The first professional hockey game, according to people in Houghton, Mich., was played in January 1898 at “Dollar Bay” ice rink. The game was played before iPods, internet and cell phones were invented. It was played when there was no electricity; at a time when Edison and Westinghouse were fighting over DC or AC (Westinghouse won). There were no cars on the roads. It was before cars. It was before roads that cars could drive on. Who needed stop lights (they run on electricity, don’t they?).
And for all the proud Rangers (I count myself as one), Eveleth was a five-house town that was starting to boom because the five houses were built on a rich deposit of iron ore.
The first professional hockey game was played at the Dollar Bay ice rink because it was the rink had a cover. Nature provided the refrigeration. They had six forwards and one goalie on the ice every shift. The forwards played right wing, left wing, center forward, center, cover point and point. Four of the Portage Lake professional players were also professionals in their everyday jobs. They were doctors. Does anybody remember who won? It doesn’t matter after a while. What matters is that it was the first professional hockey game played. So say some people in Houghton. Don’t you wonder what each player was paid? Did the doctors earn more playing hockey than being a doctor?
Now it is the first week of January 2011, 112 years after that first game. The holidays have been celebrated and three interesting tourneys played with each team having five players on the ice.
Burnsville drew all the attention. The Blaze entered in the Bloomington tourney. The week before the tourney, the Blaze continued their unbeaten season play. They added two D6 wins over Waconia and Shakopee to their perfect play in D6 and are threatening to run away with the D6 title. The Blaze were coming off a nice tourney win in Grand Rapids the weekend before. D6 teams Prior Lake and co-hosts Jefferson and Kennedy joined the Blaze in Bloomington.
D8 teams Rosemount, Woodbury, Lakeville North, Eastview and Apple Valley were also in Bloomington to challenge the Blaze, along with D2 teams Roseville and Highland. Roseville is on top of D2. D10 had two entries, Spring Lake Park and Champlin Park.
Three teams from out of state - Marquette (MI), Arvada (CO), and the Thunder Bay Kings (Ontario) - completed the 16-team field.
Each tourney game consisted of three 14-minute periods with re-surfacing. That meant this year, the teams still standing on the fourth day of the tourney would be playing their fifth and sixth game. The Bloomington tourney is a marathon.
Prior Lake opened their pool play with a surprising 4-3 win over Rosemount and took the pool. But that was like a sprinter leading the first 13 miles of a marathon. Prior Lake, Burnsville, Woodbury and Roseville all won their pools and set up an eight-team bracket play tourney for the championship. Rosemount came back to take the fifth seed. They were joined by #6 Jefferson, #7 Kennedy and the #8 Thunder Bay Kings.
Unfortunately Prior Lake drew the Rosemount in the quarterfinals. This time the Irish were ready. They beat the Lakers 4-1 and ran the table, beating Woodbury 6-1 in the semis and Burnsville 4-2 in the finals. That loss ended the Blaze 26-game winning streak.
“Up North” Bemidji was working on its championship run in their tourney. The Paul Bunyan tourney is more like a mile run then a marathon. In Bemidji’s tourney, each game played consisted of three 15-minute stop-time periods with the ice resurfaced every two periods. At the end of pool play, the teams are seeded 1-4 and they play a bracket tourney for each seed. Each team is guaranteed five games.
Bemidji and Crookston represented D16 in the 16-team tourney. D11 teams Cloquet and Hermantown, and D10 teams Andover and Rogers were entered. Five teams from out of state entered - Sioux Falls (SD), Grand Forks (ND) Greyhounds, Devils Lake (ND), Keweenaw (MI - upper peninsula) and Fort Frances (Ontario). Teams from D8 Hastings, D3 Armstrong, D5 St. Cloud, D12 Virginia and D6 Waconia completed the field.
Going into the tourney, the Grand Forks Greyhounds led the North Dakota PeeWee A North League and Devils Lake was in the middle of the eight-team league. Keweenaw led their district standings representing the Upper Peninsula. Bemidji was second in D16 behind Thief River Falls and St. Cloud was tied with STMA on top of D5. Rogers led in D10 and Cloquet and Hermantown were in a battle for #1 in D11. Armstrong was coming off tough losses to Wayzata and OMG in D3. It was a tough field.
Bemidji was after a repeat to retain their crown from last year. The Lumberjacks beat Fort Frances 8-0 in their opening game of the Paul Bunyan tourney, were tied by a good Devils Lake team 3-3, and beat Cloquet 7-3 to edge the Devils Lake team in pool. Armstrong, a D3 team that has been working hard since the start of the year, took their pool beating Hermantown 3-2, tying Rogers 5-5 and beating Keweenaw 5-2.
Andover and St. Cloud swept their pools. Andover won their pool, beating Grand Forks Greyhounds, Virginia and Sioux Falls. St Cloud beat Hastings, Crookston and Waconia. In the championship semifinals, Bemidji beat Armstrong 3-1 and St. Cloud beat Andover 4-3. But the host Lumberjacks came up short on Championship Sunday, losing to St. Cloud 3-2. Andover took third place beating Armstrong 8-4.
Keweenaw beat Grand Forks Greyhounds 2-0 to win the Lumberjack Championship; Cloquet beat Hastings 12-3 to win the Blue Ox Championship; and Hermantown beat Waconia 7-1 to win the Headwaters Championship.
Back down south at Edina, 12 teams battled for the Hornet title. The tourney was held over four days. Each game played consisted of three 15-minute stop-time games with the ice resurfaced every two periods. Edina’s tourney is more like a sprint than a marathon or a mile. At Edina, only the four teams making it to Championship Sunday are guaranteed more than three games. A bad opening game and a team can start packing. That happened to Lakeville South, Roseau and Centennial this year as each team had a tough opponent and a bad opening game. The Cougars lost to Edina, Roseau to Elk River and Centennial to Wayzata, each by more than five goals, knocking each team out of contention for the wild card or the top spot in their division. Centennial’s loss to Wayzata was especially disappointing since they had beaten the Trojans 3-1 ten days previously. But that’s PeeWee hockey.
