Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - Jan. 21

By frederick61

Last Monday, Lakeville North returned from Fargo after winning a 16-team tourney consisting of mostly teams from the Dakotas and Canada. The Panthers beat West Fargo 6-4 Sunday morning and they beat the beat the #2 team in the North Dakota league Sunday afternoon, the Bismarck Admirals 8-4. Lakeville North then traveled 300 miles to play a Monday game against a top team.

They played Rosemount Monday night. The Panthers showed up with two kids out for the game. They lost another kid less than a minute into the game when an Irish kid lost a race to the puck and out of frustration pushed the Panther into the boards. The Irish lost their “unfair play” point with that penality. Late in the game, the Panthers lost another kid when another Irish kid checked him near the boards and he fell awkwardly. The Irish kid drew a 5-minute major and was kicked out of the game.

This game was not intense and the referees were not wrong in their calls. The game was not “out of control” at any time. Rosemount beat Lakeville North 7-1. A total six penalties were called on both teams. The Panthers held a 1-0 lead and the game was close halfway through the second period and then the Panthers tired. They had driven 600 miles on the weekend and played four games. The speedy Irish forwards easily broke down the Panther defense late in the game even though the Irish were playing with only 10 forwards.

The “unfair play” point was never part of this game. The kids were playing hockey. But hockey people call the “fair play” point successful. Even the New York Times wrote an article in praise of the concept.

The reason the fair play point is called the “unfair play” point in this blog is because it is unfair to the team, their association and their coaches. In our society, we are supposed to punish the wrong doer, not the community. They are important hockey lessons for kids to learn, but the most important lesson for kids to learn is that the individual is responsible.

As you watch the toll taken on teams in their leagues because of teams losing “unfair play” points, remember that the wrongdoers go unnamed and are never really punished. But nobody wants to address the individual kid. To try an address the individual kid becomes messy; parents may complain and boards don’t like to make pronouncements. Under the “fair play” concept, have the adults turned to the kids to “police” the kids?

If the “fair play” concept works, what problem does it solve? If the number of injured kids is lower, how is it lower? Some would say yes because some coaches scream at kids for being too aggressive and they would play more passively. But Rosemount was not being overly aggressive in their game against Lakeville North.

The “fair play” concept is applied partially during the season. It does not work outside of league games. It can never be applied to tournament or non-league games. You would have to somehow total the penalties at the end of the game and take away goals. As a result, in most games the kids play during the season, “fair play” is not part of the game. A D6 team plays 45-60 games, 18 games or approximately 1/3 are league games; the remaining 2/3 are unaffected by the rule. So let’s drop the fa├žade that it is a teaching moment for the kids.

Now, in light of the fair play point being considered successful, Minnesota Hockey is considering a ruling that bans checking at the PeeWee level because a study showed injuries in a non-checking league (usually house or C level hockey) to be less than in a checking league (usually A or B level hockey). That does not make sense. But it is part of another piecemeal attempt to solve a “problem.”

What is difficult to understand is USA Hockey will still have kids and their parents signing waivers acknowledging the physical nature of the game and removing USA Hockey and affiliates from blame.

The problem is nobody has defined the problem they are trying to solve. Like the refs (who were correctly applying the rules) in the Rosemount/Lakeville North game, Minnesota Hockey has piecemealed solutions by applying “fair play” points and potentially applying non-checking. Does anybody notice another old piecemeal, the STOP badges on the backs of youth players, anymore?

If their charter is to foster hockey in the Minnesota, hockey boards can’t do that by ignoring “bell shaped” curves of probabilities and re-defining hockey. As the USA Hockey waiver says, competitive hockey is a physical game. USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey have to accept that concept.

Both North Dakota and South Dakota have PeeWee A teams that are competing in leagues this year. They do not use the fair play point. Has anybody thought to compare their experiences with kids from Minnesota? Their top teams will compete with most Minnesota teams. But hey, what is the problem trying to be solved again?

Maybe competition is wrong at the youth level and USA and Minnesota Hockey should turn off the scoreboard at PeeWee games. After all, nobody wants to see kids hurt playing the sport. I took my two grandsons to an outdoor rink last Sunday. One’s a Mite and one’s a Squirt. I played goalie (big stick, no skates) and they organized a pick-up game. It was a blast to watch them skate and enjoy the sport. After two hours, I had to force them to leave. They played with only sticks and skates. So did the other kids.

Nobody got hurt. They could have gotten hurt. The kids we played with wanted to know when we would be back.

USA and Minnesota Hockey really needs to define the problem (if any) and implement a solution that lets kids enjoy the sport (including the competition) as they learn. They should not be reacting to the latest study.

North Regional (D12, D15, D16) - Roseau is the focus of PeeWee A play this week in the North. They hold their tourney this week. In the past two years, it has been a great tourney featuring highly competitive games. This year will be no different. There are 16 teams entered from seven Minnesota districts. Four D16 teams are entered (Thief River Falls, Warroad, East Grand Forks and Roseau). The most interesting pool groups Edina, Moorhead Black, Grand Rapids and Stillwater. Play opens Friday, Jan. 21. The Moorhead Black/Grand Rapids game will be a preview for the North Regional.

