Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - Dec. 23

By frederick61

It is hard to believe, but the holidays are the “apex” of the PeeWee season. Once the New Year’s weekend is over, there are seven short weeks to district playoffs. At this time, PeeWee teams “change”. They can improve or slide into a struggle. The past two months become unimportant. The current game takes on meaning. Teams that have excelled through the first half of the season are often the teams that struggle in the second half. Conversely, teams that have struggled from the start can suddenly become “world beaters”.

These teams are kids that are growing and learning. Some learn early and forget and have to learn again, some learn late, some seem to always know what to do on the ice, and some that can do on the ice can’t cope off the ice. Coaches can teach the kids what or what not to do, but kids learn in their own way as they mature. Mostly what they need is someone to listen.

Where there is a winning team, there is a losing team. Those teams with kids that desire to play and to excel as a team win at the end of the season. Unfortunately, teams that have kids with great skills and have gotten by on that talent can be among the fallen. It is usually that they lack the desire and haven’t learned to play as a team.

Frustrated parents out of anxiety step in to “help their child out”. But the parent nor the coach can’t ease the learning process, can’t protect the kid from “change”. The kids need to fail to learn the lesson. To do that in peewee hockey has little consequences in their life, but to learn the lesson of overcoming failure is a big step forward in their maturing.

There will be some great hockey tourneys this weekend. Enjoy them and if your kid does well, celebrate. If not, help him or her, pick up the pieces. They will be small pieces and easily mended. Let them learn the lesson. It is a small lesson in their life. But it will keep the fire burning in the kid.

Maybe he will be a president some day. Somebody has to be a president. Merry Christmas.

North Region - D11/D12 teams have been rocked in tourneys the past three weeks. None of these teams have started to roll. But D2, the third district in this region, has two teams that are rolling, Stillwater and White Bear Lake. After doing it in the Spirit tourney two weeks ago, the Ponies and the Bears get to do it all over again at Edina tourney on New Years weekend against tough competition that they could play in the State tourney.

White Bear Lake’s and Stillwater’s main competition looks to be the team that takes the #3 seed in D2. Halfway through the season, the potential North Region field could be these two teams plus Mounds View, Duluth East, Cloquet, the Duluth Lakers, Grand Rapids and Greenway. Will any of these teams be challenged come playoff time?
You “betcha”. Last year, White Bear Lake got knocked out in the D2 playoffs and didn’t make the regional.

D11 - Duluth East played at Grand Rapids last weekend and took second in the Thunderhawks tourney. They beat Roseau 6-2 and Greenway before losing to Burnsville 4-3 in the championship. The Hounds also beat Proctor 3-2 in D11 action last week. This week the Hounds play Superior before breaking for the holidays. They take a tour to Thunder Bay on New Years weekend.

Hermantown tied a touring Roseville 3-3 last weekend. This week the Hawks play Proctor, Rice Lake Wisconsin and Cloquet before playing in the Bemidji tourney over the New Years. They draw host Bemidji, Sioux Falls and Hastings. Sioux Falls has played well in tourneys at Owatonna and New Ulm this December. Cloquet tied Roseville also, 3-3. That was their second tie game in a row. The Lumberjacks play the Duluth Lakers in addition to Hermantown and then head to Bemidji on New Years weekend. They draw LOW, Grand Forks and St. Cloud in pool play. They should do well in Bemidji.

The Lakers have the holidays off. Proctor has a busy holiday schedule. The Rails play Virginia twice, Northern Lakes, and Greenway in addition to Hermantown over the holidays. The Rails continue to improve.

Duluth East is still the #1 seed this week. They pushed a good Burnsville team in losing 4-3 at Grand Rapids. Cloquet takes the #2 spot and have opportunity in the Bemidji tourney to show that they deserve it. The Duluth Lakers keep the #3 seed, but Hermantown has an opportunity to shine at Bemidji and Proctor should do well over the holidays. If anything, D11 is wide open this year.

D12 - Grand Rapids hosted their own tourney last week. The Thunderhawks lost their opening game to a D3 team Hopkins 10-0, lost to Grand Forks Seawolves 4-1 and beat D12 rival International Falls. The Falls lost a tough overtime game to Greenway 3-2 and lost to Duluth East 11-0. Greenway lost the consolation game to Grand Forks 10-4. All three D12 teams ended up at the bottom of the tourney. The city teams took top honors.

Virginia lost to Roseville and played Hibbing last week. This week the Blue Devils play Hibbing, Proctor, and Grand Rapids before traveling to Bemidji to join the Paul Bunyan festivities. They draw Crookston, Armstrong and Keweensaw in pool play.

Eveleth plays Superior, Grand Rapids and International Falls over the holidays as the Golden Bears prepare for a trip to the cities to play in the Anoka tourney. With two regional seeds available to D12, Grand Rapids takes the #1 seed and Greenway takes the #2 seed by virtue of beating the Falls 3-2 at Grand Rapids.

D2 - White Bear Lake and Stillwater are in virtual tie in D2 (White Bear Lake is a -4 and Stillwater is a -3 in league points). The Bears played North St. Paul and beat Tartan 5-1. The Bears take the holidays off before playing in the Edina tourney. The Bears draw Elk River, Eagan and Fargo. Stillwater also plays in the Edina tourney, drawing Chaska, Lakeville South and Wayzata in pool play. The Ponies beat Mounds View and tied an improving and dangerous Farmington 2-2 last week.

Roseville toured D11/D12 last week. They beat Hibbing 5-1, beat Virginia, and tied Cloquet and Hermantown by identical 3-3 scores. The Raiders returned home to beat Tartan in D2 5-3 (the Raiders went 3-0-2 in that four day stretch). They are off over the holidays. Mounds View lost to Stillwater 2-0 and beat Irondale last week. They play in the Bloomington tourney after Christmas. They play Eastview, Prior Lake and Andover in their pool. That is a tough three games for the Mustangs, but in the Bloomington tourney, the pool games only determine the seeding to a 12 team bracket playoff. The Mustang will have their chances.

Tartan showed improvement in the South St. Paul tourney. Last week, Tartan returned to D2 action and ruined Forest Lake’s December run, beating the Lakers 4-2 for their first D2 win. The Titans then lost to White Bear Lake and to Roseville. With all eight D2 teams going to a double elimination district playoff, the Titans could be a surprise seed taker.

Mahtomedi sits in second place in D2 this week, but they have taken a serious hit in “unfairplay” points (getting 6 points in 10 games). Last week they played in the Fargo Shanley Cup Tourney hosted by the Fargo Angels. Mahtomedi played Pembina Trail, the Fargo Angels, and Brandon in pool play. After their win in the Albert Lea tourney two weeks ago, North St. Paul is off over the holidays.

Stillwater keeps the #1 seed this week, White Bear Lake takes the #2 seed. Both teams have a chance to follow-up their Spirit of Duluth tourney success at Edina. The old zinc penny had to come out to determine the #3 seed in D2. North St. Paul, Forest Lake, Tartan and Mahtomedi are still struggling and that left Mounds View and Roseville. The Mustangs pushed Stillwater before losing a close one and Roseville had a respectable northern swing. The Mustangs took the flip. The hockey ghosts of Christmas present expect good things from the Mustangs at Bloomington.

East Region - The East could have an “old guard/new guard” scenario. Last week, the potential regional line-up looked solid. This week, it looks solid in D6 with the “old guard” teams (Edina, Burnsville and Eden Prairie) and in D1 with the “new guard” teams of Mpls Park and Highland. What has changed is D8. In league action last week, the old guard (Lakeville, Woodbury, and Rochester) took a couple of hits from the new guard (Rosemount, Farmington, and Hudson). What looked to be the start of a lock by Lakeville South and Woodbury has been broken wide open when both Lakeville South and Woodbury took their second D8 loss after struggling against a tough Moorhead team.

Eleven D6 and D8 teams will mix it up in the Bloomington and Edina tourneys over the holidays. Three D8 teams are in their own pools in the Edina tourney, two are in their own pools in the Bloomington tourney. Four D6 teams play in Bloomington and two in Edina. Two of the top D6 teams (Burnsville and Eden Prairie) not entered in any holiday tourney this year.

D1 - Highland Central took on the Eastview and the 97 Fire on the weekend. The Caps started slow against the Lightning, giving up two goals in the first period before coming back to win 3-2. It was a fast, nicely skated game unlike the Sunday’s game with the 97 Fire.

The Fire are undersized but beat a bigger, older, Highland 5-2 playing “hookey”. It was the generosity of the referees that gave the Fire the game. They didn’t earn the win. After falling behind 2-0 at the end of the first period, the Fire began taking penalties.

Most of the second period, the Caps skated short-handed as the refs gave out penalties, serially, every two minutes, as a small Fire forward tripped or fell. The whistle blew. The score was still 2-0 at the end of the second period. In the third, the penalties on the Caps continued (the worst being a two and ten when a Fire forward managed to fall loudly into the boards as the Caps best defenseman avoided all contact). The ref should have known better as the Fire forward immediately got up and skated away.

The Fire won by scoring 4 power play goals in the third period. After the fourth goal, magically, the game returned to a normal flow. A few make-up calls couldn’t change the Caps fear of touching the smaller Fire forwards. Thankfully the game ended.

The 97 Fire is a young peewee team compared to Minnesota teams. If they choose to play a game against a Minnesota team, they will be hit. The refs shouldn’t be drawn in to compromise the game. That is when kids get hurt.

The Fire can’t have it both ways. If they want to play association teams, play hockey. If they want to play “hookey”, the Green Bay Gamblers are down the road.

Highland beat Irondale last week. The Caps play Mpls Park in a key D1 game over the holidays. They also play Edina in one of the more interesting games during the holiday season before returning to D2 action against Mahtomedi.

Mpls Park returned from playing in the championship round last Sunday and played Mound/Westonka in a D3 game that ended in a 0-0 tie. They play the Saint Paul Saints and Irondale in D1 action over the holidays. The Saints also play Coon Rapids this week.

Highland Central keeps the #1 seed and the Storm takes the #2 seed. The Caps continue to play well. The “showdown” with the #2 seed Mpls Park this week could determine #1 next week.

D6 - The most interesting game last week was played between Edina and STMA. Edina won 11-0. After being frustrated for most of the first period by STMA’s size and strength, the Hornets put four goals on the board in the last minutes of the first period and the opening minutes of the second. For STMA, the game was over. The Knights now know how high the mountain is. The Hornets are one of the top teams in the state. Edina then avenged an earlier loss to Elk River, beating the Elks 5-3. But just as they were standing on top of the peewee world, they lost to Eden Prairie 2-1 in D6 ending the Hornets 24 game winning streak. This is the same Eden Prairie that tied Moorhead 2-2 four days earlier.

The Hornets play another “new guard” team Highland this week before taking on Centennial, Rosemount and Osseo/Maple Grove in pool play in their own tourney on New Years weekend.

Jefferson and Kennedy host their Midwest Regional Tourney between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Forty four bantam and peewee teams are entered in four separate tourneys (A/B). The Jags play Woodbury, Anoka and Orono in pool play. Kennedy plays STMA, Lakeville North, and Arvada Colorado.