Edina won their first two pool games, beating Roseau 7-1 and Lakeville South 10-3. Elk River also beat Lakeville South 5-1 and Roseau 10-3 to set up a battle on Saturday for first in the pool or for a chance at the wild card. Wayzata played offensive and blitzed Centennial 10-1 and Mpls Storm 6-0 in their first two pool games; and Eden Prairie beat Mpls Park 7-3 and Centennial 8-1 to set up a similar battle in their pool.
Farmington played defense and beat Chaska 5-0, Osseo/Maple Grove 3-0 and St. Michael/Albertville 4-0. Chaska, OMG and STMA were evenly matched and they beat each other up to eliminate their wild card chances.
With Farmington’s pool out of the wild card, that left the battle for the remaining three spots on Championship Sunday to four teams - Edina, Elk River, Wayzata and Eden Prairie. Edina hung on in the final pool game to beat the Elks 5-4 to take the top spot, but the Elks' close loss put pressure on Eden Prairie. Elk River had a +9 in goal differential and needed to beat the Trojans. They came out flat in the second period. Their defense, which had been strong all season, was not there. After playing a tough first period, they had tired and the Trojans scored three goals in the middle of the second period to put the game away. Wayzata won 8-1.
The Edina/Elk River pool game was marred when the refs were made aware of an Elk River roster error. The error resulted in minor penalty being assessed to Elk River and Edina scoring on the following power play. The error was apparently made on the official tourney sheet when the roster submitted by Elk River was incorrectly transferred.
That set up the Sunday championship semifinals. Wayzata beat Elk River 4-3 and Farmington beat Edina 3-2. The Farmington/Edina game was a good game until the refs “lost it” in the second period, calling a sequence of penalties on both teams that was hard for the fans to follow. Edina was leading at the time 1-0 when the calls started and was leading 2-1 when they stopped. That set up a third period that consisted of long periods where each team would bottle up the other in their defensive zone. Both teams would set up their attacks only to have the puck just be out of their reach on a good scoring attempt or have the puck “sail over” an outstretched stick in front of an open net.
Farmington tied the game when one of the Tiger defensemen took a pass moving backward toward the far boards at the Edina blueline. He snapped a shot at the Edina net while looking at the near board (not the net) and the slower moving shot caught the Edina goalie by surprise, hitting the low left corner. With one minute to go in the third period, the Tigers got the winning goal when one of the forwards picked up a loose puck behind the Edina net and fed a forward in the slot. This time, the Tiger forward got “good wood” on the puck and banged it by the goalie. The Tigers went on to beat Wayzata 4-1 in the evening championship game.
Tournaments continue this week. Northfield has drawn an interesting field for their eight-team bracket play on the weekend. The field includes a team from Fremont, Neb., the Fremont Flyers. They play Austin in the opening game. Good luck to the visiting Flyers. The tourney pits four D9 teams against four non-D9 teams, including St. Paul Johnson, Tartan and Orono.
Brainerd has their tourney going on the weekend. It is also an eight-team bracket play tourney and draws Hudson (WI) and the Grand Forks Seawolves, among others. It may have the best game of the week when Grand Rapids and Blaine meet in the opening round.
Anoka draws Rosemount to their tourney. The Irish are coming off two consecutive tourney championships (Bloomington and Spirit of Duluth), plus an earlier second-place finish at Burnsville. Stillwater has also entered, setting up a potential semifinal game between the Irish and the Ponies.
At Hibbing, the Bluejackets are hosting an eight-team pool play tourney with several interesting entries. Hibbing hosts a pool with the Moorhead Orange, Irondale and Eveleth. Greenway, Princeton, Inver Grove Heights/South St. Paul and Detroit Lakes play in the other game. The Hibbing tourney has D12, D10 and D15 teams mixing it up with one D8 team (IGH/SSP).
North Regional (D12, D15, D16) - Some separation occurred this week among the 20+ teams in this regional. D12 Grand Rapids, D15 Moorhead Black and D16 teams Thief River Falls and Bemidji have stepped up their play. But one D16 seed, one D15 seed and two D12 seeds are wide open. Crookston and East Grand Forks look to challenge for the remaining D16 seed; Brainerd appears to be the strongest for the remaining D15 seed (more by default as no challenger has emerged from the Detroit Lakes and the Alexandrias); and Hibbing, Virginia and International Falls are all in the chase for the #2 and #3 seeds in D12.
District 12 - Grand Rapids strung five wins together over the holidays. The Thunderhawks beat Hermantown 3-2, International Falls 8-0, Greenway 14-1, Brainerd 7-0 and Duluth East 10-3. They also played Cloquet. Their only loss in the last 12 games was to Burnsville in the Star of the North Tourney. This week they play at Brainerd, opening with Blaine in what should be a very good game. These two teams played at Fogerty in the Cities a few weeks with the Thunderhawks winning 4-3 in four overtimes.
Virginia was blitzed in the opening game of the Paul Bunyan tourney by the Grand Forks Greyhounds 11-1. But to the Blue Devils' credit, they came back to tie the Sioux Falls Blue 3-3 and push Andover before losing 4-1. The Blue Devils continue to work hard and always seem to improve after playing the Bemidji tourney. They play Hermantown and Proctor this week.
International Falls had a good tourney at Detroit Lakes before the holidays, losing to Moorhead Orange 4-3, beating the host Lakers 5-4 and losing to Willmar 5-4. The Broncos also beat Greenway 6-5 over the holidays besides losing to Grand Rapids. This weekend they play in Fort Frances tourney.
Hibbing hosts a tourney this week. They play Moorhead Orange, Irondale and Eveleth in pool play. After being off the past two weeks, Eveleth plays in the Hibbing tourney. Mesabi East plays Greenway and Superior (WI) this week.
