Friday, January 28, 2011

Another Way to Look at PeeWee A Hockey - Jan. 28

By frederick61

How valuable to the high schools are the associations in their area; or do the high school boards have a bigger impact? Outstate, it is easy to draw a comparison between high schools and associations. In smaller communities such as an Alexandria or a Virginia, it is an easy correlation. As your Bantams go, so go your high school a few years later. But it is not so certain in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester or St. Cloud. The associations in these communities often support more than one high school.

The top teams in Minnesota high school this year are Edina, Eagan, Wayzata and Duluth East. In December 2007, Edina had a Bantam A tourney that these high school team’s associations had entered. The kids playing on the Bantam teams in that tourney are now mostly seniors and a few juniors. They are playing high school hockey.

This is not about who won or lost the 2007 tourney, but about rosters. It is a snapshot on Minnesota association hockey. Edina, Eagan, Wayzata and Duluth East high schools each have rosters with 12-14 of their association’s Bantam A players from that tourney. Most of the 12-14 Bantam A players on their high school roster have the bulk of the playing time and are scoring the majority of goals.

Centennial and Champlin Park also played in that Bantam A tourney. Centennial High School has 15 Bantam A players and Champlin Park has 10 Bantam A players on their roster. Centennial High School lost to Duluth East and Wayzata twice early in the season, but have won their last six games. Champlin Park is struggling.

St. Cloud’s Bantam team played in that tourney. Ten bantam A players ended up on the St. Cloud Tech roster. St. Cloud Tech is currently leading the Central Lakes Conference. St. Cloud Apollo is last in the Central Lakes Conference. They ended up with one player off the St. Cloud Bantam A team, the goalie.

Rochester played in the Edina tourney. Four of the Rochester Bantam A players ended up at John Marshall, four at Lourdes and three at Century. They are the top scorers for their respective teams and get the most playing time. Mayo has none of the Rochester Bantam A players from that Edina tourney. All three Rochester high teams (John Marshall, Mayo and Century) are in a fight with Mankato West, Albert Lea and Faribault for the Big 9 Conference title, teams they dominated as PeeWees and Bantams. All three teams play in Section 1AA and in one sectional ranking, all three trail the two Lakeville teams and are in a virtual tie with Dodge County and Farmington.

If the dividing line between association responsibility in developing youth hockey for their high schools sort of ends when a kid moves up from the Bantam A level to high school, what does this exercise between the Bantam A teams and the high school teams lead one to conclude?

The first conclusion is that if a high school can keep a core of 12 players or so from the Bantam teams over the years, they will likely be more successful. The second conclusion is that a core of 12 players or so is more valuable than fewer individual “star quality” players for the high schools. That implies that role playing among the 12 players is an important to team success than out right individual talent at the high school level.

Edina, Eagan, Duluth East and Wayzata have one association and one high school. That leads to another easy conclusion. If you have a single Bantam A team and try to support more than one high school, the high schools are less competitive.

But this is not about Bantam A or high school hockey. This blog is about PeeWee A hockey. Why discuss all that here?

The reason is the tourney in December 2007 was the last “class of hockey players” that didn’t operate under new high school transfer guidelines choreographed between the Minnesota State High School League’s “New Transfer Bylaw” and Minnesota Department of Education’s Open Enrollment policy.

Next year’s senior/junior classes will have been operating under those policies that forces PeeWee kids and parents to make decisions on which high school to attend prematurely. The policies act as a one-two punch. The first punch, the Open Enrollment Policy, is sneaky. A 13/14 year old kid has to decide by January 15 of his eighth-grade year what high school he is going to attend. After January 15, the kid can be denied a transfer for failing to submit the transfer by January 15. Remember, in January of his eighth grade is the only day in a kid’s life that he can transfer without facing a penalty for the rest of his high school career. Usually, in January of a kid’s eighth grade, the kid and the parents are involved in their kid’s hockey and other activities.

The second punch is once the January 15 deadline is passed, you can transfer schools, but the MSHSL “New Transfer Bylaw” penalizes all transfer students by stating none can play sports at his new school for one year. These policies work based on no action by the kid or parents and verges on being illegal. It would be akin to a college claiming because you go to school in its area, you automatically must play sports at their college (at their discretion) even though you have signed no document declaring intent. And that if you decide after some magic date to play for another college, you will be penalized.

If you are parent of an eighth-grade kid and want him to play at a school other than the one he is attending this year, you needed to submit paperwork by January 15 (two weeks ago). If you didn’t, your kid will lose a year of eligibility if he or she transfers.

Minnesota Hockey, after a false start last year, appears to have done the right thing for the kids. Kids playing Bantam and PeeWee association hockey can play where they live or where they go to school. That lets the kid mature, but the two education-based boards who are supposed to be experts in kids, force immature kids to make a premature decision on which high school to attend based on hockey.

North Regional (D12, D15, D16) - The North had three PeeWee A tourneys last week. Roseau had a 16-team tourney, Eveleth had an eight-team Mariucci Tourney and Virginia had an eight-team Queen City tourney.

Roseau’s tourney pitted top teams from D2, D3, D6, D8, D11, D15 and D16. The Fargo Flyer Gold was also entered Edina walked away with the tourney, sweeping pool play and beating Eden Prairie 5-1 in the semifinals and Wayzata 6-1 in the finals. Mahtomedi won the Mariucci, beatign Hibbing 4-3 in the finals. At the Queen City, the Duluth Lakers played West Fargo for the title.

Grand Rapids looks to be the strongest candidate in D12, and D15 remains the domain of Moorhead. But four D16 teams (Bemidji, Roseau, Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks) are all challengers for the three D16 seeds. As kids develop, especially at the PeeWee age, team strengths change from the start of the season to the end. With the end approaching, the playing field is being leveled.

