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February 13, 2016

High School Hockey Today | Feb. 13, 2016 (The 'Saying So Long To A Legend' edition)

Posted by: Feldman

I can't imagine how Lorne Grosso will feel when he steps foot on the Rochester Mayo bench before today's game, when he coaches the Spartans against rival Rochester Century, then when he walks off the Graham Arena ice after a game for the final time.

I've known Grosso for 10 years. It'll be odd for me to see him do that. I can't imagine how it'll feel for a guy who has done that for 50 years, a coaching career that has spanned all or parts of six decades.

This is really it.

Mayo will play Century today, then likely go play at Farmington or Lakeville South on Thursday in a Section 1AA quarterfinal game. If the Spartans can pull an upset, they'll be back in Rochester a week from today, playing in the Section 1AA semifinals.

But they won't play another game at Graham.

We've written a lot about Grosso this season, and deservedly so. He announced just prior to the start of the season that this would be his last on Mayo's bench, a farewell tour of sorts.

It's a decision he came to late last summer and finalized with Mayo A.D. Jeff Whitney — a former player and co-coach — early in the fall.

A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking on the phone with Grosso one evening after one of Mayo's games. He jokingly said to me, "(Whitney) hasn't hired anyone. Maybe I'll come back next year and see if I can get to seven decades. Wouldn't that be something?" He didn't get the last few words out when his wife and biggest supporter, Joni, cut him off -- "NO YOU WON'T!!" she said.

It will certainly be different going to the rink next winter and not seeing Grosso there.

Like I said, I've known Lorne for 10 years and, though the time I spend talking with him is but a small fraction of his day, he treats me like he treats everyone else -- he treats me the way he'd like to be treated if he was in my shoes. That's a rare thing to find someone who treats everyone that way.

I was thinking over the past few days about some of my favorite coach Grosso stories. It struck me that, after hearing him talk for 10 years about the life lessons he teaches his players and hearing him talk about doing things the right way, that's what has rubbed off on me the most.

Sure, I have to report what happens in a game, whether Mayo wins by 10 or loses by 10, but Grosso is someone you don't want to disappoint, whether you're playing for him, coaching with him or writing about his teams.

The first year I covered Mayo — the 2006-07 season — the Spartans lost to Century 4-1 in the section semifinals, ending their season. After the game, I asked Grosso, "so, how are you feeling? Think you'll be back on the bench next winter?"

He laughed and said, "Well, when I decide to hang it up, after Joni and (Whitney), you'll be the first to know."

I never asked him again, and though he probably told a few more people than his wife and A.D. before he told me, he spent a lot of time one November afternoon answering questions about his career and telling stories.

That's the thing about Grosso that makes him so endearing. Not only does he listen to whoever is speaking to him, he always has a story, a joke, an anecdote to lighten the mood or make you feel like he can relate to you.

When my mother passed away a little more than a year ago, the first time I saw Grosso after that, before he let me ask him questions about the game I had covered, he stopped me in mid-sentence.

"How are you doing? I'm very sorry to hear about your mother," he said.

Sometimes in this job we get a bit robotic. We can laugh and joke with coaches or players, be serious when the situation calls for it, but most of the time, we go through our nuts-and-bolts interviews and go our different directions.

That's not the case with Lorne. He always has a question or two for me, too, and for whoever he's talking with, whether it's about my kids, or my job ... whatever.

Another of my favorite Grosso stories came probably the first or second year I was on the boys hockey beat.

Before Lorne does anything after a game, he always calls Joni. She stopped going to games a number of years ago. Anyway, this particular night, probably in 2007 or 2008, a game had just finished and I was waiting outside the locker room. "Hold on a second, I have to call home," Grosso told me. Then he turned to one of his assistant coaches. "Coach?" he said. "How do I dial my own number." He has since mastered his cell phone, I believe. :)

I could go on and on, but we need to get to today's games.

So, bottom line: If you can, get to Graham Arena by 12:45 today. Hopefully Grosso's last game at Graham is one he'll remember.


TODAY'S GAMES

CENTURY at MAYO
1 p.m., Graham Arena I
Records: Century 7-10-0 Big Nine, 10-13-1 overall; Mayo 9-6-1, 13-10-1
Coaches: Century, Josh Klingfus (5th season, 63-59-10 overall); Mayo, Lorne Grosso (49th season, 706-445-29)
Last meeting: Mayo defeated Century 5-3 on Jan. 5 at the Rochester Rec Center. Max Billings had 2 goals and 1 assist for Mayo; Ben Haas had 2 assists for Century.
Last game: Century lost to Mankato East 3-2 in OT on Thursday; Mayo tied Faribault 5-5 on Thursday.
Team leaders: CENT -- So. F Jon Thorvilson 7-9--16; Jr. D John Schmitz 6-9--15; Jr. F Eric St. Marie 10-5--15; Jr. D Will Zmolek 6-8--14; So. G Cole Walter 8-9-1, 3.50, .886. MAYO -- Jr. F Anthony Oliveto 19-23--42; Sr. F Veikko Weckman 20-17--37; Sr. F Max Billings 16-10--26; Sr. D Nick Norby 7-16--23; So. G Liam Claton 12-6-0, 3.68, .866.
Notes: The presentation of the 2016 recipients of the Shannon O'Hara Foundation scholarships will take place on the ice after the second period of this game. ... Century has a slim one-game lead in the all-time series as the teams meet for the 53rd time today. ... Mayo has won seven of the past 10 games against Century. ... Century had a four-game winning streak snapped on Thursday against East. ... Mayo is winless in its last three games.


RED WING at JOHN MARSHALL
3 p.m., Rochester Rec Center
Records: Red Wing 9-6-0 Big Nine, 9-15-0 overall; JM 14-1-0, 18-6-0
Coaches: Red Wing, Bob Rajanen; JM, Jay Ness (5th season, 65-59-4 overall)
Last meeting: JM won 3-2 in OT at Red Wing on Feb. 14, 2015. Cory Checco scored the OT winner, with assists from Isaac Lamppa and Conner Lee.
Last game: Red Wing lost to Rochester Lourdes 5-4 on Thursday; JM lost at Mankato West 6-5 in OT on Thursday.
Team leaders: R.W. -- Jr. F Tyler DeFore 30-7--37; Sr. F Sam Hanson 10-22--32; Jr. D Seth Cushing 14-18--32; Sr. F Joe Renshaw 5-7--12; G Zachariah Harding 7-10-0, 4.01 GAA, .894, 1 SO. JM -- Sr. F Brady Dahl 22-26--48; Sr. F Isaac Lamppa 24-20--44; Sr. F Conner Lee 11-26--37; Sr. D Josh Frerks 7-29--36; Sr. G Brady Meyers 18-6-0, 1.74, .930, 4 SO.
Notes: This is a big one for JM. If it wins, it's the Big Nine Conference champion. If the Rockets lose, Northfield is the outright conference champion. ... This game features the Big Nine Conference's leading goal-scorer (DeFore, 30) against the conference's Nos. 3, 5 and 8 scorers -- JM's Brady Dahl, Isaac Lamppa and Conner Lee -- as well as the top-scoring defenseman in the conference (Frerks). ... It also features the Big Nine's top goalie, Meyers, who is tied for 7th in the state in wins (18), tied for 10th in the state in GAA (1.74) and tied for 5th in the state in save pct. (.930). He's also tied for 11th in shutouts (4).


• • • • •

AREA GAMES

• Austin (4-12-0 Big Nine, 7-13-1 overall) at Owatonna (11-5-0, 14-9-1) 1 p.m.: Austin has won two of its past three games and is coming off a big victory against its biggest rival, 4-1 at Albert Lea on Thursday. ... Owatonna has been one of the hottest teams in the Big Nine in the second half of the season and is locked in to a third-place finish in the standings. The Huskies have won eight of their past 10 games. ... Huskies senior F Noah Scheid is a player to watch. He has 26-21—47 this season and has 11 points in the past five games.

January 21, 2016

High School Hockey Today | Jan. 21, 2016 (The 'Due For A Sweep' edition)

Posted by: Feldman
 
Pop quiz: When was the last time all four Rochester hockey teams won a game in the same night?
 
Answer coming soon. I'll give you a little time to ponder it (if you want the answer NOW, it's listed right before the breakdowns of tonight's games.)
 
