It is now down to the final eight teams for the PeeWee A championship this year. Five months ago, over a hundred PeeWee A teams opened their Minnesota hockey seasons. In 10 days, the remaining eight teams will competed for the state title at the Bloomington Ice Gardens on rink 3. One team will be left and crowned champion.
This year, the rink is important. BIG’s rink 3 is an Olympic sized sheet (15 feet wider than the standard 200’ by 85’ sheet) of ice. That will help the team with the most speed and passing skills. Teams that rely on defensive strategies will have to work extra hard in the wide open spaces. The South, East and West Regionals were played in smaller rinks, especially the West Regional at Torrey.
Congratulations to the eight state tourney seed winners. Moorhead Black and Grand Rapids are representing the North Region, Farmington and Rosemount are representing the South Region, Elk River and Blaine are representing the East Region, and Edina and Wayzata are representing the West Region. Five of the eight teams won their regular season district titles (Moorhead Black D15, Grand Rapids D12, Farmington D8, Elk River D10, and Wayzata D3). Rosemount finished second in D8; Blaine finished third in D10, and Edina finished second in D6.
The associations represented are of all sizes. Of the eight associations with PeeWee A teams playing in the state, Wayzata has the most traveling teams (A and B level). The Trojans fielded 8 teams with approximately 130 kids playing. Edina had 6 teams and 105 kids playing; Blaine had 5 teams and 80 kids playing; Moorhead had 4 teams and 70 kids playing; Elk River had 4 teams and 65 kids playing; Rosemount had 4 teams and 61 kids playing; Farmington had 4 teams and 56 kids playing; and Grand Rapids had 3 teams and 45 kids playing.
Two associations, Wayzata and Rosemount, have a PeeWee B teams in the PeeWee B state tourney at Stillwater’s Blizzard arena.
The team with the best winning percentage (games won versus all games played) is Farmington (91%). Wayzata and Edina have won 82% of their games, Rosemount has won 80%, Moorhead has won 76%, Grand Rapids has won 71%, Elk River has won 70% and Blaine has won 57%. None of the eight teams won all of their last 10 season games.
Team that played the most games this year is Edina (61). The team that played the least games is Moorhead Black (37).
Only home team to win their regional is Moorhead Black (won the North Regional played at Moorhead). St. Cloud, Anoka, and Rochester all failed to advance.
Two districts (D10 and D8) have two teams in the state tourney.
The teams with the most standout players on the roster are Edina (three) and Farmington (three).
Team that should be the most dangerous on an Olympic sized ice is Rosemount if they have their lines settled.
Team with the easiest path to the championship game this year-none.
Rosemount and Farmington have only one goalie. The other six teams have two goalies on their team.
Most improved team over the season is Edina.
Of the three regional tourneys (East, West and South that I saw), the West Regional at St. Cloud’s Municipal Athletic Complex was the best venue. The two sheets of ice (Torrey and Rische) have a common set of glass doors that allowed the fans to easily move from watching games on either sheet. The seating is close to the ice. The peewee A games were played on Torrey and the PeeWee B games were played on Rische. The best game played Saturday turned out to be the PeeWee B game between New Prague (skating 11 forwards) and the Wayzata Blue.
Rochester’s Graham Arena hosted the South Regional. They have a good setup and they have a nice walking track around the rink that the PeeWee A’s played on. Some arenas do not allow fans to stand on the walkway that overhangs the ice, but Graham does.
North Regional (D12, D15, D16) - Grand Rapids opened the tourney beating Fergus Falls 15-3. The Thunderhawks winning was not a surprise, but scoring 15 goals against the Otters was a surprise. The Otters had gone 7-2 in February and had played better defense. Bemidji beat Virginia 7-1 in the second game of the upper bracket in their first meeting of the season. The Lumberjacks have played solid hockey all year.