District 12 - Grand Rapids had a tough Roseau tourney. The Thunderhawks lost to Moorhead 3-1, beat Stillwater 7-5 and lost to Edina 11-2 in pool play. On Sunday, Rapids lost to Woodbury 5-3. This week, they hit the road, playing Bemidji and in two D12 games, Hibbing and Mesabi East.

Hibbing took second place at the Mariucci. The Bluejackets beat Hutchinson 3-0, Superior 3-1 and lost to Mahtomedi 4-3 in the championship game. Hibbing plays Virginia, in addition to hosting Grand Rapids this week.

Virginia beat D12 rival Greenway in another northern donnybrook, 9-6 in the opening game of their tourney. The Blue Devils lost to West Fargo in the semifinals and lost to Proctor 5-0 in the third place game. Greenway lost to Northfield 4-1 in the consolation semifinals and played Northern Lakes for seventh place. Virginia plays International Falls besides Hibbing this week. Greenway plays Proctor.

Mesabi East plays International Falls and Eveleth this week besides entertaining Grand Rapids. The Giants played in the Fergus Falls tourney last week. They beat Grafton/Park River 9-5, lost to the Sioux Falls Blue 4-3 and lost to Litchfield 3-2 in the third place game.

International Falls played at the Mariucci The Broncos lost their opening game to Highland, beat Eveleth 11-2 and lost the consolation title to Orono 6-5 in overtime. Three days later, Orono tied top rated OMG 1-1.

Grand Rapids keeps the #1 seed to the North Regional this week and Hibbing takes the #2 seed.

District 15 - Moorhead Black opened with a nice 3-1 win over Grand Rapids in pool play on the weekend at Roseau, but then the Black ran into a buzzsaw in the Hornets from Edina and lost 9-0. That loss knocked the Black out of the tourney. They completed pool play losing to Stillwater 4-3 in an overtime/shootout game and losing to OMG 5-2 on Sunday. The Black will host Bemidji and play at Brainerd this week.

After playing well the past few weeks, Moorhead Orange lost a tough D15 game to Alexandria 7-2. With few D15 games to go, that loss keeps the Orange in last place in D15 and improves on the odds that the Orange will play the Black in the opening game of the D15 playoffs. The Orange steps outside D15 this week to play the Grand Forks Golden Eagles, Red Lake Falls and Bismarck.

Fergus Falls hosted and won their tourney last weekend. The Otters beat Luverne 7-4, Litchfield 7-3 and the Sioux Falls Blue 9-2. Fergus Falls lost to Alexandria 5-4 before their tourney. After winning their tourney, the Otters lost to Alexandria again 4-2. This week, Fergus Falls plays Brainerd and Northern Lakes.

Alex's two wins over Fergus Falls and their victory over Moorhead Orange last week put the Cardinals in second place behind Moorhead Black. The Cardinals play Detroit Lakes and Northern Lakes this week.

Brainerd had a tough time at Roseau. The Warriors lost to Thief River Falls 8-5, Chaska 6-1, Woodbury 13-0 and Roseau 8-1. Brainerd hosts Moorhead Black and Fergus Falls this weekend.

Detroit Lakes played Little Falls last week. The Lakers complete their D5 season this week playing Little Falls, Alexandria and Moorhead Orange. Little Falls has only the single game with the Lakers this week. Northern Lakes played in the Virginia tourney. They lost to the Duluth Lakers, Grand Forks Golden Eagles and Greenway.

Moorhead Black takes the #1 seed this week. Alexandria beat Fergus Falls twice last week. The Cardinals keep their #2 seed.

District 16 - January 30 seems to decision day in a number of districts. It seems most of the top teams within a district have chosen to play each other on that day this season. D16 is one of those districts. Thief River Falls plays Bemidji at Bemidji on January 30. The Prowlers need the win. They are 7-1-1 to the Lumberjacks 7-1 in D16 play. But they have lost four “unfair play” points. A loss to the Lumberjacks will make Bemidji a heavy favorite to take the D16 regular season title. The Lumberjacks beat Crookston 4-1 last week. The Prowlers lost a key D16 game to Roseau 4-1 and lost to OMG 4-3 prior to the Roseau tourney. They host STMA and Detroit Lakes this weekend before traveling to Bemidji on Sunday.

Thief River Falls had a great Roseau tourney. They won their pool, beating Woodbury 5-4, Chaska 7-4 and Brainerd 8-5. The Prowlers lost to Wayzata 5-4 in the championship semifinal game and lost to Eden Prairie 11-1 in the third-place game.

East Grand Forks and Warroad played in the Roseau tourney and ended up in the same pool. The Green Wave lost to Wayzata 9-1 and Lakeville South 3-2, and beat Warroad in pool play. On Sunday, the Green Wave beat Chaska 5-3. Warroad lost to Wayzata 10-0, Lakeville South 8-0 and Stillwater 11-0 in their tourney games. The Green Wave plays Crookston and the Fargo Flyer Gold team this week.

Warroad has their tourney this week. Teams entered include Roseau, STMA, the Fargo Angels, Grand Forks Seawolves, Devils Lake North Dakota, Mordon, BP Royals and the Fargo Raiders. The BP in the BP Royals stands for Boston Pizza. The team is from Fort Frances across the border from International Falls. Two weeks ago, the BP Royals won their home tourney. They beat Thunder Bay Elks 8-2, Sioux Lookout Junior Flyers 6-1 and International Falls 6-0 in pool play. In the Championship Round, the Royals beat Thunder Bay Elks again 5-0 in the semifinals and the Dryden Paper Kings 4-3 in the championship game.

Roseau’s best game was beating TRF early in the week. And the Rams played well in their own tourney. They beat the Fargo Flyer Gold 8-2, lost to Eden Prairie 6-5 and lost to OMG 8-5. They beat Brainerd 8-1 on Sunday. The Rams play in the Warroad tourney this week.