Grand Rapids is playing very well at this point in the season and will likely take the #1 D12 seed to the North Regional. This week, it was time to put Hibbing, Virginia and International Falls names in a sack and pull one out. That team name drawn was left off the seeds this week. International Falls takes the #2 seed and Hibbing the #3 seed. The Blue Devils name card and the sack have not been thrown away. The Hibbing tourney results might create the itch to do that, but for now it is folded up and put in a drawer.
District 15 - Moorhead Black had a successful trip to the Cities, plus a swing through Bemidji before Christmas. The Black beat Woodbury 3-1, Eagan 6-1, Blaine 2-1 and Spring Lake Park 7-1. They tied Bemidji 1-1. Last week, the Black played Northern Lakes, Little Falls and Detroit Lakes in D15 play. They are currently undefeated and have locked up the D15 crown with D15 games to play. This week, the Black take a break from D15, playing East Grand Forks and the Fargo Flyers.
Moorhead Orange continue to show improvement. They lost narrowly in the Consolation Championship of their own tourney, and then next week took third place at Detroit Lakes. They beat International Falls 4-3, lost to Detroit Lakes 8-7, beat Willmar 2-1 and in the third-place game, beat D15 rival Alexandria 3-2 (a team the Orange lost to 8-3 in the early season). This week they head to Hibbing, playing the host Bluejackets, Eveleth and Irondale.
Detroit Lakes won their tourney the week before Christmas. The Lakers beat Willmar 8-3 and Moorhead Orange 8-7, and lost to International Falls 5-4 in pool play. In the championship game on Sunday, they beat Proctor 9-2. The Lakers played Fergus Falls besides Moorhead Black last week. This week they head to Hibbing, also drawing Greenway, Princeton and Inver Grove Heights/South St. Paul in pool play.
Fergus Falls took a trip north and lost to Crookston 5-3, the Grand Forks Greyhounds 11-1 and Thief River Falls 8-1 before Christmas. They beat Moorhead Orange 8-1 after Christmas and hosted West Fargo last week. The Otters head back north to play in the Thief River Falls tourney.
Brainerd beat Sartell 2-1, lost to Bemidji 6-3, and lost to Grand Rapids 7-0. The Warriors then traveled to Greenway, hosted Buffalo, Alexandria and played Northern Lakes. That’s seven games over the holidays. This week they host a tourney, drawing a tough Hudson (WI) team currently a solid second place team in D2 (behind Roseville). Eagan/Grand Forks Seawolves complete the upper bracket. The Seawolves are currently on top of the North Dakota PeeWee A North League. Grand Rapids plays Blaine in what should be a great game and the Duluth Lakers play Rochester Red in the lower bracket.
Little Falls played Princeton and River Lakes last week. This week they host a tourney. Alexandria played in the Detroit Lakes tourney and had the holidays off. They returned to action last week playing Brainerd. This week the Cardinals head to Anoka to play in their tourney. They draw Stillwater in an all red and black opening round game.
Moorhead Black keeps the #1 seed this week. But Fergus Falls made a small move this week. It was not enough to overtake Brainerd. The Warriors keep the #2 seed. Alexandria had a tough tourney at Detroit Lakes. Now the Cardinals head for Anoka and they will have their chances. Detroit Lakes won their tourney and are playing in Hibbing on the weekend. Can the Lakers make it two in a row? The #2 seed remains wide open.
District 16 - Thief River Falls is unbeaten in D16. Before Christmas, their D16 record was marred by a 2-2 tie with East Grand Forks. Last week, the Prowlers beat Grafton 6-3. But their lead is on shaky ground. The Prowlers have lost three “unfairplay” points in seven league games. That negates their win over Bemidji and puts the Lumberjacks back in the driver’s seat. Bemidji has six D16 games left, all at home. TRF will play them in one of those six games. TRF plays in their tourney this weekend.
Bemidji hosts East Grand Forks this weekend and then travels to Grand Rapids. The Lumberjacks took second in their own tourney last week and beat EGF 6-3 before Christmas. Crookston had a good Paul Bunyan tourney. They beat Waconia 5-3 and Hastings 5-3 before losing to eventual champion St. Cloud 12-2. After losing to the Grand Forks Greyhounds 6-5, the Pirates came back to beat Devils Lake 7-3 to take the Lumberjack consolation. Crookston hosts their tourney this week. The Fargo Angels, Morden (Manitoba) and Red Lake Falls are entered.
East Grand Forks played the Fargo Raiders last week in addition to tying TRF. They beat the Grand Forks Seawolves 4-3 and lost to the Grand Forks Greyhounds 4-3 the week before Christmas. Besides playing Bemidji, the Green Wave hosts Moorhead Black this week.
Roseau found it tough going at the Edina tourney over the holiday. They lost to Edina 7-1, Elk River 10-3 and Lakeville South 5-4. They return to D16 and play Warroad this week.
Thief River Falls keeps the #1 seed this week. They beat Bemidji and did not lose a game in December. Bemidji takes the #2 seed. East Grand Forks continues to improve and gets the #3 seed. Roseau had another tough week, but the Rams continue to work hard. Crookston is also on the rise and seem to be improving week to week. D16 could become a donnybrook at the February playoffs.
South Regional (D4, D8, D9) - The headlines continue in the South. Before Christmas, the headline read “Rosemount beats Farmington 5-2 to win the Spirit of Duluth tourney”. This week one headline reads “Rosemount hands the Blaze their first loss, winning the Bloomington tourney”. The second reads “Farmington wins the Edina Tourney, beating the Hornets and the Trojans in the finals”. The only question is which headline goes above the fold and which goes below. Where’s the editor?
