Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - March 25

By frederick61

Eight teams descended on Faribault last weekend with hopes of skating away as the PeeWee A Minnesota State Champions. Seven teams knew that to get there they would have to beat Edina, a team that dominated PeeWee A hockey the last two months of the year. Three teams had their chances to eliminate the Hornets and all three teams lost. The season ended with Edina taking their third state PeeWee A title in the past seven years.

Faribault Hockey Association and District 4 hosted the PeeWee A tourney at the Faribault Community Arena. On a pleasant March weekend in Minnesota, the tourney was well attended all three days.

Congratulations to all eight teams. As they know, making the state tourney is a tough long journey.

Friday’s quarterfinal games opened with Edina playing White Bear Lake. The Bears came to play and had a game plan that worked. They prevented the Hornets from tying them up in their defensive zone by “flying their wings” with the defensemen floating the puck high along the boards. Edina defensemen played most of the first two periods on the attack between the blue line and the red line.

Two Edina penalties in the first six minutes resulted in Bears taking a 2-0 lead. The Bears scored power-play goals off a rebound that was backhanded by the goalie and off a shot from the point that was tipped into the upper right hand corner passed a screened goalie.

With 10 minutes left in the second period, the Bears took a 3-0 lead on a power-play goal scored off a rebound on a shot from the right point. Trailing 3-0, the Hornets finally pressured the Bears defense, scoring off a scramble in front of the Bears net. Late in the period, the key point came. With the Edina fans constantly yelling for a penalty as the second period wound down, the ref listened and made two weak calls. The Hornets scored power-play goals off of each to end the second period tied 3-3.

The penalties did not stop for the Bears as Edina added two more power-play goals in the opening minutes of the third period. The first came on a tip from the point on a 5-on-3; the second came less then a minute later on a 5-on-4. The final score was 7-4. The shots on goal after the first period were 8-6 Edina, after the third they were 47-17. After the fans started yelling, the Bears drew eight penalties, Edina drew one.

Andover and Wayzata tangled in the second game on Friday. Both teams looked flat. The Huskies opened the scoring in the first on a breakaway goal through the 5-hole from the right face off to take a 1-0 lead. It lasted three minutes when a Trojan forward broke down the Andover defense to score a breakaway and tie the game 1-1. With the Trojans applying pressure, a rebound from the point ended up on a Trojan’s stick for a goal at the five minute mark. They added a mayhem goal off a scramble around the net to end the period 3-1.

Wayzata added two goals in the second, one scored on a breakaway one off a weird deflection – high shot that bounced off a defenseman heading wide of the net and then bounced off a stick into the left corner to take a 5-2. Each team added a third period goal to make the final 6-3.

Eden Prairie and Stillwater locked up in a defensive struggle that resulted in a low scoring game; but one of the better played hockey games of the day. The Eagles took a 2-1 into the third period and held on to win the game 2-1. The Ponies had their chances to tie and the Eagles had their chances to put the game away. It was a good game to watch.

Elk River opened the scoring in the final game of the day against Orono. It came off a scramble around the Spartan net less then two minutes into the game. Orono came back three minutes later when an Orono forward fought through two defensemen at the center blue line to score on a breakaway. A minute later, an Orono defenseman coughed up the puck and gave the Elks an open net second goal.

The Spartans came back to tie the score at the four minute mark on a goal from the top of the faceoff circle that found the upper left hand corner of the net. But the Elks came back to take the lead with less then a minute left. The period ended 3-2.
The Elks scored the only second period goal in the opening minutes off a pass from the right corner to front of the net. The game turned choppy. The rest of the period was skated with one team or the other shorthanded. Neither team on the power play could set up easily in their offensive zone as their defensemen constantly chased pucks behind their nets. The period ended 4-2, Elks leading.

With nine minutes to go in the third, the Elks drew a penalty. With the penalty time almost over, the Spartans finally gained the offensive zone and scored on a high shot from the center blue line that hit an Orono forward’s skate in mid-air (he was jumping to let the puck through) and deflected into the net. With four minutes to go in the game, the Elks drew another penalty, but the Spartans could not set up in the Elks zone. The score ended 4-3.

In Saturday’s consolation round, Andover beat White Bear Lake 8-1 and Orono beat Stillwater 5-1.

In Saturday’s championship round, Edina played Wayzata. The Hornets must have known what they were up against in the Trojan’s goalie, because they attacked quickly and scored three goals in the first nine minutes of the game. Goal No. 1 came off a short pass from the left side; goal No. 2 came off a shot from the top of the face off circle on the left; and goal No. 3 came off a rebound to the left that found a crack in the Wayzata goalie. The Trojans scored off a faceoff with less then two minutes remaining in the period to make the score 3-1.

Then the Trojan goalie said “no more.” He shut down the Edina offense. The Hornets struck time again in the second period, but could not score. The Trojans hung on in their defensive zone and again and again tried to break away, only to be shut down by the Edina defense. Few penalties were called. Finally with less then two minutes left, the Trojans scored from the slot to make the score 3-2. The period ended with shots on goal: Edina 32, Wayzata 9.

Nothing changed in the third, as Edina kept the pressure on the Wayzata defense and the Trojans struggling to break out. No penalties were called. The final score was 3-2, the final shots on goal on the scoreboard were 40-12, but the score keeper got tired registering the Wayzata stops. Edina shots should have been nearer to 60.

Elk River beat Eden Prairie 5-2 in the second game to set up Championship Sunday. In the consolation championship game, Andover beat Orono 6-4.

Wayzata and Eden Prairie played for third place in a memorable game. The first two periods were filled with penalties (16 total) and both teams played flat. The Eagles opened the scoring in the first on a shot from the top of the circle that hit the right side of the net. Wayzata scored less then 30 seconds later on a breakaway to tie the score 1-1. Eden Prairie scored again on a shot from the blue line past a screened goalie to the upper left hand corner. Two minutes later, Wayzata knotted the score 2-2 on a tip-in shot from the slot.

