Posted by: Feldman
Everyone is off of work and school the rest of the week, right? After all, it's holiday time, so call in sick today. And Thursday. And Friday. And Saturday, if you work Saturdays. And turn on channel 6.2 or 386 if you have Charter cable, pop some popcorn, get some peanuts, make a pizza or, if you're me, go grab some Chipotle and get settled into the recliner by 11:17 (I believe that's the time that the first game will actually begin) and become a high school hockey zombie for four days.
It's the best time of the year, The Tourney, the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament.
(According to the P-B's Paul Christian, The Tourney will also air locally on channels 10 and 13).
It all gets going today with the Class A state quarterfinals. We won't have an extensive preview in our print edition since we don't have an area team in the tournament. So I'll do one here for both classes.
Just a reminder that, for an eighth consecutive year, the tournament is seeded. The top 5 teams were seeded, the remaining three placed in the bracket by random draw.
No more wasting time, let's get to the Class A tourney.
11 a.m. — No. 2 Hermantown (22-4-2) vs. Luverne (27-0-1)
Overview: This is an intriguing matchup to open The Tourney. Everyone is picking Hermantown, and rightfully so. The Hawks are at state for a fifth consecutive season. They finished as the state runner-up in each of the past four, including a bitter 5-4 loss to St. Thomas Academy last year in which the Hawks held leads of 3-1 and 4-2, only to lose on a power play goal (after an awful sequence of bad calls and no calls, including an STA player not being called for a hold while having a Hawks player in a headlock) with 6.1 seconds to go. STA isn't in The Tourney this year, though, after moving up to Class AA and losing in the Section 3 tournament. Luverne is making its state-tournament debut. It is the last unbeaten team in the state, though the No. 17-ranked Cardinals have played just one team ranked in the top 20 — No. 20 Bloomington Kennedy (a 3-1 Luverne win on Dec. 28). Hermantown is ranked No. 2 in the state.
Hermantown leaders: Jr. F Ryan Kero (21-28—49); Jr. F Nate Pionk (22-26—48); Sr. F Scott Wasbotten (23-23—46); Sr. F Kori Ochs (15-17—32); So. F Cole Koepke (18-13—31); Sr. G Jace Thomas (10-1-2, 1.55 GAA, .926 save pct.); Sr. G Adam Smith (12-3-0, 2.50, .901).
Luverne leaders: So. F Chaz Smedsrud (38-49—87); Sr. F Logan Norman (22-49—71); 8th F Jaxon Nelson (30-40—70); Jr. D Toby Sengvongxay (20-32—52); Sr. G Kendall Meyer (21-0-1, 1.16 GAA, .949 save pct.); Jr. G Connor Crabtree (6-0-0, 1.26, .896)
Notes: You may notice Hermantown players all have the name "TIM" stickered onto their helmets. It's in honor of Tim Ellingson, an outdoor rink manager for many years, who died on Jan. 2 while skating at an outdoor rink. One of the Hermantown players found him. ... The Hawks have scored five shorthanded goals this season. ... Gunnar Olson set Luverne's career points record this season. ... Jaxon Nelson has more than 70 points as an eighth-grader.
The pick: Give me the experienced team that has a chip on its shoulder after last year's state title game. Hermantown won't overlook anyone in The Tourney: HERMANTOWN 5, LUVERNE 1.
• • •
1 p.m. — No. 3 New Prague (21-4-3) vs. Chisago Lakes Area (20-8-0)
Overview: New Prague is in the state tournament for the first time, finally breaking through in the Section 1A championship game after some close, heartbreaking losses in the section semifinals and final in recent seasons. Junior goalie Conner Wagner stood on his head for much of the Trojans' 3-2 victory against Mankato West in the Section 1A title game. At one point, New Prague led 2-0 but was being outshot 22-8. Wagner showed the poise necessary to win at state. His teammates will have to provide the offense. Chisago Lakes is at state for a second time, but the first time since 1995. Chisago Lakes was the top seed in the Section 5, Class A tournament. It beat Princeton 5-4 in the section final, scoring three times in the third period to win. Blake Lizotte scored with 2:09 to go in the third for the winning goal.
New Prague leaders: Sr. F Augie Isaacson (23-30--53); Sr. F Seth Kriha (11-35--46); So. F Alex Gregor (19-22--41); Sr. F Austin Kilian (21-12--33); Jr. G Conner Wagner (21-4-3, 2.28 GAA, .903 save pct.).
Chisago Lakes leaders: Sr. F Brandon Gillespie (25-26--51); So. F Blake Lizotte (14-34--48); Sr. F Trevor Lushanko (23-24--47); So. F Landon Lushanko (10-18--28); Sr. F Ryan Chambers (13-15--28); Jr. G Jacob Dubose (13-6-0, 1.95 GAA, .916 save pct.); Jr. G Bryce Thompson (7-2-0, 2.34, .906).
Notes: New Prague is ranked No. 6 in the state. Chisago Lakes is unranked. ... Chisago Lakes allowed just eight power play goals all season. ... Chisago Lakes went 14-0-0 at home this season, 5-8-0 on the road and 1-3-0 on neutral ice. ... New Prague is one of three teams in the Class A tournament that has not been shut out this season. Hermantown and Luverne are the others. ... New Prague assistant coach Nick Bowe played for Austin in the 2001 Class AA state tournament. ... The Trojans 21 wins are a single-season school record.
The pick: While New Prague's skaters didn't always look poised and calm during the Section 1A title game victory against Mankato West, their goalie did. This team will go as Wagner goes at state, and that's into the semifinals: NEW PRAGUE 4, CHISAGO LAKES 3.