Regardless of the headlines, it was quite a week for D8. Woodbury was forced because of injuries to re-look at their lines. It resulted in an improved defense that showed at the Bloomington tourney. Lakeville North, Lakeville South and Eastview also showed improved play over the holidays. The power in the South this year appears to be in D8.D4 has allocated one of its seeds to D8/D9. D8 and D9 each have three seeds and D4 had two. District 9 playoffs will be a double elimination tourney starting Thursday, Feb. 17, and will finish the following Sunday, Feb. 20. District 8 playoffs will begin Sunday, Feb. 20. The fourth-place finishers in both tourneys will meet for a play-in game to the South Regional. The D8 fourth place finisher will be decided around 1 p.m., on Feb. 27. The site of the play-in game is unknown.
District 4 - Luverne and Redwood Falls met before Christmas. Luverne Cardinals beat the Redwood Falls Cardinals 11-4. There had to be a Cardinal winner. The Cardinals (Luverne version) went on to beat Albert Lea 8-1, lose to Mankato 10-1 and beat Faribault 8-5 over the holidays. These wins keep Luverne in the chase for the D9 West title with Owatonna and Mankato.
Sometimes kids can be confused. After losing big to Mankato 10-1, Luverne beat Faribault 8-5. The day after losing to Luverne, Faribault tied Mankato 2-2. Such is PeeWee hockey.
Luverne plays Mankato, Albert Lea and New Ulm this week. Redwood Falls played Marshall last week and lost to River Lakes 6-2 before Christmas. This week, Marshall plays at Redwood Falls in their tourney and play in the New Ulm tourney the following week. The Tigers lost to Hutchinson 9-0 over the holidays.
As a result of D4 ceding one of their two South Regional seeds to D8/D9, Luverne remains the favorite to take the remaining D4 seed to the South Regional.
District 8 - Rosemount and Farmington remain in lock step to meet on Feb. 12, for the D8 title. Both teams are undefeated in D8 and both teams have lost one “unfairplay” point. After scoring big wins in their holiday tourneys, both teams return to D8 action. Rosemount beat Johnson/Como 7-1. This week they travel to Anoka to play in their tourney over the weekend. The Irish will be after their third championship in a row. They open bracket play against Mahtomedi.
Farmington beat Wayzata in the Edina championship game 4-1 and this week to travel to the PIC to play the Trojans again. They play Apple Valley and Burnsville on the weekend. The Burnsville game at noon on Saturday at St. Thomas should be a good game. Before Christmas, the Tigers beat Rochester Red 4-2 in Rochester.
Woodbury took third at Bloomington, beating Kennedy 6-3, Apple Valley 6-0 and Marquette (MI) 7-0 to take their pool. They beat the Thunder Bay Kings 8-2 in the opening of bracket play, but lost to the Irish 6-1 in the semifinals. The Predators beat Roseville 5-4 to take third place. They followed the tourney with a 9-0 win over Apple Valley in D8. This week, Woodbury travels to St. Cloud and returns home to play Lakeville South.
Lakeville North played at Bloomington. The Panthers opened with a 5-3 win over a tough Champlin Park team, and lost to Rosemount 7-0 and Prior Lake 5-1. In their fourth game, they beat Eastview 5-1. Last week, the Panthers beat Highland 4-2 and played Eagan. This week they play Sibley and Prior Lake.
Lakeville South played at Edina. In pool play, they lost to Elk River 5-1 and Edina 10-3, and beat Roseau 5-4. In D8 play prior to the Edina tourney, the Cougars beat Sibley 5-1, beat IGH/SSP 6-1, and lost a tough rivalry game to Lakeville North 3-2. They play Armstrong, Hastings, Sibley and Woodbury this week.
Eastview was one of the five D8 teams in Bloomington. The Lightning lost to Highland 6-5, tied Thunder Bay Kings 3-3 and lost to Burnsville 3-1. Apple Valley played there also, losing to Kennedy 7-2, tying Marquette Michigan 3-3 and losing to Woodbury in pool play. Before Christmas, they beat Johnson/Como 3-0. The Eagles play Eastview and Farmington this week before traveling to New Ulm to play in their tourney.
Hastings made the trip to Bemidji, playing in the Paul Bunyan. The Raiders lost to St. Cloud 7-2, beat Waconia 5-2 and lost to Crookston 5-3 to take #3 in their pool. In the Blue Ox bracket, they beat Sioux Falls Blue 2-1 and lost to Cloquet 12-3. Besides playing Lakeville South this week, the Raiders play Highland.
Johnson/Como had a busy holiday. After losing to Apple Valley, the Devils beat Inver Grove Heights/South St. Paul 2-1, lost to Lakeville North 7-2, beat Forest Lake 3-2 and lost to Rosemount 7-1. The Devils play in the Northfield Showdown, playing the host in the opening round. Sibley plays the two Lakevilles this week. Besides losing to Lakeville South last week, the Generals lost to Eastview.
Eagan plays in the Brainerd tourney this weekend. The Wildcats draw the Grand Forks Seawolves in the opening game. Eagan lost to Farmington 6-0, Eastview 4-1, Hastings 5-2 and Lakeville North 3-0 in D8 action over the holidays.
Any team that wins the Edina tourney should be rated #1 in their district. Unfortunately for Farmington, this week, Rosemount won the marathon at Bloomington and in the process handed Burnsville their first loss of the season. And the Irish still hold the tiebreaker, beating Farmington in early December in the Spirit of Duluth Championship game. They take the #1 seed. Farmington takes the #2 seed and may have to wait until Feb. 12, to change that.
Woodbury had a solid a performance at Burnsville, taking third place. The Woodbury defense is improving. The Predators take the #3 seed. In another year, that would leave Lakeville South, Lakeville North, Eastview, Sibley, Johnson/Como, Apple Valley, Sibley, Eagan and Hastings making plans to close shop on Feb. 27. But one (or more of these teams if they can knock off one of the top three in the district playoffs) should be planning to win the play-in game and traveling to South Regional in Rochester on March 4. All they have to do is play in the playoff game for the third seed.