Bemidji beat Grand Rapids 6-3 in the upper bracket semifinal game. This was a “small surprise”, Grand Rapids looked due to beat the Lumberjacks and it didn’t happen. In the first loser goes home game in the upper bracket, Fergus Falls beat Virginia 4-2.
The Moorhead Black beat East Grand Forks 6-2 and Hibbing upset Thief River Falls 4-3 in the lower bracket Friday evening games. The Black win was no surprise. Hibbing’s win over Thief River Falls was. That set up a Moorhead Black/Hibbing semifinal game that the Black dominated beating the Bluejackets 10-0. In the loser goes home game Thief River Falls beat East Grand Forks 4-3.
The second set of loser goes home games were played Saturday evening. Fergus Falls beat Hibbing 6-5 and Grand Rapids beat Thief River Falls 5-3. Hibbing had a great end to their season, playing well in the last month. The Prowlers had a great season beating Woodbury, Bemidji, Chaska, and Moorhead Black among others.
Sunday morning, Grand Rapids beat Fergus Falls 6-0 in a loser goes home game. The Otters had a great regional tourney. The championship game Sunday, Moorhead Black beat Bemidji 4-3 to take the #1 seed. In the Sunday afternoon game for the #2 seed to the state, Grand Rapids beat Bemidji 3-2. Bemidji loses their second meeting in the regional to the Thunderhawks. Never give a tough team a second chance.
Moorhead Black takes the #1 seed and Grand Rapids takes the #2 seed to the state tourney.
South Regional (D4, D8, D9) - The South Regional looked like a D8 mini-tourney for the two regional seeds this year. That is something nobody could have predicted a year ago when the draw was set.
Farmington struggled six days before in beating Lakeville South 2-1 in overtime. But in Friday’s opening game of the South Regional, the Tigers jumped out to a quick lead and beat the Cougars 7-0. The Cougar’s defense failed them. In the second game, Lakeville North beat the Rochester Red 6-1. The Panthers played steady hockey and shut down the Red’s offense.
That set up a semifinal match between two D8 teams. Farmington beat Lakeville North 8-2. In the first loser goes home game of the tourney, Lakeville South beat the Rochester Red 5-3 to end the Red’s convoluted season.
Most associations, especially outstate, are happy to represent their local areas. In a way, Rochester’s association has that same pride, but they want to deny where they are geographically located when it comes to PeeWee hockey.
The creation of D9 put emphasis on Rochester as one of the key leaders to furthering youth hockey in Southeast and South Central Minnesota. The association, in effect, snubbed the surrounding associations by saying they did not offer competition. Unfortunately for the 17, 11-13 year old, kids on the Rochester Red team who just want to play hockey, they have had to carry the brunt of that claim. Let’s hope, next year, things change.
In the best game of the South opening round, Luverne beat Owatonna 6-5 in overtime. Both teams played well and both teams had the lead. Each team has the game in hand only to have the other team come back. If it wasn’t for sudden death to suddenly end the game, Owatonna would probably have come back to tie the game after Luverne scored. It was a good game for both teams.
Northfield had improved in the last month of the season. It showed in the South Regional. They played a tough defense and kept the game close with a top rated Rosemount team. Midway through the first period, the Irish scored a breakaway goal to take a 1-0 lead and the Raiders defense shut the Irish down until the start of the third period. In the first minutes of the third period, the Irish scored on two breakaway goals to win 3-0. At the start of the third period, the Irish had outshot the Raiders 28-5.
In Saturday’s second semifinal game, Rosemount beat Luverne 15-1 in the first meeting between these two teams this year. The Irish skate 13 forwards and the Cardinals skate 9 forwards. Clearly the Cardinals tired against a better team. Northfield beat Owatonna 3-1 to end the Huskies season. The Huskies had a great season winning 72% of their games (including winning 14 of their last 15 games before the South Regional).