Both teams scored in the opening minutes of the third, Eden Prairie found that same upper left corner on a screen and Wayzata on a breakaway goal backhanded past the goalie. The Trojans finally took the lead scoring a breakaway goal with 10 minutes left.

The came the “play of the game” as an Eden Prairie kid took a shot from the point, his stick broke. With the blade heading to the net and the puck drifting to the corner, the kid skated to his bench stick in hand not realizing it broke before dropping it. No penalty called (good no call, the ref was on it). But an Eagle forward carried on, picked up the puck in the corner from the Wayzata defense and scored from the slot on shot that deflected off a Wayzata player to tie the score 4-4.

The first overtime was uneventful. Halfway through the second OT (4 on 4), the Wayzata goalie made a great save to keep the game going gloving a hard shot from less then five feet coming off a corner pass. In the waning seconds of the OT, a Trojan forward picked up a foolish penalty.

The third OT would be 3 on 3, playing to the Trojan’s strength, but the penalty forced the play to 4 on 3 and 4 on 4 hockey for the first two plus minutes. The Eagles didn’t score and with 7 plus minutes remaining, the game went to 3 on 3.

The Eagles stopped a Trojan’s one kid breakaway, turned the play into their own two kids breakaway and scored on a high hard shot. With the kids celebrating, the refs stepped in and ruled the net was off its moorings and re-started play. In the next 30 seconds, the play was repeated. Wayzata’s one kid breakaway was stopped and Eden Prairie two kid breakaway scored. This time the Eagles celebration was real. The final score 5-4 as they took the 3rd place trophy.

Edina and Elk River met for the championship. But after the great 3rd place game, it seemed anti-climatic. The teams started flat.

Edina scored late in the first off a rush ending with a tip-in to take a 1-0 lead. Elk River tied the score off a breakaway goal, backhanded past the goalie, in the opening minute of the second. Edina took the lead back a few minutes later when a errant puck ended up on an Edina’s forward stick and in the net on a shot past a screened goalie.

With Edina leading 2-1 and 11 minutes left in the game, an Edina forward lost his cool after being checked hard and retaliated a few seconds later with a bad check along the boards that drew a 5 minute major for boarding.

The Elks quickly capitalized, scoring a rebound goal that slid along the ice under a mass of players into the net. Still on the power play, the Elks scored again to take a 3-2 lead on shot that found the goalies 5-hole.

But Edina proved tough. Still playing short handed, an Edina forward took the next center face off, broke through three Elk River players, and scored on a short shot to the upper corner to knot the score 3-3. With less then a minute to go in the major penalty, the same Edina forward scored again on a breakaway to give the Hornets the championship. The final score was 5-3.

My all-state team is:
F-#22 Orono continued his all around play scoring five of the Spartans first eight goals. In beating Stillwater, he “played goalie” for two seconds by diving to block a Pony shot on the open net on the left, skating around the net and blocking a second attempt from the right by ducking his head and skating into the net corner.
F-#7 Edina literally lifted the Hornets to the state championship by scoring two short handed goals at a critical time in the third period to allow the Hornets to re-gain their game.
F-#12 Andover, after a slow start, powered the Huskies to the Consolation Championship.
D-#15 Elk River really up his play for the tourney and dominated his defensive zone in every game.
D-#9 Eden Prairie played smart defense and when needed became a goal scoring wing in the waning moments of their games.
G-#1 Wayzata kept the Trojans in their game with Andover (despite being outshot 32-26) and had an outstanding game against the Hornets making 37 saves on 40 shots, a good number hard shots from within 5 feet of the crease.

See you at the rink next October. Time to play baseball.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - March 18

By frederick61

The past six months, five nights a week, has seen the development of over 100 PeeWee A teams. The past month has seen those teams whittled down to eight teams that will play in the 45th Annual Minnesota Hockey PeeWee A Tournament.

These eight teams, representing four of Minnesota Hockey’s 12 districts, descend on Faribault Community Arena (a 30-minute drive down Interstate 35 from the cities) this Friday. The best PeeWee teams in the state have emerged from Districts 2, 3, 6 and 10. They meet to decide who’s #1.

The favorite is Edina (56-6-1). The Hornets’ combination of quick passing, fast skating and suffocating transitional play has put them in the cat bird’s seat. Their ability to score and score in bunches has made fits for teams all year, turning close games into comfortable leads that tear the heart out of opponents. Teams fighting hard for a period only end up staring at a scoreboard trailing by three goals, which can be disheartening for anybody; adding the “rep” of the green and white uniforms makes it seem down right impossible to most teams.

The Hornets D6 seed to the regional was never in doubt. They won a tough D6 regular season title and beat Eastview 9-0 and Burnsville 5-4 in the playoffs to lock up a seed early. But then they struggled to nail down the D6 No. 1 seed, losing to Burnsville 5-4 and beating the Blaze (playing their fourth straight game) 5-3. They rolled in the East Regional, beating a young Farmington team 7-0, St. Paul Highland Central 10-1 and Eden Prairie 4-0 in divisional play and beat Burnsville again 5-2 for the No. 2 East seed.

In the first quarterfinal on Friday, the Hornets face off against a familiar and yet unfamiliar opponent, White Bear Lake (29-9-4). At first glance, this game is a mismatch until you realize that these two teams have 10 state titles (six for Edina – most all time, four for White Bear – tied for second all time). In 44 years of crowning a state champion at the PeeWee A level, 25 percent of the time it has been given to one of these two teams.

Like Edina, the Bears won the D2 regular season title and the first two games of the D2 playoffs, beating Tartan 8-3 and Mahtomedi 7-0 to gain a seed, but the Bears lost the No. 1 seed to Stillwater in the championship game 3-2 and came back to beat Roseville 9-3 to take the No. 2 D2 seed to the North Region. In the regional, the Bears beat Duluth East 6-2, the Duluth Lakers 4-0 and Hibbing 7-1 to win their division. On Sunday, they beat a tough Roseville team 1-0 to take the North No. 1 seed.