District 9 - Just before Christmas, Rochester Black made a move by beating Northfield twice in D9 action, 4-2 and 3-2, to keep the Raiders from running away with the D9 East title. Unfortunately, the second-place Red Wing team could not take advantage and lost to New Ulm 2-1. The Black’s wins over Northfield have put them in the chase for the East title, but will have to do well in their two D9 games against a tough Mankato team in January. That starts this week when the Black hosts Rochester Gold, Mankato and Dodge County. Regardless, the Black’s two wins over the Raiders makes the D9 East a closer race.
After this week, Northfield has four D9 games remaining - Red Wing, Austin, Dodge County and Faribault. Rochester Black has D9 games remaining with Austin, Red Wing, Mankato and Dodge County. Red Wing returns to D9 action, playing Dodge County this week. The Wingers need to beat Northfield in two weeks to have a chance to get back in the title chase.
This week, Northfield hosts their Showdown tourney. Among the “Long Riders” riding into town this week are Faribault playing Tartan, Fremont (NE) playing Austin, and Orono playing Red Wing. Northfield plays Johnson/Como in the opener in what could be another pre-courser to the South Regional play-in game between D8/D9. (The “Long Riders” is a great movie about the James Gang raid on the Northfield bank and Ry Cooder’s music really is a great fit to the movie).
Dodge County lost two tough D9 games before Christmas to Rochester Black 4-0 and Rochester Gold 2-1. The Wildcats did beat Albert Lea 4-3. This week they host Rochester Gold and then travel east on Highway 14 to play the Rochester Black and Red Wing.
In the West, Mankato must have gotten mad after losing to Owatonna 4-2. They scored 25 goals in three games, beating Albert Lea, Faribault and Luverne and moved into second in the D9 West one point behind Owatonna. Last week, Owatonna won two D9 games last week, beating Albert Lea 5-1 and New Ulm 6-2. The Huskies also beat Northfield 11-1 in a non-league game.
Owatonna has played three more D9 games than Mankato and have three games left on their schedule (two with Rochester Gold and Faribault). This week, the Huskies travel to Mason City then return home to play Rochester Gold. Mankato is on the verge of doing what Northfield tried to do before the Christmas Holidays, running away with the D9 West crown. This week the Mavericks play Faribault, Luverne and Rochester Black.
New Ulm played Marshall and split their two D9 games last week. They beat Albert Lea 7-0 and lost to Owatonna 6-2. This week they travel to Mason City playing a D9 game with Albert Lea along the way. They return home to play Luverne.
On the Sunday after Christmas, Faribault hosted Albert Lea in a D9 West game. Both teams were winless in D9 and probably could not find a better time to play the game. It turned out to be a good game on a cold sunny morning. Albert Lea won.
The game was evenly skated for the most part of the first period until the Falcons drew a penalty. A few seconds later in a pile in Faribault crease, a second penalty for slashing was called on the goalie. Down two men, the Falcons defense held until a puck rebounded from left to right off the goalie onto a Tiger forward’s stick who snapped it into the open net. Down now 5-4 in skaters, the Falcons gave up a second goal.
The game returned to a good skating game. Late in the first period, the Falcons scored to close the lead to 2-1. But a Tiger goal in the opening minute of the second and another Tiger goal in the closing minute of the second put the game away. Albert Lea led 4-1 and never looked back winning 6-2. The win gives the Tigers their first D9 win this year.
The loss keeps the Falcons winless in D9. Both teams have talent, Albert Lea in the forwards and Faribault in the defense (good size) and wing. Last Monday, Faribault tied Mankato 2-2.
Rochester Red continued their independent schedule, losing to Mankato 3-1, Eden Prairie 9-2, Farmington 4-2 and Wayzata. This week the Red travel to Brainerd to play in their tourney. They draw the Duluth Lakers in opening round of bracket play.
D9 has adopted an eight-team, double elimination format for their district playoffs. Assuming Luverne plays in a D4 tourney, that leaves 11 teams playing for eight slots. Typically, the district makes one of two choices. They seed the teams 1-11 and offer the seeds 9, 10, 11 an opportunity to play-in to the district playoffs or they take the top eight teams based on the seedings. Currently, Owatonna and Mankato are top teams in the West; Northfield, Rochester Black and Red Wing are the top teams in the East. That leaves Dodge County, Rochester Gold, Austin, New Ulm, Albert Lea and Faribault to fight it out for the remaining three seeds.
Mankato, despite their tie with Faribault, takes the #1 seed this week. The Mavericks played well in the past few weeks, but looming ahead in two weeks is the Rochester tourney where they will be tested. The #2 seed goes to Rochester Black. Two wins over league-leading Northfield makes them the victor this week. The Black get the spoils. Northfield takes the #3 seed. The Raiders remain on the verge of sewing up the D9 East Division. Things will get tense at playoff time now that a play-in game is at stake for the fourth place finisher. The Rochester Black/Eastview game could be another precursor to that game to be played at the end of February.
East Regional (D2, D10, D11) - Roseville made it to the Bloomington semifinals before losing a tough game 1-0 game to Burnsville. They strung four wins together at Bloomington before the loss to Burnsville. The Raiders beat Arvada (CO) 7-2, Spring Lake Park 6-4, Jefferson 3-0 and Kennedy 12-1.They lost the third-place game to Woodbury. But the remaining two seeds are wide open. White Bear Lake returns to action this week with a challenging schedule that will test the Bears.
In D10, like D2, a strong team, Elk River, emerged over the holidays. And like D2, there is no clear challenger, leaving the chase for the second two seeds wide open. D11 has two seeds and two strong teams - Hermantown and Cloquet. Duluth East, Duluth Lakers and Proctor have to show improvement before the February playoffs.
District 2 - This week Roseville has a single game against White Bear Lake. Before Christmas, Roseville beat Forest Lake 6-1 and lost to White Bear Lake 3-1. With the D2 season half over and the Raiders leading D2 by 12 points, they are a clear favorite to take the #1 seed into the D2 playoffs. Hudson is the nearest competitor. The Raiders from Wisconsin trails Roseville by two points. The teams meet on Feb. 7, in a game that could decide the D2 regular season champion. But the Raiders from Minnesota would still get the #1 seed.