In Saturday evening’s first loser go home game, Lakeville South beat a tired Luverne Nine 14-4 to end the D4 champs season. It would be great to see them back next year in a stronger D4. In the second game, a stronger Northfield team, playing with a deeper bench then normal years, gave Lakeville North a scare before losing 5-3.
The Raiders also had a great season and are one of the success stories in PeeWee A hockey this year. After years of playing in D8 and never making the D8 district playoffs or contending in regular season, the Raiders won the D9 East title this year, took the D9 #2 seed to the South Regional and played well in the regional. Not exactly the definition of a “loser” in a loser goes home game.
Sunday’s games in the South Regional turned into that mini-D8 tourney. Lakeville South beat Lakeville North in a surprise, 8-3. In five games between the two Lakevilles this year, South won three. More importantly, the Cougars won the last game. The Panthers played well in the South Regional and ended their season on strong note this year.
Farmington and Rosemount played for the championship. This was their fourth meeting and each game had some championship at stake. In the first three games (Spirit of Duluth title, D8 regular season title, and the D8 playoff title), the teams had split the games 1-1-1. They were all close games.
On Sunday in Rochester it was not close; the Tigers beat the Irish 8-2. Rosemount then played Lakeville South for the South Region #2 seed in the afternoon and beat the Cougars 7-1 to end the Cougars season. Lakeville South is a young team and if two of the younger players return, they will be strong next year.
Farmington takes the #1 South seed and Rosemount takes the #2 South seed.
East Regional (D2, D10, D11) - The East Regional is full of surprises this year and those surprises produced some surprises. White Bear Lake beat Duluth East 5-4 to open the East Regional Friday afternoon. The game figured to be a tough game and it was. In the second game in the upper bracket, Elk River beat Tartan 5-1. That set up a Saturday semifinal game between White Bear Lake and Elk River. The Elks beat the Bears 9-0. Tartan beat Duluth East 5-4 in the first loser goes home game Saturday to end the Hounds season.
In Friday evening’s first game was a dandy. Hermantown beat Anoka 3-2 on the Tornadoes home ice. That was a surprise, the Hawks came to Anoka to play hockey. In Friday evening’s second game Blaine beat Mahtomedi 8-4. Though the win over the Zephyrs was not a surprise, Blaine was the surprise team in the East regional. The Bengals beat some quality teams, but had ended regular season play on a mixed note. They had been an up and down team. Mahtomedi had finished in last place in D2, made a great run in the district playoffs strengthened by their newly found defense, but couldn’t beat the Bengals.
That set up a Hermantown/Blaine matchup in the second semifinal game Saturday. The Hawks beat Blaine 4-3 to put Hermantown in the East Championship game on Sunday. That was another surprise, the Hawks getting to the championship game. Anoka beat Mahtomedi 7-6 in overtime in the loser goes home game. Anoka had a 6-4 lead late into the third period. The Zephyrs came back to tie the score 6-6 and sent the game in overtime. Mahtomedi made a strong run at the end of the season and in the process should demonstrate to other kids that the success of a season is how the team (and you) are playing when it ends.
In Saturday’s two evening loser goes home games, Blaine beat Tartan 7-1 and White Bear Lake beat Anoka 6-3. Tartan had a great season culminating with playing in the East Regional. Anoka won some good tourneys during the season beating top rated teams in the process.
Sunday morning’s loser goes home game matched Blaine and White Bear Lake. The Bengals won 4-2 to end the Bears season. The Bears had an up and down year playing tough hockey.
The Sunday East Championship game matched Elk River and Hermantown. The Elks won 3-2 to take the #1 East seed to the state tourney. Hermantown lost to Blaine 2-0 for the #2 West seed to the state.
An interesting note is that three of the four losers in this year’s regional game (Bemidji, Burnsville, and Hermantown) lost the game for the #2 seed. Only Rosemount won.
In the East Regional, Elk River takes the #1 seed and Blaine takes the #2 seed.
