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17 posts categorized "Albert Lea"

February 05, 2014

Boys Hockey | Looking at potential Section 1A, 1AA matchups

Posted by: Feldman

There are still 10 days left in the boys hockey regular season, and a couple of key games remain that will impact the seeding process in both Section 1A and 1AA, but since I start thinking about this stuff the minute the Kiwanis Holiday Tournament finishes, I thought we'd try to map out some of the possible seeding scenarios.

I do this with one big asterisk: * I can't figure out how or why some Section 1 coaches vote certain ways each year (there always seems to be a vote or two cast for purely selfish or political reasons). And I haven't seen all of these teams play, so I'm going by records, stats, wins over quality opponents, etc.

Let's start with 1AA.

SECTION 1AA

I started digging into stats and numbers and trends for 1AA teams, but, let's face it, this section goes through the No. 1-ranked team in the state, Lakeville North. I honestly don't know when the last time a Section 1 (A or AA) team was ranked No. 1 in the state. 

This North team is the best team to come through the section since the 2006-07 Century team that placed third at the state tournament. If I had a time machine, it wouldn't be the first thing I'd do, but I'd certainly go back, load that whole 06-07 Century team into the machine and zap it into 2013-14 to watch it play against this year's North team. I could write a whole blog post just about that fantasy matchup, and maybe I will at some point during the playoffs...

The most intriguing battle for playoff positioning in 1AA lies among three Big Nine Conference teams: Century, Mayo and Owatonna. Those three teams are fighting for the 4-5-6 seeds. There's a chance that all three of Rochester's 1AA teams -- Mayo, Century, JM -- may have to go on the road for the first round of the playoffs. I don't ever recall that happening, but we'll get to those teams in a bit. Let's start at the top:

No. 1 seed: Lakeville North. It's clear North is the No. 1 seed. It's 18-3-1 and the top-ranked team in the state. It has played three games against section opponents, outscoring them by a combined 25-2. The Panthers battled injuries early in the year and started the season 2-3-0. They haven't lost since Dec. 7, going unbeaten (18-0-1) in their last 19 games. They hold wins against No. 3 Hill-Murray and two over No. 5-ranked Burnsville. They tied No. 6 Blaine, 3-3, on Dec. 27. They've won 11 consecutive games since that tie, outscoring those 11 opponents 58-13. Their depth is their strength; they have 12 players with 11 or more points.

No. 2 seed: Farmington. The Tigers schedule isn't as difficult as Lakeville South's, but it's really hard not to give the 18-3-1 Tigers the nod for the No. 2 seed ahead of a South team that is 7-14-0. Farmington hasn't lost since Dec. 17, going 13-0-1 since. It outscores its opponents by an average of more than 3 goals per game (5.32-2.14). 

No. 3 seed: Lakeville South. The Cougars (7-14-0) get the No. 3 seed because of their 6-3 victory over Rochester Mayo. South has lost twice to North this season. South has a couple of the top players in the section, sophomore F Nick Swaney (12-28--40) and senior F Patrick Lauderdale (15-25--40).

Nos. 4, 5, 6: Owatonna, Mayo, Century. These seeds may not be clear until the final day of the regular season, Feb. 15, when Mayo and Century play for a second time this season. For Century (11-10-0) to have a shot at the No. 4 seed, it will have to beat Mayo and it might have to win its other three remaining games (at JM, vs. Albert Lea, at Mankato West). Of the three teams battling for the No. 4 seed (which means home-ice advantage in the section quarterfinals) Mayo likely controls its destiny. If the Spartans beat Owatonna (Feb. 11) and Century (Feb. 15), they should be in line for the No. 4 seed. Owatonna's next three games are against opponents with a combined 48 losses, so the Huskies should be 13-8-2 by the time they face Mayo. So, if Owatonna wins that game, it'll be 2-0 this season against Mayo and 1-1 vs. Century. That will likely be enough to give it the No. 4 seed and send all three Rochester teams in 1AA on the road for the opening round of section play.

No. 7 seed: Rochester John Marshall. The Rockets (5-15-1) are playing better than they were a month ago, but they're still struggling to finish scoring chances. That said, if the seeds play out the way I have them here, a JM at Farmington quarterfinal game would be really intriguing to watch. JM lost its season opener at Farmington by just one goal, 4-3, on Nov. 21.

No. 8 seed: Dodge County. The Wildcats (9-9-3) will, unfortunately, have their work cut out for them again in the opening round. They'll have to face Lakeville North in the opening round of the postseason.


SECTION 1A

The top two seeds in 1A are obvious, but after that, arguments can be made among two or more teams for seeds 3-13. I'd love to be a fly on the wall during the seeding meeting. 