Eveleth and Virginia play in D12 and are 5 miles apart on Highway 53. Both are hosting tourneys this week. At the Marriuci in Eveleth, eight teams play a bracket tourney (Orono, Superior, Hutchinson, Hibbing, Highland, International Falls, Mahtomedi and the host Golden Bears). Play opens Friday afternoon.

In the Queen City Classic, Virginia hosts an eight-team bracket play tourney. The Blue Devils open with Greenway. Northfield plays West Fargo in the other bracket game. In the lower bracket, Northern Lakes plays the Duluth Lakers and Grand Forks Golden Eagles plays Proctor.

District 12 - For the past month, the team in D12 has been Grand Rapids. There is no change this week. The Thunderhawks played two D12 games last week, beating Virginia 11-1 and Greenway 11-0. This week, they play at Roseau. They will scrimmage Lakeville South (often these pre-Roseau tourney games can be informal) and have a tough pool draw, playing Moorhead Black, Stillwater and Edina.

Eveleth, Hibbing and International Falls play at the Mariucci. Hibbing opens bracket play against an improving Hutchinson team. Eveleth and the Falls play two tough D2 teams. The Falls draw Highland and Eveleth draws Mahtomedi.

Last week, Hibbing strung three D12 wins together, beating Greenway 7-1, International Falls 7-4 and Mesabi East 10-2. International Falls beat Eveleth 3-1.

Virginia beat Eveleth 11-3, lost to Mesabi East 4-3 besides losing to Grand Rapids. Greenway beat Eveleth 7-2 and Proctor 7-0. Mesabi East lost to Proctor 9-8 and played Superior, in addition to beating Virginia and losing to Hibbing. The Giants play in the Fergus Falls tourney on the weekend.

Grand Rapids keeps the #1 seed to the North Regional this week and Hibbing takes the #2 seed. Both teams will be challenged in tourneys this week. Grand Rapids has a tough set of games to make it to Championship Sunday. But if they do, the Thunderhawks will move into the top tier of PeeWee A teams in the state.

Hibbing could face off against the Falls at Eveleth. International Falls takes the #3 seed, but both Mesabi East and Greenway are challenging for a seed. Mesabi East continues to show improvement and will be tested at Fergus Falls.

District 15 - Moorhead Black heads to Roseau and is in the same tough pool with Grand Rapids, Edina and Stillwater. Last week, the Black added two more D15 wins to their undefeated D15 streak, beating Alexandria 4-3 and Fergus Falls 11-2. The Black also beat Crookston 6-1. Moorhead Black’s two victories gives the Black the D15 title and leaves Alexandria and Fergus Falls to battle it out for second with Brainerd.

Brainerd beat Moorhead Orange 3-2 and lost to Detroit Lakes 4-1 last week. This week the Warriors also head to Roseau. They draw Woodbury, Chaska and Thief River Falls in pool play.

Fergus Falls hosts their tourney on the weekend. The Otters play Alex before and after their tourney in two D15 games this week. Alexandria plays Moorhead Orange besides playing the Otters twice this week. Moorhead Orange struggled in the Hibbing tourney two weeks ago, but came back to win their first two D15 games, beating Little Falls 3-2 and a tough Northern Lakes team 6-4 last week. The Orange lost to Brainerd 3-2. The Orange play Little Falls again this week.

Detroit Lakes beat Brainerd and played the Fargo Angels last week. The Lakers play Crookston, West Fargo and Little Falls this week. Little Falls played Hutchinson last week. This week the Flyers hit the road playing Sartell, Sauk Rapids and Detroit Lakes. Northern Lakes heads to Virginia this weekend to play in their tourney. They draw the Duluth Lakers in the opening round.

The two teams that finish in second and third place in the league standings will have the edge in the race for the #2 seed to the regional. That also goes for the teams finishing sixth and seventh. The teams finishing fourth or fifth would play the Black, providing D15 uses the same format as they used last year. If they do, teams finishing first, fourth, fifth and eighth will be bracketed together. Moorhead Orange’s two wins this week helped the Orange, but did not lift them out of eighth. If Moorhead Orange remain in eighth, they will open the D15 playoffs against Moorhead Black.

Fergus Falls, Brainerd and Alexandria are still locked in a struggle for second place in D15 behind Moorhead Black. The Black keeps their #1 seed, but Alexandria takes the #2 seed. They pushed the Black, losing 4-3. Detroit Lakes and Moorhead Orange are making noise.

District 16 - Thief River Falls beat Crookston 7-1 and played Crookston and Roseau last week. The Prowlers remain tied with Bemidji atop D16. They play at Roseau on the weekend and draw Woodbury, Chaska and Brainerd in pool play.

Bemidji traveled to St. Cloud as the Lumberjacks continued to play a tough schedule. In pool play, they lost their opener to top-rated Farmington 6-0, and beat Sartell 8-1, Andover 6-0 and STMA 3-1. Bemidji hosts Edina (the Hornets are on their way to Roseau) in a return match this week. The Hornets beat the Lumberjacks 6-3 seven weeks ago at Braemar. They also host Crookston.

Roseau hosts their 16-team tourney this week, a tournament that has become one of the top tourneys in the state the past few years. The Rams play Eden Prairie, Osseo/Maple Grove and Fargo Flyers Gold. The Flyers are third in the North Dakota league with a 6-2 record. Their two losses were to the Bismarck Blades 3-2 and West Fargo 3-2. Roseau beat Grafton 9-2 and Red Lake Falls 7-1 last week. They played Thief River Falls also.