This could be a night where Rochester goes 4-for-4, though as we've seen this season, nothing is guaranteed.
 
Winona plays at Century, JM (undefeated in Big Nine play) plays host to Albert Lea, Lourdes plays at Dodge County and reeling Mayo plays at suddenly surging Austin. 
 
Austin is playing very well, having won three in a row and five out of six, so don't be shocked if it gives Mayo a battle. The Spartans have struggled to generate offense in the past week, but having leading scorer Anthony Oliveto back should help that issue. Oliveto returned in Mayo's 9-0 loss to red-hot Owatonna on Saturday. 'Tonna has won four consecutive Big Nine games by a combined score of 32-0. That's an impressive roll and it has the Huskies in position to pounce at the Big Nine title if JM and Northfield trip up at all.
 
Elsewhere tonight, a couple of big games to watch with Section 1 seeding implications: No. 7-ranked Lakeville North plays host to Farmington (receiving votes in state poll), and No. 20 Lakeville South plays non-section rival Prior Lake (ranked No. 18). That game doesn't directly impact the Section 1 seeding process, but it would be another good win for South when it comes time to argue for seeding position with North and Farmington.
 
North, South and Farmington will be the top three seeds in Section 1AA, in some order. JM likely will be No. 4, though Owatonna and Mayo both still have an outside shot at earning a home game. They both play JM once more, so if either wants to pass the Rockets, they'll have to beat them and hope JM loses a couple more sometime during this home stretch. I'd say Owatonna has the inside track, slightly, on Mayo right now for the No. 5 seed. The teams split their regular-season series, with Mayo winning at Owatonna by a goal and the Huskies rolling to a 9-0 win at Mayo last Saturday.
 
Century will likely be the No. 7 seed and Dodge County the No. 8 in the section playoffs, which begin exactly four weeks from today.
 
We'll break down the Section 1A and 1AA races a little more in the coming weeks, but for now, we're back to the present.
 
Quiz answer: Feb. 9, 2013. That's the last time Rochester's four boys hockey teams all won on the same night. Mayo beat Faribault 4-1, JM beat Owatonna 5-2, Century beat Mankato East 3-0, and Lourdes beat New Prague 4-1. All four Roch teams winning on the same night actually occurred twice that season; it also happened on Jan. 31.
 
Onto tonight's games...
 
ROCHESTER TEAMS
 
WINONA at CENTURY
7:30 p.m., Graham Arena IV
Records: Winona 0-13-0 Big Nine, 1-15-0 overall; Century 3-8-0, 6-11-1.
Coaches: Winona, Fran McDevitt; Century, Josh Klingfus (5th season, 59-57-10 overall)
Last meeting: Century won at Winona 7-0 on Dec. 17, for its first conference win this season. Cole Walter had an 11-save shutout.
Last game: Winona lost to Austin 6-0 on Tuesday; Century lost at Northfield 8-1 on Tuesday.
Team leaders: WIN -- Jr. D Ty Mannor 7-1--8; Jr. F Joe Brinkman 0-5--5; Jr. F Andre Russeau 2-2--4; Sr. G Matt Schoh 1-10-0, 6.38 GAA, .842 save pct. CENT -- Jr. D John Schmitz 5-7--12; Jr. D Will Zmolek 4-8--12; So. F Ben Haas 3-8--11; So. F Jon Thorvilson 5-6--11; So. G Cole Walter 6-9-1, 3.74, .882.
Notes: Century has dropped two consecutive games, but both were against the top two teams in the Big Nine, JM and Northfield. ... Century G Cole Walter has faced an average of 40 shots in his past four games. ... Winona earned its first victory of the season on Saturday, a 5-1 win at Worthington. ... The Winhawks scored five goals in their victory; in their 15 losses, they have totaled 11 goals and have been shut out nine times.
 
ALBERT LEA at JOHN MARSHALL
7:30 p.m., Rochester Rec Center
Records: Albert Lea 4-9-0 Big Nine, 5-11-0 overall; JM 9-0-0, 12-5-0.
Coaches: Albert Lea, Roy Nystrom; JM, Jay Ness (5th season, 59-58-4 overall)
Last meeting: JM won at Albert Lea, 4-3 in OT, on Jan. 22, 2015. JM's Josh Frerks scored the game-winning goal at 2:49 of OT.
Last game: Albert Lea lost to Red Wing 4-3 on Tuesday; JM beat No. 12-A St. Paul Johnson 3-1 on Saturday.
Team leaders: A.L. -- Sr. F Foster Otten 9-7--16; Sr. F Jack Pulley 6-9--15; Jr. F Austin Dulitz 4-11--15; So. F Bergen Lundak 10-2--12; Jr. G Ben Witham 4-11-0, 3.62 GAA, .872 save pct., 1 SO. JM -- Sr. F Brady Dahl 13-19--32; Sr. F Isaac Lamppa 20-10--30; Sr. D Josh Frerks 5-21--26; Sr. F Conner Lee 6-17--23; Sr. G Brady Meyers 12-5-0, 1.77, .930, 2 SO.
Notes: JM G Brady Meyers ranks in the top 10 in the state in wins (12, T-9th), GAA (1.77, T-8th) and save pct. (.930, T-9th). ... This is the only meeting of the season between these teams and is worth 4 points in the Big Nine Conference standings. ... Albert Lea has lost four in a row and five of its past six, since the start of January. ... The Tigers have scored a total of five goals in their past four games.
 
MAYO at AUSTIN
7:30 p.m., Riverside Arena
Records: Mayo 6-4-0 Big Nine, 10-8-0 overall; Austin 3-6-0, 5-7-1.
Coaches: Mayo, Lorne Grosso (49th season, 703-443-28 overall); Austin, Erik LaRock (4th season, 17-68-5).
Last meeting: Mayo beat Austin 5-3 on Jan. 22, 2015, at Graham Arena in Rochester. 
Last game: Mayo lost to Owatonna 9-0 on Saturday; Austin won at Winona, 6-0, on Tuesday.
Team leaders: MAYO -- Jr. F Anthony Oliveto 14-18--32; Sr. F Veikko Weckman 15-13--28; Sr. D Nick Norby 6-12--18; Sr. F Max Billings 12-6--18; So. G Liam Claton, 9-5-0, 3.63 GAA, .869 save pct. AUST -- Jr. F Isaac Arnold 11-9--20; Jr. D Jace Greenman 6-13--19; Jr. F Kory Potach 2-11--13; Jr. F Brayden Merritt 7-6--13; So. G Noah Bawek 4-6-1, 2.89, .874.
Notes: Austin has won five of its past six games and three in a row after an 0-6-1 start to the season. ... The Packers have won three consecutive Big Nine games. ... Freshman G Ryan Flanders earned his first career victory in the Packers 6-0 shutout at Winona on Tuesday. ...  Mayo is just 1-3-0 in its past four games. The Spartans' first-liners have combined four just four points in those games, though leading scorer Anthony Oliveto missed three of those games with an injury. ... Mayo has seven games remaining in the regular season, five of them are on the road.
 
LOURDES at DODGE COUNTY
time, location
Records: Lourdes 4-13-0 overall; Dodge County 3-14-0.
Coaches: Lourdes, Josh Spaniol (7th season, 102-84-8 overall); Dodge County, Chris Ernest (1st season, 3-14-0)
Last meeting: Lourdes beat Dodge County 11-0 on Feb. 3, 2015, at Graham Arena in Rochester.
Last game: Lourdes lost to No. 7-A St. Paul Academy 8-1; Dodge County won at Waseca, 3-2.
Team leaders: LOU -- Jr. F Tucker Chapman 13-8--21; Jr. F Montana Streit 6-15--21; Sr. F Peter Alexander 6-10--16; Sr. F Mason Carstens 6-4--10; Jr. F Logan Olson 2-8--10; Jr. G Adam Renn . D.C.-- Sr. F Max Blaisdell 8-7--15; Sr. D Ethan Strunk 5-7--12; Sr. F Isaac Thoe 7-2--9; Sr. F Drew Kirmse 4-5--9; Fr. G Cole Kundert 3-11-0, 5.54 GAA, .843 save pct.
Notes: Dodge County's win at Waseca on Tuesday snapped a seven-game losing streak. The Wildcats had won two consecutive games prior to that losing skid. ... Five of Dodge County's losses have been by one goal. ... Lourdes has faced five of the top 10 teams in this week's Class A state poll, as well as the Nos. 2- and 5-ranked teams in Wisconsin.
 