No. 1 seed: New Prague. The No. 6-ranked Trojans are 15-4-3 with three games remaining. Their losses are to Eagan, ranked No. 18 in Class AA; Farmington, an 18-win Class AA team; Hermantown, the No. 1-ranked team in Class A; and St. Cloud Cathedal, No. 10 in Class A. The Trojans get the nod for the top seed because of their 2-1 win at Mankato West on Jan. 4.

No. 2 seed: Mankato West. It's tough to think a team that sits 20-2-0 and is unbeaten in the Big Nine right now won't get the top seed, but, to me, West's head-to-head loss to New Prague trumps the differential in number of victories. That said, West and New Prague appear to be on a collision course that ends on Feb. 26 at the Rochester Recreation Center. 

No. 3 seed: Albert Lea. The Tigers (11-7-1) are playing very good hockey right now, having won five in a row and six of their past seven. Four of those six wins are against Class AA teams (Owatonna, Rochester Century, Rochester JM and Rochester Mayo), all by at least two goals. The other two victories came against section foes Faribault and Austin. A.L. also has one of the top goalies in the section, junior Garrett Matz (11-7-1, 2.49 goals-against average, .923 save percentage).

No. 4 seed: Rochester Lourdes. Yes, the Eagles are just 5-14-1, and, yes, you need more than one hand to count the number of key players they've lost to injuries this season. But Lourdes has played a tough schedule (as usual) and it's younger players/guys who are new to varsity continue to improve. Now, can Lourdes find enough scoring to keep up with the top three seeds? That's going to be difficult. If the Eagles are going to beat some of the top teams in the section, they'll have to win close, low-scoring games. That means they'll need junior goalie Jack Burkel to steal a win or two for them in the postseason. Lourdes could make an argument for the No. 3 seed if it beats Albert Lea on Thursday.

No. 5 seed: Northfield. Northfield (9-12-1) has four losses to section opponents, but those are all to the four teams listed ahead of it here. The Raiders have played better over the past two weeks, following a six-game losing skid by winning three out of four. That one loss in the last four games was  3-2 setback to Farmington, a Class AA team that is 18-3-1.

No. 6 seed: Faribault. I'll make an argument for the 7-10-2 Falcons here, even though there are teams in the section with more wins (LeSueur-Henderson/SP has 11, La Crescent 13, but we'll get to those teams soon). I'd give Faribault the 6 seed because it has five wins against section opponents and a tie against Northfield. The Falcons four section losses have all come against teams with double-digit victory totals (two losses to Mankato West, one to Albert Lea, one to L-H/SP). The Falcons also have defeated Albert Lea once this season, which is another checkmark in their favor to get this seed.

No. 7: La Crescent. The Lancers (13-5-4) get the nod here ahead of LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter because of their victory over L-H/SP. La Crescent plays most of its game against Wisconsin opponents, so it's tough to guage exactly where it falls in this section, but aside from beating L-H/SP, its section wins are against Mankato East, Waseca and Faribault, all teams with losing records. The Lancers also tied a 3-win Winona team.

No. 8: LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter/TCU/Cleveland. The Bulldogs (11-7-2) are 4-3-0 against section opponents, including a win against Faribault. They also suffered a loss to Austin,which has just three wins. The Bulldogs are playing well over the past two weeks, going 4-1-1 in their past six games, and they won't be an easy opponent for anyone in the section.

No. 9: Mankato East. The Cougars (7-15-0) have wins over three of the four teams seeded below them.

No. 10: Red Wing. The Wingers (3-19-0) have lost to Northfield, New Prague and Lourdes. They beat Winona in a regular season game and also scored a big win earlier this season against Academy of Holy Angels. 

No. 11: Austin. The Packers (3-16-1) are 1-1-1 against the other two teams remaining, Winona and Waseca. Austin has split with Winona and tied Waseca. Austin also holds a victory over L-H/SP.

No. 12: Winona. The Winhawks (3-15-2) holds wins over Austin and Mankato East, and a tie against La Crescent.

No. 13: Waseca. The Bluejays (4-13-1) are just 1-5-1 against section opponents this season.

We'll have a much better idea a week from now of where all these teams will land. So keep a close on games the rest of this week and next week because there are still a handful of games remaining that will have an impact on these seedings.

September 27, 2013

High School Football picks | Week 5

FELDY: Last week was a tricky week. Neither Phersy nor I saw Austin beating Winona or Mankato East winning for the first time in a couple of years. I still managed to pick up a game on Phersy; I'm 20-8 overall, he's 16-12. Lots of good games this week that could go either way. Here are the games to watch this week. Phersy picks first:

BIG NINE CONFERENCE
Rochester JM (3-1) at Rochester Mayo (3-1)
Albert Lea (0-4) at Rochester Century (1-3)

SFA RED
Plainview-Elgin-Millville (3-1) at Kasson-Mantorville (4-0)
Rochester Lourdes (3-1) at Byron (2-2)

SFA BLUE
Rushford-Peterson (4-0) at Chatfield (4-1)

SFA WHITE
Pine Island (3-1) at Triton (3-1)
St. Charles (1-3) at Kenyon-Wanamingo (1-3)

* * * * *

PHERSY: Yeah, this is getting tough ...