Crookston has a busy week. The Pirates play East Grand Forks and Red Lake Falls this week in D16 games. They also play Fergus Falls and the Grand Forks Greyhounds. Besides losing to Bemidji last week, the Pirates lost to Detroit Lakes.

Bemidji moved to the top of the D16 standings and is the clear favorite to take the regular season title. TRF had a good Roseau tourney, making it to the championship round on Sunday, but lost to Roseau two days before the tourney started. Still, Bemidji keeps the #1 seed. Roseau moves to the #2 seed and TRF the #3 seed. The game Sunday between Bemidji/TRF should be one great game and will sort out who is on top. Roseau has improved and the Warroad tourney should prove interesting to the Rams. East Grand Forks has improved. With only three seeds available, something has to give.

South Regional (D4, D8, D9) - Nothing has changed in this regional this week. With the regular season ending and district playoffs approaching, all districts have released their playoff format. D4 will have a round robin tourney for its single seed. It will be played in Windom. Luverne is favored to take the seed.

D8 has all 12 teams entered in the playoffs at Hastings. The first round games (four games) are single elimination. Farmington, Rosemount and Woodbury are favored. Lakeville South has a shot. They play Rosemount twice this week. Lakeville North has a short bench (11 forwards in their last game). Hastings, IGH and Sibley have improved and are playing well. One of these teams will have a shot at the regions by finishing fourth in the D8 playoffs.

D9 will have an eight-team double elimination tourney with the top four teams from the East playing the top four teams from the West. The tourney will be held in Mankato. Mankato, Owatonna and Northfield are favored. New Ulm, Albert Lea, Rochester Black and Gold and Dodge County all have a shot at the regions by finishing fourth in the D8 playoffs.

D9 playoffs will start Thursday, February 17 and will finish the following Sunday, February 20. D8 playoffs will begin Sunday, February 20 and will finish Sunday, February 27. 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 February 27. The site of the play-in game is unknown.

District 4 - Luverne plays Austin and Mankato this week to end their D9 season as “guests.” They lead the league with 31 points going into those games and should set the standard for the D9 West at 35 points (minimum). Mankato is the only D9 West team chasing the Cardinals. The Mavericks played New Ulm last week and play New Ulm again in a D9 game this week besides playing Luverne. The Mavericks close their D9 season in two weeks against Faribault. If Mankato wins all their remaining games, they will end the season with 38 points. If Luverne beats Mankato this week, they will end the season with 38 points to the Mavericks' 37 points and win the league. The Luverne/Mankato game will be played this Sunday, January 30, at the All Seasons Arena in Mankato.

Luverne won the Consolation title in the Fergus Falls tourney this week. The Cardinals lost to Fergus Falls 7-4 in the opener, beat two North Dakota teams, the Fargo Flyers Black 11-0 and Grafton/Park River 6-5 in the consolation championship game.

Marshall went for a short drive to play in the Watertown South Dakota PeeWee A Jamboree last weekend. The Tigers played two South Dakota teams, Watertown and Mitchell, and one North Dakota team, Dickinson. Marshall plays Sioux Falls Blue and Litchfield this week.

Redwood Falls plays Buffalo and Luverne this week. The D4 playoff will be a three-team round robin format and will be played in Windom on February 19 and 20. The top team takes the #1 D4 seed to the South Regional in Rochester. Luverne looks to be the best in D4 this year and keeps the #1 seed this week.

District 8 - Famington returned to D8 action last week and beat Johnson/Como 7-0, Eagan 8-1, Lakeville North 5-1 and Lakeville South. Lakeville North put only 11 forwards on the ice against the Tigers and tired against the relentless Farmington attack. The first period of the Lakeville South game was as good as hockey can be at the PeeWee level. A well-skated period by both teams ended in a 1-1 tie. But the roof fell on the Cougars in the last two periods as they tired. The Tigers remain unbeaten in D8 play and on course for their February 12 showdown with Rosemount. This week, the Tigers play Hastings and Sibley in D8 games.

Rosemount beat Eastview 6-0 last week to remain unbeaten in D8. This week, the Irish play a home-and-home series with Lakeville South and play Apple Valley in D8 games.

Woodbury and Lakeville South carried the D8 flag into Roseau. Woodbury was surprised by Chaska 3-2 and Thief River Falls 5-4 in their first two games of pool play. The Predators rallied to beat Brainerd 13-0 and Grand Rapids 5-3 in their last two tourney games. Lakeville South lost their opening game of pool play to Wayzata 6-1. Despite winning their last three games (Warroad 8-0, East Grand Forks 3-2 and Fargo Flyers Gold 7-2), the Wayzata loss knocked the Cougars out of the tourney. Woodbury beat IGH/SSP in a D8 game upon their return home after the Roseau tourney. The Predators play Hastings twice this week. Lakeville South has a tough week, playing Rosemount twice in D8 games.

Lakeville North and Hastings started their seasons late, selecting their teams the last week of October. Last week, Hastings beat Lakeville North 5-4 and Johnson/Como 8-2. Besides playing Woodbury twice, the Raiders play Eagan and Farmington this week. Hastings’ win over the Panthers puts them on a course to tangle with Lakeville South and Woodbury for one of the top four seeds in D8 and an automatic entry into the double elimination round of the D8 tourney.

Inver Grove Heights/South St. Paul had a good home tourney. The Spartans/Packers beat Forest Lake 8-3 in the opening round of bracket play, lost to Crow River 5-2 and beat Hudson 4-3 in the third-place game. They play Eastview this week. Sibley played in IGH/SSP’s tourney last week and came close. They lost to Hudson 3-2 in an overtime shootout game, lost to Andover 8-7 in an overtime shootout game and beat Forest Lake 3-1. The Generals play Johnson/Como and Farmington in D8 games this week. Eastview plays IGH/SSP and Eagan this week. The Lightning will have one D8 left after this week against Hastings.

