It is that time again. Tryouts are over. Players have been placed, parents have left their tryout anxieties behind, coaches are setting practices, and associations sorting through the fallout. This week, district play officially begins for approximately 100 PeeWee A teams. Each team’s goal is to be on the ice 4 ½ months from this week at the Bloomington Ice Gardens (BIG). That means they will be playing for the state championship.
Edina, the defending 2010 champion, would have to travel the 10 miles from Braemar Arena to get to BIG. But to get there, the Hornets will play 50 or so games, win or place in the D6 playoffs to get a seed to the West Regional, and win one of the two West Regional seats (a tough regional this year with Wayzata, Osseo/Maple Grove and St. Michael/Albertville likely to be in the same tourney) before the Hornets can travel those 10 miles.
All 100 teams have to travel a similar route to get to BIG. And that is why this column is titled “Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey”. This column groups the teams and districts by each regional tourney they will potentially play. Each week, coverage of one of the four regions (North, South, East or West) will appear in the printed version (starting in the Nov. 11 issue). All four regions will be covered in the online electronic version at letsplayhockey.com.
The regional/district alignment for 2010/2011 has Districts 12, 15 and 16 in the North, Districts 4, 8 and 9 in the South, Districts 2, 10 and 11 in the East and Districts 3, 5 and 6 in the West. Moorhead will host the North Regional, Rochester the South Regional, Anoka the East Regional and St. Cloud the West Regional.
North Region - Last year, D2 teams dominated the North and sent two teams to the state. This year D2 moves to the East. D12 stays in the North and had seven teams (Grand Rapids, Hibbing, Virginia, Eveleth/Gilbert, International Falls, Mesabi East and Greenway) and will send three teams to the North Regional this year. The past few years, Grand Rapids has been top dog in D12 with Hibbing and Virginia threatening. Virginia struggled last year. The Falls always struggles during the season, but comes on during districts to make it to the regional. Mesabi East is moving up to A-level this year after making the North Regional B tourney last year. D12 does not get rolling until after deer season. Next Saturday, deer season opens.
D15 sees an interesting change in the teams. Moorhead has two A-level teams playing in D15 (Moorhead Orange and Moorhead Black). These teams are joined by Little Falls (back to the A-level after a couple years at B), Brainerd, Northern Lakes, Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Alexandria and Park Rapids/Wadena. Wadena lost their ice arena in the tornado that tore through their town this past summer. Those wishing to help can donate through their web site (wadenahockey.com). Wadena has posted pictures of their flattened arena. Overall, play in this district has been up the past few years. With only two seeds this year to the North, it will be a scramble by the time D15 playoffs start in February.
D16 will have seven teams in their district this year. D16 lost two teams this year (Hallock and Lake of the Woods are skating B-level) and gained Red Lake Falls. East Grand Forks, Bemidji, Roseau, Thief River Falls, Crookston and Warroad are returning this year. Three North seeds are up for grabs in D16. East Grand Forks came close to making it to the state for the third time in a row last year, losing in the regional finals. Roseau was state champ in 2009.
South Region - The three districts most affected by re-alignment last year, D4, D8 and D9, find themselves competing with each other in the South Region. The allocation of seeds for this region could be a problem. Currently, D8 and D9 will have three seeds. D4 has two seeds, but D4 has three PeeWee A teams this year, Marshall, Redwood Area and Luverne. The three teams will play each other, but Marshall and Redwood Area are playing an independent schedule focusing on D5 teams. Luverne is playing a D9 schedule. D4, at the PeeWee level, lost the bulk of their PeeWee A teams to the new D9.
In D8, Apple Valley and Eastview will be joined by Johnson/Como as new additions to a group consisting of Eagan, Farmington, Hastings, Inver Grove Heights/South St. Paul, Lakeville North, Lakeville South, Rosemount, Sibley and Woodbury. The Johnson-based St. Paul Saints last year are the J/C Devils this year. D8 regular season play starts November 15. Woodbury has changed their youth hockey nickname from the Royals to the Predators. The old blue and white uniforms are gone.