BIG NINE CONFERENCE

Rochester Mayo 28, Rochester JM 22: This will be another classic in a long line of great games between these two schools. I've put a lot of stock in the Spartans this season, and hopefully, they continue moving in the right direction after the big win over Faribault.

Albert Lea 7, Rochester Century 6: Yep, I'm calling the upset. Injuries have ravaged an already thin Panthers team, and they have WRs playing quarterback.

SFA RED

Kasson-Mantorville 35, Plainview-Elgin-Millville 28: This is the best game of the week. KM has stumbled a bit, but the KoMets have survived to remain unbeaten. They'll get another tough test this week.

Rochester Lourdes 24, Byron 13: Lourdes bounced back last week after its first loss of the season. They have enough firepower to run past a dinged-up Byron club.

SFA BLUE

Chatfield 20, Rushford-Peterson 0: The Gophers' lone loss is a one-pointer to Caledonia. They've also had three consecutive shutouts. RP has a great defense, too, but the Gophers hold on.

SFA WHITE

Triton 24, Pine Island 16: This is a tough game to pick, but I'll go with the Cobras at home.

Kenyon-Wanamingo 40, St. Charles 39: Flip a coin ... I'll go with the home team.

* * * * *

FELDY: Lots of tough choices this week. Might have to toss a coin a few times...

BIG NINE

Mayo 24, JM 20: Mayo is finding its identity, starting to figure exactly what works for it and what doesn't. Plus, its line is improving each week, which will be crucial against a strong Rockets team. JM gets LB/QB Kaeleb Stangler back this week, which will be a huge boost. He'll give Mayo problems on both sides of the ball. This game is likely to determine the No. 2 seed in the Section 1AAAAA playoffs. Mayo wins this one -- but only if it can eliminate the penalties and mental mistakes that allowed Faribault to stay in the game last week.

Century 14, Albert Lea 8: Sounds like the Panthers will have a QB healthy enough to play this week. And there's some pride involved in this one; Century doesn't want to let Albert Lea get its first win of the year on the Panthers' home field. 

SFA RED

Kasson-Mantorville 29, P-E-M 26: P-E-M is a 1-point loss to Rochester Lourdes away from being undefeated. The Bulldogs will be the KoMets' toughest test yet, but they'll pass it -- in a close one -- on their home turf.

Lourdes 24, Byron 16: What a stretch for Byron -- P-E-M, Stewartville and Lourdes in consecutive weeks. This SFA Red Division is difficult every week. The Bears get up for this rivalry game, though, and they'll give Lourdes a battle, but the Eagles' defense will hold off Byron in the end.

SFA BLUE

Chatfield 23, R-P 7: R-P is a strong team, unbeaten through four weeks, but Chatfield is borderline elite this season -- bringing a 4-1 record into the game only because of a one-point loss to Caledonia in a Zero Week game. The Gophers' defense hasn't allowed a point in September.

SFA WHITE

Pine Island 19, Triton 17: Pine Island has scored 98 points in the past three weeks; Triton has allowed 7 in that same span. Something has to give. This is as big a game as the P.I. program has had for some time. I think they'll be up for it physically and emotionally and I'll take the Panthers in what some might consider a mild upset.

St. Charles 28, Kenyon-Wanamingo 24: I flip-flopped a few times on this one, so the coin settled it: The Saints get their second win of the season, their first on the road.

September 11, 2012

Hockey | NAHL Showcase to feature 129 Minnesotans

Posted by: Feldman

The Austin Bruins begin their 2012-13 North American Hockey League season in just more than 24 hours. All 24 NAHL teams will converge on the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine for the annual junior hockey showcase.

The Bruins open their season at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday against Amarillo (Texas). Here's my Bruins/Showcase preview from today's Austin P-B print edition. By the way, Bruins coach Chris Tok had some nice things to say about former Rochester John Marshall forward Zach Johnson. Tok mentioned Johnson as one of three young forwards who have stuck out in camp so far. Tok said Johnson has done a nice job at center, opening up space for his linemates and setting them up for scoring chances.

Here's a link to the Showcase website, where you can find schedules and Internet broadcast information.

According to Let's Play Hockey, this year's Showcase will feature 129 players from Minnesota, including five from Rochester -- Johnson and Drew Anderson (Century) from the Austin Bruins; goalie Brock Kautz (Century) from the Janesville (Wis.) Jets; defenseman Rory Vesel (Lourdes) from the Bismarck Bobcats; and defenseman Alec Brandrup (Lourdes) from the Coulee Region Chill (Onalaska, Wis.). Another former standout Big Nine Conference/Section 1 forward, Eric Carlson of Albert Lea, will play for Janesville this season.