Eden Prairie and Minnetonka tied 4-4 in a D6 game played at Pagel. The Skippers built a 4-2 lead and held that lead late into the third period before giving up two last minute goals (one with the goalie pulled). The Skippers are an improving team but still lose their discipline at different times in a game. If you have a game at Pagel, bring your walking shoes. They have a nice track around. The track is well above the ice surface. You can walk and watch.

Burnsville took the Grand Rapids Star of the North tourney. The Blaze beat Grand Forks 7-4, Hopkins 6-2 and Duluth East 4-3 in the championship game and are off over the holidays.

Apple Valley started off well in the New Ulm tourney beating St. Peter 3-0 and despite being edged by Sioux Falls 4-3, made the championship round. On Sunday, the Eagles lost to a tough 1-0 game to Des Moines in the championship semifinals and lost 5-3 to Mankato in the third place game.

Eastview started slow against Jefferson last week and came back to beat the Jags 6-3. The Lightning started fast against Highland jumping out to a 2-0 lead before losing 3-2. They play in the Bloomington tourney and draw Andover, Mounds View and Prior Lake/Savage in pool play. Prior Lake/Savage beat Chaska 5-1 and played Apple Valley in D6 action last week. The Lakers have been struggling in the past few weeks, but that win over Chaska is impressive.

With three strong teams vying for the top spot in D6, there are bound to be upsets. Few hockey teams go undefeated during the season. Dispite losing their first game in the last 25 games, Edina is the #1 seed this week. The Blaze are the #2 seed and Eden Prairie remains the #3 seed, but the Eagles win over the Hornets impressive. Their goal tending did a great job protecting his weak side against the Hornets.

D8 - Lakeville South start to a tough holiday schedule last week was a rough one. The Cougars lost to Wayzata 6-2, beat Moorhead 4-3 and lost to Rosemount 5-1. If it is any consolation to the Cougars, Woodbury had a worst weekend, losing to Moorhead 3-0, losing to Farmington 1-0. Rosmount had a good weekend beating a Hastings team (coming off a 2-0 win over Farmington) 6-1 besides beating Lakeville South.

Rosemount and Woodbury clash this week before playing in holiday tourneys. Rosemount plays in the Edina tourney. The Irish play Edina, Osseo/Maple Grove and Centennial. Woodbury plays in the Bloomington tourney. They play Jefferson, Anoka and Orono.

Eagan also plays in the Edina tourney over the holidays. They play Elk River, Fargo and White Bear Lake. Last week, Eagan beat Apple Valley 4-1, lost to Moorhead 5-1, tied South St. Paul 4-4, and lost to Eastview 2-1.

Hastings plays in the Paul Bunyan tourney in Bemidji this week. They play host Bemidji, Hermantown and Sioux Falls. Dodge County played in the New Ulm tourney. They beat MAML 5-1, lost to Mankato 4-1 and to Owatonna 3-2. They play Austin and Albert Lea this week. Rochester plays D8 games this week. They tied Hudson 2-2 on the weekend. They play Sibley, Farmington and Cottage Grove this week.

Both Lakeville South and Woodbury struggled this week, but one week does not justify their losing their seeds. The Cougars take the #1 seed this week, the Royals the #2 seed. Rosemount edges Rochester for the #3 seed. But a case could be made for Farmington and Hastings being in the mix. With these D8 teams playing a heavy holiday schedule, something will give. Right now, Woodbury is the most susceptible.

South Region - D3 continues to be the tough district in the South. Four teams have emerged as the season enters the second half (Wayzata, Osseo/Maple Grove, Orono and Hopkins). Those four teams will likely fight for the district’s three regional seeds. Over in D5, STMA Knights are in “re-armor” mode after being dented and battered by Edina. They will have their chances in the Bloomington Tourney over the holidays playing tough D6 and D8 foes. With Orono also entered in the same tourney, STMA could play a repeat of the Orono tourney semifinal (one of the great games of this season).

Sartell, Crow River, Mound/Westonka, Hutchinson and Buffalo are all contending for one of the two D5 seeds. In D4, there is no question that gap between D4 teams is narrowing and the gap between D4 teams and outside competition is narrowing. The question in D4 is will the “gap” be narrowed come March. New Prague, Faribault, and Mankato look to be the best this week.

D3 - Wayzata returned from Duluth and took on Hopkins at the Pavillion. They beat the Royals 4-0. That win looks to be an expected outcome. But the Trojans had their hands full as an undermanned (down to seven forwards and missing one of the better forwards) Royals team kept the game close. The Trojans first score came in the second when a Trojan forward picked up a loose puck inside the blue line and beat the goalie on a hard shot to his left. That 1-0 score held until the Royals finally tired in the third.

Wayzata added two more victories last week beating Lakeville South and North Metro before playing Orono in a key D3 match-up. Both teams entered the game with identical D3 records and tied for second behind OMG. The game started out like gang busters in front of a number of fans in an atmosphere that would rival a high school game. The Trojans took led 1-0 at the end of the first. The game was tied 2-2 at the end of the second period, but the play was becoming ragged as both teams resorted to a series of solo rushes on the goal for offense. Wayzata had the only player that could score consistently in those conditions and he did. That was the difference as the Trojans pulled away to win 6-3.

Hopkins played in the Star of the North tourney in Grand Rapids over the weekend. The Royals beat the host in the opening game, lost to Burnsville 6-2 and beat Roseau 5-0 to take third place. Before traveling to Grand Rapids, Hopkins beat Prior Lake/Savage 4-2. The Royals play Mpls Park in D3 action over the holidays.

Orono plays in the Bloomington tourney. They play Woodbury, Anoka and Jefferson in pool play. They also play Brainerd over the holidays. Armstrong beat Mound/Westonka in D3 play 3-2 last week. Over the holidays they travel to Bemidji. They play Crookston, Virginia and Keweenaw in pool play.

Osseo/Maple Grove had a rough week. They lost to Elk River 6-2, the 97 Fire, and Centennial. Over the holidays, OMG plays the in the Edina tourney. They play Edina, Centennial (for the third time this season) and Rosemount.

Wayzata keeps the #1 seed. OMG takes the #2 seed. The Trojans and OMG play in the Edina tourney and will have opportunity to demonstrate who is #1 playing tough opponents. Orono takes the #3 seed. The Spartans are good and an improving team. But they can’t look back, the Royals are lurking.

D4 - Mason City Iowa, Faribault and New Prague continue to dominate the D4 East. After edging Faribault 4-3 two weeks ago, Mason City beat Albert Lea 7-2 and then lost a key game to New Prague 5-0 last week. The Jr. Mohawks and New Prague play again on New Years weekend in a game that will effect who wins the East. The game will be on the Trojans home ice. The day after playing Mason City, the Trojans travel to Faribault for a second key game against the Falcons. Faribault lost to Farmington 7-1 last week. The action heats up in the D4 East on New Years weekend.

Over in the West Division, Mankato reigns. The Mavericks have lost a single point in the standings after 5 games and are tied with St. Peter. But St. Peter has played 8 D4 games. Luverne, Marshall, New Ulm all trail St. Peter and have played more games then the Mavericks. With the second place finisher guaranteed a spot in the D4 playoffs, it could turn into quite a battle for second among these teams. But the Mavericks better watch out. They play Marshall twice over the holidays and take on Albert Lea and Luverne in between those games.

Marshall started out strong and took on some major competition in the Moorhead tourney two weeks ago. Last week the Tigers beat Brookings South Dakota 3-1 and Waseca. They get the first game with the Mavericks at home.

In the New Ulm tourney, Mankato won their pool beating MAML 3-0 and Dodge County 4-1. They lost the championship semifinal on Sunday to Sartell 5-2 and beat Apple Valley 5-3 for third place. Host New Ulm beat Willmar 6-1 in their opening game, but lost 6-2 to Des Moines and lost 6-4 to Sioux Falls. They break for the holidays and don’t return to action until after the New Year.

Mankato keeps the #1 seed this week. New Prague takes the #2 seed. Faribault takes the #3 seed this week. St. Peter continues their up and down season. They played Apple Valley and Sioux Falls tough, but lost both games at New Ulm. Their 4-1 win over MAML is encouraging.

D5 - Sartell won the New Ulm tourney. They beat Omaha 7-1 and Owatonna 9-1 in their pool. On Sunday the Sabres beat Mankato 5-2 in the semis and the Des Moines Jr. Buccaneers 3-1 for the championship. The Jr. Bucs are having a good year. Sartell plays Mound/Westonka and Buffalo New Years weekend.

Sartell remains on top of D5 standings with a glittering 9-1 record, but unfortunately the Sabres have lost 6 “unfairplay” points in those 10 games. Sartell ended Crow River’s 5 game D5 winning streak, beating the Tigers 3-1. The Tigers tied Buffalo 2-2 and beat Hutchinson 3-1 last week.

St. Micheal/Albertville played Edina at Breck last week and got beat 11-0. They had the Hornets struggling in the first period, but let up at the end of the period and the start of the second. The lesson is good teams work hard from the start of the game to the end of the game. Still, the Knights are a good team and they should improve. They beat River Lakes 8-1 and Mound Westonka 5-1 last week in D5 action. The Knights will have their chance in the Bloomington tourney. The Knights play Kennedy, Lakeville North and Arvada Colorado. Since the pool play is only used to seed teams, they will be guaranteed a spot in bracket play.

Willmar also played in the New Ulm tourney going 1-1-1. In pool play they lost to New Ulm 6-1, tied Des Moines 3-3, and beat Omaha 5-2. They play Mound/Westonka and MAML on New Years weekend. Mound/Westonka continues their D3/D5 schedule. They tied Mpls Park 0-0 and lost to Armstrong 3-2 in D3 games, the Whitehawks lost to STMA 5-2 in D5 action last week. They play MAML, Buffalo, Sartell and Willmar in D5 over the holidays before returning to D3 to play Wayzata. The Whitehawks are an improving team.

Last week Hutchinson had the #1 seed. Typically in this district this year, the #1 seed loses the next week. Hutchinson lost. So what team is brave enough to carry the unlucky #1 seed this week? It has to go to the Sabres. They won at New Ulm and have only one loss in D5 (the loss was the week after they were last given the #1 seed). STMA takes the #2 seed. The Knights stepped out to take on Edina last week and lost big. They came back to beat two good D5 teams easily. Crow River, Hutchinson, Mound/Westonka, and Buffalo are all in the running. And the Whitehawks are starting to look good.

West Region - Two years ago this month, a 12 kid team (plus two goalies) came out of nowhere to win a Cloquet tourney. Surprised everyone at that time; nobody even knew that they were playing peewee A hockey. The Flyers went on to have a good season, winning against good competition. As the #1 D15 seed, Little Falls beat Roseau in one of the West Regional final games to go the State tourney that year. This year seven of the kids are playing for the Little Falls high school team, 5 kids are on the boys team, 2 kids are on the girls team. It can happen.

Unlike the North region that seems to be headed for a donnybrook in their regional tourney or the East region that looks to have a powerful group of 8 teams playing each other or the South region that D3 is threatening to make an extension of their district playoffs, the West is prime for an upset. Elk River and East Grand Forks look to own this region. The Elks lost to a tough Edina team 5-3 last week. Edina and the Elks have split their first two games and should tangle in the Edina holiday tourney. East Grand Forks echoed the Edina. The Green Wave beat Bemidji 5-3. Do they have a lock on the D16 regular season title?