Hastings hosts the D8 playoffs beginning in three weeks from now. The teams seeded #5 to #12 play a single elimination game with the top four seeds, joining the winners in an eight-team double elimination tourney vying for three regional seeds and for a potential fourth seed via a play-in game with the fourth seeded D9 team.

Apple Valley beat Johnson/Como 4-3 last week in a key match-up for both teams. That Eagles win, combined with a tie with Eagan the week before, puts Apple Valley and Eagan on course for tie settling game Feb. 13. At stake is the #10 seed in the D8 playoffs. The #10 seed plays the #7 seed in a single elimination game. The most likely #7 seed would be Valley’s arch rival Eastview. The #11 seed would play the #6 seed and Hastings has the edge to take the #6 seed. Both the Eagan and Valley have two other D9 games remaining besides playing each other.

J/C’s loss to Apple Valley really hurt. The Devils trail Valley by two points and Eagan by one point. Unfortunately, J/C has two tough D8 games remaining. This week the Devils play Sibley. They end their D8 season playing Farmington. The #12 seed likely gives them one of the Lakeville teams in the single elimination game. If they make it to the double elimination, they would play either Rosemount or Farmington. Still, J/C has proven tough at times this season.

Farmington and Rosemount keep on winning in D8. As a result, Farmington keeps the #1 seed this week. Rosemount keeps the #2 seed. Woodbury never got going and Lakeville South played well after dropping their opening game to Wayzata. Still Woodbury owns a 5-0 win over the South just before the Roseau tourney. The Predators take the #3 seed. Lakeville South takes the #4 seed and the right to play in the play-in game.

District 9 - Luverne and Mankato are the last two teams contending for the D9 West Championship. These two teams will play each other this Sunday in Mankato with the winner likely to take the title. Owatonna was contending, but the Huskies can’t make up for the two loses to Luverne and the loss of three “unfair play” points. Owatonna has just two D9 games left. All Luverne has to do is save their “unfair play” points in their last two games and they knock Owatonna out of the race.

Mankato is busy week this week playing Hutchinson and Northfield and two D9 games (Luverne and New Ulm). Last week the Mavericks beat Rochester Black 13-2 and Rochester Red 4-2, and played New Ulm. After this week, Mankato has a single game left with Faribault.

The tournament format is out and the top four teams in the West and the top four teams in the East make the D9 playoffs. Faribault and Albert Lea are in a battle for the fourth seed in the West. Faribault has three tough games left (Northfield, Owatonna and Mankato). Albert Lea has a single game with Dodge County left to play but hold a four-point advantage. If Albert Lea loses to Dodge County, Faribault needs to win six of its remaining nine points to make the playoffs. Albert Lea holds the tiebreaker. If Albert Lea wins, Faribault needs to win all three games.

Mankato should overtake Owatonna in the standings to gain the #1 seed in the West; Owatonna would take the #2 seed and New Ulm the #3 seed into the D9 playoffs.

In the East, Northfield has locked up the D9 East Championship and the #1 East seed. But there is a donnybrook for the remaining three seeds. Austin is currently last in the East with three games left on their schedule and can’t catch Dodge County, the fourth place team. It is a shame, because the Packers have been playing well the last month and beat Dodge County 4-2 last week.

Fifth-place Red Wing is one of three East Division teams that played .500 hockey in their division this year; but the Wingers have lost 6 “unfairplay” points in 13 games and will not make the D9 playoffs. That leaves Rochester Black, Rochester Gold and Dodge County contending for seeds 2, 3 and 4. The Black have one game remaining in D9, Dodge County. Rochester Gold has two games remaining (Austin and Owatonna). If the Black beats Dodge County, the Gold needs to win both games. If Dodge County beats the Black, the Gold can take second with four points in their last two games. If Dodge wins all three remaining games, they take second.

The most likely scenario gives the Gold the #2 seed, the Black the #3 seed and Dodge the #4 seed. The D9 playoff draw in the opening round would then be Northfield/Albert Lea, Owatonna/Rochester Black in one bracket; Mankato/Dodge County, Rochester Gold/New Ulm in the other bracket.

Red Wing has their tourney this weekend. They open against D9 Rival Albert Lea. Faribault plays Sauk Rapids in the other bracket game. Shakopee plays Tartan and Mason City plays Rocester Black in the opening round games.

Northfield took the Viginia Queen City Consolation title last weekend. The Raiders lost to West Fargo 3-0 in the opening game, and beat Greenway 4-1 and Grand Forks Golden Eagles 4-1. They beat Austin 10-1 before leaving for Virginia. The Raiders have a busy week playing Owatonna, Mankato, Dodge County and Faribault.

Rochester Black play in Red Wing’s tourney this week. They open bracket play against Mason City. The Gold beat Red Wing 8-4 last week. This week they play Austin and Owatonna to end their D9 season. Rochester Red plays Centennial, White Bear Lake and Stillwater this week. Last week, the Red played Duluth East twice, winning 4-2 and losing 7-1, besides losing to Mankato. Dodge County has a single D9 key game with Northfield this week.

Mankato keeps the #1 seed this week and Owatonna takes the #2 seed. Northfield takes the #3 seed. D9 regular season is winding down, the playoffs are in sight.

East Regional (D2, D10, D11) - Cloquet and Duluth East were “down South” this week. Cloquet tied Mounds View 2-2, lost to Roseville 4-2 and beat Blaine 6-4. Duluth East split two games with Rochester Red and played Centennial.

A clearer picture has emerged in the East. D2 has a double elimination playoff. All eight D2 teams are entered. But only Roseville is a clear favorite to make the East Regional. Stillwater is starting to struggle. In a game late last week, Stillwater needed help from the refs to beat a stubborn Mounds View team 2-1. After Roseville in D2, it is a coin flip.