Janesville will face Austin on Saturday, the final day of the Showcase, at 7 p.m. Vesel and Brandrup both play for Central Division teams, so they'll play in and against Austin often during the regular season.

Here's a link to Let's Play Hockey's list of the 129 Minnesotans who will play in the Showcase.

The Showcase is well-attended by college coaches and scouts, and professional scouts. This year's Showcase will feature far more than just the 24 NAHL teams. There will be 36 teams from the North American Prospects Hockey League competing at the Tier I 18U major midget level and 16U midget minor levels. Eight teams from the Upper Midwest High School Elite League will play this weekend, too, as will all six 18U midget major teams from the Tier I High Performance Hockey League (Compuware, CYA, Honeybaked, Little Caesars, Mission and Team Illinois).

June 12, 2012

H.S. Hockey | Some notes (and changes to Kiwanis Festival lineup)

Posted by: Feldman

Whew. That was a fun Stanley Cup Final, eh? Too bad the last game had to be the least enjoyable of all, but congrats to L.A., what a run for the Kings as a No. 8 seed. And I'm sure glad I picked them to win; it's in print and everything (but don't go back and look at my prediction, just take my word for it. Please.)

On to some local hockey stuff.

* A reminder: The Minnesota Wild Road Tour will stop in Rochester on June 25. Players Matt Kassian and Charlie Coyle will be here, as well as former player Antti Laaksonen and TV color analyst Mike Greenlay will be here. They'll stop at the Wells Fargo on 55th St. NW from 4:15-5:15 p.m. More info. on the Road Tour can be found here.

* The annual Don Lucia Model Camp began on Monday, with 108 players from around the state (and some from bordering states) divided into six teams of 18 players. Players from our area/Section 1 who are competing this year: Jared Bromberg, F, Rochester John Marshall (will be a junior this fall); Soren Colstrup, F, Owatonna (junior); Luke LIjewski, F, New Prague (junior); Ryan Jutting, F, Mankato West (senior); Andrew Scofield, F, Northfield (senior); Ryan Drazan, D, New Prague (junior); Austin Kilian, F, New Prague (junior); and Colton Schmidt, F, New Prague (junior).

For more information on the camp, including full rosters for each team, click here.

* First off, congrats to former Lakeville North goalie Charlie Lindgren, who has committed to play at St. Cloud State. The Huskies and coach Bob Motzko, an Austin native, are getting a steal. Lindgren was a pain in the side for Section 1AA teams for four years; I'm certain the Rochester teams were happy to see him graduate.

Lindgren's rise to a D-I scholarship reminds me of the path former Rochester Century standout Alex Kangas took. All of us in this part of the state realized how special Lindgren was from the time he stepped in the goal as a freshman. Two years ago, we watched him nearly single-handedly lift his team past Lakeville South in the section final, then nearly single-handedly win two consy games at the state tournament. I can't wait to see how he does in St. Cloud and the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which begins play in the 2013-14 season.

* This is pretty cool: The Ottawa Citizen newspaper recently reviewed the book "Scarlet Ice," written by Roger Dier. It's the story of the 1995 Mankato West hockey team, the issues it had on and off the ice, and more importantly, the story of its sparkplug player, John Janavaras. Just 15, Janavaras was a workhorse. He also died that year after a outbreak of bacterial meningitis swept through the school. Read the review, then check out the book. The writing is quite good in spots, not so good in others, but Dier has put a tremendous story in print.

* For college puck fans, I talked with Minnesota State, Mankato, beat writer Shane Frederick (follow him on Twitter @Puckato -- great follow) last week at the state softball tournament. I asked him how things were going so far with new Mavs head coach Mike Hastings officially on the job. He said it sounds like MSU has seen a spike in season ticket sales; the real test might be to watch the sales of single-game tickets. We know MSU can sell tickets when the Gophers, Wisconsin and North Dakota come to town. How will Hastings' presence impact the sales for games against teams like Michigan Tech or Anchorage, though? I suppose it all comes down to winning.

Frederick also said he expects that MSU assistant coaches Darren Blue and Todd Knott will be retained, at least through this season, if not longer. It would be tough for Hastings to start searching for assistant(s) now, anyway, with a short time before players report to campus. Plus, St. Cloud State is already on the hunt for a top assistant, after Steve Johnson left to join head coach Dean Blais in Omaha.

* KIWANIS FESTIVAL NEWS

I fully admit I'm a dork, and I spend time in the middle of June digging through high school hockey schedules five months in advance of the season beginning. But as I did, I noticed a handful of teams who have been regulars at the Rochester Kiwanis Festival do not have the tourney listed on their schedules for this December.