This region looks to be dominated by those two teams, Elk River and East Grand Forks. But Moorhead turned some heads sweeping through D8 on a twin cities tour this past weekend. The Spuds beat Eagan 4-1, lost to Lakeville South 4-3 and beat Woodbury 3-0.

A Bemidji could turn the tables on the Elks or EGF by upending them in the West, much like the Green Wave upended Roseau two years ago. Or a Moorhead or an Alexandria can repeat the Little Falls “out of nowhere” trick and to go to state.

D10 - Elk River and Andover sit on top of D10 this week. The question has been all season, is there another team to challenge the Elks. The Elks last week beat Osseo/Maple Grove 6-2, played Spring Lake Park in D10 and played Edina. This week they play two more D10 games against Chisago Lakes and Blaine plus a game against an improving Minnetonka team. On the New Years weekend the Elks play in Edina’s tourney drawing Eagan, the Fargo Flyers and White Bear Lake in pool play. The Flyers took 5th place in the 12 team Moorhead tourney last weekend (a 6-4 loss to Andover knocked the Flyers out of the championship).

Andover had one game last week, a D10 game with Chisago Lakes. The Huskies play Blaine and CINB this week. They play in the Bloomington tourney after Christmas. In pool play they draw Mounds View, Prior Lake, and Eastview. The Bloomington peewee A tourney starts on Sunday the 27th. The tourney is a grind where the winner plays 6 or 7 games in five days to win the tourney. Andover has added a D10 game during those five days. They will be challenged.

Centennial played Blaine and Prior Lake last week. This week they play Champlin Park and St. Francis before entering the Edina tourney. In pool play they draw Edina, OMG and Rosemount. Anoka is also entered in the Bloomington tourney. They draw Jefferson, Woodbury and Orono.

St. Cloud and Rogers travel to Bemidji over the holidays. St. Cloud draws LOW, Cloquet, and Grand Forks Seawolves in pool play. Rogers draws Grand Rapids, Detroit Lakes and Fort Francis in pool play. Rogers beat Blaine 4-1 last week to open a small gap over four D10 teams tied for second in the Green Division. St. Cloud is a “tied” team in D10. Besides being tied for second, St. Cloud had three straight D10 games ending in a tie (Spring Lake Park 3-3, Anoka 2-2, and Champlin Park 1-1) before beating CINB 3-2.

St. Francis finally played some D10 games last week at East Bethel. They played Anoka and CINB. The Fighting Saints had a low key November schedule and are 7-2-3 in their first 12 games and .500 in their first three D10 games. This week they play Centennial, Rogers and CINB as their D10 action heats up.

Elk River and Andover continue to dominate the Blue Division. In the Green, Rogers has a slight lead over Champlin Park, Princeton, Spring Lake Park and St. Cloud. St. Francis is just starting to play D10 games and CINB is struggling. The Rogers/St. Cloud foray into D16 country in the Bemidji tourney will be interesting to watch. Some combination of the D16 teams and Rogers/St. Cloud could tangle in this regional come March.

But this week, the seeds remain unchanged. Elk River takes the #1 seed, Andover the #2 seed and Centennial the #3 seed.

D15 - Moorhead returns from their cities tour take the Christmas holidays off. The Spuds play a single game next week at Detroit Lakes in a battle for #1 in D15 and play West Fargo. The Spuds jumped out on top of Woodbury 1-0 and added a goal in each period. They used their size and strength well to contain the smaller Royals. Their defense was excellent and they have two kids that could rank among the top peewees in the state this year.

Alexandria had a good week going last week. The Cardinals beat Wadena 8-1, Brainerd 3-1 and Northern Lakes 3-2 in ot, but lost their last game of the week to Detroit Lakes 5-4 in ot. Detroit Lakes played Fergus Falls and the Fargo Raiders besides beating Alexandria last week. The Lakers play in the Bemidji tourney over the holidays and drawing Grand Rapids, Rogers and Fort Francis in pool play. But the game with the Spuds between the holidays will be one of the keys to the Lakers season.

Moorhead has yet to lose a point in D15 (5-0 with 15 points) and Detroit Lakes has a single early season loss to Alexandria to give them a -2 points in D15. Alex sits at a -5 points. Brainerd continues to struggle in D15. The Warriors have lost games to the Spuds, Cardinals and the Lakers.

Moorhead ended up in 4th their tourney two weeks ago. They did not play like a fourth place finisher last weekend and take the #1 seed. Detroit Lakes beat Alexandria to grab the #2 seed. Alex takes the #3 seed. This week, D15 is a three team race with Detroit Lakes, Moorhead, and Alexandria contending.

D16 - EGF continued their winning ways last week. They won three more games last week. The Green Wave beat the Grand Forks Greyhounds 9-2 and West Fargo 10-2 besides Bemidji. The win over Bemidji was only their fourth D16 game giving them a 4-0 record with 10 D16 games left. But two of those wins were over the Lumberjacks. It appears that no team left on the Green Wave D16 schedule can challenge them.

Bemidji hosts their 16 team Paul Bunyan Invitational tourney during the holidays. The Dave’s Pizza Pool has Bemidji, Hermantown, Hastings and Sioux Falls; the Corner Bar pool has Detroit Lakes, Grand Rapids, Rogers and Fort Francis; the Hampton Inn pool has Crookston, Virginia, Armstrong and Keweenaw Michigan; and the McDonald’s pool has LOW, Cloquet, St. Cloud and Grand Forks. The Lumberjacks have been runner-up in three of the past five tourneys. They have not won their tourney in 15 years, perhaps this is the year. The Lumberjacks had a tough weekend, beating Crookston 9-2, but lost to Thief River Falls (2-1) and besides losing to EGF.

With three D16 teams in the Bemidji tourney (Crookston and LOW besides the host), D16 strength will be tested.

Roseau entered the Grand Rapids tourney. The Rams beat International Falls 4-3, lost to Duluth East 6-2 and lost to Hopkins 5-0 in the third place game. They take the holidays off with no games scheduled until January. Crookston did well in the Detroit Lakes tourney two weeks ago. They beat International Falls, Mandan and Detroit Lakes. Last weekend, the Pirates lost to Bemidji. This week they play West Fargo and EGF. Thief River Falls through a scheduling quirk plays their first 6 games, home and home, against Crookston, EGF and Bemidji. The Prowlers are 1-3 with two of those games left (EGF and Crookston).

East Grand Forks is the solid #1 seed this week. The loss to TRF is not enough to knock Bemidji out of the #2 seed.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey (Dec. 16)

By frederick 61

Not all “change” is good in hockey. The nature of the sport as it is played today has an economic component that effects associations and their ability to compete. Perhaps there is a good change brewing in the north, on the range and in Duluth. The association teams in the North have struggled the past few years because of that economic component, but there maybe the start of a small step forward. A few more associations are playing peewee A and they are doing better. It maybe a sign of a youth hockey re-bound in the northern part of this states economy.

On ice this week was the Spirit of Duluth tourney, the Moorhead tourney, the Owatonna tourney, the Detroit Lakes tourney and the Albert Lea tourney. A total of 56 peewee A teams entered from all bordering states and Canada. And everybody thought it was just an average boring December weekend before Christmas. Don’t they know that Christmas is nice restful two day pause in the hockey season?

A question asked last week is there the start of a change from the “old guard” peewee A teams to a “new guard”. Some “new guard teams” like Orono and Highland came through continuing to play well. Others were upended. But that scenario continues this week with some interesting games.

North Region - They have nine state high school appearances since the state tourney started. The last was in 2001. They took third place and looked to be one of the premier small town hockey programs in the state. Now the key things to the Greenway Raiders high school team maybe the fact that they are actually Greenway/Nashwauk and their growth in their youth program. Nashwauk is a key because between the two towns, a new mining to steel plant is being built unless the environmentalists can find a “snail darter” living amongst the taconite tailings. Growth in their youth program is a key because without it, the local authorities would have ended the high school program this year.

Those keys plus the dedication of some Greenway supporters saved the program this year. They kept the high school program alive or it would have been Grand Rapids/Greenway. To the non-Iron Ranger, that would be akin to an Edina/Eden Prairie merger.

For the first time in a few years, Greenway is skating peewee A. They are competitive in D12 and could make the North regional. But the Raiders did not skate in the Spirit of Duluth tourney last week.

The Spirit was not billed as pre-cursor to the North this year. It should have been. The D11 and D12 teams entered struggled in pool play and the top two (and only two) D2 teams entered prevailed. Stillwater won their pool and lost to Wayzata in the Championship game. White Bear Lake didn’t lose a game (one win and two ties) in their pool, but Mpls Park edged the Bears out.

The four Minnesota D11 teams had a collective 3-4-1 record in pool play. The two D2 teams had a 5-1-2 record in the tourney. The single D2 loss was in the championship game. But that’s stats. There is always opportunity in peewees. And next week, there is opportunity for D11 and D12 teams. One of the better D2 teams, Roseville, tours D11/D12 this weekend.

D11 - Last weekend in Hermantown’s tourney, four D11 teams squared off in the semifinals. This weekend, five D11 teams played in the Spirit. None made it to the semis. In pool play, the Duluth Lakers lost to Blaine 3-2, lost to Osseo/Maple Grove 5-1, and beat Minnetonka 3-2. Duluth East lost to Stillwater 10-2, beat Grand Rapids 4-0 and played Orono. Cloquet beat Hermantown 4-2, tied White Bear Lake 2-2 and beat Mpls Park 5-4. Hermantown lost to Cloquet, tied White Bear Lake 3-3 and lost to Mpls Park 10-0.

Standings for D11 peewee A may not show up until February. D11 teams play each other often and it is a guess as what game is a league versus non-league game. Today it appears that Duluth East leads having gone 2-0-1 in their first three games. Because of ties and “unfairplay” points, the Lakers, Cloquet and Hermantown could be second. Proctor, fielding their first peewee A team in a few years, trails.

Duluth East heads for Grand Rapids this week to play in the Star of the North. The Hounds draw Greenway in what could prove to be an interesting game. The Duluth Lakers have two D11 games this week, Superior and Cloquet. Cloquet entertains Roseau this week in addition to playing the Lakers. Proctor played in the Detroit Lakes tourney last week. This week the Rails play Hibbing, Eveleth and a D11 game with Hermantown.

Duluth East keeps the #1 seed this week. They should have a good Grand Rapids tourney. Cloquet takes the #2 spot. They played tough in the Spirit. The Duluth Lakers lost two close games in the Spirit and had a quality win over Minnetonka. That gives the Lakers the #3 seed.

D12 - Hibbing hosted their tourney last weekend. They played Greenway, beat Virginia, and beat Irondale 5-0. That was enough to get them to the championship game on Sunday. The Bluejackets beat Irondale again 7-0. Eveleth-Gilbert also had a good tourney. The Golden Bears lost to Irondale 4-0, beat Virginia 4-2, beat Greenway 5-4 and beat Virginia again 5-2 to take third in the tourney. International Falls traveled to Detroit Lakes last weekend to play in the Lakers tourney. The Falls lost to Crookston 7-2, River Lakes 4-3, and the Mandan Braves 5-1 before beating Wadena 11-1.

Grand Rapids played in the Spirit. They had a tough time in pool play, losing to Orono 5-2, Stillwater 4-0 and Duluth East 6-3. This week, they host their own tourney opening against a tough D3 team Hopkins. Burnsville and EGF are paired in the other side of the bracket. Duluth East takes on Greenway and Roseau plays International Falls in the lower bracket.