East Grand Forks plays at Roseau and draw Wayzata, Lakeville South and Warroad in pool play. The Green Wave beat Red Lake Falls 11-1 and Warroad 10-2 in D16 games last week. They also played the Grand Forks Greyhounds and beat the Fargo Flyers Gold 5-4. Warroad is the fourth D16 team entered.

Crookston played five games last week. They lost games to TRF 7-1 and Moorhead 6-1 and played Red Lake Falls, Warroad and Thief River Falls again. The Pirates travel to Detroit Lakes this week besides playing Bemidji.

In “A League of Their Own” the Tom Hanks character tells a player, “Are you crying? There’s no crying in baseball.” The Bemidji kids should take note. They lost to a tough Farmington 6-0 and beat three good teams 17-2. There’s no crying in St. Cloud, only Edina this week as the Lumberjacks continue a tough schedule. They keep the #1 seed this week. Thief River Falls takes the #2 seed this week. The Prowlers will have a chance to prove they are in a “League of Their Own” at Roseau. Woodbury is playing good hockey and Chaska is a tough underrated team that is dangerous as they showed last year at Roseau, making it to Championship Sunday. The Prowlers will have their chances.

The #3 seed goes to Roseau. Ten days ago, they beat the Prowlers in their own tourney. The Green Wave has shown improvement and will be dangerous at the Roseau tourney. The three D16 teams entered will have their chances to create their own league. Warroad will be challenged.

South Regional (D4, D8, D9) - D9 had two tourneys this week; Rochester and New Ulm. Five D9 teams and Rochester Red entered the 12-team Rochester tourney. Three D9 teams entered the 10 team New Ulm tourney. Sibley beat Crow River 5-3 to win the New Ulm tourney and D9 teams New Ulm and Dodge County joined them on Championship Sunday. At Rochester, an improving Owatonna team won two of their three pool games, but lost to Jefferson 5-0 in the consolation game.

Farmington, after adding the Geyer Trophy to the Edina trophy last week, returns to D8 action this week. The Tigers play four games, including two against the Lakevilles. Rosemount lost their return match with Edina 4-1.

D4 has allocated one of its seeds to D8/D9. D8 and D9 each have three seeds and D4 had two. District 4 playoffs will be held in Windom on Feb. 19-20.

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 played a single D9 game last week. The Cardinals beat Faribault 9-2. Luverne has two D9 games left (Austin and Mankato). They hold a four-point lead over Owatonna and a nine-point lead over Mankato in the D9 West. A win over Austin eliminates the Huskies from contention and sets up the Jan. 30, game with Mankato for the West title. Luverne will play in the Fergus Falls tourney this week.

Redwood Falls and Marshall played in the New Ulm tourney last week. Redwood Falls lost to New Ulm 6-0 and St. Louis Park 8-3 in pool play. RWF lost to Apple Valley 8-0 in a consolation game. Marshall lost to eventual tourney champ Sibley 8-0 and to St. Francis 8-0 in pool play. They lost to D9 Austin 6-5 in a consolation game.

Marshall heads over to Interstate 29 for a short drive to play in the Watertown PeeWee A Jamboree this weekend. The Tigers play two South Dakota teams, Watertown and Mitchell, and one North Dakota team, Dickinson. The Watertown Lakers and the Mitchell Marlins play in an eight-team South Dakota PeeWee A league. The Lakers' record is 2-8; the Marlins' record is 2-5. Dickinson plays in the North Dakota PeeWee A. They have a 2-6-1 league record.

The D4 playoff will be played in Windom on Feb. 19-20. Luverne looks to be the best in D4 this year and take the #1 seed this week. Redwood Falls and Marshall have been playing better over the past month, but can they catch the Luverne?

District 8 - Famington destroyed the competition at St. Cloud. In the Geyer Tourney, the Tigers beat Bemidji 6-0, Andover 6-0 and Sartell 11-1 in pool play. In the championship round, Farmington beat Burnsville 2-1 and Minnetonka 3-1. Only Burnsville hung with the Tigers as they outscored their opponents 28-3 and outshot them 197-53. Their defense is tough, but what was impressive this weekend is that all 13 forwards each scored one or more of those 28 goals. This week, the Tigers return to D8 action, playing Johnson/Como, Eagan, Lakeville North and Lakeville South.

Rosemount beat Hastings 8-0 last week in addition to beating Lakeville North 7-1 and losing to Edina 4-1. They have a single D8 game with Eastview this week. Woodbury stepped outside of D8 last week, beating Rochester Red 6-2 and losing to Prior Lake 3-2. The Predators head to Roseau this week. They will play a scrimmage against the Rams before the tourney and draw Chaska, Thief River Falls and Brainerd in pool play. They play Inver Grove Heights/South St. Paul and Hastings when they return.

Lakeville North won the 16-team, bracket play Fargo tourney The Panthers beat the Dakota Lasers 8-1, the #2 ranked (North Dakota) Bismarck Blades 9-4, #7 ranked West Fargo Packers 6-4 and the #9 ranked Bismarck Admirals 8-4. Lakeville North plays Hastings and Rogers, in addition to playing Farmington this week.