 
AREA GAMES 
 
 Red Wing (7-3-0 Big Nine, 7-10-0 overall) at Northfield (12-1-0, 12-5-0), 7:30 p.m., Northfield Ice Arena: Northfield is on a six-game winning streak; its last loss occurred on Jan. 2 against Rochester Lourdes. ... The Raiders haven't won by less than three goals on their current winning streak. They have outscored those six opponents 46-9. ... Raiders G Ryan Bielenberg is 6-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA and 2 shutouts in the past six games. ... Northfield senior F Ryan Torbenson is equally hot, recording 5 goals and 18 points during the six-game win streak. ... Northfield won at Red Wing a week ago, 3-0, outshooting the Wingers 48-27. ... Red Wing is 3-2-0 in January, on the heels of a five-game losing streak to close 2015.
 
 
SECTION 1 GAMES TO WATCH
 
 Farmington (9-6-1) at No. 7-AA Lakeville North (11-4-1), 7 p.m.: The Section 1AA and South Suburban Conference rivals meet for a second time this season. Farmington beat North 5-3 on Dec. 10. ... Defending state champion North is on a six-game winning streak. Farmington has lost three of its past five.
 
 No. 18-AA Prior Lake (11-6-0) at No. 20-Lakeville South (9-5-1), 7 p.m.: Prior Lake took it to South in the first meeting of South Suburban rivals this season, winning 7-1 at home on Dec. 10. ... P.L. has won four of its past six, losing only to No. 17 Duluth East (3-1) and No. 7 Lakeville North (3-2). ... South is among the state's hottest teams, going unbeaten in its last eight games (7-0-1) after a 2-5-0 start. ... Former Rochester JM standout Cory Checco is seventh in scoring for South with 4-8--12.
 
 
AROUND THE STATE
 
 No. 13-AA Wayzata at No. 2-AA Minnetonka (13-4-0), 7 p.m.: Tonight's premier matchup in Minnesota features a Wayzata team that has won once in its past four games (1-2-1) against Minnetonka, which has won five in a row and nine of its past 10.
 
 North Shore (13-3-0) at No. 3-A Greenway (16-3-0), 7:30 p.m.: How much fun are they having in hockey-rich Coleraine right now? Greenway is 16-3-0 and ranked No. 3 in the state. The program has made nine trips to state, including winning state titles in 1967, 68 and 92. It hasn't been to state since 2001. Greenway gets an unranked North Shore team that is quietly having a nice season (13-3-0).
 
• No. 1-N.D. Grand Forks Red River (13-0-0) at No. 11-A East Grand Forks (11-6-1), 7:30 p.m.: The top team in North Dakota travels across the Red River to face the two-time defending Minnesota Class A state champion.

January 14, 2016

High School Hockey Today | Jan. 14, 2016 (The 'One Last Go-'Round' edition)

Posted by: Feldman
 
It's tough to believe, but there is just one month left in the boys high school hockey regular season. The last regular-season games will be played Saturday, Feb. 13, with first-round playoff games set for Tuesday, Feb. 16.
 
The end of a sports season always brings lots of "lasts" -- the last home games for seniors, last road games, last practices and, ultimately, last games.
 
But a very different kind of "last" will occur tonight in Albert Lea. 
 
Lorne Grosso, Mayo's head coach for 49 seasons will coach for the final time opposite Albert Lea's Roy Nystrom, who has been with the Tigers for more than 40 years. The two played college hockey together at Minnesota, where they were on the same line. Then, after seven seasons of coaching in North Dakota, Nystrom took the job in Albert Lea. 
 
Mayo won the first meeting of the season between the teams, 6-2 on Dec. 10 at Graham Arena in Rochester.  
 
Mayo is in Section 1AA, Albert Lea in Section 1A, which means there's no chance they'll meet in the postseason. It will be an interesting stop on Grosso's unofficially-titled "Farewell Tour." (He won't call it that, but others of us will). He has been presented with plaques, food, handshakes and recognition from coaches, players and fans at road games this season.
 
But this one is different. It's Albert Lea. It's his long-time friend. Neither Grosso or Nystrom will tell you just how much these games mean to them, but trust me, they do. Who doesn't even want bragging rights over their buddy? Maybe if Albert Lea wins tonight, Grosso will have to come back for another season.
 
Here's a look at tonight's games:
 
ROCHESTER TEAMS
 
CENTURY at JOHN MARSHALL
7:30 p.m., Rochester Rec Center
Records: Century 3-6-0 Big Nine, 6-9-1 overall; JM 8-0-0, 10-5-0.
Coaches: Century, Josh Klingfus (5th season, 59-55-10 overall); JM, Jay Ness (5th season, 57-58-4).
Last meeting: JM defeated Century 4-0 on Dec. 22 at the Rec Center. Isaac Lamppa scored twice and Brady Meyers had a 17-save shutout for the Rockets.
Last game: JM lost to Tartan 2-1 on Tuesday; Century defeated Albert Lea 4-1 on Tuesday behind 52 saves from sophomore goalie Cole Walter.
Team leadersCENT -- Jr. D Will Zmolek 4-8--12; So. F Ben Haas 3-8--11; So. F Jon Thorvilson 4-6--10; Jr. John Schmitz 4-6--10; So. G Cole Walter 6-7-1, 3.28 GAA, .895 save pct. JM -- Sr. F Brady Dahl 13-16--29; Sr. F Isaac Lamppa 19-9--28; Sr. D Josh Frerks 4-17--21; Sr. F Conner Lee 3-17--20; Sr. G Brady Meyers 10-5-0, 1.73, .929.
Notes: Five of the last six games between these teams have been decided by a goal or less (one tie). ... Century has a 12-game lead in the all-time series and has led the series since 2001. ... Four of JM's five losses this season have come by one goal and all in non-conference play. ... JM has outscored Big Nine opponents 55-9. ... Walter has been Century's backbone since taking over as the starter midway through last season. He has stopped 40 or more shots in a game three times this season, including a career-high 52 saves in Tuesday's 4-1 win at Albert Lea (the initial report from A.L. showed Walter with 47 saves, but it was later corrected to 52). He is 14-10-2 as a varsity starter.
 
MAYO at ALBERT LEA
7:30 p.m., Albert Lea City Arena
Records: Mayo 5-3-0 Big Nine, 9-7-0 overall; A.L., 4-6-0, 5-8-0.
Coaches: Mayo, Lorne Grosso (702-442-28); A.L., Roy Nystrom (688 career wins, 594 in Minnesota)
Last meetingMayo defeated Albert Lea 6-2 on Dec. 10, 2015, at Graham Arena I. Veikko Weckman had a hat trick for Mayo, while linemate Anthony Oliveto had five assists.
Last gameMayo lost to Northfield 6-1 on Saturday; Albert Lea lost to Rochester Century 4-1 on Tuesday.
Team leaders: MAYO -- Jr. F Anthony Oliveto 14-18--32; Sr. F Veikko Weckman 15-11--26; Sr. F Max Billings 12-6--18; Sr. D Nick Norby 4-12--16; So. G Liam Claton 8-4-0, 3.39 GAA, .877 save pctA.L. -- Sr. Foster Otten 8-7--15; Jr. Austin Dulitz 3-11--14; Sr. Jack Pulley 5-8--13; So. Bergen Lundak 10-2--12; Jr. G Ben Witham 4-8-0, 3.78, .858.
NotesMayo will likely be without its leading scorer once again. Oliveto has been out since Dec. 30, when he suffered an upper-body injury in the fifth-place game of the Kiwanis Festival. He missed last week and Grosso said he expected him to miss at least all of this week, too. ... The Tigers have had an up-and-down season. It is 3-3-0 in its past six games after a four-game losing streak. ... A.L. put 53 shots on goal in its 4-1 loss to Rochester Century on Tuesday. ... Albert Lea had defeated Mayo three consecutive times until the Spartans beat the Tigers on Dec. 10.
 