Hibbing struggled in this season up until they played in their tourney. That may have turned the Bluejackets around. Eveleth and Greenway played well in the same tourney while Virginia struggled. Grand Rapids continues to play a tough schedule and it doesn’t get any better in their tourney this weekend. They take the #1 seed. The Falls takes the #2 seed.

D2 - At the Spirit of Duluth tourney, White Bear Lake opened pool play beating Mpls Park 2-1, tying Hermantown 3-3, and tying Cloquet 2-2. But D2 rival, Stillwater bettered the Bears, beating Duluth East 10-2, Grand Rapids 4-0 and Orono and made the semis. A late Saturday win by Mpls Park, knocked the Bears out of a potential all D2 to semifinal against an all D3 semifinal. The Ponies took the D2 flag into the finals, beating Mpls Park before falling to Wayzata 8-4.

White Bear Lake played in the consolation semifinals, but lost to Orono

Sometimes when a team enters a tourney they get a second chance. Tartan opened the South St. Paul tourney with a 2-1 win over St. Francis. The Titans then lost to Cottage Grove 5-1. The Saint Paul Saints opened the same tourney with a 4-1 win over Red Wing. The Saints then lost to the host 4-1. Two weeks ago in D2 play, the Saints upset the Titans 2-0 for their first D2 win ever. On Sunday at Wakota, the Tartans avenged that loss beating the Saints 5-2. This week the Titans play Forest Lake, White Bear Lake and Roseville. After a slow start, the Titans have improved their record to .500 and hold a 2-1 win over a good Farmington team.

Roseville had a single game last week, losing to Forest Lake 4-3. This week, they take a break from D2 action and make a foray into D11/D12, playing Hibbing, Virginia, Cloquet and Hermantown and end the week playing the Titans. Mounds View lost Highland 3-0 and upended Mahtomedi 2-1 last week. This week the Mustangs take on Stillwater and Irondale in D2 action.

Forest Lake’s “make a move” was interrupted. After beating Roseville, the Lakers also lost to Highland 5-2. As a result of stringing three D2 wins together in the December, the Lakers have moved into third tied with Mahtomedi behind White Bear Lake and Stillwater. This week, the Lakers have a single D2 game with Tartan before action slows over the holidays.

North St. Paul played in Albert Lea’s tourney last weekend. The Polars played Faribault, New Ulm and beat Mason City 5-1 in pool play. They played Coon Rapids for the title. This week they have a single D2 game against White Bear Lake.

Mahtomedi beat the Saint Paul Saints 3-1, but lost a tough game to Mounds View that dropped them into a third place fight with Forest Lake. This week they head to the Fargo Shanley Cup Tourney hosted by the Fargo Angels. Mahtomedi draws Pembina Trail, the Fargo Angels, and Brandon in pool play.

There should be no debate about the #1 seed in D2 this week, Stillwater took second at the Spirit Tourney. But the Ponies lost to Hudson and to White Bear Lake a few days before they left for Duluth. The Bears did slightly better, tying Roseville. That makes it a coin flip, and that’s how the Ponies made the #1 seed this week. White Bear Lake takes the #2 seed. The third seed goes to Forest Lake.

East Region - Three teams have emerged from D6 halfway their regular season schedule. Edina, Burnsville and Eden Prairie have separated themselves from the rest of the league and will battle for the top two rungs in the league and the playoff byes that go with them. Over in D8, a small separation has emerged half way through their regular season. Woodbury and Lakeville South have opened a small lead over the rest of the field, but Rochester and Rosemount can still close that gap in the coming week. The top four teams get playoff byes in D8.

In D1, Mpls Park and Highland Central look tough. Mpls Park is in the title chase in D3 and Highland is unbeaten in D2 halfway through the Caps limited D2 schedule. The Storm made it to Sunday at the Spirit of Duluth tourney.

So are these the eight team East Regional field?

Teams in this region are preparing for the next big round of tourneys in two weeks. D6 is the host with the Bloomington tourney after Christmas and the Edina tourney on New Years Weekend. Eleven D6 and D8 teams will mix it up those two tourneys.

Edina plays St. Michael/Albertville this week and next week plays Highland. For STMA and Highland, it will be an interesting test. STMA is struggling since the Orono tourney, losing last week to Hutchinson. Highland continues to roll through D2.

D1 - Three of the four D1 teams played in tourneys last week. Mpls Park traveled to Duluth and made the Sunday championship round. The Storm lost their opener to White Bear Lake, but came back to beat Cloquet 5-4 and Hermantown 10-0 to take the pool. They lost to Stillwater 6-2 in the semifinals and lost to D3 rival Osseo/Maple Grove 3-2 in the third place game. The Storm returns home to play the Saint Paul Saints in D1 action this week.

Irondale traveled to Hibbing this past weekend and played in the Bluejackets tourney. The Knights beat Eveleth 4-0, beat Greenway 6-4, lost to Hibbing 7-0, beat Virginia 1-0 and lost to Hibbing in the championship game 5-0. The Saint Paul played in South St. Paul’s tourney this week beating Red Wing in the opener 4-1 before losing to South St. Paul 4-1 and Tartan 5-2 in the third place game. The Saints play Mpls Park and Coon Rapids this week.

Highland is now 4-0 in D2 adding wins over Mounds View and Forest Lake this week. The Caps have three or four games left depending on Stillwater forfeiting their game (the Ponies were a no show two weeks ago). The Caps have Mahtomedi, Roseville and North St. Paul left on their D2 schedule. Highland plays Irondale in D1 action and Eastview this week.

Highland Central keeps the #1 seed and the Storm takes the #2 seed. Despite a good performance at the Spirit (including a surprisingly easy victory over a good Hermantown team), the Storm will play second fiddle to the Caps until they meet. The Saints had a good tourney at South St. Paul and continue to improve. Irondale did well at Hibbing. Things still look good for the D1 teams.

D6 - In March 2007, Wayzata beat Apple Valley for the State Peewee A title at Tartan. Wayzata high school beat the Eagles 6-2 at the PIC last night. The Wayzata high school team play was powered by a senior line who were peewees in 2005. The Apple Valley team was powered by a sophomore/freshman line that lost that 2007 state championship game just 2 ½ years ago.

The Eagles could have used those guys last week as the Eagles lost D6 games to Eden Prairie 4-1 and to Burnsville 7-4. The Eagles are an improving team and this week they have a chance to shine in the New Ulm tourney. In pool play they draw St. Peter and Sioux Falls. St. Peter is coming off an upset win over New Prague and Sioux Falls has one of the better players in the region.

Edina continues to roll. The Hornets beat Eastview 5-1, the 97 Fire 5-3 (taking two of three games played with the Fire this year), Kennedy and Lakeville South 8-3. This week, the Hornets play STMA, Elk River and Eden Prairie. They have won 22 straight games since losing to Elks and Fire on Halloween weekend. Should their opponents start bringing treats to their locker room?

Burnsville won three D6 games last week. Besides beating Apple Valley, the Blaze beat Prior Lake/Savage 8-4 and Jefferson 6-3. They also beat two D8 teams Woodbury 6-1 and Farmington 4-1. The Blaze won’t return to D6 action until January 7th. They travel to Grand Rapids to play Grand Forks in the opening round of the Star of the North tourney in one of the more interesting games this week.

Burnsville has lost two D6 games and two “unfairplay” points and are a -6 in the D6 standings after playing 9 of 18 league games. Edina is perfect 0 after 8 games and Eden Prairie is -4 after 8 games. Burnsville has one game left with Edina and one game with Eden Prairie. Eden Prairie and Edina have yet to meet in D6 action, but that ends this week. EP beat Jefferson 4-2 last week in addition to Apple Valley. This week they play Minnetonka and Moorhead in addition to Edina.

Eastview plays Jefferson and Chaska in D6 action this week. They also play Highland (at St. Thomas on Saturday) in another interesting game. Jefferson also plays Chaska in D6 action. Kennedy beat Apple Valley and Jefferson in their last four D6 games, but unfortunately played Edina in the other two. But under those circumstances, .500 isn’t bad. This week they play Red Wing and one D6 game with Minnetonka before their “BIG” tourney. Kennedy and Jefferson host their Midwest Regional Tourney between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Forty four bantam and peewee teams are entered in four separate tourneys (A/B).

Minnetonka traveled to the Spirit as the only D6 entry. The Skippers upended Osseo/Maple Grove in the pool opener 4-0 and lost to the Duluth Lakers 3-2. Prior Lake plays Chaska, Centennial and Apple Valley this week.

For the past two years in D6, the “old guard” has reigned and this year is shaping up to be the same. The Hornets are a solid #1 seed this week. The Blaze are a solid #2 seed and Eden Prairie is a solid #3 seed. The only question is where are the Eagles during the holiday season? Normally they play in Edina’s tourney, but not this year.

D8 - Lakeville South played only one game this week, the Cougars made it a big one playing Edina at Mariucci. They lost 8-3. South starts a tough holiday schedule. They play Wayzata, a touring Moorhead team and Rosemount this week. Just before the Edina game at Mariucci, Woodbury played their third of four games in five days last week, beating an improving Hopkins team 5-3. They opened their stretch of games with a 6-1 loss to Burnsville and followed that with a 3-1 D8 win over Lakeville North. They ended the stretch by beating Sibley in another D8 game 4-1. The Royals also play Moorhead this week and follow that with two D8 against Farmington and Rosemount.

One problem with using Mariucci for youth hockey is the parking. If your practice or game is scheduled during an event, the parking lots around the arena charge $10 a spot.

Lakeville North bounced back from the Woodbury lost to beat Farmington 2-1. The Panthers are an improving team. They have a single game this week against Hastings. Farmington lost to Burnsville, played Hastings and Jefferson last week. The Tigers play Faribault and Stillwater in addition to Woodbury this week.

At the Moorhead tourney, Rochester beat Grafton North Dakota 10-6 and Buffalo 7-0 in pool play. In the championship round, they beat Moorhead 6-0 and Andover 7-0 to claim the title. Three straight shut outs and 30-6 scoring edge is impressive.

South St. Paul won their tourney last week. The Packers beat Spring Lake Park 7-3 in the opening round, the Saint Paul Saints 4-1 in the semifinals and D8 rival Cottage Grove 5-1 in the finals. This week, they entertain Eagan and Rochester in two D8 games. Cottage Grove beat Sibley 5-4 and Tartan 5-1 to get to the semifinals. Sibley lost a tough, overtime, shot out game to St. Francis 2-1 in the consolation semis.

Rosemount beat Eagan last week and play Hastings and Lakeville South this week. Rosemount, Eagan and Lakeville South will play in the Edina Tourney at the end of December. Rosemount, Centennial, Edina, and Osseo/Maple Grove are in one pool. Chaska, Stillwater, and Wayzata are pooled with Lakeville South. Eagan draws Elk River, Fargo and White Bear Lake.

Two Saturdays ago, Hudson upset Stillwater 2-0 and beat Hastings 3-2 in D8 action. That Stillwater win looks impressive for the Raiders with the Ponies finishing second in the Spirit of Duluth tourney this past Sunday. The Raiders had an off week, but this week they return to D8 action playing Rochester and Cottage Grove.