In D10, four teams will not make the D10 playoffs. St. Francis and Coon Rapids are out of the playoffs. Andover and Irondale are on the verge of elimination. Elk River is the only clear favorite in D10 at this time. In D11, all five teams will have a shot at one of the two seeds. Best guess is that the seeds will go two of these three teams, Cloquet, Hermantown and Duluth East.

What is clear in the East is that few teams are out of the running. That uncertainty places an added emphasis on how teams finish in their regular season district standings. The standings will determine the seeds to the playoffs.

District 2 - Roseville beat Cloquet 4-2 in their only D2 game last week. This week, Roseville plays Mahtomedi and Stillwater in D2 action. A win over the Ponies will just about lock up the D2 title for Roseville and the #1 seed to the D2 playoffs.

Stillwater ran into a Hornets nest at Roseau, losing to Edina 5-1 in the opening game of pool play. The Ponies lost their next pool game to Grand Rapids 7-5. They beat Moorhead 4-3 and Warroad 11-0 in their final two tourney games.

Stillwater beat Mounds View 2-1 when they returned. Poor officiating played a role in the Ponies win. The Mustangs were leading 1-0 with less than two minutes remaining. The refs called two successive penalties on the Mustangs that resulted in the Ponies scoring a 5-on-3 goal and a 5-on-4 goal. The second penalty was called on the Mounds View player for interfering with a Pony who was camped inside the Mounds View crease watching a puck being contended in the corner.

The Mustangs had two checking from behinds called on them. One of the penalties came after very little contact along the boards with the ref making the call out of position (the other ref who was in position did not call a penalty). The same refs watched a Pony check a Mustang hard from behind, accelerating the kid into the board on the ice, resulting in a violent collision with the boards. They did not blow a whistle. Finally, the Mustang starting center was kicked out of the game (too many penalties on him?) after a penalty call that was very strange late in the game. The Mustangs lost their “unfair play” point. Stillwater didn’t. The Mustangs played good hockey and were out to only win the game. Stillwater looked tired.

Hudson played in the IGH/SSP tourney over the weekend. The Raiders beat Sibley 3-2 in an overtime/shootout game, lost a tough game to Prior Lake 4-3 and lost the third-place game to IGH/SSP 4-3. Hudson plays Forest Lake and Mounds View in D2 games this week.

Tartan has not reported their scores, but if the estimate is right, the Tartans have enough points (24 depending on “unfair play” points) to be knotted in second with Hudson and Stillwater. The Raiders from Hudson, Roseville, Tartan and Stillwater all play each other in the last two weeks of the season. But if Roseville wins this week, it may not matter.

Forest Lake had a tough week. After losing to Roseville 3-1 in a key D2 game, the Rangers played in the IGH/SSP tourney and lost all three games. They lost their opener to IGH/SSP 8-3, lost a tough game to Princeton 1-0 and lost to Sibley 3-1. The Rangers ran into four tough teams last week.

Mounds View tied Cloquet 2-2 and before losing to Stillwater last week. They are an improving team with size and strength. The Mustangs play Highland in addition to Hudson this week. Highland played in the Mariucci Tourney over the weekend in Eveleth. They beat International Falls, lost to Mahtomedi and played Superior for third place.

Tartan and White Bear Lake played their two D2 games against each other last week. Tartan tied the Bears 2-2 and the Bears beat the Titans 4-1. Tartan plays in the Red Wing tourney this weekend. They draw Shakopee in the opening round. White Bear Lake plays Rochester Red and Duluth East this week, before opening their Moose Goheen tourney.

Mahtomedi won the Mariucci Tourney in Eveleth over the weekend. They beat Eveleth 9-0, Highland and Hibbing 4-3 in the championship game. They returned to play White Bear Lake last week.

Roseville keeps the #1 seed and Stillwater keeps the #2 seed this week. Forest Lake struggled at IGH/SSP tourney. Mounds View has been playing well and Mahtomedi won the Mariucci. The Zephyrs take the #3 seed. Highland, White Bear Lake and Tartan are in the running. If they would report their games, Tartan is actually in second place in D2.

The D2 playoff draw is shaping up. The first-round matchups could be something like this: #1 Roseville/#8 Highland, #4 Mounds View/#5 White Bear Lake, #2 Tartan/#7 Mahtomedi and #3 Stillwater/#6 Forest Lake. But with each team having three to four games left, the opening draw is anybody’s guess. As said last week, when the first-place team can be beaten by the eighth-place team, you know the D2 playoffs will be tough.

District 10 - Elk River added two more D10 wins to their league record, beating Champlin Park 4-2 and Irondale 8-1. The Elks have three D10 games left, Blaine, Rogers and Anoka. If they win all nine points, the Elks will finish the D10 season with 58 points. Blaine trails and needs to beat Elk River to have a shot at the D10 title. The two teams meet this Saturday at Fogerty. Elk River also plays Rogers on the weekend in another key D10 game.

Rogers is poised to make a move up this week in D10. They play four games (St. Francis, Irondale, Elk River and Coon Rapids). They can’t catch the Elks, but they can take the coveted second or third place in the D10 standings and the associated #2 or #3 seed to the D10 playoffs. If either Rogers or Blaine can beat the Elks, they will likely finish second or third. Rogers tied Lakeville North 5-5, lost to Spring Lake Park 4-1 and beat Anoka 3-2 last week.

Blaine plays Irondale in addition to Elk River this week. Blaine played the “four C’s” last week. The Bengals beat Coon Rapids 7-2, lost to Cloquet 6-4, lost to Centennial 2-1 and beat Champlin Park 3-1. That gives the Bengals a “C” grade for last week. Ironic, isn’t it?

Blaine plays Irondale and Spring Lake Park in addition to Elk River this week. Champlin Park had a tough week. Besides losing to Elk River and Blaine, the Rebels tied Andover 2-2 and lost to Centennial 5-2.