NEW ULM at LOURDES
7 p.m., Graham Arena
Records: N.U. 8-6-2 overall; Lourdes 3-12-0.
Coaches: N.U., Ryan Neuman (1st season, 8-6-2 overall); Lourdes, Josh Spaniol (7th season, 101-83-8)
Last meetingLourdes defeated New Ulm 5-2 on Jan. 15, 2015, at the New Ulm Civic Center. Five players scored once each for Lourdes in the game.
Last gameNew Ulm won at Worthington, 14-2, on Tuesday. Lourdes lost at Mankato West 3-2 on Tuesday.
Team leaders: N.U. -- Jr. F Brandon Mehlhop 11-25--36; Sr. F Ethan Kraus 13-18--31; Fr. F Landon Strong 8-7--15; Sr. F Noah Webb 7-8--15; Sr. G Cody Banal 5-4-1, 3.66, .833; Sr. G Adam Larson 3-2-1, 4.28, .859LOURDES -- Jr. F Tucker Chapman 11-8--19; F Jr. F Montana Streit 5-11--16; Sr. F Peter Alexander 6-8--14; Jr. F Logan Olson 2-8--10; Jr. G Adam Renn 2-9-0, 4.22, .871.
NotesNew Ulm qualified for the Class A state tournament last season. It beat Willmar and Hutchinson, then upset state-ranked Luverne in the Section 3A title game. ... New Ulm snapped a seven-game winless streak with the win at Worthington on Tuesday. It started the season 7-1-0. ... Mehlhop ranks 8th in the state with 25 assists. The 5-foot-8 junior has 14 points in the past four games. ... Lourdes is searching for some consistency on offense. It has just two players with more than five goals -- Chapman (11) and Alexander (6). ... Lourdes has played just two games against Section 1A opponents this season, but has done well in both, beating likely top seed Northfield 4-2, then playing likely No. 2 seed Mankato West to a one-goal game on Tuesday.
 
 
AREA GAME
 
 Winona (0-11-0 Big Nine, 0-13-0 overall) at Austin (0-6-0, 2-7-1), 7:30 p.m., Riverside Arena: Something has to give between the only two winless teams in Big Nine Conference play. ... Austin is 2-1-0 in its past three games. ... The Packers have scored 16 goals in those three games after scoring 14 goals in their first seven games. ... Austin junior F Isaac Arnold has four points in the past four games. ... Winona hasn't come closer than two goals to any opponent this season. The Winhawks have scored just nine goals this season and have been shut out eight times.
 
 Northfield (9-1-0 Big Nine, 9-5-0 overall) at Red Wing (6-2-0, 6-9-0), 7:30 p.m., Prairie Island Arena: This is the first meeting this season between the two newest teams in the Big Nine Conference; they'll play at Northfield a week from today. ... Red Wing is led by senior F Tyler DeFore, the second-leading goal scorer in the conference (18). ... Northfield beat Red Wing three times last season, each time by three goals. The Raiders won 3-0 and 5-2 in the regular season, and again 4-1 in the Section 1A quarterfinals.
 
 
AROUND THE STATE
 
 No. 12-AA Grand Rapids (11-5-1) at No. 4-A Hibbing/Chisholm (14-0-0), 7:30 p.m.: Grand Rapids takes its three-game winning streak to Hibbing to attempt to top one of the two unbeaten teams left in the state. H/C outscores its opponents by an average of 3.93 goals per game, but has won four games by one goal.
 
 No. 10-A East Grand Forks (11-4-1) at No. 11-AA Bemidji (11-2-2), 7:30 p.m.: The two-time defending Class A state champion EGF is on a roll, unbeaten in seven of its past eight games. It goes against a ticked-off Bemidji team that had a four-game winning streak snapped in OT on Tuesday against unranked Moorhead.
 
 No. 17-AA Centennial (8-5-1) at No. 2-AA Blaine (12-2-0), 7 p.m.: Blaine has won five in a row since a 6-3 loss to Anoka on Dec. 19. It's led by two of the state's best forwards and best scorers, Luke Notermann (17-28--45) and Riley Tufte (25-19--44).
 
 No. 20-A Minneapolis (10-6-0) at No. 12-A St. Paul Johnson (11-3-1), 7 p.m.: The Civil War of the Twin Cities takes place at Phalen Arena in St. Paul. Johnson is 6-1-1 in its past eight games, Minneapolis is 5-2-0 in its past seven.

January 05, 2016

High School Hockey Today | Jan. 5, 2016, The Back To Reality Edition

Lots to talk about today, so let's get right to it.
 
Time to get back into a normal routine after the hubbub of holiday tournament time.
 
First, the Minnesota Wild have launched a new initiative that is meant to be a sort of Hockey Day Minnesota 365 days a year type of deal. You can read about the new State of Hockey TV show and StateOfHockey.com here
 
Speaking of which, be sure to tune in tonight, or set your DVRs, to record Epsiode 5 of Season 1 of State Of Hockey TV. It's on Fox Sports North at approximately 9 p.m., following the Wild's game at Columbus. Tonight's episode will feature stories from Dodge County and Rochester.
 
Rochester Mayo and Rochester Century jump right into the second half of the season tonight with a rivalry game at the Rochester Rec Center. Mayo, 8-5-0, visits Century for the first matchup of the season between these teams.
 
Perhaps surprisingly, none of the three Rochester schools faced each other during last week's Kiwanis/Cambria Festival at Graham Arena. I could be wrong -- I'm sure it's happened maybe once before -- but I can't remember a Festival in the 10 years I've covered boys hockey going by without two Rochester teams meeting somewhere along the way. 
 
Anyway, Mayo and Century meet for the 52nd time tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Rec Center. Century holds a slim two-game lead in the all-time series and has won two consecutive games against Mayo, including a 4-3 win in last year's Section 1AA quarterfinals, a game that saw the Panthers score three times in the last 2:19 of the third period to rally from a 3-1 deficit.
 
One thing to keep an eye on: Will Mayo's leading scorer, junior F Anthony Oliveto, be in the lineup? He was injured (upper-body) during the second period of the fifth-place game of the Kiwanis Festival and did not return, after scoring two of his team's three goals in a 3-2 win over New Richmond (Wis.).
 
Let's take a look at tonight's games:
 
 
MAYO at CENTURY
7:30 p.m., Rochester Recreation Center
Records
: Rochester Mayo 4-2-0 Big Nine, 8-5-0 overall; Rochester Century 2-4-0, 5-7-1
Coaches: Mayo, Lorne Grosso (49th year, 701-440-28); Century, Josh Klingfus (5th year, 58-53-8)
Last meeting: Century defeated Mayo 4-3 on Feb. 19, 2015, in a Section 1AA quarterfinal playoff game at Graham Arena I. Century scored three goals in the final 2:19 of the game to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win. Connor Davies scored the game winner with exactly a minute to go.
Last game: Mayo defeated New Richmond (Wis.) 3-2 in the fifth-place game of the Kiwanis/Cambria Festival at Graham Arena on Dec. 30. Century defeated Dodge County 7-4 in the seventh-place game of the Kiwanis Festival on Dec. 30.
Team leaders: MAYO -- Jr. F Anthony Oliveto 14-18--32; Sr. F Veikko Weckman 14-11--25; Sr. D Nick Norby 3-12--15; Sr. F Max Billings 10-4--14; So. G Liam Claton 7-2-0, 2.67 GAA, .906 save pct. CENT -- Jr. D Will Zmolek 4-8--12; Jr. F John Schmitz 4-4--8; So. F Jon Thorvilson 3-5--8; Jr. F Eric St. Marie 5-3--8; So. G Cole Walter 5-5-1, 3.18 GAA, .884 save pct., 2 shutouts.
Notes: This is the 52nd matchup all-time between the teams. Century holds a slim two-game advantage in the all-time series and has won two in a row against Mayo. ... The Spartans are 7-3-0 in the last 10 meetings against the Panthers, though. ... Mayo's leading scorer, junior F Anthony Oliveto, was injured in the fifth-place game of the Kiwanis Festival on Dec. 30. He suffered an upper-body injury in the second period, after scoring his team's first two goals, and did not return. He has 16 points in the past five games. ... Century's victory against Dodge County snapped a four-game winless streak that started with a 1-1 tie on Dec. 19 against Chanhassen, the team that won the Kiwanis Festival.
 