Red Wing had a tough tourney in South St. Paul, losing to the Saint Paul Saints 4-1 and Spring Lake Park 8-2. They play Cottage Grove, Kennedy and New Prague this week. Dodge County played took second place in the Owatonna Tourney. The Wildcats won their opener beating Luverne 6-4. They beat Owatonna 5-3 in the semifinal game before losing to the nationally ranked Kansas City Stars 6-0. Dodge County plays in the New Ulm tourney this week. They draw Mankato and MAML in opening round play. Northfield also played in the Owatonna tourney, losing their opening game to Sioux Falls 5-2 and to New Prague in consolation semis.

The seeds remain unchanged this week. Both Woodbury and Lakeville South stepped outside D8 and played tough competition. Both got beat. Woodbury won two D8 games this week and holds a two point edge in the standings over Lakeville South. Rosemount can make a statement this week. They play Lakeville South and Woodbury and those two wins would put the Irish on top. Rochester won the Moorhead tourney and gets the #3 seed this week. Rochester is definitely a team to be reckoned with in D8

South Region - D3 made a hugh statement in the Spirit of Duluth tourney. Wayzata took the title, Osseo/Maple Grove took third losing to Wayzata in the semifinals and Orono made it to the consolation title game. D4 teams struggled in their tourneys. New Prague took the consolation title at Owatonna and Albert Lea lost out to Mason City for third in their tourney. D5 Buffalo struggled at Moorhead placing 11th in a 12 team tourney. With three D3 seeds in this regional, it is beginning to look like a D3 battleground in March.

Orono has been ignored in the past, but their performance at the Spirit shows they can compete. D4 continues to struggle. The New Ulm tourney will be interesting for the D4 West teams this week. D5 remains a jumble. STMA lost to Hutchinson last week and takes on Edina this week. What a season in the South districts! The question remains, do these districts represent the “new guard” in peewee A hockey?

D3 - Wayzata took the Spirit this week. The Trojans rolled through everybody, beating Superior 5-1, Centennial 11-3, and Thunder Bay 9-6 in pool play. On championship Sunday, they beat D3 rival Osseo/Maple Grove 7-0 and Stillwater 8-4. Nobody came close. OMG was surprised in their opener by Minnetonka, losing 4-0, but they came back to beat the Duluth Lakers 5-1 and Blaine to take the pool. They beat Mpls Park for third place.

Orono’s only blemish in pool play at the Spirit was a 5-5 tie with Stillwater, but it was enough to knock the Spartan out of the championship round. They beat Grand Rapids 5-2 and Duluth East 7-4 in other pool games. In the consolation semis, the Spartans beat White Bear Lake 4-3 before losing to Thunder Bay 6-3.

The Royals lost to the Royals (or Hopkins lost to Woodbury last week). The Hopkins Royals also played Prior Lake. This week they host Wayzata and then head for the Grand Rapids tourney to play the host in the opening game. North Metro plays Wayzata and Armstrong this week. Armstrong also plays Mound/Westonka in a D3 game this week. Armstrong took a Western trip last weekend. They lost to Alexandria 5-1.

Wayzata rested two weeks ago and OMG took the #1 seed. Last week, the Trojans went to work and took the Spirit and the #1 seed back. Based on their performances in the Spirit and the fact that these two D3 teams have not met, the #2 seed is a coin flip between Orono and OMG. Out came the old zinc penny. Orono won the flip. The decision to flip two out of three was rejected by the “old hockey ghosts” peering over this writer’s shoulder. OMG takes the #3 seed in what is becoming a very tough district.

D4 - New Ulm has an interesting tourney this year. Twelve teams are entered. They are divided into four pools. One pool has Willmar, New Ulm, and Des Moines Iowa. The second pool has St. Peter, Apple Valley and Sioux Falls (the Flyers have one of the better players in the region this year). Mankato, MAML and Dodge County are in the third pool. Owatonna, Omaha Nebraska and Sartell are in the fourth pool. This looks like a tough tourney with a variety of teams.

New Prague played in their second tourney in two weeks and suffered the same fate the Trojans had in the first tourney. They played the eventual champion in the first game. At Owatonna, the Trojans lost the opening game to the Kansas City Stars 4-1. They skated hard in the first period out shooting the Stars two to one, but being outscored 2-1. The Stars gained momentum in the second period, adding a goal and won 4-1 on an empty netter. The Stars goalie played well, but the Trojans missed scoring opportunities close into the net. The Trojans went on to take consolation beating Northfield and beating Waterloo Iowa 6-2.

Owatonna beat Waterloo Iowa 3-2 to open their tourney, lost to Dodge County in the semis and played Sioux Falls for third place. The Huskies travel to New Ulm to play in their tourney this weekend. They play Sartell and Omaha in pool play. Luverne was the third D4 team in the tourney, they lost to Dodge County 6-4 and Waterloo Iowa.

At Albert Lea, the Tigers beat Austin and Waseca in pool play, but lost to Coon Rapids 10-2. In the third place game they lost to D4 rival Mason City Iowa 5-3. North St. Paul beat Coon Rapids to win the tourney. Faribault did well in the Albert Lea tourney. The Falcons beat New Ulm 7-5, pushed North St. Paul before losing 2-1, lost to Mason City 7-4 and beat Austin 8-0.

D4 has two divisions, East and West and the top two teams in each division qualify for the playoffs. Teams finishing third or lower must play-in for the third spot in the 6 team playoffs. New Prague took their first loss in D4, losing at St. Peter 8-3. That loss knotted the top three teams in the East (Faribault and Mason City with New Prague) at one loss each. Fortunately for Faribault and New Prague, Mason City does not qualify for the playoffs. These two teams should have a lock on the playoffs halfway through their season. Their nearest challengers (Albert Lea and Owatonna) have each lost 4 games, but Albert Lea has more “unfairplay” points and that maybe enough to keep the Tigers in the running for a top two spot.

Over in the West Division, Mankato beat St. Peter 9-7 last week to put the Mavericks in the driver set to win the West Division. They have yet to lose a game and that St. Peter win was their second D4 win over St. Peter this season. St. Peter could not afford a loss to New Prague after that losing to the Mavericks. They didn’t lose. With six games left in their D4 schedule, they look to be the favorite to take the #2 West spot come playoff time.

Their nearest challenger would either be New Ulm or Marshall. Marshall struggled in the Moorhead tourney last week losing to Andover, Fargo, and Brainerd, before coming back to beat the Dakota Lazers. They will have a chance this week to re-group against Waseca.

New Prague lost to St. Peter three days after Mankato beat St. Peter. This week the Mavericks take the #1 seed and New Prague takes the #2 seed. Faribault takes the #3 seed this week. Their close loss to North St. Paul shows that the Falcons are improving. St. Peter is threatening this top three and they will have their opportunity in the New Ulm tourney against Apple Valley and Sioux Falls.

D5 - Upsets seem to be the name of the game as an improving Hutchinson team beat STMA 3-2 last week. Hutchinson added D5 wins over Litchfield 8-4 and Willmar 8-2 to put them in first place in D5 halfway through the season. Sartell has only one loss, but has managed to lose 6 “unfairplay” points in eight games. That could hurt the Sabres if D5 has retained last year’s playoff format (regular league champ gets an automatic seed to the regionals).

The Sabres lost to Alexandria last weekend 5-4 and played Crow River. This week they play in New Ulm’s tourney drawing Omaha and Owatonna in pool play. Crow River plays Hutchinson and Buffalo in D5 games this week. STMA takes on Edina in a big game for the Knights this week. They also play Mound/Westonka and River Lakes. Mound/Westonka has two D3 games with Armstrong and Mpls Park this week. The White Hawks beat Willmar in D5 action last week.

Buffalo struggled at Moorhead last weekend. The Bison lost to Grafton 8-3, Rochester 7-0 before beating the Dakota Lazers 10-1 and Brainerd 5-1. They play Litchfield and Crow River this week.

There are numerous good teams in D5 this week. Hutchinson, Sartell, STMA, Crow River, Mound Westonka are some of them. But Hutchinson takes the #1 seed this week. They are on top and their win over STMA a good one. STMA takes the #2 seed, they take on Edina this week and that will be a big one. Sartell takes the #3 seed, but it could have been Crow River as well. Watch out for an improving Mound/Westonka and an always dangerous Buffalo.

West Region - This region looks to be dominated by two teams, Elk River and East Grand Forks. If these two teams take the #1 seed in their districts, they will be placed in the same regional pool (of four teams). If Bemidji takes the #2 D16 seed, they will be placed in a pool with the D15 #1 seed. That means Elk River and EGF would not have to play each other to get to the state. It also means that Bemidji if they won their pool would have to beat the loser of Elk River/EGF game to get to the state. Interesting?

D10 - Elk River looks to be the dominant team in D10 and in this region this year. The Elks have a single loss to Wayzata this year and have beaten Edina. The rest of the D10 teams have all struggled until Andover showed up to challenge the Elks. A D10 game last week to determine who is best in the D10 Blue Division between these two teams ended in an unsatisfactory 3-3 tie. The question remains, do the Elks have a real challenger.

Andover went on last weekend to play in Moorhead’s tourney. They did well beating a tough Fargo team 6-4, Marshall, Littleton Colorado 8-3 but lost to Rochester 7-0. The Elks beat Osseo/Maple Grove 6-2 last week. This week they play a league game with Spring Lake Park and play Edina in a re-match and precursor Edina’s year end tourney.

Over in the D10 Green Division, chaos reigns. The top three teams are playing .500 hockey in the league. CINB with an 0-6 record is not out of the running being only 6 points behind Rogers the top point getter in the Green. St. Francis maybe the best position on all the teams sitting at the bottom because of playing only three games.

St. Francis played in the South St. Paul tourney this weekend. After losing 2-0 to Tartan, St. Francis beat Sibley 2-1 and Spring Lake Park 3-2 to take the consolation title. Spring Lake Park is one of the Green teams ahead of St. Francis. Before the South St. Paul tourney, SLP had a tough D10 loss to Blaine 4-3 and had tied Centennial and St. Cloud in D10 play.
Rogers, Champlin Park and Princeton are all knotted at the top of the Green. Rogers plays Blaine and Coon Rapids; Champlin Park plays Coon Rapids, Spring Lake Park and Centennial; and Princeton plays St. Cloud this week.

Chisago Lakes was the only D10 team in the Moorhead tourney. They tied Brainerd 5-5, lost to Littleton 6-2, lost to Fargo, and lost to Omaha 2-1 in a shotout. Spring Lake Park played at South St. Paul losing to the Packers 7-4, beating Red Wing 8-2 before losing to St. Francis. Coon Rapids played at Albert Lea, beating Waseca, Albert Lea 4-1 and Austin before losing in the Championship to North St. Paul 4-2.

Blaine and Centennial played in the Spirit of Duluth. Centennial did not advance out of their pool. They lost to Wayzata 11-3, beat Superior 5-3 and played Thunder Bay. Blaine beat the Duluth Lakers 3-2, lost to Osseo/Maple Grove and played Minnetonka.

Elk River is solidly #1 in D10 this week again. The tie with Andover is not enough to affect the Elks, but it puts a dent in their rep. Andover keeps the #2 seed. These two teams will not tangle again until the end of January. With the Green Division still in disarray the Blue Division gets the #3 seed this week with Centennial. They maybe making a move, if they can ever get past playing Wayzata.

