Thanksgiving is around the corner and that means turkey first, hockey second. Black Friday is a liberation day for the hockey dads; they can watch their kids play all day while the wives are out shopping for the bargains.
It all starts on Black Friday and ends Sunday with four Twin Cities tourneys. D6 rivals Burnsville and Eden Prairie are hosting tourneys, D3 Hopkins has their tourneys, and D2 Mounds View and D10 Irondale co-host the Super Rink tourneys.
The Hopkins tourney is the largest as the Royals host 11 youth tourneys and total of 88 teams; the Super Rink is second with eight tourneys and 64 teams; Eden Prairie has three tourneys and 40 teams; Burnsville is the smallest with three tourneys and 32 teams. From sun up Friday morning to late Sunday afternoon, nearly 4,000 kids, coaches, tourney officials and volunteer parents will participate. For the fan, it is constant hockey on 12 sheets of ice, all within a 40-mile driving radius.
Each of the four tourneys features a PeeWee A tourney. Forty-four of the 100 or so PeeWee A teams in Minnesota will be playing. Seventeen of the top 20 teams from last year are playing.
Burnsville is hosting a 12-team tourney that pits D10 and D8 teams against each other in three pools with the added fervor of local rivalries. Hopkins has an eight-team tourney that has drawn some of the top teams, including Centennial who has been an early season surprise. The Super Rink’s tourney has an eight-team bracket play that opens with Wayzata Gold playing the St. James Canadians. Eden Prairie has a 16-team, four pool tourney that ends with championship and consolation rounds on Sunday.
Burnsville’s tourney uses a modified “silver stick” scoring system that awards up to 13 points a game. The most a team can win in pool play is 39 points; usually 25 points or more is good enough to advance either as pool champion or as wild card.
Anoka is favored to win the host’s Blaze pool, beating Minneapolis, Hastings and Burnsville. A wild card stretch would be either the Storm or Burnsville. The key game for the Tornadoes should be against Hastings.
In the second pool, Blaine’s performance in Friday’s games against Forest Lake and Rosemount will likely set the stage for pool determining winner. The key game should be the Bengals/Forest Lake game. Rosemount and Apple Valley have some talent at forward and could be a pool surprise. The Rangers and the Bengals both have tired in early season games, but at Burnsville, either one could win the pool and either one is most likely to take the wild card Forest Lake has the edge and wins this pool.
The third pool matches three tough teams and Rochester Black. The Black is Rochester’s D9 PeeWee A entry and is what some people would call an A-2 team. Early in the season, the Black may feel overmatched. It looks like it at Thanksgiving time. Andover’s Saturday draw has them playing Roseville in the AM and Eastview in the PM. That swings the pool odds to the winner of Friday’s game between the Raiders and the Lightning. The Raiders have the edge.
On Championship Sunday, Anoka would play Blaine and Forest Lake would play Roseville. Anoka should take the championship, beating Forest Lake.
At the Super Rink on Friday, a fan can put his head on a swivel and watch four sheets of hockey games by walking a 100-foot circle. The PeeWee A tourney has Wayzata Gold playing the St. James Canadians in what will be the most interesting game on the Thanksgiving holiday. A Canadian PeeWee A team has played often in this tourney, played well, but has usually fell to the older, more physical Minnesota teams. That scenario has changed this year.
Wayzata Gold is one of two balanced Wayzata PeeWee A teams. They had a good game against Waconia a few weeks ago, but have struggled since, losing to Stillwater and Lakeville South.
The second game matches Mounds View and Champlin Park. The edge goes to the Mustangs playing in their own tourney, but Champlin Park has played well in the past few years in this tourney. In the semifinals, the Mustangs take the Gold in a tough, physical game.
The other bracket matches Irondale and Mankato. The Knights won their first four games and will be coming out of a tough Spring Lake Park tourney the week before. The Mavericks won their season opener and will have hosted their own tourney two weeks before. The edge goes to Irondale.
Armstrong and Denfeld lock up in the last game of the opening round. Armstrong is coming out of the Spring Lake Park tourney, Denfeld out of the Superior tourney. Toughest call of the holiday, but the edge goes to Denfeld. That sets up a Maroon and Gold game in the semifinals with Irondale taking the Hunters. In the Super Rink championship game, the two hosts should battle with Mounds View beating the Knights.
Hopkins has a tough tourney this year. The upper bracket has the host Royals playing Rogers and it is a coin flip. Rogers gets the call. The second game matches Waconia and Jefferson. They played a week ago, Waconia winning 4-1. Waconia should beat the Jags again and should go on to beat Rogers in the semifinals.
In the lower bracket, Centennial and Orono meet in the first game. Centennial has played well in the early season and surprised people, but Orono is also good this year and could surprise the Cougars. It will be a close game. The Cougars should win and Woodbury should beat St. Louis Park, but don’t be surprised if the Orioles advance. Centennial takes Woodbury to advance to the championship game, but an Orono/SLP semifinal would not be a surprise. Waconia takes the championship, beating Centennial.
Eden Prairie hosts 15 teams in its turkey day tourney. They have four pools; North, South, East and West. In the South pool, Minnetonka and STMA look to battle it out for the No. 1 seed. OMG is a threat, but would have to beat those two teams in their first two games to advance. Lakeville North, the fourth pool team, has struggled in the early season. In a tough call, Tonka advances to Championship Sunday.
In the East pool, Elk River looks to dominate, while Stillwater and Edina are threats. The Elks should beat the Ponies in the single game on Friday and will play Edina in the second Saturday game. Edina has lost to the Elks and Stillwater this season. The fourth team in the East, Eagan has struggled in the early season.
In the West pool, two of the best teams in the state are matched, Lakeville South and Prior Lake. Both teams should open with wins in their single games on Friday, South beating Wayzata Blue and Prior Lake beating the Rochester Red. Then Lakeville South and Prior Lake play in a morning game. The West pool will be decided by who plays best at 7 a.m., on Saturday. In a tough call, the nod goes to Prior Lake.
The North pool matches Eden Prairie, Chaska, Farmington and White Bear Lake. Eden Prairie should sweep all three games. Farmington’s defense could slow the Eagles down. The Tigers forwards have improved but will it be enough? White Bear Lake has speed and great stickhandling skills, but the Bears were frustrated by good defensive positioning by North St. Paul last week in a game last week. Chaska lost to Eden Prairie a week ago in D6 action, 11-2.
On Championship Sunday, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka should meet in one semifinal game, Elk River and Prior Lake in the other. These are evenly matched teams; the nod here goes to Tonka and Prior Lake with Prior Lake taking the championship game. One side note, if Edina can edge the Elks in their pool play, it could be an all-D6 championship semifinals.