Lakeville South beat Eagan 7-0 in their only game last week. The Cougars travel to Roseau and will play Grand Rapids in a scrimmage before the tourney. The Cougars draw Wayzata, Warroad and East Grand Forks in pool play. They play Farmington on their return.

Sibley won at New Ulm. The Generals beat Marshall 8-0 and Dodge County 5-3 in pool play. In championship play, Sibley beat New Ulm 9-1 and Crow River 5-3. Sibley plays in IGH/SSP tourney this week. They play Hudson in the opening of bracket play. IGH/SSP draws Forest Lake in their opening game. Crow River plays Princeton and Prior Lake plays Andover in the other opening games. The Spartans have a tough field entered in their tourney.

Last week, IGH/SSP played Hastings in two critical games for both teams. They beat the Raiders 5-1 in the first game and lost the second 3-1. Eastview made the championship round in the Rochester tourney. The Lightning beat Rochester Black 6-0 and Mankato 7-3, and lost to Jefferson 3-2. That was good enough to win the pool. In the championship round, the Lightning lost to Centennial 5-2 and to Rochester Red 4-2 in the third-place game.

Johnson/Como held their Governor’s Cup tourney last weekend. Mounds View beat Waconia 3-2 in the championship game. The J/C Devils lost to Waconia 4-1 and Kennedy 7-2, and tied River Lakes 1-1 in the tourney. This week they play Hastings, Apple Valley, Sibley and Farmington in D8 play. After this week, the Devils will have only one D8 game left (against Farmington).

Eagan and Apple Valley tied last week in D8 action. As the D8 season winds down, the 12 teams look to be breaking into four groups in the standings. All 12 teams will advance to the playoffs. The top four seeds will get a bye. The first game is played among teams seeded 5 to 12 and is a single elimination game. Farmington, Rosemount and Woodbury look to have one of the top four seeds. Lakeville South and Lakeville North will battle for the 4th and 5th seeds. That leaves Eastview, Sibley, IGH/SSP and Hastings battling for 6th to 9th seeds. The 6th and 7th seeds have the edge in the playoffs and the best opportunity to guarantee a shot in the regional. IGH/SSP, splitting their two games, makes the race within a race close.

Apple Valley and Eagan’s tie also aids Johnson/Como. These three teams are battling for the 10th and 11th seeds. Teams finishing there will have a shot at the regionals if they can knock off one of the 6th or 7th seeds. But a team finishing 12th will have a tough road to get to the regionals.

Farmington keeps the #1 seed this week. They won a tough St. Cloud tourney. Rosemount keeps the #2 seed, but the Irish are playing shorthanded and that could hurt. Woodbury should make it to Championship Sunday at Roseau and will have their chances to show that they have improved. Lakeville South has a tough pool at Roseau. If the Cougars make it to Championship Sunday they would really impress. This week the #3 seed remains with Lakeville South.

District 9 - Things were cooking this week in D9. Two tourneys were held, one at Rochester and one at New Ulm.

The Rochester tourney had all three Rochester PeeWee A teams entered. Rochester Black lost their three pool games to Mankato 5-2, Eastview 6-0 and Jefferson 12-0. The Black lost a Sunday consolation to Mound Westonka 4-0. The Gold lost to two of D10's top teams, Centennial 12-0 and Champlin Park 7-0. They tied Albert Lea 5-5 and on Sunday lost to Mankato 5-2. Rochester Red made it to Championship Sunday, winning their pool. The Red beat Owatonna 9-0, Mound Westonka 7-1 and Quad City 3-0. In the championship round, the Red lost to Champlin Park 3-2 and beat Eastview 4-2 for third place.

The Red entertain Duluth East this weekend and host Mankato. The Black beat Red Wing 3-0 last week. They play a single game against Mankato this week. The Gold play Red Wing and Austin in D9 games this week.

Northfield plays in the Virginia tourney this weekend. They draw West Fargo in the opening game. West Fargo lost to Lakeville North 6-4 in the semifinals of their tourney last week. West Fargo beat Wayzata Blue B1 2-1 to get to the semifinals. The Raiders also play two D9 games this week, Austin before the weekend and Owatonna when they return. With a seven-point lead over their nearest competitor, Northfield has locked up the D9 East.

Dodge County is an improving team. The Wildcats played in the New Ulm tourney last week. The Wildcats beat St. Francis 3-1 and lost to Sibley 5-3 in pool play. In a consolation game on Sunday, they lost to host New Ulm 4-3. They play Austin in their only game this week. Austin played at New Ulm also. They lost their two pool games to Crow River 10-0 and Apple Valley 9-6. In a consolation game Sunday, they beat Marshall 6-5.

In the D9 West, Luverne leads but are “guests” and will play in the D4 playoffs. That leaves Owatonna and Mankato to fight it out for first. Both teams played in the Rochester tourney. Owatonna is improving and it showed as the Huskies beat Quad City Iowa 7-1 and Mound Westonka 3-1 in pool play. They lost to Rochester Red and in the fifth-place game to Jefferson 5-0. Mankato beat Rochester Black 5-2, Jefferson 4-2 and lost to Eastview 7-3. In the sixth-place game on Sunday they beat the Rochester Gold 5-2.