D15 - Moorhead had their tourney last week. Only one other team besides Moorhead entered, Brainerd. All twelve teams ended up playing a final game for place in the tourney. Moorhead ended up in 4th and Brainerd in 10th. Moorhead got there by beating Omaha 9-2, beating the Dakota Lazers before losing to Rochester 6-0 and Littleton Colorado 4-3. Brainerd struggles this year and the Moorhead tourney showed that. The Warriors lost to Littleton, tied Chisago Lakes, beat Marshall and lost to Buffalo 5-1.

Alexandria has a good week beating Sartell 5-4 in overtime and a visiting Armstrong 5-1. This week they play Detroit Lakes. The Lakers held their own tourney this week end. They played the Bismarck Admirals, Proctor and the Fargo Flyers.

D15 is shaping up to be a three team race with Detroit Lakes, Moorhead and Alexandria all contending. Brainerd continues to struggle. Alexandria takes the #1 seed in this district this week. Moorhead takes the #2 seed and Detroit Lakes the #3 seed. Moorhead’s journey to the cities this weekend will prove interesting for the Spuds. They play Eagan, Lakeville South, Woodbury and Eden Prairie.

D16 - D16 play is just getting started. EGF has won their first three games. This week the Green Wave added a fourth 8-0 win over long standing rival, Roseau. After playing second fiddle to the Rams for the past three years, the win for the Green Wave came easy and probably less satisfying.

The challenger for the Green Wave this year is not the Rams, but Bemidji. The Lumberjacks notched two more D16 wins beating Hallock 10-1 and TRF 7-2 to stay in step with the Green Wave. Bemidji plays TRF and Crookston on Saturday before meeting EGF on Sunday.

The two teams meet this week in EGF in a game that will likely determine the D16 regular season title. That may seem like a dichotomy, but the Green Wave already has one D16 win over the Lumberjacks. A second win could clinch the D16 crown for the Green Wave since the remaing teams on their D16 schedule are not likely to challenge them. Only Crookston or perhaps Warroad could threaten EGF.

Roseau is entered in the Grand Rapids tourney. The Rams play International Falls in the opener.

Crookston has won their first three games. Last weekend, the Pirates played in the Detroit Lakes tourney. They play Bemidji, West Fargo and EGF this week. Thief River Falls through a scheduling quirk plays their first 6 games, home and home, against Roseau, EGF and Bemidji. The Prowlers will have to work hard to survive that tough early season schedule. If they do, they should do well in D16.

Roseau has a balanced schedule, playing all seven D16 teams in their first seven games. But the Rams will have to beat Warroad in their next D16 game to go 3-4 in those first seven games. Warroad could be the surprise this year in D16. They did reasonably well in the Orono tourney two weeks ago and if the Warriors can improve, they could be a threat to the top teams come playoffs.

There is no change in the two D16 seeds this week. East Grand Forks takes the #1 seed and Bemidji the #2 seed. The Green Wave will be tested at Bemidji this week. It should be a fun week for them. Bemidji, despite playing two D16 games, gets to sort of “hunker down” and wait for the Green Wave on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey (Dec. 9)

By frederick61

There is “change” trying to be brewed all over this country. Now there are off-ice changes brewing in Minnesota Hockey (district re-alignments being proposed, kid eligibility rules being written). But there is also change “on-ice”. The “off-ice” has to be addressed because the current Minnesota Hockey schedules for state level tourneys expire. The March 2010 tourney is the last one scheduled. And that is good policy. Minnesota Hockey has to address district and association alignments since populations shift and economy changes need to be part of the process in determining the new schedules for the next few years.

But it is the “on-ice” changes that interest this column. And there is the start of change from the “old guard” PeeWee A teams to a “new guard”. The question is how subtle is that “on-ice” change. Most districts are seeing improved play overall. The result is PeeWee A hockey this year is more balanced then in the past years. There are still some “one-sided” games. But these involve teams that trying to get their PeeWee A team going usually after playing B-level the year before. The emergence of a “new guard” would be great for PeeWee A hockey. It simply says no matter how good their program no association can relax from year to year. That has happened in past years.

North Region - D11 had the first of two back to back tourneys this weekend. Four D11 teams were paired against four teams from outside D11. The D11 teams won their opening quarterfinal games and played each other for first, second and third place. The Duluth Lakers took first beating a surprising Saint Paul Saints team 6-3, beating Hermantown 7-4 and Cloquet 5-2 in the championship game. Cloquet made the final game by beating Apple Valley 4-2 and Superior 4-3. Hermantown beat Superior for third place 4-3. The Hawks beat Alexandria in their opener 4-2.

Now the same D11 teams plus Duluth East get to repeat the test of this past weekend except there are more and more tougher teams entered in the Spirit of Duluth tourney.

Now the big question is, can D11 repeat the Hermantown tourney in the Spirit of Duluth this weekend? Five D11 teams, three with their own pool and two with a shared pool take on eleven teams from across the state and Thunder Bay Canada in the Spirit tourney. Duluth East, Stillwater, Orono and Grand Rapids form one pool. Hermantown, Cloquet, Mpls Park and White Bear Lake are in another pool. The Duluth Lakers play Blaine, Minnetonka, and Osseo/Maple Grove their pool. Superior draws Wayzata, Thunder Bay and Centennial.

Duluth East should be the standard bearer this week for D11. They beat the Duluth Lakers 4-1 last week after taking a western trip over the Thanksgiving holidays winning 5 of 6 games (losing only 3-2 to Moorhead). With 20 kids on the Hounds roster, playing a potential 5 game weekend should be in their favor. Orono, also in their pool, has a 15 kid roster (including two goalies).

Last week, Protor beat Eveleth-Gilbert 8-2, played Rice Lake, Wisconsin and Cloquet. The Rails travel to Detroit Lakes on the weekend to play Fargo Flyers, Detroit Lakes, and Bismarck in the Lakers tourney.

Despite the Duluth Lakers win at Hermantown, Duluth East still takes the #1 seed. After a shaky season opening, the Hounds have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and have beaten the Lakers twice, Hermantown once and tied Cloquet. The trouble in D12 is that they play each other a number of time. It is hard to beat a team 4 or 5 times in a season, especially at playoff time. The Lakers have certainly earned the #2 seed this week, but it is a coin flip between Hermantown and Cloquet this week. The zinc penny came up the Hawks. They get the #3 seed.

D12 - Grand Rapids took a tour to the cities and lost three games, a tough one to Coon Rapids 4-3, a bad one to Blaine and another though one to one of the top teams in the state, Osseo/Maple Grove 3-0. The Thunderhawks travel to Duluth to play in the Spirit this weekend. They draw Orono, Stillwater and Duluth East (chance to avenge an earlier 5-1 loss to the Hounds). International Falls beat Greenway 3-0 and Hibbing 3-2 in a D12 games before losing to Roseau 2-1. Hibbing also lost to the Roseau 7-2 this past week. The Falls continues to win this year. Maybe the Broncos are back. Greenway’s loss to the Falls was their first D12 loss.

Hibbing hosts their tourney this weekend. The Bluejackets play Greenway, Virginia, and Irondale. Eveleth-Gilbert is the fifth team entered. The Golden Bears play Irondale, Virginia and Greenway. International Falls travels to Detroit Lakes this weekend to play in the Lakers tourney. The Falls draw Crookston, River Lakes, and the Mandan Braves in pool play. The Falls and Grand Rapids appear to be on top of the D12 standings.

Grand Rapids retains the #1 seed this week. On their cities trip, they played two tough teams well. They will be tested again at the Spirit. The #2 seed this week goes to International Falls. Simply put, the Broncos beat the Bluejackets last week. Hibbing and Greenway look to contend while the Virginia Blue Devils continue to struggle.

D2 - White Bear Lake had their unbeaten D2 record spoiled by a loss to Highland Central last week. The Bears took another hit when Roseville tied them this week 4-4, but the Bears came back to beat Stillwater beat 4-2. This weekend the Bears are at the Spirit of Duluth tourney. They draw Mpls Park and two D12 teams, Cloquet and Hermantown. Besides White Bear, Stillwater played Mahtomedi and lost to Hudson, Wisconsin 2-0. They travel to Duluth and play Duluth East, Orono and Grand Rapids.

Tartan takes a quarter circle run on Interstate 494 to Wakota to play in South St. Paul’s tourney this week. They play St. Francis in the opening round. Mounds View continued their up and down season. They played in Orono’s tourney this week, beating Northern Lakes then losing to eventual champion Crow River 4-3 and Orono in the third place game. The Mustangs lost two tough D2 games to Forest Lake 4-2 and 2-1 prior to traveling to Orono. It doesn’t get easier for the Mustangs this week. They play Highland Central and Mahtomedi in D2 action.

Roseville had a good week, beating Tartan 7-0 and Irondale 5-1 besides tying White Bear Lake. They play a single game this coming week against Forest Lake before taking a northern tour. Mahtomedi played Stillwater and beat Irondale 6-3 last week. This week they play the St. Paul Saints and Mounds View before traveling in two weeks to play in a Fargo Tourney. The Zephyrs are in a virtual tie atop D2 with White Bear Lake this week.

The two victories over Mounds View may have Forest Lake on the right path. The Lakers play Highland in D2 action this week. North St. Paul has struggled this year, but the Polars travel to Albert Lea to play in their tourney. In pool play, they draw Faribault, New Ulm and Mason City Iowa.

Despite White Bear first loss and tie in D2 this week, the Bears came back to beat Stillwater. Stillwater remains a question mark. One would think both teams would be running away from the other D2 teams. But two pesky teams, Mahtomedi and Roseville, are hanging in the chase. Mounds View has slid losing their last three D2 games and having to play Highland, Mahtomedi and Stillwater in their next three games. Forest Lake has made a small move and is still part of the chase. Only Tartan and North St. Paul seem out of the running, but they still are dangerous teams.

The #1 seed this week is tough choice. Highland maybe the best team playing D2, but will have to collect their regional seed from the D1 playoffs. That leaves the Bears on top of D2 with the #1 seed. One has to resort to flipping the old zinc penny to decide the #2 seed. It came up Stillwater with Mahtomedi taking the #3 seed. Both White Bear Lake and Stillwater have a shot at taking their pool in the Spirit of Duluth. That is a challenge. But the Zephyrs have been tough this year and both Roseville and Forest Lake are starting to make some moves.

East Region - An interesting question this week to ponder in the East is was it smart for Highland to schedule Edina this month (or for Edina fans, was it smart for the Hornets to schedule Highland this month). Both coaches recognize that there is a strong possibility that the two teams will meet in the East Regional. Should Highland have “lain in the weeds, waiting to strike in March” or should the Hornets ignore the Caps as just another team to beat? This game is a great game for the kids to learn and it is good to see the teams play.

So what teams are starting to emerge from the three districts in this region? D6 looks the most set with Edina, Burnsville and Eden Prairie; but that is just a challenge for the other six D6 teams. D8 also looks set with Woodbury, Lakeville South and Rochester, but that said, can’t you hear the big cats roar (Tigers and Panthers) and the Irish “getting their dander up”. D1 also looks set with Highland Central and Mpls Park, but that just heats the Saint’s halo and has the Knights sharpening their spears. See how settled this region is in March, that is when it counts.