 
AREA GAMES 
 
 Faribault (2-6-0 Big Nine, 3-8-0 overall) at Red Wing (4-2-0, 4-8-0), 7:30 p.m., Prairie Island Arena: Red Wing beat Faribault 3-0 in the season opener on Nov. 21. Tyler DeFore, Spencer Kronbeck and Cam Blue scored for the Wingers in that game, and Zachariah Harding had a 15-save shutout. ... The Wingers have lost five games in a row since a 4-3-0 start. Three of their losses have come by one goal; Red Wing lost seven games by one goal last season. ... Faribault snapped a three-game losing streak on Dec. 30 with a 2-1 win against Lake of the Woods at the Roseau Holiday Tournament. ... The Falcons have scored just 18 goals in 11 games and have been shut out three times.
 
 South St. Paul (4-6-0 overall) at Dodge County (2-11-0), 7 p.m., Dodge County Ice Arena: South St. Paul has lost five of its last six after starting the season 3-1-0, including a 4-2 win against Rochester Century. ... The Packers are led by junior F Cameron Buhl, who has 12 goals and 20 points through 10 games. ... Only two other SSP players are in double digits in scoring. ... The Wildcats have dropped four consecutive games since winning back-to-back games against St. Paul Como Park and Bagley/Fosston on Dec. 17 and 18. ... Senior F Max Blaisdell leads D.C. in scoring (7-7--14).
 
 
AROUND THE STATE
 
 No. 14-AA St. Thomas Academy (7-2-3) at No. 1-AA Benilde-St. Margaret's (12-0-1), 7 p.m.: STA didn't officially drop a game at the Schwan's Cup, going 1-0-2. It is unbeaten in six consecutive games. Top-ranked BSM is the lone Class AA unbeaten left in the state and is coming off consecutive wins against No. 9 Elk River and Maple Grove.
 
 No. 18-AA Farmingon (6-3-1) at No. 7-AA Wayzata (9-4-1), 7 p.m.: Farmington, one of the favorites in Section 1AA, will test itself against one of the best teams in the state, Wayzata, which has just one win in its past four games.
 
 No. 3-A St. Cloud Apollo (11-1-0) at Brainerd (6-3-1), 7 p.m.: Highly ranked Apollo will see what it can do against one of the top teams in Section 8AA.
 
 No. 1-A Hermantown (10-1-1) at No. 11-AA Grand Rapids (8-4-1), 7:30 p.m.: Hermantown has won five in a row after suffering its lone loss, at No. 12-AA Minnetonka, on Dec. 18. 

December 28, 2015

High School Hockey Today | Dec. 28, 2015 (The Going-for-700 edition)

Posted by: Feldman

What's better? Spending all day putting toys and games together and having a little bag of important-looking parts left over while kids run and scream and make a giant mess? Or spending all day at the hockey rink watching the Kiwanis Festival? I'm not sure what's better, but I know spending all day at the Graham Arena complex will be quieter than spending all day with a 9-year-old and a 4-year-old who are overloaded with new gadgets and toys.

I kid, of course. Christmas was great; it doesn't get better than watching kids rip into their gifts and seeing their excitement. 

But the Kiwanis Festival is like a present for local hockey fans -- 12 teams, 2 rinks, 3 days. 

There are plenty of reasons to check out this year's Festival:

All four Rochester teams are there, as usual. We'll get into them in a bit. 

Why not open the tournament with perhaps the best matchup? The No. 1-ranked team in Wisconsin, Appleton United (9-0-0) will open Blue Division play today at 3 p.m. against three-time defending Festival champion Verona (Wis.). 

The Gold Division actually gets going in just more than an hour, when Dodge County faces Chanhassen in the first game of the Gold Division.

Before we talk a bit about the Rochester teams, here are some links to our tournament preview coverage:

* Here is a team-by-team look at all 12 teams in the Festival

* Notebook: A young Century team enters the Festival with growing confidence, and some tournament storylines to watch

* That No. 1 team from Wisconsin? It's led by some talented players, none moreso than senior forward Trenton Bliss, who is committed to the University of Wisconsin.

Appleton will certainly be a team to watch this week, but there are reasons to keep an eye on the Rochester schools, too.

Mayo is 6-4-0 overall and has one of the best lines -- if not the best -- in the tournament. Its top line of Veikko Weckman, Anthony Oliveto and Max Billings has combined for 58 points through 10 games. If the Spartans can find some scoring from their other lines, they'll be a threat in this tournament, and in the Big Nine Conference the rest of this season.

Another storyline to watch with Mayo: Its next victory will be No. 700 for head coach Lorne Grosso. He has more wins than any other high school hockey coach in Minnesota history and is second in career wins in the U.S. No. 700 could come as soon as this afternoon; Mayo plays Park-Cottage Grove (1-8-1) at 3 p.m.

As mentioned in the story we linked to above, Rochester Century is coming in with some confidence. It's a team with 20 sophomores and six freshmen on its combined varsity/JV roster, but it's also beginning to learn what it takes to play at the varsity level. Century is 3-1-1 in its past five after a 1-4-0 start.

Rochester John Marshall has high hopes at this year's Festival. With 15 seniors on the varsity roster, JM brings a 7-3-0 record into the tournament. The Rockets have only won the tournament once in its 22-year history (1997), a year before most players on this year's team were born. JM will have a tough first-round matchup, though, against Festival mainstay New Richmond (Wis.). The Tigers were ranked No. 9 in the Wisconsin state poll early in the season; they're 5-3-0 coming into the tournament. 

That's about it for now.

Follow me on Twitter (@PBFeldy) for updates from the Festival this week and watch PostBulletin.com and pick up the print edition for more coverage of the Festival.

Enjoy the games! We'll end this with a look around the state today.

* * * * *

AROUND THE STATE

• Schwan Cup, Gold Division: The annual holiday tournament to watch begins today at Ridder Arena and the Schwan Super Rink. It features eight teams all ranked in the top 20 in Class AA. Perhaps the most intriguing first-round matchup features the two teams that fans around the state love to hate more than any others -- No. 16 St. Thomas Academy vs. No. 7 Edina. Today's other quarterfinals: No. 14 Hill-Murray vs. No. 6 Wayzata; No. 20 Burnsville vs. No. 2 Eden Prairie; and No. 15 Centennial vs. No. 13 Minnetonka. The championship is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday.

• Granite City Classic (St. Cloud): Three of the top 13 teams in the Class A state poll are in this tournament: No. 13 Sartell-St. Stephen, No. 9 St. Cloud Cathedral and No. 3 St. Cloud Apollo. Cathedral and Sartell-St. Stephen meet at 7:15 p.m. today.

• Sports Authority Holiday Classic (St. Louis Park): Five teams ranked in the latest Class AA state poll are in this event, which begins today and runs through Wednesday. There are two marquee matchups in today's opening round: No. 11 Elk River/Zimmerman meets No. 9 Prior Lake at noon, and No. 10 Holy Family Catholic faces No. 3 Stillwater at 5 p.m. Other matchups today include Maple Grove vs. Moorhead (2:30 p.m.) and Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. No. 8 Lakeville North (7:30 p.m.).

• Duluth Marshall Hilltopper Holiday Tournament (Duluth): This tourney begins Tuesday and features three outstanding first-round matchups: No. 6-A Delano/Rockford vs. No. 2-A Hermantown (3:15 p.m.); Duluth Marshall vs. No. 8-WI Notre Dame (5:45 p.m.) and No. 4-AA Bemidji vs. Cloquet (8 p.m.). Roseville meets Superior (Wis.) in the tournament opener tomorrow at 1 p.m.

December 10, 2015

High School Hockey Today | Dec. 10, 2015 (The 'Welcome Back' edition)

Posted by: Feldman

We're three weeks into the high school hockey season and I'm just now getting back into the HSHT routine. Well, I suppose we have to do this more than once to call it a routine, eh? But, it's definitely past the time to get "Today" going again.

Before we get into today's games, there have already been a few highlights from our southeastern Minnesota teams in the early going:

* Rochester Mayo coach Lorne Grosso recorded his 696th career victory, moving him into 2nd on the all-time high school hockey coaching wins list in the United States. The leader is far out of reach, even if Grosso decides not to retire at the end of this season (no, not trying to plant a seed in his head; his wife, Joni, would not be happy if I tried that). Bill Belisle of Mt. St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I., has more than 970 career victories. His lead is safe until Minnesota decides to let high school teams play 50-game regular season schedules.