For some reason, D2 has problems with PeeWee A teams officially reporting their scores and the D2 officals had to threaten forfeit. Tartan this year has set a record. The results of six of their 10 games this year have yet to be reported, some go back to November. Tartan may not be totally at fault if it is the responsibility of the winning team to report the score.
Five teams - Stillwater, White Bear Lake, Forest Lake, Mounds View and Highland - are essentially tied for third. All have reported six or seven game results. White Bear Lake looks to be in a good position to make a move. The Bears return to action this week with a vengeance, playing Centennial, Eden Prairie, Roseville in a key D2 game and Wayzata.
Stillwater beat Hudson 2-0 and lost to Wayzata 6-3 over the holidays. The Ponies have the edge on third position in the standings. This week they play in the Anoka tourney opening against Alexandria. If the Ponies win that game, they will play Rosemount or Mahtomedi. When Stillwater returns, they play Mahtomedi in their only D2 game.
Forest Lake plays in the Anoka tourney this week drawing Buffalo in the opener. They play Highland after that game. Mounds View played White Bear Lake last week. This week the Mustangs are off as they prepare to play in the Governors tourney at St. Paul Johnson. They draw D5 River Lakes in the opener in two weeks.
Highland played in the Bloomington tourney over the holidays. The Caps beat Eastview 6-5 in the opener, lost to Burnsville 6-2 and lost to the Thunder Bay Kings 3-1 in pool play. In a fourth game, they beat Marquette (MI). Tartan plays in the Northfield tourney this week. They return to play Mahtomedi and Jefferson. Mahtomedi has a big challenge this week. They travel to Anoka to play in their tourney and draw top-rated Rosemount in the opening game. The Zephyrs return to play two D2 games against Tartan and Stillwater.
The Roseville Raiders had a great tourney at Bloomington and came within a goal of handing Burnsville its first loss and advancing to the championship game. The Raiders keep the #1 seed. Hudson is not eligible for a seed, so the #2 and #3 seeds are up in the air. White Bear Lake takes the #2 seed this week. The Bears, though, are playing a challenging set of games. The old zinc penny came out to determine the #3 seed. Forest Lake won the coin flip, but they will be challenged at Anoka, as will Stillwater. That might determine the seed next week.
District 10 - A number of D10 teams played in holiday tourneys. The Parks (Spring Lake Park and Champlin Park) played at Bloomington. Centennial and Elk River played in Edina’s tourney. Rogers and Andover played in the Paul Bunyan. Andover played well winning their pool and took third place on Championship Sunday. The Huskies beat Grand Forks Greyhounds, Virginia and Sioux Falls in pool play, lost a close game to St. Cloud 4-3 and beat Armstrong 8-4 for third.
Elk River made it to Championship Sunday via the wild card seed only to lose 4-3 to Wayzata and 5-4 to Edina in the third-place game. The Elks put a string of D10 wins together over the holidays, beating Coon Rapids 9-1, Rogers 5-3, Anoka 5-4, Spring Lake Park 7-0, Centennial 3-1 and St. Francis 11-0. Those wins put the Elks in first place. They repeat that holiday string this week, playing Blaine, Champlin Park, St. Cloud, Centennial and Coon Rapids. Four more wins would really put the Elks on top of D10 and on track to a 60 point D10 season that no other team can match.
Blaine and Champlin Park have the best chances to catch the Elks, but they need to beat the Elks this week. Blaine, besides playing Elk River, plays Andover and head to Anoka to play in their tourney. They open against Grand Rapids. After the tourney, the Bengals return to D10 play against Irondale. Champlin Park played well at Bloomington, losing to Lakeville North 5-3, Prior Lake 4-2 and Rosemount 2-0 in pool play. On Sunday, the Rebels beat Apple Valley 7-4. Before Christmas, they beat Princeton 2-1, tied Blaine 2-2 and beat Coon Rapids 1-0. Last weekend they added a D10 win over Irondale 5-2. This week Champlin Park plays Rogers, St. Francis, Spring Lake Park and Princeton, besides Elk River.
Spring Lake Park struggled at Bloomington. The Panthers lost to Jefferson 5-1, a tough Roseville team 6-4, and tied Arvada 2-2 in pool play. On Sunday in their fourth tourney game, they buried Arvada 11-1. Last week they beat Andover 3-1. Spring Lake Park will be in a fight over the next six weeks to make the top eight teams and the D10 playoffs. They will need to catch and pass two teams (Princeton, Andover, Anoka and Irondale).
Centennial had a rough Edina tourney. They lost to Wayzata 10-1, Eden Prairie 8-1 and Mpls Park 3-2 in pool play. They host Elk River and Coon Rapids this week. Rogers played in the Paul Bunyan. They were upended by Keewenaw (MI) 3-2, tied Armstrong and beat Hermantown 4-2. Rogers lost to Cloquet 4-3 in the opening game of the Blue Ox bracket and beat Sioux Falls 3-1. They continue to have an up and down season.
Anoka hosts their tourney this week. The Tornadoes open the tourney against St. Louis Park. Buffalo and Forest Lake play in the other bracket game. In the lower bracket, Stillwater plays Alexandria and Rosemount plays Mahtomedi. Anoka lost to Elk River and Centennial and beat St. Francis 9-1. Princeton travels to Hibbing to play in the Blue Jackets tourney. The Tigers play Greenway, IGH/SSP and Detroit Lakes in pool play. The Tigers continue to improve since their second place finish at Owatonna in early December.
Irondale has a winning record in D10 halfway through the season but the loss of three “unfairpoints” have put their D10 playoff hopes in jeopardy. Irondale heads to Hibbing this weekend to play in their tourney. The Knights draw Moorhead Orange, Hibbing and Eveleth in pool play. Before Christmas they beat Andover 4-3 and tied Centennial 1-1. Last week, they played Coon Rapids and Champlin Park.