The Rochester tourney two weeks ago set the battle for Centennial and Champlin Park this week. At Rochester, Centennial beat the Rebels 4-1 and 5-3. Last week, the two teams met in the first of two key D10 games. Centennial won again, beating Champlin Park 5-2. The Cougars, with that win, overtook the Rebels for third in the D10 standings.

Centennial can now set its sights on second-place Blaine. They trail the Bengals by a point. Centennial has three D10 games this week, St. Francis, Princeton and Champlin Park. In 11 days, the Cougars will have played nine games (Champlin Park, Rochester Red, St. Francis, Princeton, Wayzata, Champlin Park, Minnetonka, Woodbury and OMG). If Centennial makes it to Championship Sunday at White Bear, the Cougars will play two more games, making it 11 games in 12 days. My guess is the kids will love it, but the coaches may not.

Champlin Park plays three D10 games this week. Besides the second game with Centennial, they play Coon Rapids and Anoka. The Rebels need to win all three games to keep in the chase for the #2 or #3 D10 seed. If the Rebels lose again, they will likely fall to fifth place. That would put them in the #5 seed playing the #4 seed for the right to play the #1 seed Elk River. That is a tough row to hoe.

While the top five are battling for seeds in the tourney, the next three D10 teams, Anoka, Princeton and Spring Lake Park, are all tied in the D10 standings. This is the race within the race and it remains too close to call except to say that Andover has fallen behind these three teams but still remains a threat.

Anoka and Spring Lake Park have six D10 games left. Princeton has seven D10 games left. Anoka plays Andover, Champlin Park and St. Francis this week. Princeton plays Spring Lake Park (in the first of their two games), Centennial and Irondale this week. Spring Lake Park plays four D10 games this week. Besides Princeton, the Panthers play Coon Rapids, Irondale and archrival Blaine.

Princeton played in IGH/SSP tourney last week. They lost the opening game to Crow River, beat Forest Lake 1-0 and lost to D10 rival Andover 1-0 in the consolation title game. Anoka lost to Centennial 3-1, lost to Rogers 3-2 and beat Coon Rapids 10-1 last week. Spring Lake Park beat Rogers 4-1 and St. Francis 7-0 last week.

The Panthers continue to play well and this week will be tough for them. They play Prior Lake in addition to the four D10 games. Winning three of the four D10 games would virtually lock up a D10 playoff spot for the Panthers.

Andover and Irondale are the “bubble teams.” Irondale has 24 points and six games to play; Andover has 23 points and six games to play. Irondale plays Rogers, Blaine, Spring Lake Park and Princeton this week and needs to win. The Knights have been one of the surprises this year. It would be nice to see them in the D10 playoffs this year.

Andover had a tremendous year last year, making the state tourney. This year the Huskies are struggling to make the D10 playoffs. They have a key game with Anoka this week. A win over Anoka and a sweep of St. Francis and Coon Rapids in their other two games would give the Huskies 9 points and put them back into the chase should Anoka, Spring Lake Park or Princeton fall. Andover’s D10 playoff hopes may rest on having to beat Centennial in their last D10 game, a game that Centennial may need to take the #2 or #3 seed into the playoffs.

Elk River keeps the #1 seed. Centennial’s win over Blaine gives them the #2 seed and Blaine takes the #3 seed this week. If Rogers makes their move, they will most likely move into the top three. Centennial and Champlin Park will be battling it out this week and to the winner goes the spoils. Anoka remains tough and is a good tourney team and could surprise. Spring Lake Park has shown continued improvement over the season. Will they continue to improve? Princeton remains in the middle of the mix.

District 11 - Cloquet beat Proctor in a D11 game 8-2 and then took off for the cities. The Lumberjacks beat Blaine 6-4, tied Mounds View 2-2 and lost to Roseville 4-2 on their weekend. They play Armstrong this week. Hermantown beat Superior 4-1 last week and also play Armstrong this week.

Duluth East beat Rochester Red 7-1, lost to Rochester Red 4-2 and played Centennial. This week the Hounds host White Bear Lake. The Duluth Lakers played in the Virginia tourney. The Lakers beat Northern Lakes and Proctor to advance to the finals against West Fargo. Proctor played in the Virginia tourney. The Rails beat the Grand Forks Golden Eagles 7-6, lost to the Lakers and beat Virginia 5-0 for third place. The Rails play Duluth East, Greenway and Little Falls this week.

Things are quiet in D11 this week. The next big event is the Cloquet tourney with 12 teams entered. Tourney play will open February 4h. The 12 teams entered are divided into two pools. Pool A has Cloquet, Apple Valley, Coon Rapids, Mankato, Spring Lake Park and Waconia. Pool B has Greenway, Hermantown, Sibley, St. Cloud, Superior and the Thunder Bay Kings.

Hermantown had the week off and continues that this week. The Hawks keep the #1 seed, but will be tested at the Cloquet tourney in two weeks. Cloquet take the #2 seed this week. But the Lumberjacks remain a mystery. Their 1-1-1 record on their Southern swing last week was good, but still indicates that they could be playing better. Duluth East beat Cloquet two weeks ago, but remains an up and down team. Their swing through Rochester last week did not impress. Proctor continues to work at getting better and has shown improvement, but their loss to the Lakers at Virginia was a tough game.

West Regional (D3, D5, D6) - The gap between the West Regional teams continues to be narrowing. In D3, Wayzata and OMG traveled to Roseau and had really good tourneys. Wayzata took second. But the Trojans were almost upset by Armstrong (winning 2-1) and OMG was tied by Orono 1-1 when they returned to D3 play. This week, Wayzata looks to be the best in D3, but OMG, Mpls Storm, Crow River and Armstrong will challenge for the remaining D3 seed. In D5, St. Cloud and STMA remain the odds-on favorites for seeds, but the gap is narrowing. St. Cloud almost lost to MAML (winning 2-1). The race for the #3 seed is wide open.