* Red Wing junior forward Tyler DeFore is off to a red-hot start for the 3-3-0 Wingers. DeFore has 9 goals already, which is tied for 6th in the state. He has at least one point in all of the Wingers games so far, highlighted by his 4-goal effort in a 5-4 OT win against Albert Lea. The only goal he didn't score that night? The winner in OT. That was scored by Joe Renshaw. DeFore also has one assist, giving him 10 points for the season. He was Red Wing's leading scorer with 21 goals and 34 points last season. He leads the Big Nine in scoring and is tied for third in points.

* Rochester Mayo's top line has been on fire to start the season. The 3-2-0 Spartans have received 28 points from the Veikko Weckman - Max Billings - Anthony Oliveto line. Weckman is second in the Big Nine with 7 goals and 12 points. Oliveto is tied for third in the conference with 10 points, while Billings is second on the team in goals (6). The line has accounted for 17 of Mayo's 20 goals. 

* Three players from southern Minnesota are among the top 10 in the state in goals scored. La Crescent junior Carter Schmitz is tied with Luverne's Jaxon Nelson atop the list, with 12 goals. Schmitz has two hat tricks and two other two-goal games already this season. Red Wing's DeFore is tied for sixth place in the state with 9 goals, as is Isaac Westphal of LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter. Westphal, a junior, has scored in five of the Bulldogs' six games, including a hat trick on Nov. 28 at Worthington.

Let's get into tonight's games:

ALBERT LEA at ROCHESTER MAYO
7:30 p.m., Graham Arena I
Records: Albert Lea 2-2-0 Big 9, 2-2-0 overall; Mayo 3-1-0, 3-2-0
Coaches: Albert Lea, Roy Nystrom; Mayo, Lorne Grosso
Last meeting: Albert Lea beat Mayo 9-1 on Jan. 15, 2015, at Graham Arena. Three Tigers players scored two goals each in that game.
Last game: Albert Lea lost to Red Wing 5-4 in OT on Dec. 3; Mayo beat Winona 9-1 on Dec. 3 at Graham Arena.
Team leaders: A.L. -- Soph. F Bergen Lundak (7-1--8); Soph. F Micahel Savelkoul (0-7--7); Jr. F Austin Dulitz (2-5--7); Jr. G Ben Witham (2-2-0, 3.22 GAA, .889 save pct.). MAYO -- Sr. F Veikko Weckman (7-5--12); Jr. F Anthony Oliveto (4-6--10); Sr. F Max Billings (6-0--6); Soph. G Liam Claton (2-1-0, 3.67, .863)
Notes: There likely won't be a matchup between two coaches with more combined victories than these two coaches. Grosso (696) and Nystrom (685) have combined for 1,381 career wins. They were linemates at the University of Minnesota in the 1960s and have coached against one another at their current schools for about 40 years. Grosso started at Mayo when the school opened in 1966. Nystrom spent some time coaching in North Dakota before coming to Albert Lea. ... Albert Lea is loaded with underclassmen. The top three and four of the Tigers' top five scorers are underclassmen. ... Mayo's Weckman is an exchange student from Finland. 

LOURDES at NEW PRAGUE
7:15 p.m., New Prague Community Center
Records: Lourdes 1-4-0 overall; New Prague 2-4-0.
Coaches: Lourdes, Josh Spaniol; N.P., Chris Lonke
Last meeting: Top-seeded New Prague edged eighth-seeded Lourdes 2-1 in a Section 1A playoff quarterfinal game on Feb. 19, 2015, at the N.P. Community Center. Lourdes led 1-0 early in the 2nd period, but N.P.'s Zach Davis scored twice -- including just 11 seconds after Lourdes' goal -- to lift the Trojans.
Last game: Lourdes lost at No. 6-ranked St. Cloud Cathedral 5-1 on Saturday; New Prague beat Red Wing 3-2 on Tuesday.
Team leaders: LRDS -- Jr. F Tucker Chapman (3-2--5); Jr. F Montana Streit (1-3--4); Sr. F Peter Alexander (1-2--3); Sr. F Logan Olson (0-3--3); Jr. G Adam Renn (1-3-0, 4.86 GAA, .845 save pct.). N.P. -- Sr. F Alex Gregor (7-3--10); Sr. F Zach Davis (1-8--9); Sr. F Nathan Simon (2-3--5); Sr. D Connor Pint (0-5--5); Jr. G Graydon Skok (2-3-0, 3.92, .884).
Notes: This will be the only meeting of the season between these non-conference rivals -- barring both making the Class A state tournament. New Prague, which won the past two Section 1A championships, has moved to Section 2A this season, while Lourdes remains in a balanced and competitive Section 1. ... Producing offense has been an issue for both teams so far. Lourdes averages 2.0 goals per game while New Prague averages 2.5 goals per game.

JOHN MARSHALL at WINONA
6:30 p.m., Bud King Ice Arena
Records: JM 2-0-0 Big Nine, 2-1-0 overall; Winona 0-2-0, 0-3-0
Coaches: JM, Jay Ness; Winona, Fran McDevitt
Last meeting: JM won at Winona 5-0 on Jan. 27, 2015
Last game: JM lost at Spring Lake 3-2 in OT on Saturday; Winona lost 4-1 at Owatonna on Tuesday
Team leaders: JM -- Sr. F Brady Dahl (3-4--7); Sr. F Isaac Lamppa (3-2--5); So. F Xander Lamppa (2-1--3); Sr. F Conner Lee (1-2--3); Sr. D Josh Frerks (1-2--3); Sr. G Brady Meyers (2-1-0, 2.27 GAA, .929 save pct.). WIN -- Jr. F Joe Brinkman (0-3--3); Jr. F Andre Russeau (2-1--3); Sr. G Matt Schoh (0-3-0, 7.12 GAA, .855 save pct.).
Notes: Just three games into its season, JM has had 14 players record at least one point. ... Meyers has allowed just seven goals through three games. ... JM averages 4.3 goals per game and allows 2.3. ... Winona averages 1.7 goals per game and allows 6.3. ... JM has 15 seniors listed on its varsity roster.

* * * * *

AREA GAMES 

* Red Wing at Austin (7:30 p.m., Riverside Arena): Red Wing is 3-1-0 Big Nine, 3-3-0 overall; Austin is 0-2-0, 0-3-1. ... The Wingers are led by junior F Tyler DeFore, who has the sixth-most goals in the state (9). He has 10 total points this season. ... Sophomore Zachariah Harding has played every minute in goal this season for the Wingers. He is 3-3-0 with a 3.15 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage. The latter stat is fourth-best in the Big Nine and he is one of two goalies in the conference to record a shutout this season. ... Austin has played four close games this season. The Packers tied La Crescent, lost to Faribault by one goal and LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter by two. ... Austin is searching for scoring. It has scored a total of four goals in its three losses.

* * * * *

AROUND THE STATE

* No. 8-AA Lakeville North (1-1-0) at No. 20-AA Farmington (2-2-1), 7:30 p.m.: In a matchup that will go a long way to determining the top seed in the Section 1AA playoffs, North goes on the road for a second consecutive game. Defending state champ North lost its opener to Stillwater, but bounced back with a big 10-1 win at Shakopee on Saturday. Farmington will provide a stiffer test.

No. 4-AA Blaine (4-0-0) at No. 16-AA Centennial, 7 p.m.: Blaine opens Northwest Suburban Conference-North Division play by putting its unbeaten record on the line in Circle Pines. Centennial's only loss came against No. 6 Edina, 4-1, on Dec. 3. 

* No. 2-A Breck (5-0-0) at No. 7-AA Wayzata (4-2-0), 7 p.m.: Breck's offense has been nearly unstoppable, putting up 32 goals through five games. Its defense has been shaky, though, allowing seven goals to No. 9-A Delano/Rockford in a 9-7 win, and four goals to Totino-Grace in a 7-4 win. Wayzata's two losses have come against a pair of state powers from up north, No. 1-A Hermantown and No. 3-AA Duluth East.