West Regional (D3, D5, D6) - The West Regional champion is Edina and Wayzata takes the #2 seed. Too many that is no surprise. But Wayzata is surprise. The Trojans had to play their way back into contention after losing to Eden Prairie in the opening round. Edina, on the other hand, just walked through their opposition and in doing so notched their 50th win of the season.
St. Cloud and OMG opened the Friday afternoon session in a game that figured to be close. It wasn’t. St. Cloud scored two goals six seconds apart at the five minute mark of the first period. Except for that outburst, the first period was evenly played. Both teams had scoring opportunities. OMG came out storming in the second period and despite many quality chances, could not score. St. Cloud added a goal and rolled from there to a 6-0 win. OMG couldn’t get their offense moving in a defensive oriented game.
In a David and Goliath match in the second game, Edina beat Sartell 11-2. Sartell hung in for the first seven minutes until called for a roughing penalty. Twenty seconds later, the Hornets scored a power play goal to take a 1-0 lead. They never looked back and worked the puck, taking high quality shots on goal. The first period ended with the Hornets leading 3-0, adding two goals in the final minutes of the period. In the second period, Edina continued to work the puck and added seven goals to take a 10-0 lead into the third period. Sartell finally got some pressure on the Edina and scored two successive power play goals, Edina added one as the period ended.
That set up a Saturday semifinal game between Edina and St. Cloud. Edina, taking a page from Farmington, turned their defense lose at add to their offensive power in the regional. In this game it worked with the defense scoring an unassisted goal in the opening minute of the game. St. Cloud came back to tie the game 1-1 a minute later, but the Hornets added two more goals to take a 3-1 lead. The first period was penalty free, the second period was penalty marred.
Edina continued to applied tremendous pressure, but couldn’t score until one the Huskie centers drew a checking from behind. Thirty seconds, later the Hornets scored a power play goal to take a 4-1 lead. The Edina forwards added one more goal to take a 5-1 lead into the third period. Seven penalties were called in the second.
In the opening minutes of the third period, both teams scored as the Huskies opened their game up. At the 10 minute mark, the Huskies took three tough penalties and ended up down two players on the ice. Worst, just minutes after getting one of their centers back on the ice (having served the checking from behind penalty), they lost another center for the rest of the game on a misconduct penalty. Edina added a power play goal and a late goal to end the scoring 8-2.
Against Sartell, Edina outshot the Sabres 35-8. Almost all of the Hornet’s shots were quality scoring opportunities. Against a tough St. Cloud team, the Hornets outshot the Huskies 52-17. About 60% were quality scoring chances.
OMG and Sartell would play the loser goes home game for both teams. Sartell’s kid had overcome the shock or glazed eyes of having played Edina and came to play. Still in the defensive mode for most of the first period, the Sabres held OMG scoreless for first 11 minutes until OMG scored a power play goal to take a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period. In the second period, Sartell finally found their offensive. After OMG scored two more goals halfway through the period, the Sabres came back to make the score 3-2. OMG added a late period power play goal to take a 4-2 lead into the third period. Shortly into the third period, the Sabres gave up a shorthanded goal to OMG. OMG added two more and the Sabres scored to make the final score 7-3.
Wayzata and Eden Prairie meet in Friday evening’s first game of the opening round. The Trojans were favored and though here was the Trojans would beat the Eagles, beat Burnsville in the semifinals and lose to Edina and then Burnsville in the game for the #2 seed. It was the right idea, but the wrong teams. The Eagles beat the Trojans 3-2 sending them backward in the regional.
The Trojans ran into the same tough goal tending that Farmington and Edina faced earlier in the season. They outshot the Eagles 2-1, but could only score twice in a well-played game with few penalties. The Trojans scored first to take a 1-0 lead at the end of the first, the Eagles came back to tie the game in the second period. The game was tied 1-1 as the third period started. It was just a good game between two good teams.