D1 - Three of the four D1 teams are playing in tourneys this weekend. Mpls Park travels to Duluth to play in the Spirit tourney. The Storm draw White Bear Lake, Hermantown and Cloquet in pool play. Last week the Strom beat North Metro 3-1 in D3 action and played Minnetonka. Currently, Mpls Park has a loss to Wayzata and a tie with Osseo/Maple Grove in D3. A win over OMG next week would put the Storm in the middle of the D3 title chase with those two teams.

Highland Central has continued their winning ways. They took the Red Wing tourney championship beating Austin, Red Wing and Farmington. Last week, they beat White Bear Lake in D2 action. The Caps play Moundsview and Forest Lake in D2 action this week. They are unbeaten this season and take on top rated Edina between the year end holidays.

Irondale continues to struggle, but has an opportunity this week to strengthen their play at the Hibbing tourney. They draw Eveleth-Gilbert and Hibbing in pool play. The Knights lost to Roseville and played Mahtomedi in D2 action this week. The Saint Paul Saints play in South St. Paul’s tourney this week drawing Red Wing in the opener. Last week the Saints beat Tartan 2-0 in D2 play and played in Hermantown’s tourney, losing to the eventual champion Duluth Lakers 6-3 and losing to Alexandria 6-3 before beating Fargo North 5-2.

Highland Central keeps the #1 seed goes this week and could take the #1 seed in D2 also this week. The Storm takes the #2 seed. The Spirit of Duluth tourney will challenge the Storm. The Saints are getting better; a good run at South St. Paul would be nice to see. Irondale should do well at Hibbing. Overall things are looking good for the D1 teams.

D6 - Two Sundays ago at the Burnsville tourney; Edina and Burnsville skated in the championship game. Edina jumped off to a 3-0 lead and fought off a Burnsville rally to win 6-4. Four days later at the same Burnsville arena, the same two teams clashed in a key D6 game. It was a repeat as Edina jumped off to a 2-0 lead and Burnsville fought back to tie the game 2-2 only to lose 3-2 when the Hornets scored with two minutes to go in the game. As if to add insult to injury, the Burnsville high school team lost a regionally broadcast game in the same arena to Edina on the Tuesday between the two peewee A loses.

Edina went on to beat Chaska 8-0 and Jefferson 9-0 last week. This week the Hornets play Eastview and Kennedy in D6 and have a third and deciding game against the 97 Fire. The Hornets have split two games with the Fire losing 6-4 and winning 9-4.

Edina sits on top of D6 with a perfect 6-0 record with a third of the season gone. Eden Prairie is their closest challenger. Eden Prairie beat Eastview 3-1. The Eagles have only one D6 loss. They play Jefferson this week. The Eden Prairie loss was Eastview’s second D6 loss dropping them into a tie with Burnsville. The Lightning play Edina and Prior Lake/Savage this week.

Burnsville plays Prior Lake/Savage, Jefferson, Apple Valley and Kennedy in D6 this week plus a return game with Woodbury before taking a break from D6 play for the rest of December. In two weeks the Blaze will travel to Grand Rapids to play East Grand Forks in the opening round of the Star of the North tourney. Apple Valley traveled to Hermantown and made it to the consolation championship. The Eagles lost a tough opening game to Cloquet, beat Fargo 8-1 and lost to Alexandria. Valley returns to D6 action this week with the unenviable task of playing Burnsville, Edina and Eden Prairie.

Jefferson struggled this week losing to rival Kennedy 4-3 besides Edina. This week the Jags play Eden Prairie, Burnsville, Farmington, and Eastview. Minnetonka returned to D6 action playing Chaska. This week the Skippers play Eden Prairie and travel to the Spirit of Duluth tourney. In pool play, they draw Osseo/Maple Grove, Blaine and the Duluth Lakers. They are the only D6 team in the Spirit tourney this year.

Edina ends a long string of games this weekend after playing Kennedy. Starting the week the Hornets have won 13 in a row and haven’t lost in the past month. Their schedule slows a little, but the Hornets have added games in the next two weeks with Highland Central and STMA. This will be the “old guard” playing the “new guard” and should be good games to see. The Hornets keep the #1 seed, and it’s a coin flip for the #2. The Blaze still hold that D6 victory over Eden Prairie and until the Eagles beat them, they are #2. The Eagles are #3. Eastview looks to be the only challenger with Jefferson struggling and Minnetonka “AWOL”. A good Spirit tourney could change that for the Skippers.

D8 - Minnesota Hockey this January is addressing re-districting for next year. One of the potential changes proposed affects D8. Under the one proposal, a new district, D9, would be created with the following associations: Mankato, Faribault, New Prague, Owatonna, Albert Lea, Waseca, Austin, Montgomery, Rochester, Red Wing, Winona, Northfield, La Cresent, and Dodge County. There would be a new D8 consisting of Lakeville, Woodbury, Eagan, Cottage Grove, Farmington, Rosemount, Hastings, Sibley, Inver Grove Heights, South St. Paul, Apple Valley, Como/Johnson and Eastview. Associations in D4 would then be New Ulm, St. Peter, Marshall, Fairmont, Luverne, Windom, Redwood Falls, Sleepy Eye, and Worthington. Interesting?

But in D8 action this week, Lakeville South continued their success. After tying Rochester 2-2 and beating South St. Paul 7-0, on Saturday the Cougars beat Woodbury 4-3 in a “messy” game. Both teams underperformed, but the Cougars “underperformed less” and came away with a key victory that prevented the Royals from opening a lead in the D8 standings. These teams are now in a virtual tie with Rochester who beat Rosemount 3-2 also on Sunday. Not too far behind these three teams are Farmington, Rosemount and South St. Paul.

South St. Paul tied Eagan 2-2. This weekend, the Packers host their tourney, opening play against Spring Lake Park. Saint Paul Saints and Red Wing play in the other bracket game. In the upper bracket, Sibley and Cottage Grove meet in the opening game and St. Francis and Tartan play in the second game.

Woodbury has a busy schedule this week. The Royals play Burnsville, Lakeville North, Hopkins and Sibley. Lakeville North also plays Farmington in D8 action. Lakeville South has a single game with Edina on Sunday at Marriuci. That game is played after the Woodbury/Hopkins game. Rochester travels to Moorhead on the weekend. In pool play, they take on Buffalo and Grafton North Dakota.

Hudson upset Stillwater last week 2-0. They also played Hastings. Farmington had a great Red Wing tourney. They took second place, beating New Prague 3-0, North Metro 5-1 before losing to Highland Central 3-2. The Tigers play Burnsville, Hastings, Lakeville North and Jefferson this week.

After hosting their own tourney last weekend, Red Wing travels to South St. Paul for their tourney. They play the Saint Paul Saints in their opener. Dodge County lost to Sibley 7-3 last week. This week they travel west on Highway 14 to Owatonna and play Luverne in the opening round. Northfield also plays in the Owatonna tourney opening against Sioux Falls.

Lakeville South and Woodbury split their two D8 games this year each winning one game. Both teams deserve the #1 seed, but the Cougars only tied a tough Rochester team. They still trail Woodbury in points (factoring in games played), so Woodbury takes the #1 seed and Lakeville South the #2 seed. Both teams are struggled this week and will have chances to straighten themselves out. The Royals take on Burnsville and the Cougars take on Edina.

Rochester had two good games tying Lakeville South and beating Rosemount. They take the #3 seed. But Farmington, Rosemount and Lakeville North are in the chase. D8 remains a tough district this year.

South Region - The South Region consists this year of D3, D4 and D5. These districts cover the southwestern part of Minnesota including the Twin Cities western suburbs. For what ever reason (perhaps because of the new North Star Light Rail) this year these three districts could be the “new guard” of Minnesota Youth Hockey. Two teams, Orono and St. Michael/Albertville, epitomized that “new guard” as they fought it out on chilly Saturday night in Orono’s tourney. It was a great game with STMA winning in OT 4-3.

D4, D5 and other teams like Orono have been ignored in the past, but anybody who loves hockey as a sport, would have enjoyed that Saturday game (including the wood fire). The highly competitive skills and coaching was demonstrated by both teams in that game. At least for this week, there is a “new guard” and they will be tested. Orono plays in the Spirit of Duluth this weekend, STMA plays Osseo/Maple Grove this week and plays Edina at 6:45 PM at Breck (in Breck’s great new arena) on Dec 17.

Two more D3 teams, Osseo/Maple Grove and Wayzata, join Orono play this week in the Spirit of Duluth tourney. D4 is also busy hosting two tourneys this week, at Albert Lea and at Owatonna. Six D4 teams play in the Albert Lea tourney with two tough outsiders, Coon Rapids and North St. Paul. At Owatonna, three D4 teams (New Prague, Luverne and Owatonna) take on three teams from out of state including the Kansas City Stars currently ranked #2 in the nation among AA Major Peewees. Two D8 teams, Northfield and Dodge County, complete the field.

In the South Region, D3 has the depth over D4 and D5. D3 at this point has strong teams from top to bottom, but can send only three teams to the region. In D4 (with three seeds) teams are still struggling. Their performance this week in their tourneys will be indication of D4 strength. D5 has only two seeds and looks strong enough to have four or five competitive teams come March.

D3 - Orono hosted their tourney this week, beating team MALM (Monticello-Annandale-Maple Lake) 7-0 before losing to STMA in the semifinals. The Spartans beat Mounds View 5-0 for third place.

For most of this past decade, Orono has been one of the best positioned associations in the state, playing a rugged D3 youth program against some of the largest associations in the state and then playing Class A high school hockey. Their high school teams played in the state 4 out of 5 years as Section 6A champs until they were moved to Section 2A with tougher teams including Breck and Blake. In a few years, their current peewees should help Orono challenge again. But this week, the peewees head to Duluth and the Spirit tourney. They draw Duluth East, Stillwater and Grand Rapids in pool play.

Osseo/Maple Grove beat Armstrong Cooper 7-1, a touring Grand Rapids 3-0 and Eastview 4-3 this week. OMG play at STMA this week and then travel to the Spirit of Duluth tourney. OMG draws Minnetonka, the Duluth Lakers, and Blaine. Wayzata, after an off week, play in the Spirit. They draw Superior, Thunder Bay and Centennial. The Centennial game will be a re-match of the Eden Prairie semifinal game the Trojans won 7-1.

North Metro lost to Mpls Park 2-1 in D3 action took the consolation title at Red Wing losing to Farmington and New Prague before beating Austin. The Pirates have the next week off. Hopkins won their first D3 game beating Armstrong 4-1 and played Champlin Park. They also have next week off. Armstrong has scheduled a western trip this weekend to Alexandria and Grand Forks.

Osseo/Maple Grove remains unbeaten on top of D3 this week. Their only D3 blemish is a 2-2 tie with Mpls Park. Wayzata, Mpls Park and Orono each have one loss. The other teams have more then one loss. Hopkins has the potential and their second place showing in their own tourney indicates that they will compete.

OMG rapped out a couple of wins this week and Wayzata rested. Despite the Trojans win at Eden Prairie two weeks ago, OMG holds the D3 win over the Trojans and takes the #1 seed this week. Wayzata takes the #2 seed. Orono comes off of their second straight tourney with a third place and takes the #3 seed. The Spirit of Duluth tourney results will spin these seeds around, especially if Orono does well. Oddly enough, Hopkins is not scheduled to play in another tourney this year. Will that help the Royals at D3 playoff time in February?