Oddly enough, these two teams usually know each other well, but have not played this year. They played in each other’s tourney during the season and never met. Now, it comes down to one game. With White Bear’s longtime head coach handing the reins over to his assistants at year’s end, how will this year’s swan song end?

Playing a patient, methodical game against Edina is key for the Bears; taking too many chances will have you staring at that green and white deficit. The Bears need a solid, controlled goaltending performance and need to bury their chances on the power play to win. The Hornets need to play their game. Edina should win.

The second quarterfinal game pits the D3 and D10 champions in what is sure to be the marquee match of Friday’s games. Newcomer Andover (40-9-1) is playing some of their best hockey at the right time in winning the district and regional tournaments without a loss. The Huskies beat Centennial 5-1, Champlin Park 4-0 and Elk River 3-1 to take the D10 No. 1 seed to the West Regional at the East Grand Forks Civic Center. In divisional play they beat Brainerd 7-3, East Grand Forks 7-3 and Alexandria 6-3; on Sunday they beat Moorhead 4-2 for the West No. 2 seed. The Huskies are doing it on both ends of the ice and playing well top to bottom.

On the flip side is Wayzata (41-5-2), who has been equally impressive in winning their district and regional tourneys without a loss. But while the Huskies have been tested on both ends of the ice, the Trojans have been putting on a show, scoring in bunches and celebrating each goal. They won the D3 regular season on the last game of the schedule by tying Osseo/Maple Grove 2-2. In the D3 playoffs, the Trojans beat Orono 6-3 and OMG 6-1 to take the D3 No. 1 seed to the South Regional. At the regional, the Trojans swept through the opposition, beating Hutchinson 9-2, New Prague 6-0, St. Peter 12-1 and St. Michael/Albertville 10-2 to take the No. 1 South seed.

In a potentially very emotional game between Andover and Wayzata, whoever stays aggressive and stays cool has the edge. If the Huskies can continue their play at both ends, there could be a Fourth of July parade of yellow helmets to the box. If the Huskies stumble the Trojans’ “show” will go on, ice rubbing and all. In an upset, the nod here goes to Andover.

That matches Edina and Andover in the semifinals. Andover got the green and white treatment in a 5-1 loss over Thanksgiving, but that seems like years ago at this point. In the White Bear tourney championship game in early February, Edina beat Centennial 5-1. Two weeks later in the D10 playoffs, Andover beat Centennial 5-1. In another tough game, the Hornets return to the championship game.

Stillwater (30-13-4) and Eden Prairie (30-17-5) meet in the first game of the lower bracket. At first glance, neither team stands out, both teams have gone about their season with minimal fanfare and talk. Eden Prairie brings in the game experience of having played the top teams. They have had their ups and downs in regular season and seem to get “up” for teams, rivals. They played a solid, disciplined team game in the East regional, beating Highland 6-1 and Farmington 2-0 before losing to Edina. On Sunday, they beat Rochester 5-0 to take the East No. 1 seed.

The Eagles are one of five teams to beat Edina and they did it twice, 4-1 early in Duluth and 2-1 before Christmas. However, they have been a .500 team since Feb. 1. Can the Eagles duplicate that rivalry game motivation against Stillwater and beyond?
Unlike EP, the Ponies roll into the tourney having won eight of their last 10. A rough patch in the middle of the season had some head scratching losses (St. Paul Saints and Hastings), but the Ponies are playing well right now. Stillwater, after finishing second in D2, rolled through the playoffs, beating North St. Paul 7-3, Roseville and White Bear Lake to take the No. 1 seed to the North Region. After being surprised by Hermantown 3-2 in the opening regional game, the Ponies came back to beat Grand Rapids 7-2 and Roseville 7-1. On Sunday they beat Duluth East 2-1 to take the No. 2 North seed to state.

This game is very evenly matched, but nod here goes to Stillwater. The Ponies have a “true grit” approach to key tourney games this year. Their loss to Hermantown stung and should make them more determined. They win.

Elk River (43-7-1) has been struggling. They finished first in the D10 Blue, beating Andover in the key title game. In the playoffs, the Elks beat Blaine 7-1 and Spring Lake Park 6-2 before losing to Andover. The Elks came back to beat Centennial 3-2 in 3 OTs to take the No. 2 seed. In regional division play, they beat Centennial 8-1, Moorhead 4-2 and Bemidji 8-1.On Sunday, the Elks beat EGF in front their hometown fans 5-4 in a tough game to take the No. 1 West seed.

Some may consider Orono the “we’re just happy to be here” team, emerging from an association that many consider “one of the other” D3 teams. But in addition to having top quality players, the Spartans have been playing well. In their regional pool games, they had to beat a tough Osseo/Maple Grove team for the third time in a row and then followed that up by beating STMA in OT in the last division game (the we-don’t-have-to-play-Wayzata-to-get-to-state) for the No. 1 seed.

The downside for the Spartans is they draw a tough Elk River team that has rebounded from losing the D10 playoffs to make a run at state. They are a team that can come at you in waves. If Orono’s defense takes too many chances, the Elks will make them pay for it in their strong transition game. Orono can frustrate any team, especially in a tight game, but the depth and experience of Elk River gives them the edge.

That sets up a game between Elk River and Stillwater in the second semifinal. In another very physical game, the Elks win.

After defeating Apple Valley in the state high school semifinals this year, in a post-game interview, an Edina forward came to this conclusion, “You don’t need superstars to win a state title and we are out to prove that.” It was in response to a question about Edina’s failed attempt the previous year, loaded with Division I talent, to get out of the state quarterfinals and now facing another Division I loaded team, Minnetonka, in this year’s final.

The PeeWee Hornets beat the Elks 5-0 and 4-1 after losing an early season game 7-4. It’s too early to look at Edina’s PeeWee A team this year and think in terms of Division I talent, but ironically, a Hornet is telling teams in this tourney how to beat the PeeWee Hornets. The Elks have a balanced team which makes beating that green and white seem more and more possible if the Elks are “out to prove that.”