This week Owatonna plays Red Wing and Mason City Iowa in non-conference games. They play Faribault in their only D9 game. Mankato plays New Ulm and Rochester Red, besides the Black this week. New Ulm beat St. Louis Park 5-3 and Redwood Falls 6-0 to make it to the championship round of their tourney. They lost to Sibley 7-1, but came back to beat Dodge County 4-3 for third place. This week they play Waconia, Faribault and Mankato.

Albert Lea played at Rochester. They lost to Champlin Park 11-0, Centennial 15-1 and tied Rochester Gold 5-5. On Sunday, they lost a consolation game to Quad City 4-2.

Mankato keeps the #1 seed this week and Owatonna takes the #2 seed. Both teams played well at the Rochester tourney last week. Northfield takes the #3 seed.

East Regional (D2, D10, D11) - Cloquet and Duluth East are in town this week playing D2 and D10 teams. The teams in the East Regional at this point in the season are well-matched except for Elk River in D10 and Roseville in D2. The Elks have started to run away in the chase for the D10 title and Roseville has added to their lead last week.

In D11, all five teams will contend for their two seeds. What teams emerge from the district playoffs to this regional is a guess at best. One thing for certain, it will be the team that is playing at their best.

District 2 - Going into this week, Roseville has four D2 games remaining on their schedule. Stillwater has six games left (with three games unreported) and Forest Lake has five games left. Hudson has five games. At the start of last week, these teams were the only teams that could contend with the Roseville for the D2 title.

Roseville beat Highland 3-0 and Forest Lake 3-1 last week in D2 action. Forest Lake had a heavy D2 schedule, playing four games. The Rangers beat Highland 3-2, tied Tartan 1-1 and lost to Mahtomedi 3-2 in addition to losing to Roseville. Roseville is now on track to set the mark in D2 at 45 points. Forest Lake’s tough week has knocked the Rangers out of the race, leaving only the Ponies and the Hudson Raiders to contend.

Stillwater will need help. They play the Raiders on Jan. 31, but a win over Roseville will not be enough. The best the Ponies can do is to hit the 40 point mark. Please note that Tartan beat Stillwater 2-1 and Forest Lake 2-0 in November but has not reported their wins to D2. Hudson lost their second D2 game in a row this time to White Bear Lake 4-1. The Raiders play Roseville a week after Stillwater and will also need help. The best Hudson can do is 39 points.

Roseville plays Cloquet in their only game this week. Stillwater lost to Eden Prairie last week 3-1. The Ponies play in the Roseau tourney this week. They draw a tough pool, playing Grand Rapids, Moorhead and Edina. Forest Lake and Hudson play in the Inver Grove Heights tourney. The Rangers draw the host Spartans in the opening game on Friday. Hudson plays former D8 rival Sibley. Hudson had a great tourney two weeks ago at Brainerd, losing the championship game to Grand Rapids 3-2 in overtime. They beat Somerset 4-0 (yes, Fire fans, they have a team) last week.

Mounds View had a good week. The Mustangs won the Governor’s Cup, beating River Lakes 5-2, Armstrong 2-1 and Waconia 3-2. They play Cloquet and Stillwater this week. White Bear Lake lost to Wayzata 7-3, beat Hudson and played Tartan last week. The Bears continue play in D2 this week with games against Mahtomedi and Tartan. The White Bear Lake Moose Goheen tourney draw is out. With the new Vadnais Heights facilities available to the Bears, the tourney has expanded to 12 teams.

Tartan beat Jefferson 3-2 and beat the Wausau Warjacks 4-3, in addition to tying Forest Lake and playing White Bear Lake last week. The Warjacks lost two tough games to the 99 Fire the previous week, 3-2 and 4-1. This week the Titans play a return match with White Bear Lake. The Titans remain a “mystery team,” playing well at times and struggling at times. That’s kids.

Mahtomedi travels to Eveleth to play in the Mariucci. They draw the host Eveleth in their opening game. They return to play White Bear Lake.

What was said last week is worth repeating this week. Roseville keeps winning and the Raiders keep the #1 seed. Stillwater and Hudson are hanging in for the race for the D2 title. Hudson will be challenged in a tough IGH/SSP tourney, especially if they meet Prior Lake. Stillwater draws a tough pool at Roseau. Stillwater keeps the #2 seed this week.

Forest Lake will be challenged at IGH/SSP tourney and could meet Hudson for the title. But Mounds View carried the D2 flag well last week, winning the Governor’s Cup. They take the #3 seed. Highland, White Bear Lake, Tartan, Forest Lake and Mahtomedi can all challenge. When the first-place team can be beaten by the eighth-place team, you know the D2 playoffs will be tough.

District 10 - There are two stories in D10 this week. One is Elk River’s string of 14 D10 games in a month of play; the second is the battle in Rochester between Champlin Park and Centennial.

The Elks started their string by winning their first six games and threatened to run away with the D10 crown, but the Elks were dragged down two weeks ago when they went 2-2. Last week, the Elks regained their footing and first place. They beat Andover 4-1, Princeton 5-0, a tough Spring Lake Park team 6-3 and St. Francis 9-0.