I don't have the AA field (though I'll take a guess at most of it) yet, but I do have a tentative list of teams for the Class A field. I'll post what I know (and what I think I know) and let you formulate your opinions:

CLASS AA: Rochester Century, Rochester John Marshall, Rochester Mayo and Eau Claire Memorial all have the Festival listed on their schedules. I don't know this for certain, but I'm assuming long-time Festival attendees New Richmond (Wis.) and Fargo (N.D.) South will return. Those teams are a part of the Festival; it wouldn't be the same without them here. Eastview does not have its non-conference schedule posted as of yet, so there's a good chance the Lightning could return.

The eighth team in the AA field could be Richfield. The Spartans at one point had "Rochester tournament" listed on their schedule, but it noted "vs. Rochester Century" ... that has been removed from their schedule as of now. They only have 22 games listed -- three short of the 25 allowed by MSHSL rules -- so perhaps they're seeking a different tourney, or are waiting to confirm a spot in the Kiwanis? 

Prior Lake -- a team I was really hoping would return this year -- is out. The Lakers have the Schwan's Cup Silver Division listed on their schedule.

CLASS A: Here's the way the Class A field shakes out, tentatively, I'm told. Looks like long-time tourney participant Albert Lea is out, as are St. Michael-Albertville and Northfield, both of which were in it last year. Albert Lea is scheduled to play in Simley's tournament, in Inver Grove Heights.

The Kiwanis Class A tournament appears to include the following: Lourdes (defending champ), Dodge County, New Ulm (2010 champ), Ashwaubenon (Wis.), Verona (Wis.), WSFLG (Wis.), Northland Pines (Wis.) and Kansas City.

That would mean half the field has turned over. Lourdes (defending champ), Ashwaubenon (4th place last year), New Ulm (6th) and Dodge County (8th) are back; the other four teams are new.

Verona could be a nice addition; it went 22-1 in the regular season last year and qualified for the state tournament, where it lost in the semifinals to eventual state champion Notre Dame Academy.

That's all I know for now; I'll pass on more about the tournament as I find out.

March 16, 2012

H.S. Hockey | All-Big Nine Team announced

Posted by: Feldman

The All-Big Nine Conference boys hockey team was released on Thursday. As you'd expect, the conference champion Century Panthers led the way with six players on the team, plus four honorable mention. Big 9 runner-up Mayo has five players on the team, plus four honorable mention; JM has two players on the team and six honorable mention. 

Here's the complete list, which you can also find by going to the Big 9 website and clicking the link that says "2011-12 Big 9 Boys Hockey All-Conference."

BIG 9 ALL-CONFERENCE

Century: F Nick Jacobs, Sr.; D, Brandon Kautz, Sr.; G, Erik Wennberg, Sr.; F, Dalton Travis, Jr.; F, Hayden Ashworth, So.; D, Riese Zmolek, Fr.
Mayo: D Steve Serratore, Sr.; G Case Hansen, Jr.; F Adam Alcott, Jr.; F, Ryan Martin, Jr.; F, Max Whitney, Jr.
John Marshall: F, Gavin Sandwick, Jr.; D, Alec McGinn, Jr.
Owatonna: F, Justin Brown; F, Soren Colstrup; F, Matt Ratzloff.
Mankato West: F, Tyler Resnar; G, Zach Fox.
Albert Lea: F, Levi Hacker; D, Auston Larson.
Winona: D, Luke Hemker.
Austin: F, Ethan Larson.
Mankato East: G, Lucas Weihe.
Faribault: None.

HONORABLE MENTION
Century: D, Matt Sturchio; F, Blake Heroff; F, Tyler Iverson; F, Isaac St. Marie.
Mayo: D, Jack Dingle; D, Tommy Fjelsted; D, Will Holtan; F, Nolan Edwards.
JM: G, Jacob Garvey; D, Matt Broman; D, Ryan Lakin; F,  Alex Lovett; F, Hunter Heightland; F, Kyle Andrews.
Owatonna: G, Luke Ebeling; Aaron Kirsch; Robert Dietz; Tyler Yentsch; Alex Whited.
Mankato West: D, Billy Bingham; Josh Christenson.
Albert Lea: None.
Winona: F, Cameron Kelly; F, Ryan Grant.
Austin: F, Marcus Stoulil.
Mankato East: None.
Faribault: G, Cody Morsching.

January 24, 2012

High School Hockey | Breaking down the Big 9 race

Posted by: Feldman

While the boys hockey regular season is two-thirds complete, most Big Nine Conference teams are only halfway through their conference schedules. Still, to me, it's not too early to break down the race for the conference crown.