Still, the old zinc penny remains in the pocket; the hockey ghosts don’t say a thing. Where is an Ikola when you need him? Hornets win. What a season.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Minnesota's Best PeeWee A Players

By frederick61

How do you evaluate kids as being the best or top of their group? Simple, you watch them play, record their number if they do well and don’t record their number if they don’t do well. You try to watch them in the fall, in the mid-winter and in the February playoffs. That is tough to do when over 100 teams are playing as far apart as 300 miles.

What follows is my list PeeWee A players in the state to watch (with apologies to some teams in D16, D12 and D15 that were not seen). The list is divided into a first team, a second team, best of the rest, returning players to watch and best of the rest goalies. All these players have two common attributes - their play on ice stood out from the rest and if you take their jersey off, I wouldn’t know them from the next kid.

But a cautious note to kids (and parents) who find themselves on this list, relax and enjoy the sport. When my son played hockey (he is now a father of three), the two best PeeWee A players on his teams did not play high school hockey. PeeWee B players made Bantam A next year and PeeWee A players made bantam B. High school coaches hear the chatter that goes on and will favor a kid with a good attitude over a player that has greater skill and a poor attitude. One kid in my son’s era was not the best player (A/B player), but had the best personal values; played high school, Division I for one year, and jumped to a successful career in the NHL.

He just grew right. And my grandchildren are great kids.

First Team
Orono #22 is one of the best all-around players. He consistently plays every game with poise and game awareness. Great skating, hard-working two-way player, tremendous shot at odd angles and great passing skills; he will fight for every puck.

Edina #7 is a second-year PeeWee A for the Hornets that grew over last summer to a good size. He has great speed and outstanding stick handling.

Rosemount #2 is a strong skating smart center for the Irish that was the heart of their team this year. He is not a kid that tries to score goals all the time; he simply is a goal scorer.

Farmington #13 is one of the top players in the state and will be returning next year. A big defenseman that plays with patiently controlled aggressiveness that carried the Tigers at critical times in the season. His single third period late stint on the ice almost knotted the game with Eden Prairie that would have carried the Tigers to the state.

Woodbury #15 plays defense in the same manner that the TV broadcasters used to describe Apple Valley defenseman Anthony Leong. He makes the right plays and improved tremendously over the year.

Hopkins #30 is a medium sized kid that is very agile and has a quick glove. Scrambles well and covers well. The only goalie on the team, led his team to a 35-13 record holding their 48 opponents to an average of two goals per game. More then half of those 48 games, the Royals played with a short bench (as little as nine players for some games).

Second Team
Edina #9 lives in the shadow of #7 and matches him with speed and skill that tears up the opposition’s defense. Shows better all-around capabilities and will be something to watch as he matures.
St. Paul Highland Central #13 is a big, very competitive defenseman who can skate and handle the puck. He plays a physical game and is a joy to watch.

Wayzata #16 is a player the opposition never wants to let loose in front of their net. He is the best goal scorer and passer in the state and you can’t leave him alone on the goalie.

St. Michael-Albertville #50 is a center that has size and a strong heavy shot. Constant skater when on the ice usually finds the right play. Looks tired when skating, but skates from game start to game end. He needs to play his game and ignore some of the nuisance play.

Luverne #22 is a solid defenseman. Best asset is game awareness and plays the game within the context of the game’s flow. Has the ability to rush the puck. He is a great kid to watch in the future.

Eastview #30 is a bigger sized kid that is also very agile and also the only goalie on his team. He has sound mechanics and great ability to control the rebound. His team finished with a 27-17-2 record and he gave up three or less goals in 37 of those 46 games. Eighteen of those games were played against D6 teams.

Best of the Rest
Minneapolis Park #18 looks cool out on the ice at defense. Nice size, good skating and has an ability to never look rattled.

Forest Lake #8 is a smart center, offensively oriented, reasonable size. He skates and plays position well.

Orono #16 is the best offensive defenseman at the PeeWee A level, but against better teams has to learn how to adjust between offense and defense game situations. He has a great, deceiving shot.

Wayzata #15 has a blazing shot on wing and will snipe goals at odd angles to the crease.

Osseo/Maple Grove #16 is a big center with great hands and a knack to find the net with the puck (usually because he is standing in front of it, fending off the defense).

Faribault #5 is good and going to get better. Plays center well, good game knowledge, great shot and skater, nice size.

St. Michael-Albertville #58 is a wing and has developed a strong aggressive hard-nosed style of play. He is one of the most improved players over the season.

Crow River #7 is a center for the Tigers that puts constant pressure on the defense. She never stops carrying out the attack.

Buffalo #4 is an all-around player that is fun to watch. He is bound to improve.

Prior Lake/Savage #2 was injured in early December and came back to lead his team to the Bloomington Tourney title. Good all-around center.

Edina #6 is a returning defenseman that has struggled at times. He has improved his offensive skills.

Burnsville #16 is a workhorse at the wing for the Blaze. He is a player with a great shot and game skill. He will be fun to watch in the future.

Eastview #8 is a wing that tends to go unnoticed at first sight because his real skill is his play in game conditions. He can shot and pass with great game awareness.

Apple Valley #8 is a rushing defenseman that has a great shot and outside speed and skill and could develop into a top wing.

Minnetonka #8 is a big center that struggled at first but came on strong for the Skippers as the season wore on. Good skill set to go with his size.

Rochester #18 is a second-year PeeWee that grew over the summer. He was the strength of the Rochester team last year, but struggled at the start to re-gain his hockey skills. When he did, the Rochester team came within one game of the state.

South St. Paul #11 is a second-year PeeWee that really improved over the year. A tough dedicated player that reminds one of the more successful players, quiet nice kid who likes to play the game.

Dodge County #79 is a tough defenseman with skill on the rush; but he always focused on defense first.

Lakeville South #11 is a good working center that was always on the ice when the Cougars needed a goal.

Elk River #16 is their big center. On a team of good players, it is difficult to pick one outstanding, but #16 is that one. He skates hard.

Andover #12 is one player that could have ended in the top list and after watching his play in the upcoming state tourney. A great center with great size.

Andover #11 is the other center on the Huskies team. He is more of a finesse player that gets better as the game gets longer. Good game skills and a goal scorer.