Down in Rochester at their tourney, Champlin Park and Centennial found themselves in the same pool. The Rebels beat Rochester Gold 7-0 and Albert Lea 11-0; the Cougars beat the Gold 12-0 and Albert Lea 15-1. That set up a pool championship game that Centennial won 4-1. Both teams advanced to the championship round. Champlin Park beat Rochester Red 3-2 and Centennial beat Eastview 5-2 in the semifinals. The two teams met again in the championship. Centennial beat Champlin Park 5-3. Centennial also beat Blaine in a key D10 game before the Rochester tourney 2-1.

Elk River plays Champlin Park and Irondale this week. With five D10 games left and an eight-point lead in the standings over Blaine, the Elks are back on the “runaway” trail. The “cats, the kings and the rebs” are unlikely to catch the Elks.

Blaine plays the “four C’s” this week; Coon Rapids, Cloquet, Centennial and Champlin Park. Blaine beat Princeton 3-1 besides losing to Centennial last week. That was enough to give the Bengals second place in D10. Champlin Park, Centennial and Rogers all closely trail the Bengals. Centennial completed a busy week beating Anoka 3-1 and playing Stillwater.

Rogers played in the Geyer Tourney and pushed to top teams St. Cloud and Burnsville before losing to the Huskies 2-0 and the Blaze 3-2. The Royals led the Blaze 2-0 with six minutes to play and gave up three goals to lose the game. They beat Hopkins 2-1 to complete pool play and beat an improving Mpls Storm team in a consolation game 4-0. They play Anoka and Spring Lake Park in two key D10 games. On Sunday they play Lakeville North.

Princeton plays in the IGH/SSP tourney this week. They draw a tough Crow River team coming off winning the New Ulm tourney last week in their opening game of bracket play. The race within the race continues as Spring Lake Park, Andover and Anoka via for the two remaining seeds to the D10 playoffs. Irondale fell behind this week.

Spring Lake Park scored two tough D10 wins last week, beating Anoka 3-2 and Irondale 4-3. The Panthers play Rogers and St. Francis this week.

Andover played in the Geyer Tourney after losing to Elk River last week. They opened pool play with a 8-2 win over Sartell, but lost their last two pool games to top-rated Farmington 6-0 and Bemidji 8-0. In a consolation game, Andover beat Hopkins 5-3. The Huskies returned to play Champlin Park. This week they play at IGH/SSP tourney, drawing a tough Prior Lake team in the opening round.

Anoka lost two D10 games (Spring Lake Park and Centennial) and won one last week (Irondale). Heading into this week, Spring Lake Park has a slight advantage over Andover and Anoka as a result of winning last week. They do not play Andover or Anoka in their remaining D10 schedule. Anoka and Andover do meet. The race within the race remains too close to call.

Irondale played in the Governor’s Cup. The Knights beat Kennedy 5-4 in the opening game, but lost to Waconia 3-1 and Armstrong 7-2 in the third-place game. Irondale playoff chances were hurt with losses to Spring Lake Park and Anoka last week. The Knights are a team to be respected, but they have a tough D10 schedule remaining. It starts this week when the Knights play Centennial and Elk River.

St. Francis played in the New Ulm tourney. They lost to Dodge County 3-1 and beat Marshall 9-1 in pool play. They lost to St. Louis Park 5-0 in a consolation game. Coon Rapids had a good Governor’s Cup tourney. After losing to Armstrong 6-1, they beat River Lakes 3-2 and played Kennedy in the consolation championship.

Two weeks ago, Elk River took the #1 seed and it looked like they would keep it the rest of the year. Last week, they looked like they were about to tumble from the top. This week, the Elks are back to taking the #1 seed and keeping it the rest of the year. They are certainly heavy favorites to win the D10 title.

Centennial came on strong last week. The Cougars did this last year at this point in the season. They began to look like world beaters. Last week they had wins over Blaine and Champlin Park (twice) and that is good enough to earn the #2 seed. But last year, Centennial faded as the year ended.

Blaine takes the #3 seed although the Rebels can let out a holler over that choice and the Royals can issue a condemnation in protest. With less than a month to go the D10 playoffs are looking tough.

District 11 - Cloquet and Duluth East travel south this week. Cloquet plays D2 teams Roseville and Mounds View and plays D10 Blaine. Duluth East travels to Rochester, playing the Red twice and then heads back north to Centennial before returning to the Twin Ports. Cloquet beat Proctor in their only game last week. Duluth East played the Duluth Lakers last week.

The Duluth Lakers play in the Virginia tourney. They draw Northern Lakes in their opening game of bracket play. They play Superior this week.

Hermantown had a tough tourney at St. Cloud. They lost in pool play to the Mpls Storm 5-4, lost to STMA 5-4 and tied Minnetonka 2-2 before beating Sartell 7-0 in a consolation game. The Hawks have the week off this week.

Proctor lost to Greenway 7-0 and beat Mesabi East 9-8 last week besides losing to Cloquet. This week the Rails play in the Virginia tourney and draw the Grand Forks Golden Eagles. The Golden Eagles play in the North Dakota PeeWee A league and are struggling with a 1-3-1 league record in their first five games.

At the Schwan Thanksgiving tourney, Cloquet beat Champlin Park 4-3 in a good game that showed the Lumberjacks had potential. Their swing through D2 this week will show their progress. Roseville and Mounds View have improved and both are playing near the best they have played all season. It will be a good precursor of things to come in the East Region. All that being said, Hermantown keeps the #1 seed this week.