I know, teams are ultimately judged on what they do once the Section 1 tournament starts, but let's not discount the significance of the bragging rights, the banner and the great memories that come with winning a conference championship.

Austin and Mankato East are officially eliminated from winning the conference; Winona and Faribault are on the verge of elimination.

Mayo, Owatonna, Century, John Marshall and Albert Lea all still have realistic hopes of winning the Big Nine; Mankato West can still be considered a contender, too, though they'll need a little more help than others to win the conference.

So, here's where the contenders for the Big Nine title stand with about three weeks to go in the regular season:

ROCHESTER MAYO
Currently: 8-1-0 Big Nine, first place, 18 points
Conference loss: John Marshall 
Points remaining to play for: 16
Total possible points: 34
Notes: Mayo has the best-case scenario on its side. The Spartans get to use the cliche, they "control their own destiny." Indeed, if they win out, they win the Big Nine. They're the only one-loss team left, though they still have games left against four of the other five teams with hopes of winning the conference. The Spartans have avenged their only conference loss twice, beating JM at the Kiwanis Festival and again last Saturday.

OWATONNA
Currently: 7-3-1, second place, 17 points
Conference losses: Albert Lea, Century, Mayo.
Conference tie: Century
Points remaining to play for: 12
Total possible points: 29
Notes: The Huskies hold one-goal wins against JM and Mankato West, a tie and a one-goal loss against Century, and a one-goal loss against Mayo. In other words, they're a couple of bounces away from leading the conference right now. ... If the Huskies are going to capture the Big Nine crown, they'll have to be road warriors. They have road games remaining against Albert Lea, Mayo and Mankato West.

JOHN MARSHALL
Currently: 7-4-0, T-3rd place, 16 points
Conference losses: West, Century, Owatonna, Mayo
Points remaining to play for: 12
Total possible points: 28
Notes: JM holds victories against two of the Big Nine teams it lost to -- Mayo and Century. The Rockets can avenge their other two conference losses, with games against West (Thursday) and at Owatonna (Feb. 11) still to come. ... JM plays four of its final six conference games on the road.

ALBERT LEA
Currently: 7-3-0, T-3rd place, 16 points
Conference losses: Mayo, Century, JM
Points remaining to play for: 14
Total possible points: 30
Notes: The Tigers will have to find some consistency if they hope to challenge for the conference title into the final week. They had a five-game winning streak early in the season (Dec. 6-Dec. 20), but have not won two games in a row since then. 

CENTURY
Currently: 7-2-1, 5th place, 15 points
Conference losses: JM, Mayo
Conference tie: Owatonna
Points remaining to play for: 16
Total possible points: 31
Notes: Along with Mayo, Century has the most remaining points to play for. The Panthers have been battling some injury issues, particularly on defense, but it appears as though they may be getting healthy in time for the stretch run and the postseason. They also have two four-point games remaining -- at Austin and at Mankato East. Four of Century's six remaining conference games are on the road.

MANKATO WEST
Currently: 6-5-0, 6th place, 12 points
Conference losses: Albert Lea, Mayo, Century (x2), Owatonna.
Points remaining: 14
Total possible points: 26
Notes: The Scarlets need to win out and get a lot of help; they need Mayo to lose at least three more times, and need the other teams in front of them to lose at least once. West has games remaining against JM, Albert Lea, Mayo and Owatonna. Five of the Scarlets' final eight games are at home, including their last three.

High School Hockey | Lourdes hits tough home stretch

Posted by: Feldman

Rochester Lourdes has traditionally played a difficult schedule to prepare itself for the intensity of the section and -- if it happens to get so far -- state tournaments. This season is no exception.

The Eagles, ranked No. 10 in the latest Class A state poll, are two-thirds of the way through their schedule. They're 12-5-0 with eight games to go. While they're not the same type of team they were a year ago, they should be pleased with their record and ranking at this point of the season.

Consider: (1) Lourdes came into this season with question marks at goalie and on defense. Senior Jesse Neumann has improved in goal as the season's gone on, and he's played against enough top-end opponents now to be able to hold his own in the postseason, when the nerves and intensity are ratcheted up; and (2) the Eagles lost defensemen Rory Vesel, Alec Brandrup and Sam Slightam (as well as standout goalie Nick Heimer) to graduation. You put those three back in the rotation and Lourdes goalies are probably facing 6-8 less shots per game.

That said, the Eagles are doing what the coaching staff hoped for at the start of the season: They're developing some young defensemen as the season goes along and getting solid play and leadership out of the veterans they have on the blue line. That group is led by junior Karl Krecke, a third-year varsity regular, who is a solid two-way defenseman and has taken over nicely for Vesel, running the point on the power play.

Senior Justin Dewitz, who moved to D from forward at the start of the season, has given the Eagles more stability and point production on the blue line than I'm sure the coaching staff had dared to hope for when they asked him to make the transition. He's the team's fourth-leading scorer.