Returning Players to watch
Minneapolis Park #11 small and plays wing like a mouse among the elephants. Knows the game extremely well and when on the ice, usually gets the puck into the offensive zone. Because of size, skates to avoid the cheap hits (and there are many attempts), but is not afraid to physically check and separate the puck from a foot-plus taller player. When he does it, like everything else, he does it correctly.

Farmington #17 will return next year and with #13 will drive their D8 opponents wild. He is a great kid with large size, tough defensive skills, good skating and stickhandling skills and will only get better.

Woodbury #4 is a first-year move-in from out of state. He plays smart hockey at center and will improve next year.

Woodbury #11 is a large smooth skating kid that played defense and wing for the Royals. He will be a tough goal scorer next year regardless of position.

Andover #39 played technically very well in the Burnsville tourney at Thanksgiving, but had her moments. In the D10 playoffs, she was one of the big reasons the Huskies won as she thwarted Elk River forwards time and again by playing and holding position.

Best of the Rest Goalies
White Bear Lake #30 shared the Bear net with another goalie, but has extremely good quickness and technical skill to go along with good size.

Woodbury #1 is a “game” goalie. If the big game is on the line, he comes to play. Smallest goalie on the list, but could be the best as he matures.

Luverne #30 at goal has great natural ability, but he needs to learn the position. He has great competitive desire playing on a short bench team (9 forwards). In the Rochester tourney playing against the host (and eventual D8 playoff champion), he still was battling blocking close-in shots and covering up with his team down by seven goals in the third period. He made Rochester earn their goals by not giving up.

Wayzata #30 is the biggest PeeWee A goalie around. He combines his size with skill and patience around the net. Hard goalie to beat.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - March 10

Next week, the PeeWee A State Tourney will be reviewed as the eight remaining teams prepare for opening round play on Friday, March 19. In addition, the top kids playing PeeWee hockey will be listed (by number and team).

The Girls' State High School tourney was last week. This week is the boys' turn. At the youth hockey level, Minnesota Hockey defines a level of play for girls, but not for boys. The boys play “youth hockey”. This allows the girls that want to compete with the boys, the opportunity to compete

For the last two years, Alexis Joyce played defense and wing for the Apple Valley PeeWee A team. This year, she played on the Lakeville North first line in their State Tourney appearance at the “X”. Another Apple Valley PeeWee A player from two years ago, Hudson Fasching, is leading Apple Valley into the state tourney this week against Blaine.

There are probably a number of equally interesting stories revolving around these two hockey tourneys this year, but sometimes an organization like Minnesota Hockey gets it right.

To the kids on the 90+ teams that didn’t make it to the state, good luck in the future. In their last year at PeeWee, Hudson and Alexis did not make it out of their district playoffs.

Congratulations to the eight teams going to the state tourney in two weeks. In an oddity this year, congratulations to four districts (D2, D3, D6 and D10). They each got two teams into the state.

North Region - The North region was played at the St. Croix Community Center. White Bear Lake opened the Red Division play beating Duluth East 6-2 and never looked back. The Bears beat the Duluth Lakers 4-0 Friday night and Hibbing 6-1 Saturday to take the Red #1 seed. Duluth East came back Friday night to beat Hibbing 6-5. The Lakers opened morning play beating Hibbing 7-3.

Saturday’s game between the two Duluth teams would determine the Red #2. The Hounds won 2-1.

In the Blue Division, Hermantown upset Stillwater 3-2 in the opening Friday game. With the score tied 1-1 early in the third period, a Hawk forward picked off an errant Pony pass at the blue line and turned it into a goal on a hard shot from the slot that hit the goalie’s shoulder and bounced into the net. Halfway through the third, the Hawks scored on a power play again from the slot. Stillwater came back a minute later scoring on a hard shot from the top of the face off circle that hit the upper left corner to end the scoring.

Roseville beat Grand Rapids 1-0 on Friday, setting up a key game with Hermantown on Saturday. The Raiders beat the Hawks 3-1. In the other Blue division game Stillwater kept their hopes alive beating Grand Rapids 7-2. The Ponies needed Grand Rapids to beat the Hawks in Saturday’s evening game to play on Sunday. The Thunderhawks did, beating Hermantown 7-3 to end their season.
Stillwater then beat Roseville 7-1 in the game for the #1 seed. Roseville took the #2 seed.

Sunday’s games matched White Bear Lake/Roseville for the #1 seed and Stillwater/Duluth East for the #2 seed. The Bears and Raiders had played three times this season (1-1-1) with the Bears winning the last game 9-3 a week ago. White Bear Lake won on Sunday 1-0 to take the North #1 seed to state. Stillwater and Duluth East had met twice previously (the Ponies winning 10-2 and tying 2-2). On Sunday, the Ponies edged the Hounds 2-1 for the North #2 seed.

West Region - Elk River took three straight games in the Red Division beating D10 rival Centennial 8-1, Moorhead 4-2 and Bemidji 8-1 to take the #1 seed. Centennial, Moorhead, and Bemidji finished on Saturday in a three way tie for the #2 seed. Each had 1-2 records, but in the first tie breaker (goal differential for games played among the tied teams) Moorhead came out on top to take the #2 seed in the Red.

In the Blue, Andover swept their three games beating Brainerd 7-3, East Grand Forks 7-3 and Alexandria 6-3 to take the #1 seed. East Grand Forks beat Alex 8-1 and Brainerd 9-1 to take the #2 seed.

In Sunday’s championship games, Elk River beat East Grand Forks 5-4 to take the West’s #1 seed to the state and Andover beat Moorhead 4-2 taking the #2 seed to complete the D10 sweep of West. All season long, Elk River and East Grand Forks look to be the best in the West, but Andover after struggling in January came on to upset the Green Wave forcing a pre-state show down between EGF and Elk River. The loss ended a great season for EGF and ended their string of state tourney appearances.