* Lakeville South (0-1-0) at No. 14-AA Prior Lake (2-1-0), 7 p.m.: South is playing for just a second time this season, and the first time since a tragic car accident resulted in the deaths of two South students late last week. That accident caused South's game against Rochester Mayo last Saturday to be postponed. 

No. 15-A Duluth Denfeld (4-2-0) at No. 1-A Hermantown (3-0-1), 7:30 p.m.: The top-ranked Hawks are coming off a 4-4 tie against unranked Hopkins. Hermantown rallied for two third-period goals in that game to force OT. 

November 26, 2015

Boys hockey: Looking back on Lorne Grosso's 5 decades at Mayo

Posted by: Feldman

What's everyone thankful for this year? Me? Definitely thankful for waking up with my 4-year-old's head on my shoulder today. Health, family, all that good stuff that. As Peter Griffen would say, it make a da world go around.

Greetings and Happy Thanksgiving from casa de Feldman, where as I type I cannot unsee a bunch of dudes who look a lot like me (40s, a little overweight) doing some disco dancing in short shorts and long socks on the Macy's T'giving Day Parade. I'm thankful that that is now over.

More to be thankful for: I feel fortunate to have been able to cover Rochester Mayo hockey for the past decade and to have gotten to know Lorne Grosso. He has been the Spartans head coach since Mayo High School opened in 1966. As Mayo A.D. Jeff Whitney -- who played for Grosso and later coached with him -- put it, "he's an icon. I can't imagine what Mayo hockey will look like without him."

We'll find out next winter. 

 

As we reported two weeks ago, Grosso will retire at the end of this season, whenever that comes for Mayo. He'll retire with the most wins in Minnesota for a hockey coach. He has 694 right now; Mayo's next 'W' will put him in a tie for 2nd all-time in the United States with former Arlington, Mass., coach Edward Burns. The all-time record belongs to Bill Belisle of Mt. St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I. He has an astounding 974 victories and, I believe something like 28 state championships.

As I re-read that story from two weeks ago, I realized there was so much more about Grosso's story that needs to be told. I literally could write a book about his life. I wrote two more stories for today's P-B, which I'll link to below (or, y'know, swing out to your local convenience store and pick one up. Seriously, today's paper weighs more than 4 pounds. You can not only read about a legendary hockey coach, but you can get all the Black Friday sales fliers, too. What a deal. (OK, sales pitch over).

Like I was saying, there is so much more to Grosso than even the stories we've had on him recently can explain. I didn't even scratch the surface of who he is; the volunteer work he does through his church, with patients at Mayo Clinic, his passions for music and cooking (Italian food of course), the health problems he had a few years ago, and of course, his family. He and his backbone -- his wife, Joni -- have two daughters, a son, seven grandkids and six (soon to be seven) great-grandchildren. 

I talked to nine people for today's articles and could have called a few dozen more. I had difficulty fitting comments from all of them into the stories. They all had so many good stories to tell, like former Mayo player and former JM and Century head coach Bruce Frutiger, who told a story about how after a particularly uninspiring effort in a victory by a Mayo team he played on, they didn't see a single puck hit the ice at the next day's practice. "Oh, my, did we skate," Frutiger said with a laugh. "Skating was one thing I could do well, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't finishing last ... I remember hobbling back to the locker room after that practice."

I thought I'd dig up some links to some of the stories we've written about Lorne over the years. I'm sure there have been more than these (our digital archives only go back to roughly the late 1990s), but here are some that I found and enjoyed reading again. 

Frankly, I can't imagine doing anything with the same level of passion and enthusiam for 50 years (except maybe for breathing and being a parent). Grosso has done it since 1966 and as his wife, Joni, said, "He would probably do it for at least another 10 years." And the thing that has always struck me about Grosso -- and is likely the main reason he has been able to stay around for 50 years -- is that, win or lose, no matter the situation, he is always the same -- respectful, thoughtful, calm, even though, as many of his friends and colleagues told me, he's a fierce competitor, it just doesn't show externally. The lessons he taught his players -- be respectful of opponents, officials, teammates, and carry yourself with class, the way you act and dress on game days, etc. -- were designed to make them better people as much as better hockey players. 

That's probably the ultimate compliment Lorne can be paid: He taught his students and players as much about how to be good people as good students/athletes.

LOOKING BACK ON GROSSO'S CAREER

NOV. 26, 2015: Grosso has impacted many lives in five decades at Mayo

A flashback to 1966, what was the U.S. like when Grosso took over at Mayo?

Grosso a math-ter teacher and coach

NOV. 13, 2015: Grosso announces retirement from coaching hockey

FEB. 3, 2015: Neil McCormack retiring after 49 years of coaching at Mayo (McCormack and Grosso both started at Mayo when it opened in 1966 and now are retiring from their last coaching stints just a year apart)

MARCH 4, 2014: Friends, coaches, former linemates Grosso, Nystrom inducted into MHCA Hall of Fame

DEC. 28, 2013: Mayo notches historic victory vs. JM at Kiwanis Festival (Mayo's win in this game marked the first time EVER the Spartans had led the all-time series against their oldest rivals. Read Grosso's quote about it; it's classic Grosso humor, and the way he'd usually start every conversation we've had).

APRIL 30, 2013: Grosso presented with Mariucci Award (This was a big honor for Grosso. He was very proud, being presented an award named after his college head coach, and an award that is presented to a coach who exemplifies dedication and enthusiasm)

JULY 9, 2012: When I wrote that he and Joni love their grandkids and great-grandkids, it's definitely the truth. Here's a story by Donny Henn about Lorne and Joni's grandson, Matt, living with them while he played for the Rochester Honkers.

JAN. 20, 2012: A history of the JM-Mayo rivalry. It'll be different next year without Grosso on the Mayo bench.

NOV. 28, 2011: Grosso had a big-time health scare at age 69, when he underwent a quadruple bypass heart surgery.

JAN. 17, 2011: Grosso a teacher first, coach second (this is part of the story that ran when he broke Willard Ikola's record for coaching victories in Minnesota. The story was split up when it was placed in the paper and I can't track down the other part ... but here's some of it)

DEC. 8, 2010: Grosso closing in on Ikola's record

APRIL 21, 2009: Grosso among 3 inducted in Rochester QB Club HOF

FEB. 16, 2009: Mayo gives Grosso career win No. 600 and 600 and counting

NOV. 26, 2003: Hockey, heritage run deep for Grosso

JUNE 9, 1999: "Peace be with you, Mr. Grosso" (Grosso retires from teaching at Mayo)

March 11, 2015

High School Hockey | 2014-15 All-Area Team & POY

Posted by: Feldman

With the high school hockey season in the rearview, and after a couple days to decompress from an outstanding state tournament, it's time to put a close to the local high school season by naming our Sixth Annual Faceoff Blog All-Area Team and Player of the Year.

In what was an OK year for our local and area teams (boys hockey teams in our coverage area include the four Rochester schools, Austin, Dodge County and Red Wing), there were a number of players who jumped out as the best. In fact, our Player of the Year was probably the best player in the Big Nine Conference.

I'll make my annual disclaimer here: The All-Area Team appears only on the Faceoff Blog (not in print or on PostBulletin.com) for a number of reasons, the main one being most of our other writers don't like to do all-area teams because they often become a bigger headache than they're worth. Many times, so many kids' stats are so similar, that it's a no-win situation for us. If we put a point guard who averages 14 points and 7 assists per game on an all-area basketball team, we'll get an earful from mom of kid who averages 15 points and 6 assists.

I'm fair game, though. Rip away if you don't like the team I've put together. I picked it based on who I thought the best players in our coverage area were. Since I don't see every game played, and some teams I only saw once or twice this season, I also went on word of mouth, the things I hear from area coaches during the season. By chatting regularly with coaches, you get a pretty good idea of which players mean the most to their teams, regardless of what the stats say.

And as I've said in past years, there's nothing P.C. about the team (I don't try to balance it out or make sure that every area team is represented equally), it's just a list of who I think the best players in the area were this season.

Let's get to it.

Below you'll find an All-Area First Team, Second Team, a PUC list (Players Under Consideration; my not-so-clever way of saying "honorable mention") and a list of past Players of the Year.