Last week, Elk River took the #1 seed. This week they keep it and are most likely to keep it the rest of the year. Blaine had a quiet holiday, beating Rogers 1-0. They keep the #2 seed. The third seed goes this week to Champlin Park.
District 11 - Cloquet and Hermantown traveled to Bemidji. Both teams had tough pools and both teams struggled. Cloquet was surprised by Devils Lake in the opening game losing 6-4. They came back to trounce Fort Frances 11-1, but lost to the Host Lumberjacks 7-3 to finish third in the pool. Hermantown fared worst. The Hawks lost squeakers to Armstrong 3-2, Keewenaw 2-1 and Rogers 4-2 to finish fourth in their pool. Both teams came back to win their bracket championships. Cloquet won the Blue Ox, beating Rogers 4-3 and Hastings 12-3. Hermantown won the Headwaters bracket beating Fort Frances 5-2 and Waconia 7-1.
Cloquet returned home to play Grand Rapids. This week the Lumberjacks play Duluth East. Hermantown beat Proctor 5-1 in D11 play and lost to Grand Rapids 3-2 before Christmas. The Hawks play Duluth East, Virginia and Duluth Lakers this week. Duluth East lost to Grand Rapids 10-3 before Christmas. The Hounds have a busy week playing Hermantown, Thunder Bay twice on the weekend and Cloquet.
The Duluth Lakers play in Brainerd’s tourney on the weekend. The Lakers draw Rochester Red in the opening game of bracket play. They beat Proctor 5-2 and lost to Cloquet 3-0 over the holidays. Proctor took second at the Detroit Lakes tourney before the holidays beating Sauk Rapids 5-2, tying Northern Lakes 1-1 and beating Alexandria 4-3 in pool play. The Rails lost to the host Lakers 9-3 in the Championship game. Besides losing to Hermantown and the Duluth Lakers over the holidays, the Rails beat Mesabi East 8-4. They play Virginia and Superior this week.
This week the seeds remain unchanged. The #1 seed goes to Cloquet and Hermantown takes the #2 seed.
West Regional (D3, D5, D6) - The district seeds in the West have a clear set of favorites. D3 has Wayzata and Osseo/Maple Grove taking two of the seeds. Mpls Storm, Crow River and Armstrong appear to be the strongest candidates to contend with Wayzata and OMG. D5 has St. Cloud and St. Michael/Albertville and a wide open third seed. MAML, Sartell, River Lakes and Buffalo are the strongest candidates to win the third seed. D6 has five teams fighting for three seeds. Burnsville had the D6 title locked up but lost their first two D6 games last week to Minnetonka 1-0 and to Prior Lake 5-3. Now (this week), D6 has five teams that are closely matched - Burnsville, Minnetonka, Prior Lake, Edina and Eden Prairie. They are fighting over three seeds and whoever finishes first or second in regular season will have the edge in the playoffs.
District 3 - Watching D3 this year is like watching a horse race. Wayzata and OMG have had a clear lead all the way, but the pack is closing the gap. Now the teams are coming out of the last turn before the run to the finish line. Wayzata and OMG remain on top, but the Mpls Storm, Crow River, Mound/Westonka and Armstrong have all shown improvement from the beginning of the season. Orono, Hopkins, and St. Louis Park continue to trail the pack.
Wayzata, OMG and the Mpls Storm played in the Edina tourney over the holidays. The Trojans took second place. They won their pool, easily beating Centennial 10-1, the Mpls Storm 6-0 and Eden Prairie 8-1. In championship play on Sunday, the Trojans beat Elk River 4-3 and lost to Farmington 4-1 in the championship game. Over the holidays, the Trojans beat OMG 3-1 and Crow River 4-0 in D3 play. They also beat Stillwater 6-3 and Rochester Red 8-0. Their only loss was to Centennial 3-1. This week, Wayzata plays two D3 games (Mpls Storm and Crow River) and has a return match with Farmington.
OMG ended up in a tough pool. They tied STMA 2-2 in their opener, lost to Farmington, the eventual champion, 3-0 and beat Chaska 6-4. OMG beat Mound/Westonka 6-1 and Armstrong 5-2 in D3 games before Christmas. They also beat St. Cloud 3-2 over the holiday season. This week they play Hopkins, Edina, the Mpls Storm, the Wisconsin Fire and Spring Lake Park.
Mpls Storm beat Centennial 3-2 and lost to Eden Prairie 7-3 in their Edina pool. Over the holidays, the Storm beat Orono 4-0. They play Armstrong in addition to playing OMG and Wayzata this week.
Armstrong played well at Bemidji and returned to play Lakeville South and Orono in addition to the Storm. Crow River plays Mound/Westonka this week as they get ready to play in the New Ulm tourney. The Tigers beat St. Louis Park 2-1 over the holidays. Orono plays in the Northfield Showdown on the weekend. They draw Red Wing in their opening game. St. Louis Park plays Anoka in the opening game of the Tornadoes tourney.
Wayzata and OMG will be neck and neck for the stretch run. Wayzata has lost five “unfairplay” points in eight D3 games thus far. That is equivalent to losing two games and tying one. As a result, the Trojans will need help to overtake OMG. Either that or they need to play perfect hockey in their last eight games. Still the Trojans are playing better than any of the other D3 teams and takes the #1 seed this week. OMG takes the #2 seed. The Mpls Storm takes the #3 seed. Armstrong and Crow River are playing well and continue to improve.
District 5 - St. Cloud and STMA are running away from the rest of the league. Both teams are unbeaten (STMA has a tie with MAML) and will meet for the first time in D5 on January 13th at STMA. It should be a good game. Sartell and MAML are essentially locked in a battle for third place. River Lakes and Buffalo are battling for the fifth and to move up.
St. Cloud took the Bemidji tourney. They swept their pool play beating Hastings 7-2, Crookston 12-2 and Waconia 9-3. In the championship bracket ,they beat Andover 4-3 and Bemidji 3-2. Over the holidays, St. Cloud beat Litchfield 14-1 and Sartell 5-1 in D5 play and lost to OMG 3-2. They play neighboring Sauk Rapids this week.