In D6, Burnsville edged out a little and Minnetonka faltered. But it will be anybody’s guess on the outcome of the D6 playoffs. Edina put on a show at Roseau and struggled to keep a 1-1 tie against Eden Prairie two days after they beat the Eagle 5-1. Prior Lake continues to play well, taking the IGH/SSP tourney and beating Minnetonka 4-1.

District 3 - D3 continues the “soap opera.” Wayzata and OMG ran away to play at Roseau. OMG lost their opening pool game to Eden Prairie 3-2. They went on to beat Fargo Flyers Gold 10-0, Roseau 8-5 and Moorhead 5-2, but couldn’t make the championship round.

Wayzata played like world beaters as the Trojans easily won their pool. beating Lakeville South 6-1, East Grand Forks 9-1 and Warroad 10-0. In the championship round, they beat a tough TRF team 5-4 before losing to Edina 6-1. The Trojans took second place.

With the two teams separated by a single point (mostly due to the Trojans losing 5 of their “unfair play” points), OMG and Wayzata meet this Sunday afternoon at the PIC with the D3 title at stake. The loser may have more at stake (especially Wayzata) then the D3 title. A loss could cause the two teams to part (keeping with the “soap opera” theme). The villain would be the Mpls Storm (alias: the mysterious Mpls Park team). The Storm are positioned to make a move. If the Storm can shake the sneaky, persistent Crow River team, they could take second, splitting Wayzata and OMG’s one-two hold on D3.

Wayzata beat Armstrong 2-1 when they returned from Roseau. The Trojans play Mound Westonka in addition to OMG this week. OMG tied Orono 1-1 last week.

The Mpls Storm and Crow River play this week. If either team can take six points out of those two games, that team could climb into second place over the loser of Sunday’s Wayzata/OMG game. Crow River plays St. Louis Park in addition to the Storm this week. Mpls Storm plays Orono.

Crow River took second place at the IGH/SSP tourney. The Tigers beat Princeton, beat IGH/SSP 5-2 and lost to Prior Lake 6-2 in the championship game. The Mpls Storm beat Hopkins 5-1 and Mound Westonka 6-0 this week.

Armstrong beat Hopkins 5-3 and St. Louis Park 4-1 last week besides losing to Wayzata. They have two D3 games left (Storm and Crow River). Armstrong takes a day trip to D11, playing Cloquet and Hermantown this weekend. Armstrong hosts the New Hope tourney the weekend of Feb. 4.

Orono played in the Mariucci tourney in Eveleth over the weekend. The Spartans lost to Superior 4-3 and beat Hutchinson 5-0 and International Falls 6-5 in overtime to win the consolation title. They returned to dent OMG’s D3 title hopes, tying OMG 1-1 in league play. Orono has become an interesting team this year. They have played better than .500 hockey and have taken hardware home in all four tourneys they have entered.

The D3 playoff format this year will have a single play-in game between the teams that finish eighth and ninth. St. Louis Park is likely to finish ninth and Hopkins/Orono and Mound Westonka fighting for the sixth, seventh and eighth seeds. Hopkins has the edge and if the Royals end up in eighth that would set up a play-in game between two arch rivals.

Wayzata takes the #1 seed. The Storm takes the #2 seed. The Trojans may finish as low as third in D3, but if they do it will be because of the loss of their “unfair play” points. The Storm continue to improve and though OMG played well at Roseau, OMG was tied by Orono when they returned. Too bad this year D3 gets only two seeds to the West. It would really make the D3 playoffs unpredictable.

District 5 - St. Cloud beat River Lakes 7-2 and beat a steadily improving MAML 2-1 in D5 play last week. The Huskies play Sartell and Willmar this week in D5 action. STMA beat Sauk Rapids 9-0 and Willmar 9-1 last week. This week, the Knights travel to the Thief River Falls area. They play the Prowlers in a single game and they travel to Warroad to play in their tourney. The Knights draw the Fargo Angels and Warroad in their pool. There are nine teams entered.

St. Cloud continues to play perfect hockey in D5. They have 36 points in 12 games and should run that streak to 15 games. Then they play STMA. Unfortunately for the Knights, they need help to overtake the Huskies and MAML gave it a good shot in losing 2-1.

The battle for third place in D5 continues. Buffalo, Sartell, MAML and River Lakes were all knotted as the week began. Buffalo had strung four D5 wins together, but had their hopes bashed last week. The Bison lost to MAML 4-3 and to Sauk Rapids 4-3. With only four D5 games left, Buffalo needs to win.

With the Bison dropping in the standings, Sartell lost also. The Sabres had their hopes dashed at Willmar, losing to the Cardinals 4-3. MAML played only St. Cloud last week, but this week the Moose can make a move this week. They play Willmar, Litchfield, River Lakes and Sartell. A sweep would put the Moose (horns, hoofs and all) in third place in D5.

River Lakes plays Buffalo besides MAML this week. Last week, the Stars played in the Fergus Falls tourney. They lost their opening game to the Sioux Falls Blue, lost to Grafton/River Park 5-1 and beat Fargo 5-3.

Hutchinson played in the Mariucci tourney. They lost a tough game to Hibbing in the opener 3-0, lost to Orono 5-0 and beat Eveleth 7-2. They returned to play Redwood Falls. This week Hutchinson plays Sartell and Willmar. Willmar win over Sartell was a good one for the Cardinals. They play MAML, St. Cloud and Hutchinson in D5 games this week to end their D5 season.

Sauk Rapids plays in the Red Wing tourney. They open bracket play against Faribault. The Storm win over Sartell was a surprise. Litchfield sprung a surprise. They took third place at Fergus Falls. They beat the Fargo Flyers 4-0, lost to the Otters 7-3 and beat Mesabi East 3-2 in the third place game.