In some key early season matchups, Rosemount lost to Burnsville 5-4. Farmington beat Roseville 4-2, Duluth East 4-0 and Cloquet 8-0. Woodbury beat Blaine and beat White Bear Lake 5-1. Lakeville North/South and Hastings selected their PeeWee A teams late (Halloween weekend) and have yet to play. Woodbury looks tough this year. D8 could be decided by how well Woodbury’s forwards match-up against Farmington’s defense in their only D8 game in February.
D9 is totally new and is a combination of teams that played in D8 and D4 last year. D9 play is scheduled to kick off this week with 14 teams currently planning to play A-level. Current teams planning to play D9 are Albert Lea, Austin, Faribault, Mankato, New Ulm and Owatonna (all last year D4 teams); Dodge County, Northfield, Red Wing, Rochester Red, Rochester Black, Rochester Gold and Winona (all last year D8 teams); and Luverne from D4. Though D9 play starts this weekend, associations will have until December 1 to designate team level of play.
East Region - D2 also has some changes this year. Two part-time D2 teams from last year(Johnson/Como) and Irondale have moved to D8 and D10, respectively. The third part-time D2 team, Highland Central, stayed. Hudson (Wisconsin) joined D2, leaving D8. These two teams join Forest Lake, Tartan, Stillwater, White Bear Lake, Roseville, Mahtomedi and Mounds View to make D2 a nine-team league. North St. Paul will not field an A level team this year. D2 will get three seeds to the East. Hudson beat Highland 3-1 in their D2 opener. Both teams look tough.
D10 has also changed. Last year they had a Blue and Green PeeWee A divisions. Elk River, Centennial, Andover, Blaine, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Chisago Lakes all played in the D10 Blue and will be fielding PeeWee A teams this year. Rogers, Spring Lake Park, St. Francis, Champlin Park and Princeton all played in the Green Division. St. Cloud has moved to D5 and Cambridge/Isanti/North Branch split this year and each will field a B1 level team. Irondale moves from D1 to D10. D10 will get three regional seeds.
D11 consists of six teams, Duluth East, Duluth Lakers, Hermantown, Cloquet, Proctor and Superior (Wisconsin). With two regional seeds available, it should be a donnybrook in D11 this year. The D11 teams hosted Farmington, Thunder Bay Kings and Jefferson last weekend. Farmington beat East 4-0, Cloquet 8-0 and Hermantown. East beat and tied the Thunder Bay Kings 4-3 and 4-4. This week, Duluth East travels south to play Eden Prairie, Blaine, Andover and Farmington before returning on Monday to play Hermantown. Cloquet and the Duluth Lakers host Eastview this week.
West Region - Districts 3, 5 and 6 will compete next March in the West Regional in what will be the toughest regional tourney this year. D3 has undergone some significant changes over the past three years that has resulted in D3 going from six teams (Armstrong, Hopkins, North Metro, Orono, Osseo/Maple Grove or OMG and Wayzata) to nine teams with the addition of Mound/Westonka and Crow River from D5, the Minneapolis Storm from D1, St. Louis Park deciding to play A level this year. North Metro decided not to field an A team this year.
D5 may have lost Mound/Westonka and Crow River, but they added Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud PeeWee A teams to last year’s group (Buffalo, Hutchinson, Litchfield/DC, MAML, River Lakes, Sartell, STMA and Willmar). STMA tied Elk River 2-2, beat Armstrong 6-2 and Orono 8-1 last week.
D6 has also undergone change, losing Apple Valley and Eastview to D8 and adding two teams; Waconia who decided to field an A-level team and Shakopee who returned to the A-level after a year’s absence. These two teams will join Chaska, Edina, Eden Prairie, Jefferson, Minnetonka, Kennedy and Prior Lake to form a nine-team district. Edina has beaten two tough D3 teams (Osseo/Maple Grove 7-4 and Wayzata 3-1). Tuesday they lost to Rosemount 3-2. The Hornets have only 47 or so games to go.
Good luck to all 100 teams. Hope to see you at BIG in March.