D4 - As the D4 teams get ready to play in their tourneys next week, it is worthwhile to discuss the change in the D4 playoff format this year. The top two teams in each division qualify for the playoffs. Teams finishing third or lower must play-in (in the East, the lower three teams and in the West the lower four teams). In the qualifying part of the playoffs, the #3 plays the #6 team, the #4 team plays the #5 team at the higher seeds ice in the West; in the East, the #3 team gets a bye while the #4 team hosts the #5 team.

The six teams in the district playoffs at St. Peter will be divided into two pools; American (West #1 versus East #2 and #3) and National Division (East #1 versus West #2 and #3). The two pool winners will play for the D4 #1 and #2 seeds to the South Regional. The two pool runner-ups will play for the #3 seed to the South Regional. The pool tie breakers are not known at this time. First and second place in the East and West are the prize.

In the East, Faribault remains on top. The Falcons took a southern D4 trip, beating Owatonna 4-3, losing to Mason City 4-3 and played Albert Lea. This week the Falcons play in the Albert Lea tourney drawing New Ulm, North St. Paul and Mason City in pool play. New Prague remains unbeaten in D4 and don’t return to league play until mid-December. The Trojans took third in the Red Wing tourney losing their opener to Farmington, beating North Metro and Red Wing. The Trojans play in the Owatonna tourney this week drawing a tough Kansas City Stars in the opening round.

Albert Lea hosts a good tourney this week. Eight teams, two pools, open play on Friday. One pool has host Albert Lea, Austin, Coon Rapids and Waseca. The second pool has Faribault, New Ulm, North St. Paul and Mason City. The Albert Lea Thunder plays the Bismarck Bobcats (North American Hockey League) in Albert Lea on Friday and Saturday nights during the tourney for those who still didn’t get enough hockey at the tourney.

Owatonna has their tourney this weekend. The Host opens play on Friday against Waterloo Iowa. In the other side of the bracket, Luverne plays Dodge County. The Kansas City Stars return to Minnesota with hopes to add a second tourney title to the one they got in Mankato. The Stars play New Prague in the opener in the lower bracket. Sioux Falls and Northfield complete the tourney field.

Marshall travels to Moorhead to play in their tourney. In pool play they draw a Fargo team and Andover. Mason City Iowa by beating Faribault last Friday has moved into a tie with the Falcons in D4 East.

In the West Division, Mankato beat Waseca 8-0 and Luverne 4-2 last week. The Mavericks have a single D4 game against St. Peter this week. St. Peter looks to be the principle Maverick challenger beating Marshall 7-1 and New Ulm 8-1, but they lost to Owatonna 5-0 at Owatonna. The Cardinals return there this week to play in Owatonna’s tourney.

New Prague may have lost to Farmington this week, but that lost does not take away the #1 seed. Mankato takes the #2 seed and Faribault the #3 seed this week. Their only challenger at this point looks to be St. Peter, but Owatonna may be coming together as a team. Luverne will be tested in the Owatonna tourney.

D5 - Just went D5 starts to have some order, Sartell gets upset this week in a penalty filled game at River Lakes 3-1. That was the Sabres’ first lost this year. Then Crow River is one of two D5 teams (STMA was the other) tangled in the Orono tourney championship game.

But this week, STMA rolled into a wall. After beating Buffalo 7-0, the Knights rolled into Orono. In a tough opening game, they beat Prior Lake/Savage 2-1. The Lakers jumped to a 1-0 lead and the Knights came back to tie it at the end of the first period. Both teams skated well in a physical game played by two physical teams. In the third period, the Knights scored the winning goal and then went into a defensive shell and hung on for the win. The Lakers came close to tying the game more then once. With less then 10 seconds remaining, a Laker forward had a shot at open net only to have the puck take a crazy bounce over his swinging stick. STMA went on to win a great OT game over Orono 4-3 in the semifinals and played Crow River in an all D5 finals.

Then the Knights hit a wall and lost to the Tigers in the championship game. Crow River got to the finals by beating Warroad 7-0 and Mounds View 4-3.

Buffalo travels to Moorhead this weekend. Hutchinson tied St. Peter 4-4 and beat Kennedy 4-2 and played Litchfield. MALM lost to Mound Westonka 2-1 and played in the Orono tourney losing to Orono 7-0, losing to Prior Lake and played Northen Lakes. MALM showed good team discipline against Prior Lake before giving up two quick goals at the end of the first period. The Stars did not recover from that.

STMA beat two tough teams Orono and Prior Lake in the Orono Tourney and may have the best player in the state. But they lost to Crow River. The Orono champs deserve the #1 seed this week. STMA takes the #2 seed and Sartell the #3 seed. D5 has a number of other tough teams in their league (Buffalo, Hutchinson and Mound Westonka). Picking the #3 seed is difficult, but a single loss to River Lakes can’t keep Sartell from taking it.

West Region - In two districts in this region, D10 and D16, two good teams appear to be emerging (Elk River and Andover from D10; East Grand Forks and Bemidji from D16). If their coaches could play the regional today, they probably would go for it. But this is peewee A hockey and developing kids play great and then not so great as they grow and learn. No one knows what will happen in March. But with just a single loss (to Wayzata), Elk River still looks dominant. The Elks play Andover this week.

The play in D15 is wide open. Detroit Lakes, Moorhead, Alexandria, and Brainerd are challenging each other. Schedule quirks and upsets abound. That makes D15 a fun district to watch. It’s like being on a roller coaster.

D10 - To show how odd the D10 schedule is this year, look at the number of teams above .500 as of 12/8. Of the fourteen teams playing peewee A, only three teams has a record above .500 (Andover, Elk River, and Rogers). Two teams are at .500 Champlin Park and Centennial. One team, Blaine, has played two games.

Elk River and Andover are still unbeaten in D10. The Elks are 5-0 and Andover is 6-0. The Elks hold a single point edge in “unfairplay” points. But this week, the two teams meet in Elk River to answer the question, “will the Elks have competition in D10 this year?” Both teams tuned up for that game last week against D10 teams. Andover beat Anoka 3-0 and Champlin Park 10-3. Elk River beat Centennial 3-1. Besides Andover, the Elks play Osseo/Maple Grove this week. Andover travels to Moorhead to play in the Spuds tourney. They draw Marshall and the Fargo Flyers who are 9-0-1 on the season.

Centennial head to Duluth to play in the Spirit tourney. They draw Wayzata, Thunder Bay and Superior in pool play. Besides losing to Elk River, Centennial tied Spring Lake Park 2-2 and beat Coon Rapids 7-1. Coon Rapids beat Grand Rapids last week and travel this week to Albert Lea. They play Waseca, Albert Lea and Austin in pool play.

Blaine beat Spring Lake Park last week 5-4. Spring Lake Park tied Centennial 2-2, tied St. Cloud 3-3 and beat CINB 10-1 in D10 action. This week they travel to South St. Paul, playing the host in the opening game of what maybe the best game of the tourney. St. Cloud also tied Anoka 2-2 last week. This week they play Champlin Park.

Rogers remains on top of the Green Division, barely on top. They lost to Anoka 5-1 and Chisago Lakes 3-1 last week. This week they play Champlin Park. Where the Blue Division looks to be the domain of two teams, Elk River and Andover; the Green Division looks wide open. No team has taken control nor appears to be positioned to take control of the Green.

Elk River is still solidly #1 in D10 this week. Andover remains the #2 seed. Though these two teams will tangle in the next few days, Elk River should remain on top. With the Green Division in disarray and both Champlin Park and Centennial struggling, the zinc penny flip came up Anoka. The Tornadoes won two of three this week, their lone loss was to Andover.

D15 - Moorhead hosts their tourney this week. It is a twelve team, four pool tourney with each team playing two Sunday games. The twelve teams will all end up being placed from 1-12. One pool has Grafton, Buffalo and Rochester; another has Brainerd, Chisago Lakes and Littleton Colorado. A third pool has Moorhead, the Dakota Lazers, and Omaha. The fourth pool has the Fargo Flyers, Andover and Marshall. The Spuds last week beat Crookston 3-1, Prairie Centre 10-0 and Thief River Falls 5-2. The Spuds are a perfect 3-0 in D15 play, but Detroit Lakes leads the league.

The Lakers are top with a 6-1 record and have a single D15 game this week at Wadena this week. After this week, they play almost the rest of their D15 games at home.

Detroit Lakes is hosting its own tourney this weekend. Teams entered are the Bismarck Admirals, the Bismarck Blades, the Mandan Braves, the Fargo Flyers, Wadena, Crookston, Proctor, Prairie Centre, International Falls, JVC Prowl (Jamestown North Dakota), and River Lakes. Alexandria continues to play well. At Hermantown, the Cardinals lost their opener to Hermantown 4-2, but came back to take the consolation championship beating the Saint Paul Saints 6-3 and Apple Valley 7-2. This weekend they host Sartell and Armstrong in a pair of tough games.

Brainerd lost to Bemidji 6-0 last week. This week they play in the Moorhead tourney. Northern Lakes (Crosby/Pequot) played in the Orono tourney losing to Mounds View and losing to Warroad 5-0 and played MALM. Prairie Center draws Wadena, JVC Prowl, and the Bismarck Blades at the Detroit Lakes tourney. Fergus Falls plays Fargo Angels and the Fargo Raiders this weekend.

Moorhead takes the #1 seed, but they will be challenged. Alexandria based on their play at Hermantown take the #2 seed and Detroit Lakes takes the #3 seed. Brainerd drops out, but a respectable showing at Moorhead will change that. This district remains wide open.

D16 - Bemidji went on its own roll last week. The Lumberjacks beat Roseau 10-0, lost a close overtime game to East Grand Forks 5-4, beat Detroit Lakes 6-2 and beat Brainerd 6-0. With Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan tourney three weeks away, this maybe Bemidji’s year in D16. They play Hallock and East Grand Forks this week. The Green Wave added two more wins to their OT win over Bemidji on the weekend, beating the Grand Forks Seawolves and Thief River Falls 11-4, to remain unbeaten. This week, they play Roseau and the Grand Forks Greyhounds. East Grand Forks plays Burnsville in the Grand Rapids Hall of Fame tourney in two weeks.

Roseau bounced back from the Bemidji loss to string three wins together. The Rams beat Hibbing 7-2, International Falls 2-1 and LOW 11-2. They play Hallock this week before hosting EGF in what is the most interesting game in D16 this week.

Warroad played in the Orono tourney this past weekend. They lost their opening game to eventual champion Crow River 2-0, beat Northern Lakes 5-0 and played Prior Lake in the consolation finals. Crookston travels to Detroit Lakes to play in their tourney. The Pirates draw International Falls, the Mandan Braves and River Lakes in pool play. LOW goes north to Kenora to play in their tourney. Thief River Falls plays Bemidji and Crookston this week.

East Grand Forks is unbeaten and continues to look good, but a shaky overtime win over Bemidji, means that the Green Wave will be challenged in D16. Still they take the #1 seed this week and Bemidji takes the #2 seed. These two teams meet again in two weeks. Crookston looks to be a potential challenger. The Detroit Lakes tourney will be a good test. Roseau won three out of four games last week and could give East Grand Forks problems when they meet in Roseau on Sunday.