ago. They beat the Bengals.

In the final East Regional on Sunday, Elk River and Hermantown meet. These two teams have not met this year. The Elks beat the Hawks to take the #2 seed.

In the East Regional, Anoka takes the #1 seed and Elk River the #2 seed.

West Regional (D3, D5, D6) - The West Regional is set as follows: In the afternoon games at St. Cloud on Friday, St. Cloud plays OMG and Edina plays Sartell in the upper bracket. Wayzata plays Eden Prairie and Burnsville plays STMA in the lower bracket.

This region had a game of musically chairs going on and when Eden Prairie sat down, the Eagles drew Wayzata. The other D6 teams had a sigh of relief. But it is peewee hockey, who knows what will happen on the ice. “The Shadow knows”. Only kids who listen to old time radio would understand that. How many old-timers can still hear the creaking door of the “inner sanctum”? Could be the entrance of the Torrey Arena for some teams.

St. Cloud and OMG will open the Friday afternoon games. The Huskies and OMG have played once this year, at the end of December. OMG won 3-2. St. Cloud has lost only 7 games all season (49 played) and have lost once (to Elk River 3-0) since the Geyer Tourney 17 games ago. St. Cloud had a near perfect D5 season and swept the playoffs. OMG entered the D3 playoffs on a down note. At the White Bear Lake tourney the first week of February, they lost their last three games (Centennial, Eden Prairie, and Elk River). They lost close games. OMG opened the D3 playoffs by losing to the Mpls Storm 3-1. They came back beating Hopkins, Armstrong, and the Storm in the game for D3’s #2 regional seed. Another tough game to predict, OMG wins the opener at Torrey Arena.

Edina and Sartell play in the second game Friday afternoon. Most people would pass on watching this game, a David versus Goliath affair. It is worth watching. A year ago, Orono and STMA emerged with good peewee A teams. Edina scheduled STMA and after a frustrating first period, beat the Knights by double digits. That game helped STMA overcome the David versus Goliath syndrome. Sartell will be challenged and will certainly be the crowd favorite especially with St. Cloud playing the game before they play.

Edina is always good, but this year they showed tremendous improvement when they lost to Burnsville at Burnsville at the end of the year 5-4. They swept the D6 playoffs beating Prior Lake and Burnsville twice but played as a more ordinary Edina team. The D6 playoffs seemed down this year.

At one point this past month, the Hornets beat Kennedy, Jefferson, Waconia, Blaine, and White Bear Lake by a total score of 52-1. They will be a powerhouse in the West Regional. Sartell has a few rocks for their slingshot. The Sabres struggled prior to the playoffs. Sartell finished fourth in D5, but they came through with a key win over an improving MAML team to take the #3 D5 seed. The Hornets win.

That sets up an OMG/Edina semifinal. OMG’s defense has improved over the season. They have shutout or held their opponents to one goal in six of their last eight games. They will need that defense against the Hornets. Edina’s offense is parallels the F-18 fighter also called the Hornet. The F-18 is a multirole aircraft, air and ground. Edina’s offense is like that. They can strike quick especially on penalty kills and score. Or they can “grind it out” in their offensive zone and score. Edina wins again.

St. Cloud and Sartell would play the loser goes home game in a hometown game for both teams. St. Cloud has beaten Sartell four times this season 6-0, 5-1, 6-2, and 4-1 (in the D5 playoffs). It is always tough to win five games against a good team in hockey, but the Huskies should win.

Wayzata and Eden Prairie meet in Friday evening’s first game of the opening round. The Trojans have beaten the Eagles three times this year, 7-2 in October, 4-3 in the Eagles turkey day tourney and 8-1 in the Edina tourney. The Trojans have won 17 of their last 18 games losing only to Edina 6-1 in the Roseau tourney championship game. Eden Prairie is 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. The strong defense that the Eagles had early in the season has softened. The Trojans win.

In the second Friday evening game, Burnsville and STMA meet. These two teams have not played each other this year. The Blaze went undefeated in their first 25 games of the season. Since losing to Rosemount in the championship round of the Bloomington tourney, the Blaze has gone 10-8-1. The losses have been to tough teams (two to Farmington, two to Edina, Minnetonka, Prior Lake, Eden Prairie and St. Cloud). STMA had a great trip to Thief River Falls and Warroad at the end of January beating TRF 3-2 on their home ice and winning the Warroad tourney (beating two North Dakota State Tourney teams Devils Lake and the Fargo Angels). The Knights have not fared well since that trip, losing four of their last seven games. The Blaze should win.

In Saturday’s semifinal game, Wayzata would play the Burnsville. They have not played each other this season. At this point, it is a real toss-up. The Trojans have the edge in offense, especially the ability to score. They win. Eden Prairie and STMA meet in the loser goes home game. Eden Prairie’s defense has been faltering and will continue to do so at Torrey. STMA wins.

The opening loser goes home game on Saturday evening would match Burnsville and St. Cloud. These two teams have played each other before in the Geyer Tourney at Torrey. Both games were tight with St. Cloud jumping out to 1-0 and then 2-0 leads. In the first game, the Blaze came back to tie the Huskies 2-2. In the second game for third place, the Huskies hung on to win 3-1. The Blaze win this time, holding the Huskies off the board early in the game.

The second game matches OMG and STMA in a CAPITAL Letters game. The two teams have played to a tie in their only meeting this season and are similar in the type of game they play. This time the old zinc penny came out. OMG won the coin flip. But the sentiment is for STMA to advance.

Sunday morning, Edina and Wayzata would meet for the West Regional championship and the #1 west seed to the state tourney. This will be the sixth meeting between the Trojans and the Hornets. Edina won the October game 3-1, Wayzata beat Edina at Eden Prairie Turkey day tourney 3-2, Edina beat Wayzata 7-6 at the Duluth tourney in December, Wayzata won 4-3 in mid-January, and Edina won 6-1 in the White Bear Lake tourney in early February. These two teams know each other and it will be a great game. Edina has shown improvement at the end of the season, Wayzata has struggled a little. The Edina 6-1 win at White Bear Lake was no fluke. Edina wins their 50th game of the season.

OMG and Burnsville would play another loser goes home game on Sunday morning. These two teams have not met. Another tough game, but the edge goes to the Blaze. That sets up a rematch between Wayzata and Burnsville for the #2 seed early Sunday evening at Torrey in St. Cloud. The Blaze have been there before, Sunday-Torrey-second game of the day-championship on the line. In fact they have been playing these types of games in the Geyer for the last five years. The Blaze win.
Edina takes the #1 West seed and Burnsville takes the #2 West seed.

If you have read this far, here is a bonus. Minnesota Hockey has set the state tourney draw to be played at Bloomington. If these predictions hold (and if you believe that, there is that buildable land off of Highway 72 south of Baudette), the opening round of the state tourney would be:

In the upper bracket, Anoka would play Burnsville and Farmington would play Bemidji. In the lower bracket, Edina would play Elk River and Moorhead Black would play Lakeville North. It would be a different state tourney.