Duluth East still claims the last win over Cloquet and takes the #2 seed. But the Hounds struggled against a Thunder Bay team two weekends ago at Thunder Bay (losing all three games). Their game with Centennial who is also playing well at this point in the season will be a good test.

West Regional (D3, D5, D6) - The gap between teams seemed to be narrowing in the West Region last week. Mpls Storm put a chink what has been a two-team race in D3. If they continue to improve, they could knock either Wayzata or OMG out of the regional in the D3 playoffs. Crow River has also become a tough team in D3. In D5, St. Cloud and STMA still look to be the best. But D5 has three seeds for the teams and MAML, River Lakes, Buffalo and Sartell are all contenders. In D6, things were quiet last week as five teams (Burnsville, Eden Prairie, Edina, Minnetonka and Prior Lake) gear up for the race to finish in the top two spots and get a first round bye in the D6 playoffs.

District 3 - D3 has that feeling of being “like a soap opera.” “As the week turns", has Wayzata lost another “unfair play” point and “OMG” did OMG lose another D3 game. Are these two teams still running away with each other? Does the Mpls Storm really have an alias called "Mpls Park?” And what about that sneaky team from shivering Crow River, they are always “under the radar.”

Wayzata and Osseo/Maple Grove are running away together. They are spending this weekend playing in the Roseau tourney. Wayzata draws Lakeville South, Warroad and East Grand Forks in pool play; OMG draws Roseau, Eden Prairie and Fargo Flyers Gold in their pool. Both teams have a clear shot to make it to championship Sunday. Wayzata had a good week, beating White Bear Lake 7-3, St. Louis Park 8-0 in a D3 game and Edina 4-3. OMG had a tough week, losing to the 99 Fire 4-1 and to Prior Lake 7-2. They beat Spring Lake Park 5-0 and Crow River in a D3 game 6-0.

Both teams have run away with the D3 title between them. The game between the two teams on Jan. 30, at the PIC will decide the team that gets the title. But the two regional seeds are up for grabs.

Mpls Storm (or probably better known by their alias Mpls Park) played in the St. Cloud tourney. They beat Hermantown 5-4 and tied Minnetonka 3-3 in their first two pool games and needed to beat STMA to advance to the championship round. The Storm lost 4-1 and then lost a consolation match 4-0 to Rogers. Still they are an improving team.

Tied with the Storm in D3 for third place are Armstrong and Crow River. The Tigers took second place at the New Ulm tourney over the weekend. They beat Apple Valley 3-2 and Austin to get to the championship round. In the semifinals, Crow River beat Dodge County 8-0 before losing the championship to Sibley 5-3.

Armstrong played in the Governor’s Cup over the weekend. They beat Coon Rapids 6-1, lost to Mounds View 2-1 and beat Irondale 7-2 for the third place. They play three D3 games this week, Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Wayzata.

Mound Westonka played at Rochester. In pool play the Whitehawks beat Quad City 4-0, lost to Rochester Red 7-1 and lost to Owatonna 3-1. They beat Rochester Black 4-0 in a Sunday consolation game. St. Louis Park played at New Ulm also. In pool play, the Orioles lost to New Ulm 5-3 and beat Redwood Falls 8-3. They beat St. Francis 5-0 in a consolation game.

The Armstrong/St. Louis Park game on Saturday is part of a St. Louis Park hockey weekend tied in with other activities and a high school game between Park and their archrivals, Hopkins. The PeeWee Orioles play another D3 game against Crow River this week.

The Mpls Storm continued to show improvement at the Geyer Tourney and could be a threat to beat Wayzata or OMG at playoff time. OMG continued to struggle this past week, but against good teams. Nothing changes this week and despite OMG and Wayzata’s two-team race to the title, the seeds remain the same. Wayzata takes the #1 seed. The Storm takes the #2 seed.

District 5 - St. Cloud and STMA broke the knot in D5 last week and then both teams played in the Geyer Tourney. St. Cloud beat STMA 2-1 and added an 11-1 win over Sauk Rapids in D5 games to match Burnsville’s “perfect 30.” The Huskies won 10 of their first 10 D5 games, taking all 30 points. STMA drops to second place as the duel between the two teams continue. STMA and St. Cloud meet one more time, but the Knights will need help. They trail the Huskies by three points.

St. Cloud won their pool at the Geyer. In doing so, they edged out Burnsville. The Huskies beat Rogers 2-0, Hopkins 4-3 and tied Burnsville 2-2. They won the pool on a tiebreaker. In the championship round, they lost to Minnetonka 3-1 and beat Burnsville for third place 3-1. STMA lost to Minnetonka 4-1 in the opening game of the pool and came back to win the next two games beating Hermantown 5-4 and the Mpls Storm 4-1. The Knights lost to Bemidji 3-1 in their final tourney game.

St. Cloud is busy this week playing three D5 games (River Lakes, MAML and Sartell) and OMG. STMA plays two D5 games (Sauk Rapids and Willmar) while getting ready for a northern trip to Thief River Falls the following week.