In the second Friday evening game, Burnsville and STMA met. This was the first game between the two teams and they spent the first period testing each other. The first period ended 0-0. Most of the second period was a repeat of the first with the Blaze mounting more pressure as the period wore on. With four minutes left in the period, the Blaze finally scored. A few seconds late, STMA drew a 2+10 for checking from behind, and the Blaze scored a power play goal and added another goal to take a 3-0 lead into the third period.
The Blaze broke the game open in the first five minutes of the third scoring three goals to take a 6-0 lead. STMA added a late goal to make the final score 6-1.
That set up Eden Prairie and Burnsville playing in the semifinal. Three of the West Regional Semifinalists were D6 teams. The Eagles had lost their last two games to the Blaze 4-2 and 4-1. On Saturday morning, they didn’t “have it” defensively. Offensively, they put pressure on the Blaze, but couldn’t score. The Eagles jumped out to a 1-0 in the first period, but then gave up two first period and two second period goals to trail 4-1 going into the third period.
Eden Prairie came out flying in the third period and outshot the Blaze 17-2 but could score only one goal. The few quality chances the Blaze had in the first two periods were good enough to produce the four goals. One of the reasons is that the Blaze had a mismatch on the lines that resulted in a couple of those goals. But t was a game where the Blaze played defense more like the Eagles and the Eagles defense softened.
The Eagles upset of Wayzata; put STMA in a tough position in a loser goes home game. Instead playing Eden Prairie, the Knights had a bunch of angry Trojans to contend with. Wayzata stormed the STMA net for the first two periods, outshooting the Knights 24-4 and taking a 3-0 lead into the third period. The Knights could have used a few Greeks “carrying gifts” as the third period opened. They played the third period even with the Trojans but neither team could score. The game ended 3-0. Where is a Trojan horse when you need one?
The opening loser goes home game on Saturday evening matched Eden Prairie and OMG. This time, the Eagles left nothing to chance. They came out screaming and attack the OMG net. They took amassed 15 shots on the OMG net, a number of them quality chances and scored twice to take a 2-0 lead at the end of the period. More importantly, OMG did not get a shot on the net in the first period as the Eagle defense stiffened. OMG came storming back in the last two periods, outshooting the Eagles 9-1 in the third period, but could not score. The game ended 2-0.
The second game matched St. Cloud and Wayzata. The Trojans rampage continued. They outshot the Huskies 25-10 in the first two periods. The Huskies hung with the Trojans in the first period, 1-1. The Trojans broke the game open in the second taking 4-2 lead and eventually winning 6-3.
Sunday morning, Edina and Burnsville met for the West Regional championship and the #1 west seed to the state tourney. This is the third straight year that the Blaze played the Hornets for the right to advance to the state and for the third straight year the Blaze lost. Edina beat Burnsville 3-0 in a game that Edina dominated in the first and third periods and the Blaze in the second period. Edina scored a goal in each period, but Burnsville couldn’t.
Two years ago, at Cottage Grove, the Blaze lost to the Hornets on Championship Sunday after beating Edina in regular season and district playoffs. Last year, at Prior Lake, the Blaze lost to Edina on Championship Sunday after beating Edina in regular season and in the playoffs.
Wayzata and Eden Prairie played in the other Sunday morning game. The Trojans got the jump on the Eagles outshooting them 29-7 in the first two periods to take a 4-1 lead into the third period. But this time the Eagles came storming back in the third period, scoring two goals to close the gap to 4-3 with a minute to go in the period. The Trojans hung on to win the game.
That set up the game for the #2 West seed to the state tourney between Burnsville and Wayzata. The two teams had not played each other this season. The Trojans came out flat, the Blaze came out flatter and gave up three first period goals to the Trojans. Down 3-0 at the end of the first period, the Blaze came back in the second to pressure the Trojans and narrow the score to 3-1. But they could not score in the third as Wayzata returned to the ice and continued to pressure the Blaze. The final score was 3-1.
Edina takes the #1 West seed and Wayzata takes the #2 West seed.