East Region - Their opening Friday game in the Red Division with Rochester was the key to the Burnsville’s chances to get to the state. Rochester came out fired and beat the Blaze 4-3. Woodbury beat Mpls Park 3-0 as the Storm out shot the Royals by more then two to one, but could not score on the Royals goalie. That evening, the Blaze jumped out to 3-0 lead over the Royals and hung on to win 3-2. Rochester beat the Storm 4-1 in the second game.

Saturday’s game between Rochester and Woodbury held the key to Burnsville’s fate. If Woodbury lost, Rochester and Burnsville would play Sunday. If Woodbury won by a goal, the Royals and Rochester would play Sunday. If Woodbury won by more then two goals, the Royals and Burnsville would play Sunday.

The game started badly for Rochester, drawing two penalties (one a five minute) in the first the first few minutes. But that sequence set the tone for the game. The Royals could not pressure the Rochester goal and failed to mount any sustained attack. Rochester came out of that sequence and pushed their attack. At the end of the second period, they led 4-0 and out shot the Royals by three to one.

In the Blue Division, Edina beat Farmington in the Friday opener 7-0, beat Highland 10-1 Saturday morning and Eden Prairie 4-0 that night to take the Blue #1 seed. Eden Prairie beat Highland 6-1 in the other Friday game.

Saturday morning game between Eden Prairie and Farmington would battle for the #2 seed. The game was well played, one of the best on the weekend. It was scoreless early in the third period when the Tigers drew penalty. The Eagles scored on the power play on a tip in play from the goalie’s left that turned an errant puck wide of the goal to a score. The Eagles added another deflection on another errant shot that was deflected down into the net from above the crossbar to win the game 2-0 and give the Eagles the #2 seed. Farmington ended a great season. The Tigers have most of their team returning next year.

In Sunday’s games, Eden Prairie beat Rochester 5-0 to take the East #1 seed and Edina beat Burnsville 5-2 to take the #2 seed. The Hornets and the Blaze played each other four times in the past 10 days, the Hornets winning three times.

South Region - The Red Division in the South was dominated by Wayzata as the Trojans beat Hutchinson 9-2, New Prague 6-0 and St. Peter 12-1. They easily took the Red #1 seed. Both Hutchinson and New Prague beat St. Peter on Friday (6-0 and 5-4 in double overtime) to set up a Saturday show down for the Red #2 seed. Hutch won 5-3.

The Blue Division made the South Regional the most exciting of the three Twin Cities Regionals. In the opening Friday games, STMA surprised Osseo/Maple Grove beating OMG 3-2 in triple overtime and Orono beat Mankato 5-1. Saturday morning, Orono also surprised OMG beating them 2-1 while STMA beat Mankato 8-2. That setup the “Wayzata Bowl” between Orono and STMA, the winner would play Hutchinson and the loser Wayzata.

These two teams had a tremendous game in the Orono tourney in early December, STMA winning 4-3. Saturday evening was a repeat in front of a loud and raucous crowd at the Maple Grove Community Center. Orono scored in the first minute of play and an already emotional crowd took it one notch higher. STMA came back off a rebound to tie the score 1-1 and then scored on a breakaway as the STMA forward slid a backhander on the ice past the sprawling goalies leg pad. The first period ended 2-1.

The second period was scoreless and fraught with penalties. In one sequence, a rugged STMA forward bounced two Spartans off his shoulders, evaded two more, and skated to the crease in a rink long rush only to be stopped by the goalie.

In the third period opened with a bang as six goals were scored in the first five minutes. Both teams scored a quick goal each, followed by a STMA forward breakaway that left the Spartan defense in disarray and resulted in a hard shot that was in the net before most of the fans realized it.

Orono re-grouped and rallied from the 4-2 deficit to score on a tip play a minute later. They tied the score at 4-4 at the 10:04 mark on a tip goal from the point. Scoring end for the period and regulation ended in a tie. With less then 4 minutes remaining in the first OT, Orono banged in the winning goal. The game was over 5-4.

The next day, Wayzata beat STMA 10-2 to take the #1 South seed. Orono beat Hutchinson 5-0 to take the #2 South seed. The Wayzata/STMA game was physical from the start with both teams being heavily penalized in the first and second periods. The Trojans jumped out to a 7-0 lead at the end of the first period and led 8-2 at the end of the second.

State Tourney - The State Tourney will be played at Faribault Community Arena in Faribault. White Bear Lake and Edina will play the first game. The tourney starts at noon March 19th. The second game will match Wayzata and Andover. In the lower bracket, Eden Prairie meets Stillwater and Elk River plays Orono.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - March 4

By frederick61

As an old Yankee catcher would say, “the tough thing about predicting is that the games are all in the future.” He is right, so here are my predictions. I hope that I am wrong often so that it proves to all the regional entries another thing the catcher said. “It aint over until it’s over.” Congratulations to all 32 regional entries. You have done your parents, coaches, and associations well.

North Region - Duluth East opens Red Division play Friday against White Bear Lake at the St. Croix Valley Rec. Center in Stillwater. In the Red second game, Hibbing plays the Duluth Lakers. The Lakers have beaten the Bluejackets 7-3 this season, but have won only two of their last six games. Hibbing beat International Falls twice 4-3 and 3-2 in OT games to take the D12 #2 seed.

In the Red Friday evening games, Duluth East plays Hibbing and the Lakers play White Bear Lake. The Lakers/Bears game is the key game in the Red. In Saturday’s games Duluth East plays the Lakers and Hibbing plays White Bear Lake. The Hounds have beaten the Lakers three times this year (3-2, 4-1, and 5-2). They lost one game 2-1.

The Hounds are favored to beat the Lakers and Hibbing, but are an even bet against White Bear Lake. The Bears/Lakers game is a toss-up. Duluth East takes the #1 Red and in a coin flip, the Bears take the #2 Red.

In the Blue, Friday games have Stillwater playing Hermantown and Grand Rapids playing Roseville. Stillwater and Hermantown will be a tough game between two physical teams. The Ponies made the regional by beating Roseville 6-1 and White Bear Lake 3-2 last week. They have won 10 of their last twelve games, but their two loses were to Hastings 2-1 and to Cloquet 4-3 (in the Lumberjack’s tourney title game). The Hawks have been up and down all season, but they picked the right time to be up. After losing their district playoff opener, the Hawks came back to beat Proctor 3-1, Cloquet 2-1 and the Lakers 3-1 to take the #2 seed.