• • •
6 p.m. — No. 1 East Grand Forks (25-2-1) vs. Orono (19-8-1)
Overview: East Grand Forks, the No. 1-ranked team in the state, is at state for a second consecutive season and a ninth time in school history. The Green Wave have never won a state title. EGF is the favorite for a reason; they have talented players up and down the lineup and most of them played at state last year, when EGF placed fourth. EGF has outscored its opponents 117-33 this season and has allowed just one short-handed goal all year. Orono is at state for the first time since 2007 and the eighth time in school history. Orono is ranked No. 11 in the state; it upset No. 4-ranked Breck in the Section 2A championship game, 2-1, to advance to state, though Breck outshot Orono 47-20. The Spartans gave up a total of four goals in three section tournament victories.
EGF leaders: Jr. F Reed Corbid (16-26--42); Jr. F Dixon Bowen (17-20--37); So. F Grant Loven (14-21--35); So. F Tanner Tweten (15-13--28); Sr. F Brandon Loven (14-11--25); Jr. Josh Weber (20-1-1, 1.22 GAA, .922 save pct.); Jr. Garrett Lieberg (5-1-0, 1.00, .898).
Orono leaders: Jr. F Joey Luedtke (12-22--34); Sr. D Jacob Flemmer (14-17--31); Sr. F Sam Challgren (6-18--24); So. F David McCuskey (11-9--20); Jr. G Jon Flakne (18-7-1, 1.95 GAA, .918); Sr. G Grant Mathiason (1-1-0, 2.50, .898).
Notes: EGF senior defenseman Eddie Eades' sister, Erika, played in the girls hockey state tournament two weeks ago, when EGF finished second. ... The Eades' dad, Cary, is the head coach of the Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL. ... The Green Wave have eight players with 22 or more points. ... Orono is 20 miles west of Minneapolis. ... Orono head coach Kasey Yoder played for Duluth Marshall in the 2001 state tournament, the first one held at the Xcel Energy Center.
The pick: East Grand Forks has been ranked No. 1 in the state for some time now for a reason. The Green Wave are the total package and they've been here before, so they know how to deal with the pressure: EGF 4, ORONO 1.
• • •
8 p.m. — No. 4 St. Cloud Cathedral (20-7-1) vs. No. 5 Totino-Grace (17-10-1)
Overview: The only two private schools to make the 16 team field at The Tourney meet in the opening round, so anti-private school fans will be down to just one after the opening day. T-G last won a state title in 2002 and last appeared at state in 2005. The Eagles went just 4-3-0 in their final seven regular season games with lopsided losses to Hermantown (6-1) and Wayzata (9-0). T-G is used to playing under pressure, though. It came back from down 4-2 to beat Mahtomedi 5-4 in OT in the Section 4A championship. Cathedral is at state for the sixth time and the first since 2009. The Crusaders lost to the tournament's top two seeds during the regular season, East Grand Forks (3-1) and Hermantown (6-0), tied Orono and beat No. 3 seed New Prague (5-4, OT) and Totino-Grace (5-4).
Cathedral leaders: Sr. F Will Hammer (23-30--53); Jr. F Matt Fritz (15-23--38); Sr. D Daniel Bailey (7-31--38); So. F Logan Neu (18-17--35); Jr. Zach Fritz (19-7-1, 2.17 GAA, .916 save pct.)
T-G leaders: Sr. F Nick Tandeski (15-16--31); Sr. F Kai Barber (19-11--30); Sr. F Brandon Hilliard (7-17--24); Jr. D Jason Krych (6-17--23); Jr. F Blake Vagle (7-16--23); Sr. G Dominic Wippler (15-8-1, 2.55 GAA, .904 save pct.); Jr. G Jack Lux (2-2-0, 3.38, .862).
Notes: Cathedral is No. 10 in the state, Totino-Grace is No. 8. ... Cathedral has produced some talented players in recent seasons. Former Gophers and current Washington Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt played at Cathedral. So did U.S. Olympian Anne Schleper. ... Hammer has 172 career points, a Cathedral program record. ... T-G only has two players -- Tandeski and Barber -- with more than 10 goals.
The pick: This one's a coin flip and I think the last game of the day is the best game of the day: CATHEDRAL 3, TOTINO-GRACE 2, OT.
• • •
The picks: As much as I'd love to see a Section 1 team in the state championship, Hermantown just appears to be a team on a mission. It blew out three good programs -- International Falls, Duluth Denfeld and Duluth Marshall -- in the Section 7 tournament by a combined score of 21-3: HERMANTOWN 5, NEW PRAGUE 2.
East Grand Forks' depth shines through in the other semifinal. The Green Wave are a poised group, having had to go to double-OT to beat Warroad in the Section 8A championship game last week. Goalie Josh Weber played an incredible game that night, and he'll do it again Friday afternoon at The X: EAST GRAND FORKS 4, ST. CLOUD CATHEDRAL 1.
• • •
The pick: It's really hard for me to pick against East Grand Forks, thanks to both my heart (I grew up right across the Red River in Grand Forks) and my head (the Green Wave have great depth and maybe 4-5 D-1 players), BUT, this Hermantown team feels like it's not going to be stopped. If I can't get their bitter, crushing loss in last year's state title game out of my head, I can't imagine how the Hawks have felt for the past 360 days. After four straight years as the runner-up, Hermantown gets to bring home a state championship trophy for the second time in school history, and first since 2007: HERMANTOWN 5, EAST GRAND FORKS 3 (empty-net goal).