Sartell, Buffalo, MAML and River Lakes are all in a battle for third place. With the D5 playoff draw set, all 10 D5 teams will be seeded into the playoff. The top two seeds (St. Cloud and STMA) will have a first round bye. One will play the winner of the #8/9 seed game and one will play the winner of the #7/10 seed game. Seeds 4/5 and 6/3 play each other with the winners advancing to the semifinals.

Sartell played in the Geyer tourney and lost to Andover 8-2, Bemidji 8-1 and Farmington 11-1 in pool play. The Sabres lost to Hermantown 7-0 in their final tourney game. This week they play Little Falls and Willmar besides playing a return match with St. Cloud. Sartell will host the D5 playoffs this year.

MAML beat Hutchinson 6-0, played Orono and beat Buffalo 4-3 last week. The Moose play Willmar, Litchfield, River Lakes and Sartell this week. They continue to play well and are a strong candidate to finish third in D5. The loss to MAML hurt Buffalo. The Bison had strung four D5 wins together before that loss and seemed ready to make their own run in D5.

River Lakes played in the Governor’s Cup. They lost their opening game to Mounds View 5-2, lost to Coon Rapids 3-2 and tied Johnson/Como 1-1. That was a good showing for an improving Stars team.

Willmar played three D5 games last week. They beat Sauk Rapids 5-4 and lost to Buffalo and Hutchinson 7-4. This week the Cardinals play STMA and Sartell in D5 games. Sauk Rapids lost a scoring donnybrook to Litchfield 9-7 besides losing to Willmar and St. Cloud. They play STMA and Buffalo this week. Hutchinson lost to Buffalo and MAML besides beating Willmar last week. They play Redwood Falls this week. Litchfield plays in the Fergus Falls tourney this week.

St. Cloud and STMA remain tied at the top of the D5 standings. There are no changes in the seeds. St. Cloud takes the #1 seed; STMA takes the #2 seed; and the Moose (MAML) keep the #3 seed.

District 6 - Edina, Eden Prairie and Chaska play in the Roseau tourney this week. Edina draws a tough pool. playing the top teams from D12 (Grand Rapids), D15 (Moorhead) and D2 (Stillwater). Eden Prairie plays Roseau, OMG and Fargo Flyers Gold in their pool. Chaska has Woodbury, TRF and Brainerd.

Edina stops in Bemidji to play the Lumberjacks the Thursday before the tourney. Last week, the Hornets beat Chaska 4-1 in D6 and lost to Wayzata 4-3. They play Eden Prairie in a key D6 game after they return from Roseau. Eden Prairie beat Shakopee 12-0 before leaving for Roseau.

Burnsville and Minnetonka played in the Geyer Tourney and both teams made it to the championship round. Minnetonka took second place, losing to top-rated Farmington 3-1. The Skippers got there by beating STMA 4-1, tying Mpls Storm 3-3 and tying Hermantown 2-2. Burnsville got there via wild card by beating Hopkins 5-3, Rogers 3-2 and tying St. Cloud 2-2. The Blaze lost to Farmington 2-1 in the semifinals and lost to St. Cloud in the third-place game. Minnetonka beat St. Cloud 3-1 in the semifinals.

Burnsville and Minnetonka meet on Sunday in what is a critical D6 game for both teams. In D6, teams finishing first or second get a bye in the first round of the double elimination part of the playoffs. Both Minnetonka and Burnsville are contending for first or second place (with Edina, Eden Prairie and Prior Lake). A win by the Blaze would widen their lead over the Skippers to four points (or two games if they keep their “unfair play” points) with each team having five games left to play. The Skippers play Shakopee before they play the Blaze and play Prior Lake after the Blaze this week. In the nine games the Blaze have played since losing to Rosemount on New Year’s Eve, the Blaze have amassed a 3-5-1 record.

The Edina and Eden Prairie game this week will be tense. Both teams should be tired from the trip to Roseau. The Eagles have four tough D6 games left (Edina twice, Burnsville and Chaska) and will need every point. Edina has seven games left and both the Hornets and Eagles are on track for 48 points. After this game, one will be on track for 46 points.

Prior Lake plays a tough IGH/SSP tourney on the weekend. They open bracket play against Andover. Last week, the Lakers beat OMG 7-2 and Woodbury 3-2. Jefferson played in the Rochester tourney. The Jags beat Eastview 3-2, lost to Mankato 4-2 and beat Rochester Black 12-0 in pool play. They beat Owatonna 5-0 on Sunday.

Waconia took second at the Governor’s Cup. They beat the host, Johnson/Como 4-1, Irondale 3-1 and lost to Mounds View 3-2 in the championship game. They also played Jefferson last week. Waconia has a busy week, playing Buffalo, New Ulm, Kennedy and Chaska. Shakopee plays Jefferson twice besides Minnetonka this week.

Things heat up as the top teams vie this week. But nothing has changed from last week. Eden Prairie keeps the #1 seed this week. Prior Lake keeps the #2 seed. As Burnsville and Minnetonka settles things between themselves on Sunday, Edina will challenge Eden Prairie in their key D6 game on Tuesday. But for now, the Blaze keep the #3 seed.

The Roseau tourney should prove interesting. Edina will have a tough time in their pool and Eden Prairie should fare better in their pool, but the D6 team to watch will be Chaska. The Hawks could surprise.

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