In Saturday’s games, Grand Rapids plays Stillwater and Roseville play Hermantown in the morning. In the evening, Hermantown and Rapids play and Stillwater and Roseville close out pool play. The Blue division teams are closely matched. Stillwater should have the edge (including home ice) to take the Blue #1. Roseville looks to struggle. That leaves the Rapids and Hermantown to battle for the #2 Blue. The Hawks beat the Rapids 3-2 a month ago. They should take the #2.

Sunday’s games would then have Duluth East playing Hermantown in a rematch of the D11 championship game won by the Hounds 4-2 and Stillwater playing the Bears in a rematch of the D2 championship game won by the Ponies 3-2. The Bears hold two season wins over the Ponies. Duluth East takes the #1 North to state and the Bears take the #2.

South Region - Last Friday, Wayzata beat Osseo/Maple Grove 6-1 in a re-match of the previous week’s D3 regular season title game that ended in a 2-2 tie. This time the trophy was the #1 D3 seed that goes to the playoff champion. OMG came out hard, took control of the game, and jumped to a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period on a tipped puck that slowed and slid under the goalie’s leg pad.

But OMG struggled halfway through the second period as the Trojans pounded in four goals in 5 minutes to jump to a 4-1. They never looked back and beat OMG 6-1. OMG takes the #2 seed.

In the first Friday game, Orono beat Hopkins 4-0 to take the #3 seed to the South Region. Hopkins showed up with a short bench (missing two players), a problem that has plagued the Royals all season. Orono jumped to a 2-0 first period lead and added two more to beat Hopkins. In one 30 second spree, Hopkins missed four point blank shots from less then 10 feet in front of the net. The Royals then controlled the puck for another minute until they got a shot on net that the Orono goal saved and held to end the rally. It was a tough game for the Royals.

The D3 playoff games were held at the PIC in a great rink for youth hockey. Nice sized arena, with great views, that make it a fun place to watch a game, until they turn on the sound system. It is so bad and so loud, that it was painful to have to listen to bursts of noise when action was stopped. For the D3 championship game, mercifully the attempts at music were minimized.

In opening games Friday, Wayzata plays Hutchinson and New Prague plays St. Peter at the Maple Grove Community Center. In Friday evening games in the Red Division, Wayzata plays New Prague and Hutchinson plays St. Peter.

Wayzata is a heavy favorite to sweep all three games in the Red and take the Red #1 seed into Sunday’s game for a seed to the state tourney. That leaves St. Peter in the spot light on Friday. If the Bulldogs can string two wins together, they will end Friday’s play with a lock on the Red #2 seed and will play on Sunday (both New Prague and Hutchinson would have two losses).

Hutchinson and St. Peter have played twice this season. The Tigers beat St. Peter 7-6 in late January and tied 4-4 in early December. New Prague beat St. Peter 5-1 in the D4 playoffs two weeks ago, but the Bulldogs hold two season wins over the Trojans (8-3, 3-2). Hutchinson and New Prague have not played each other. All three teams are evenly matched and there is no real favorite for the Red #2. New Prague gets the coin flip.

In the Blue Division’s Friday games, STMA plays Osseo/Maple Grove and Mankato plays Orono. STMA has a strong team, but OMG played well until the last half of the D3 championship game. OMG beat STMA 5-1 early in the season. Orono has improved over the last two months. Mankato surprised New Prague 6-3 in the D4 final.

The winner of the Saturday morning game between Orono and OMG will be the favorite to win the Blue #1. If OMG looses to STMA on Friday, they could be out of the tourney after the Saturday morning game. The final Blue Division game will be a repeat of the Orono Tourney semifinal game played in three months ago where STMA beat Orono 4-3 in one of the best played games all year.
After the last Blue game is played, there could be a three way tie for the Blue #1 and #2 seeds. Get out the tie breaker rules. Here the old zinc penny comes out. Orono takes the #1 and OMG takes the #2.

That sets up a draw on Sunday with Wayzata plays OMG for the third straight weekend with a berth in the state tourney on the line and Orono playing New Prague. The picks here are Wayzata takes the South #1 seed and Orono takes the South #2 seed to state.

East Region - Most of the action in the D8 playoffs came last weekend. Though D6 had decided on the three teams to get the seeds, there was a lot of action on the weekend to decide the three seeds. D1 was no different.

Highland took the #1 seed with a Thursday overtime win over Mpls Park. Saturday, the Saint Paul Saints beat Irondale 6-1 to setup a Sunday showdown with the Storm for the #2 seed. Mpls Park won 5-0.

Over in D6, Thursday, Edina beat Burnsville 5-4 for the right to go to D6 championship Saturday games at Apple Valley. Friday, Burnsville beat Eden Prairie 5-1 and moved on to a return match with Edina on championship Saturday. The Eagles took the #3 seed. In Saturday’s game, Burnsville beat Edina 5-4 to setup a Sunday match for D6 #1 seed and playoff championship. Edina won 5-3.

Rosemount beat Hastings 2-0 in D8 play on Thursday and Woodbury beat South St. Paul 2-1 to complete the quartfinal round. In play back games, Lakeville South beat Eagan 4-1 to eliminate the Wildcats and Lakeville North beat Sibley 9-1 to end the Generals season.

In Saturday’s games, Farmington beat Rosemount 4-1 in D8 semifinal and Rochester beat Woodbury 7-3 in the second game. Lakeville South beat South St. Paul 4-2 and Lakeville North beat Hastings 6-1 eliminating the Packers and the Raiders. In evening play, Woodbury beat Lakeville South 5-2 and Lakeville North beat Rosemount 4-2 to end the Cougars and Irish seasons.