Senior Robby Campbell has been solid, too, and young d-men such as Lee Brandrup (junior), Lars Anderson (soph.) and Griff Slightam (freshman) are being counted on to play a good amount of ice time on a regular basis. They'll continue to be tested over the final three-plus weeks of the regular season.

Lourdes will face five ranked opponents over its final eight games, while also facing Section 1A rivals Albert Lea and New Prague. N.P. was ranked for several weeks in the state polls earlier this season. The only "breather" for Lourdes down the stretch appears to be Monticello (3-14), which the Eagles face next Tuesday.

Lourdes run against ranked foes begins Saturday at No. 13 Delano/Rockford. The Eagles also have games coming at No. 2 Breck (Feb. 4); at No. 11 Blake (Feb. 7); home vs. No. 15 Rogers (Feb. 9); and home against No. 7 Totino-Grace (Feb. 18), in the regular season finale.

While playing well against those ranked opponents would boost the Eagles confidence, if they can pull out wins against Albert Lea and New Prague, those would be more important at this stage. Those games matter greatly when it comes time to seed the Section 1A tournament, and Lourdes has shown that getting that No. 1 seed can matter greatly.

Lourdes has already beaten New Prague once this year, and, I'm not positive, but I think if the Eagles sweep the regular season meetings with the Trojans, then, thanks to wins against Red Wing, Northfield and Chanhassen, Lourdes is the Missota Conference champion. :-)  ...  take it easy Missota fans, I only kid.

January 19, 2012

High School Hockey Tonight | Jan. 19, 2012

Posted by: Feldman

Two Rochester teams are in action tonight; both with a chance to pull into a tie for first place in the Big Nine. JM can do so with a victory; Mayo can do so with a victory and a JM victory. JM could gain some big-time confidence with a win tonight. More importantly, the Rockets hope to find some offense against one of the better teams in the conference.

As for Mayo, coach Lorne Grosso will make his first road trip of the season, to Winona. His stress level shouldn't get too high. This is a game Mayo should win handily, but, you never know, right? Here's a look at tonight's games:

ALBERT LEA at JOHN MARSHALL
When
: 7:30 p.m., tonight
Where: Rochester Recreation Center
Records: Albert Lea 7-2-0 Big Nine, 9-6-1 overall; 
Coaches: A.L., Roy Nystrom; JM, Jay Ness.
Last meeting: Albert Lea beat JM, 7-4, at the Rochester Rec Center on Dec. 7, 2010, in the teams' only meeting last season. 
Last game: Albert Lea beat Austin, 10-0, on Tuesday; JM beat Austin, 10-0, on Saturday.
Game notes: Albert Lea's win Tuesday gave it sole possession of first place in the Big Nine Conference. The Tigers could maintain that lead with a victory tonight. ... A JM victory would leave it tied with A.L. atop the conference standings; Mayo would also join them if it wins at Winona. ... JM's leading scorer, junior F Gavin Sandwick, has 11 points in the past three games (3-8--11). ... Senior F Levi Hacker leads the Tigers in scoring (16-16--32). He has nine points in the past three games. ... These teams are scheduled to meet again on Feb. 14 at Albert Lea.

MAYO at WINONA
When
: 7:30 p.m., tonight.
Where: Bud King Ice Arena, Winona.
Records: Mayo 6-1-0 Big Nine, 9-5-0 overall; Winona 1-6-0, 2-10-1.
Coaches: Mayo, Lorne Grosso; Winona, Fran McDevitt.
Last meeting: Mayo beat Winona, 7-1, on Feb. 5, 2011, at Graham Arena. Derek McMasters had a hat trick and an assist for the Spartans.
Last game: Mayo beat Century, 3-1, on Saturday; Winona beat Austin, 5-0, on Jan. 12.
Game notes: Winona's win against Austin was its first conference victory of the season. ... These teams are scheduled to meet again on Feb. 18, in the final game of the regular season. ... The Winhawks' leading scorer is junior F Ryan Grant (4-5--9). ... Mayo hasn't lost a conference game in more than a month (a 4-3 loss to Rochester JM on Dec. 10).