STMA hosts three D5 games this week, Litchfield, Sartell and MAML. The Knights ran into a tough pool at Edina, tying OMG 2-2, losing to Chaska 3-1 and to Farmington 4-0.
Sartell play MAML in addition to STMA as the Sabres get ready for the St. Cloud tourney. Buffalo plays in Anoka’s tourney drawing Forest Lake in the opener.
MAML won two D5 games, beating River Lakes 4-2 and Sauk Rapids 7-3 and tied Princeton 3-3 over the holidays. The Moose travel to Thief River Falls to play in their tourney this weekend. River Lakes beat Redwood Falls 6-2 and tied Hutchinson 2-2 over the holidays. They play Litchfield and in the Redwood Falls tourney on the weekend.
D5 teams had a quiet holiday and things will start rolling again this week. St. Cloud and STMA remain tied at the top of the D5 standings. But this week St. Cloud takes the #1 seed this week from STMA. STMA takes the #2 seed. The Moose (MAML) keeps the #3 seed.
District 6 - Burnsville played a tough 12 games in the last 18 days and the rugged schedule took its toll on the Blaze. Last Wednesday night, the Blaze jumped to a 2-0 lead over a hard-playing Prior Lake team and held that lead until halfway through the game. The Lakers scored three goals where the puck had “eyes” as it rolled and bounced three different times through players to take a 3-2 lead. They added two hard shots to beat the Blaze 5-3 in well skated game. After winning their first nine games in the past 18 days, the Blaze have lost three games in a row (Rosemount in the Bloomington tourney championship game and two D6 games Minnetonka 1-0 and Prior Lake). Those two D6 losses have tightened up the D6 race but the Blaze still hold the edge. The Blaze play Farmington this week. It won’t get any easier.
Eden Prairie was the principle beneficiary of the Blaze losses. The Eagles seemed primed at the Edina tourney to make it to Championship Sunday. They beat Mpls Storm 7-3 and Centennial 10-1 to win their first two pool games and +9 in the goal differential tie breaker; unfortunately, Elk River won their first two games and had a +10. The Elks played Edina before Eden Prairie played Wayzata and the Elks lost 5-4. The Elks ended pool play with a +9. Eden Prairie had to beat Wayzata and the Eagles hung with the Trojans for half the game playing tough defense (allowing five shots on goal). With the score 2-1, the Trojans broke down the Eagles defense in a five-minute period, scoring three more goals to take a 5-1 lead. They added three more and won 8-1.
The Eagles played Kennedy last week and will play Prior Lake and Shakopee this week. They now trail the Blaze by two points in the standings. Both teams have six games to play.
Minnetonka stayed home over the holidays. In addition to beating the Blaze, the Skippers beat Chaska 6-4 over the holidays and this week they play Chaska again. If the Skippers can win their next two games (Chaska and Shakopee), they will be one point behind Burnsville when they play them on Jan. 23.
Edina took third place in their tourney. The Hornets won their pool, beating Roseau 7-1, Lakeville South 10-3 and Eden Prairie. They lost to Farmington 3-2 on Championship Sunday and beat Elk River 5-4 for third place. Over the holidays, Edina beat Kennedy 11-2 and Waconia 10-2 in D6 games. Edina has nine D6 games left, including two games with Eden Prairie. The Hornets close their D6 season playing Minnetonka, Burnsville and Eden Prairie.
The Prior Lake coach must be slowly going crazy. The Lakers have gone 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. They have beaten good teams like Rosemount and Burnsville and lost or tied to teams that are struggling. They have eight D6 games left, two with Minnetonka. They have a good chance at finishing first or second and taking the all-important #1 or #2 seed into the D6 playoffs.
Jefferson and Kennedy held a good tourney over the holidays. Jefferson took second in their pool, beating Spring Lake Park 5-1 and Arvada (CO) 6-1 before losing to Roseville 2-0. They ended up with the #6 seed and lost to Burnsville 7-0 in the quarterfinals of bracket play. The Jags play Edina in D6 action this week before heading to Rochester to play in their tourney.
Kennedy opened pool play with a 6-3 loss to Woodbury. The Eagles came back to beat Apple Valley 7-2 and tie Marquette Michigan 5-5. That gave the Eagles the #7 seed in bracket play. They lost their quarterfinal game to Roseville 12-1.
The Eagles played Eden Prairie last week and will play Highland this week. They head to St. Paul in two weeks to play in the Governors Tourney. Chaska played at Edina as the third team from D6. The Hawks had a tough pool, losing to Farmington 5-0, beat STMA 3-1 and losing to OMG 6-4. The Hawks are the toughest team to play “under the Mendoza Line of PeeWee A hockey” for many years.
Waconia played in the Paul Bunyan tourney. They lost to Crookston 5-3, Hastings 5-2 and St. Cloud 9-3 in pool play. In the Headwaters bracket, they beat Virginia 10-0 and lost to Hermantown 7-1. Waconia play Chaska, Hutchinson and Hopkins this week. Shakopee had the holidays off and got back into action last weekend losing to Irondale 5-3 and tying Kennedy 4-4.
D6 went from a Blaze runaway to a “scramble” in one week. Normally, the victor gets the spoils. But so many teams have spoiled the other team, there is no clear victor. So based on just the way the teams are played this past week, Prior Lake takes the #1 seed. They skated well in beating Burnsville at Burnsville. Edina has to get the #2 seed this week. They played well against a tough Farmington team in their tourney before losing 3-2 and tied Prior Lake 1-1 over the holidays. Burnsville takes the #3 seed. Despite losing their last three games, the Blaze took 30 out 30 possible points in their first 10 D6 games.
Minnetonka and Eden Prairie can certainly complain this week for being left off the top three. They will have their chances in the last 5 weeks of the regular season to change opinions.