In Sunday’s deciding games, Rochester jumped out to an early two goal lead against Farmington and hung on to win 2-1 and take the title. Farmington took second. In the game for the #3 seed, Woodbury edged Lakeville North 3-0 in a very tough game for the the Panthers. Woodbury’s last two goals came in the final minute on empty net.

Rochester came out strong against Woodbury in their Saturday 7-3 semifinal win and manhandled the Royals defense. The Royal goalie was shell shocked as they jumped to a 4-0 lead early in the game. The Royal coaches switched goalie and the game stabilized. That evening, keeping the same goalie that ended the Rochester game, the Royals beat Lakeville South. The goalie played well, but left the coaches in a dilemma.

With a regional seed and their season on the line, it was the “shell shocked” goalie’s turn in the net. Most coaches would not start him, but they played him and he had an outstanding game. Lakeville North’s team had been playing well and they dominated the Royals, keeping most of the play in their offensive zone. But time and again, they were stopped by the goalie. It was a great decision by the coach, a great game for the Royals, and a tough game for a very good Panther team.

One thing that was also good to see, at the game’s end, was the Woodbury captain, elected by her teammates, accept the third place trophy and lead her team around the rink, trophy held high, in a victory lap.

At the East Regional in Prior Lake, in the early Friday morning (8:00 AM), Rochester opens the Red Division play against Burnsville and Mpls Park plays Woodbury in the second game. Rochester took the D8 #1 seed over the weekend, beating Woodbury 7-3 and Farmington 2-1 in the championship game. Burnsville had a three game series with Edina for the D6 #1 seed that the Blaze lost (lost 5-4, won 5-4 and lost 5-3). They took the #2 seed.

Rochester and Burnsville are evenly matched in size and personal. The game may come to down to the coaching and a single play. Rochester, after a slow start, has come on strong.

In the other Red game, Woodbury and Mpls Park have both been struggling in the last month. The two teams tied 2-2 in their first game of the season. But that game was played in October. Woodbury took the D8 #3 seed by beating Lakeville South 5-2 and Lakeville North 3-0 on the weekend. Last week, the Storm lost a tough championship game to Highland 3-2 in OT and beat the Saint Paul Saints 5-0 to take the D1 #2 seed.

Friday evening, Burnsville plays Woodbury and Rochester plays Mpls Park. The Blaze has beaten the Royals twice this season, 4-2 and 6-1. Rochester and Park have not met. Saturday games in the Red match Burnsville against Mpls Park and Woodbury against Rochester. Burnsville beat Park 5-1 in mid-January. Woodbury and Rochester will be a rematch from a week ago.

The Firday Blue opening games have Edina playing Farmington and Highland playing Eden Prairie. Edina and Farmington have not played before. The Tigers defense will be key. If they can keep the game close in the first and second periods, then the game becomes a wild affair. Highland has been ailing and Eden Prairie has been up and down. If the Caps are full strength, they will be a handful for the Eagles. The Eagles averaged two goals a game in their last seven games (posting a 3-4 record).

Saturday morning matches Edina and Highland in the first game; Eden Prairie and Farmington in the second game. Edina has beaten Highland badly 15-2 in late December. The Caps are a better team. In the Saturday final games, Edina and Eden Prairie play each other and Farmington plays Highland. The Caps beat the Tigers 3-2 in early December.
Edina should have some tense moments, but should win all three games to take the #1 Blue. The winner of the Highland/Eden Prairie game will hold an advantage going into Saturday’s play. But all three teams could end up in a tie at the end of pool play. Highland gets the nod for the #2 Blue.

Burnsville takes the #1 Red and Rochester the #2 Red. Woodbury can challenge. Mpls Park is capable, but needs to up their game. That sets up Sunday’s game with Edina playing Rochester and Burnsville playing Highland. Last year, the Blaze lost on championship Sunday to Edina, but not this year. Edina should take the #1 East seed and Burnsville the #2 seed.

West Region - D10 teams battled it out last week with Andover beating Elk River 3-1 in the championship game on Sunday. The Huskies looks fully loaded and ready to go. They beat Centennial earlier in the tourney 5-1 and dominated Elk River in the D10 championship game. Andover’s goalie took control of the game on the defensive side. She played an outstanding game.

The Elks did not go easy in losing to the Huskies on Sunday. They along with East Grand Forks will be challenged by the Huskies. Centennial recovered from their loss to Andover to beat D10 Green champ Rogers 3-2 in OT, Spring Lake Park 5-3 and Blaine 7-4 before losing to the Elks 3-2 (in 3 OTs) in the game for the #2 seed.

Moorhead plays Bemidji in the Red Division opening game; Elk River plays Centennial in the second game. Bemidji has split their two games this season beating the Spuds 4-1 and losing last weekend 3-1. Elk River has beaten Centennial twice in three games. In the Friday evening games, Elk River plays Moorhead and Bemidji plays Centennial.

Saturday’s game has Elk River playing Bemidji and Centennial playing Moorhead. The Elks have the edge and should take the #1 Red; Bemidji, Moorhead and Centennial will battle for the #2 seed. Centennial has the edge for the #2 spot.

In Friday’s Blue games, EGF plays Alex and Andover plays Brainerd. EGF beat Moorhead 4-3 last week in a tune-up for the West Regional. In Saturday’s AM games Andover and EGF clash, Brainerd and Alex resume their D15 rivalry. In the PM games, Alex plays Andover and EGF plays Brainerd. Both EGF and Andover will be heavy favorites in their games with Brainerd and Alexandria. Andover should take the Blue #1 and EGF the Blue #2 into Sunday’s game.

That would pit the Elks against the Green Wave on Sunday in one great game. EGF already owns a 6-4 win over the Elks at the Roseau Tourney a month ago and should take the West #2 seed. Andover would draw Centennial in a re-match of the D10 quarterfinal game a week ago won by the Huskies 5-1. Andover takes the West #1.

For those looking two weeks ahead, assuming these teams win, the state tourney draw would be: Duluth East plays Burnsville in the opening game at Faribault. Wayzata would play EGF in the other bracket game. In the lower bracket, Edina would play White Bear Lake and Andover would play Orono.