January 12, 2012

High School Hockey Tonight | Jan. 12, 2012

Posted by: Feldman

There are two games on the slate for Rochester boys teams tonight, plus some really good games around the state, so let's get right to them:

TONIGHT'S GAMES

ALBERT LEA at ROCHESTER CENTURY
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Where: Rochester Recreation Center.
Records: Albert Lea 6-1-0 Big Nine, 8-5-1 overall; Century 6-1-0, 10-4-1.
Coaches: Albert Lea, Roy Nystrom; Century, Josh Klingfus.
Last meeting: Albert Lea beat Century, 3-2, on Jan. 11, 2011, at the Rec Center. The teams split their two-game season series in 2010-11; Century won, 6-3, at Albert Lea on Dec. 9, 2010.
Last game: Albert Lea beat Winona, 7-0, on Tuesday; Century lost at Lakeville South, 10-1, on Tuesday.
Game notes: Century could pull back into a tie for first place in the Big Nine Conference with a win tonight. Albert Lea has 14 points, while Century, Mayo, JM and Owatonna sit in a 4-way tie for second place with 12 points. ... Century had its eight-game unbeaten streak snapped by South on Tuesday. ... Albert Lea is led by forwards Levi Hacker (15-14--29) and Nate Stadheim (11-14--25). ... The Tigers finished third in the Class A bracket at last month's Kiwanis Festival at Graham Arena in Rochester.

NEW ULM at No. 9 ROCHESTER LOURDES
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Graham Arena I.
Records: New Ulm 8-7-0 overall; Lourdes 10-4-0.
Coaches: New Ulm, Erik Setterholm; Lourdes, Josh Spaniol.
Last meeting: Lourdes beat New Ulm, 5-1, on Jan. 27, 2011, at the New Ulm Civic Center.
Last game: New Ulm beat Litchfield, 7-2, on Jan. 5; Lourdes beat Section 1A opponent Mankato West, 7-1, at Mankato on Tuesday.
Game notes: Both teams are nicknamed the Eagles. ... New Ulm finished sixth at the Kiwanis Festival last month at Graham Arena in Rochester. It lost to Northfield, 5-2, in the fifth place game. ... New Ulm is led by senior C Brody Peterson (19-16--35) and senior D Jeff Banal (8-20--28). ... Lourdes senior D Justin Dewitz is having a tremendous season on both ends of the ice. He's fourth on the team in scoring (6-15--21) and tied for third in assists (15). ... Lourdes coach Josh Spaniol said junior G Andrew Ellingson will likely get the start in goal tonight, because he hasn't played since the opening game of the Kiwanis Festival, on Dec. 28. Senior G Jesse Neumann has played well, going 3-1-0 in his past four starts and allowing a total of three goals in that span.

December 23, 2011

High School Hockey | Thursday Night Playback

Posted by: Feldman

Rochester's boys hockey teams are going into the holiday break on a high note.

JM ended its pre-Christmas schedule on Tuesday with a victory against Faribault. On Thursday, Century, Lourdes and Mayo all won their final games ahead of next week's Kiwanis/Think Bank Festival at Graham Arena.

Mayo's win was an impressive one, a 6-2 victory against rival Albert Lea. Lourdes bounced back from a loss to Holy Family Catholic on Tuesday by beating Providence Academy on the road, 7-3, tonight. And Century rolled over Winona, 11-0.

Quick thoughts on each of Thursday's games (click on the score to link to the story on the P-B website):

Mayo 6, Albert Lea 2: Mayo heads into the Kiwanis Festival next week with a 6-2-0 overall record. The Spartans are tied for first place in the Big Nine and playing with a lot of confidence right now. They've played well at both ends of the ice, with the offense winning the puck possession battles in recent games. And how is this for a state: Dating back to last season (Jan. 15 to be specific), Mayo is 14-3-2 in its last 19 regular season games.The Spartans have two goalies playing well right now, and they're getting contributions from throughout their lineup. Their matchup against Eau Claire Memorial could be the best game of the first round next Wednesday at the Kiwanis Festival.

Lourdes 7, Providence Academy 3: On the surface, this may not look like the most impressive victory (Providence Aacademy is 1-9 this year, while playing a pretty tough schedule). But, when you consider Lourdes entered this game having lost three out of four games, and the Eagles got down 3-0 early in the second period, it has to help their confidence to put on a big comeback effort, on the road. Juniors Jason Samuelson (4 goals) and Alex Funk (4 goals) had nice offensive games, as usual. And sophomore goalie Kyle Lawler got the victory in his first varsity start.

Century 11, Winona 0: The Panthers got a chance to get extended playing time for a bunch of players tonight, who don't normally get it. And they had 10 players get on the scoresheet, including senior captain Blake Heroff, who was finally rewarded for his exemplary work this year with a goal and an assist. Those were Heroff's first two points of the season. Check Tuesday's P-B for a story on Heroff, along with previews of all the teams in the Kiwanis Festival. Century did what it needed to do on Thursday against a team that it is clearly better than. The Panthers led 6-0 after one and didn't give the Winhawks any reason to think they were in the game.

That's it for tonight. I'm off for a couple of days, but I'm working at getting the Kiwanis preview stuff finished up, to print in Tuesday's paper. I'll post some news and notes about the tournament here on the blog either this weekend or early next week.

Until then, Merry Christmas!