Sometimes the teams make it easy. That is what happened in D5 this week. There are no changes in the seeds. St. Cloud takes the #1 seed; STMA takes the #2 seed; and the Moose (MALM) keep the #3 seed.

District 6 - Last week, D8 Farmington ran the table at St. Cloud’s Geyer Tourney. This week, Edina ran the table at the Roseau tourney, beating three tough teams in pool that had been playing good hockey. The Hornets beat Stillwater 5-1, Moorhead 9-0 and Grand Rapids 11-2. In the championship round, they beat D6 rival Eden Prairie 5-1 and Wayzata 6-1. Before the Hornets arrived in Roseau, they stopped in Bemidji and beat the Lumberjacks 7-2.

Edina returned home to play Eden Prairie again. With both teams locked in a battle for the top two spots in the league (with three other teams) and two all-important first-round byes in the D6 playoffs, the teams took the ice again two days later and 300 miles from Roseau. The Hornets came out skating and Eden Prairie didn’t. For the first half of the game, the Eagles relied on their goalie who put on an amazing performance making difficult stop after difficult stop.

The Hornets scored their only goal when a forward found a five-foot open space in front of the net and skated into the goalie and scored by deking the goalie out. Trailing 1-0, Eden Prairie forwards finally began to move halfway through the game. The Eagles started to move the puck easily through the Hornet defense and finally scored to tie the game 1-1.

The third period started with expectations of a real donnybrook. It didn’t happen. The refs stepped in and called five sequential penalties on the Eagles in the 14-minute period. The Eagles goalie continued his outstanding play and the Eagles defense stiffened. The game ended in a tie. Eden Prairie played half of the last period on the penalty kill. And Eden Prairie may have lost their “unfair play” point. Edina didn’t.

Edina is set to make their move in D6 this week. The Hornets play three D6 games (Kennedy, Jefferson and Waconia). Eden Prairie has two D6 games this week, Burnsville and Chaska. After this week, the Eagles will have one D6 game remaining (with Edina). The tie cost the Eagles two points. A sweep of their remaining games would give the Eagles 46 points. An Edina sweep of their remaining D6 games would give the Hornets 46 points.

Burnsville played Minnetonka and Chaska last week. The Blaze beat Minnetonka 3-1 on Sunday. The Skippers skated with the Blaze for the first half of the game, but slowed and the bigger Blaze forwards used their size to keep the Skippers off the puck. The Blaze beat Chaska 4-1 in their second D6 game of the week. The first half of the game was a tough, rugged sort of game with both teams moving the puck. Burnsville had a 2-1 lead with four minutes to go when the Blaze picked up their sixth penalty. One more penalty and the Blaze would lose their “unfair play” point.

The Blaze started to back off. They would throw no more checks. They would avoid any reaching for the puck and surrender any races to the Chaska forwards. The game became a dump and chase kind of game where the Blaze were content to get the puck into the Chaska zone and apply only a modest amount of pressure.

It worked as they constantly worked to dig the puck out of their boards and move it to the Chaska zone. When a Blaze and a Chaska forward tangled in center ice, the Blaze forward hit the ice purposely to avoid any chance of a penalty call. It worked. The Blaze added a third goal when a Blaze forward slapped a shot from the slot past the Chaska goalie into the upper right corner. The fourth goal was an empty netter. Chaska came close a number of times to tie the game as the Hawks continued to play aggressive.

Burnsville has four D6 games to go. The Blaze can finish with 50 points. The Eden Prairie/Burnsville game on Sunday should be a great game between the two teams, especially if the Eagles goalie continues their outstanding play. Burnsville also plays Kennedy this week.

Minnetonka lost to Prior Lake 4-1 last week. Assuming both teams got their “unfair play” points, Minnetonka, if they sweep their remaining games, would get 45 points. The Skippers play Waconia and Prior Lake this week. Prior Lake plays Kennedy in addition to playing the Skippers again this week. The Lakers can get 43 points if they win their last six D6 games. A second win this week over Minnetonka could set up a potential showdown with Burnsville in the last D6 game for both teams.

Prior Lake won the IGH/SSP tourney over the week. The Lakers beat Andover 6-0, Hudson 4-3 and Crow River 6-2 in the championship game. Prior Lake also plays Spring Lake Park this week.

Chaska was the third D6 team at Roseau and they opened with a bang, winning their first two pool games. The Hawks beat Woodbury 3-2 and Brainerd 6-1, but lost the pool championship game to Thief River Falls 7-4. They lost to East Grand Forks 5-3 on Sunday. Besides playing Burnsville this week, Chaska lost a D6 game to Waconia 5-4. The loss to Waconia keeps the Hawks in the D6 basement. They remain a team that plays good teams well and then plays other teams and loses.

Waconia beat Kennedy in another D6 game 4-3 last week. The two wins have put Waconia in sixth place behind Prior Lake. They continue to improve and will tested this week playing Minnetonka and Edina. Jefferson lost to Minnetonka, beat Shakopee 5-3, lost to Kennedy 8-1 and lost to Shakopee 4-1 to end a tough week. Jefferson plays Edina this week in D6.

Kennedy has shown improvement in the past month. They had a good tourney in their own tourney at Christmas time and are playing well. They will be tested this week playing Edina and Prior Lake.

Shakopee heads to Red Wing this weekend to play in their tourney. They open play against Tartan. That will pit two improving teams playing each other. The winner will have a good chance of winning the tourney. The loser will have a good chance of winning the consolation title.

Things heated up in D6 last week. Burnsville and Prior Lake won. Edina and Eden Prairie tied. Minnetonka lost. Burnsville takes the #1 seed this week. Edina takes the #2 seed. Prior Lake takes the #3 seed.

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