FIRST TEAM

DEFENSEMEN

***PLAYER OF THE YEAR***
Riese Zmolek, senior, Rochester Century (20-21--41)
Our repeat selection as the All-Area Player of the Year, Zmolek was the fourth-leading scorer in the city, as a defenseman. He was hands-down the most versatile player I saw this year in our area. He has all the tools to compete at higher levels. He played in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League last fall, and he hit the ground running for the high school season. He finished with a career-best 41 points and capped his prep career with 103 total points, an amazing stat for a D-man, but even more astounding considering Zmolek missed half of his sophomore season with an injury.
Here's an evaluation one junior hockey scout gave me on Zmolek: "We watched him at the start of the Elite League season and thought 'I don't know, he has a ways to go.' We went back and watched him toward the end of the Elite League season and he popped. He can do it all. He should be in the USHL next season and he can play at the D-I (college) level."
Just a few days after the conclusion of his high school career, Zmolek moved over to Austin, where he'll finish the season with the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League. He was thrown right into the fire there, playing in all situations, including being sent out to kill a 5-on-3 disadvantage in the final two minutes of his second game back with the team (he played four games for the Bruins prior to the high school season).

Griff Slightam, senior, Rochester Lourdes (8-7--15)
For a second consecutive season, the skilled and big, physical d-man was hampered by injuries. Slightam missed his entire junior season due to an injury he suffered during the football season. He also missed half of his senior season because of injuries, yet put up 15 points from the blue line, and served as basically another assistant coach for the Eagles while sidelined. The fifth-year varsity player played in three state tournaments. He was at his best late in the season, recording four points in two playoff games. His two late-third period goals helped Lourdes rally to beat Mankato East in overtime of a Section 1A first-round game. He is tendered with the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League.

FORWARDS

Logan Haskins, senior, Rochester Mayo (22-25--47)
The only repeat First Team forward, Haskins led the city in scoring for a second consecutive season. The diminutive, slick-skating playmaker finished his three-year varsity career with 116 points and he put up at least one point in 23 of Mayo's 26 games this season. He also had 13 multi-point games this season, playing on a line that combined for 125 points.

Jake Roth, senior, Rochester Century (19-25--44)
The runner-up for the city scoring title, Roth piled up 117 career points over four seasons on Century's varsity. That total includes 82 points over the past two seasons. Roth played mutliple roles for the Panthers. He wasn't afraid to dig in the corners and battle for the puck, and wasn't afraid to go to the front of the net and score gritty goals. He could make plays, too, as indicated by his 25 assists -- a total that matches Haskins for the most in Rochester this season.

Anthony Oliveto, sophomore, Rochester Mayo (26-17--43)
The city's goal-scoring champ finished third in points in Rochester, behind only Haskins and Roth. Just a sophomore, Oliveto already has 67 career varsity points. The big, skilled forward led Rochester with 26 goals and finished his sophomore season on a nine-game point streak. 

GOALIE

Jack Burkel, senior, Rochester Lourdes (5-18-2, 2.80 GAA, .901 save pct., 3 shutouts
The veteran goalie was far better than his record indicates. The goals-against average and save percentage tell a more accurate story. In 17 of his 25 starts, Burkel allowed three goals or less. Lourdes scored more than three goals in a game just four times all season, so Burkel had to be sharp each night out. He gave his team a chance to win nearly every game it played, including a narrow season-ending 2-1 loss to top-seeded New Prague -- the eventual section champ -- in a Section 1A quarterfinal game.

* * * * *

SECOND TEAM

DEFENSEMEN
Dakota Streit, senior, Rochester Lourdes (4-11--15): Played the "Ryan Suter" role for the Eagles, eating big chunks of ice time on a nightly basis, all while being the team's most steady defenseman on both ends of the ice.
Will Zmolek, sophomore, Rochester Century (5-12--17): By the mid-point of his first varsity season, he was as reliable as any defenseman in the Big Nine. Rarely was beaten or caught out of position. Wasn't asked to do a lot of scoring, but finished with 17 points, a good total for a young d-man.

FORWARDS
Ethan Moore, senior, Rochester Mayo (12-23--35): Had at least a point in 20 of Mayo's 26 games this season. Totaled six points in three games at the Kiwanis Festival as Mayo captured the tournament championship in late December.
Cory Checco, sophomore, Rochester JM (15-16--31): Led the Rockets in goals, assists and points in his second varsity season. Had at least one point in 21 of JM's 26 games. He'll go into his junior season with 56 career points.
Tyler Defore, sophomore, Red Wing (21-13--34): One of just four 20-goal scorers in our area, the sophomore was his team's leading scorer and finished the season strong. He had 14 points over the final eight games, including four points in a playoff win against Waseca.

GOALIE
Chris Wileman, senior, Rochester Mayo (16-8-1, 2.98 GAA, .871 save pct., 2 shutouts): The senior had a strong start to his season, recording a shutout in his varsity debut. He finished the season with a sub-3.00 GAA and helped Mayo earn a home playoff game.

* * * * *

PUC (Players Under Consideration)
Forwards
* Tucker Chapman, soph., Rochester Lourdes (17-7--24)
* Brady Dahl, junior, Rochester JM (14-9--23)
* Dylan Goggin, senior, Red Wing (18-15--33)
* Sam Hanson, junior, Red Wing (17-16--33)
* Nic Leisen, sophomore, Dodge County (11-14--25)

Defensemen
* Josh Frerks, junior, Rochester JM (5-9--14)
* James Johnston, senior, Rochester Mayo (7-12--19)
* Alex Ney, senior, Rochester Century (12-7--19)

Goalies
* Adam Defore, senior, Red Wing (8-18-1, 3.98 GAA, .873 save pct.)
* Brady Meyers, junior, Rochester JM (9-13-0, 3.31 GAA, .886 save pct., 1 SO)
* Cole Walter, freshman, Rochester Century (8-3-1, 2.96 GAA, .872 save pct., 1 SO)

* * * * *

FACEOFF BLOG ALL-AREA PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
* 2015: Riese Zmolek, senior, D, Rochester Century
* 2014: Riese Zmolek, junior, D, Rochester Century
* 2013: Alex Funk and Jason Samuelson, seniors, F, Rochester Lourdes
* 2012: Alex Funk, junior, F, Rochester Lourdes
* 2011: Rory Vesel, senior, D, Rochester Lourdes
* 2010: No POY (the inaugural all-area team didn't include a POY)

* * * * *

BELOWTwo All-Area First Team players battle during a Section 1AA quarterfinal game at Graham I on Feb. 19. Mayo's Logan Haskins, left, attempts to carry the puck around Century's Riese Zmolek. (Photo credit to Post-Bulletin's Scott Jacobson)

Haskins RZmolek

March 05, 2015

Boys Hockey | The Tourney '15: Breaking down the Class AA field

Posted by: Feldman

What better way for The Tourney '15 to start than by earning the No. 1 play on SportsCenter's Top 10 and having the final game of the day decided on a good goal in OT?

Your move, Class AA.

The big boys start today in front of a sold out Xcel Energy Center, when 98 percent of the state (that number may be low) cheers on Bemidji against No. 2-seeded Edina in what could be a tremendous opening game.

Before we break down the AA games, here are some links to stories from yesterday's Class A quarterfinals and some links to Class AA tournament preview stories:

* Defending state champs knock off Section 1 champ New Prauge (Grand Forks Herald)

* Hermantown breezes into Class A semis (Duluth News Tribune)

* Hermantown is a loose group this year (Star Tribune)

* A young Duluth East team is proving its doubters wrong (Duluth News Tribune)

* Section 1AA champ Lakeville North in pursuit of perfection (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

* Everyone in Minnesota might be thinking about a potential Lakeville North-Edina matchup, except North and Edina (Star Tribune)

* The legacy of the 1990s Bloomington Jefferson powerhouse teams could be matched this weekend. (Pioneer Press)

• • •

CLASS AA STATE QUARTERFINALS
At Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul

11 a.m.  Bemidji (23-3-2) vs. No. 2 Edina (24-1-2)

Overview: Bemidji has posted shutouts in seven of its past 10 games and has allowed a total of three goals in that stretch. However, all of the Lumberjacks players were at least a decade from being born the last time Bemidji made state (1986). Edina has been to nine consecutive state tournaments and has the two highest-scoring players in the field, Dylan Malmquist and Garrett Wait, a Gophers commit, both who have 71 points.

Bemidji leaders: Sr. Jake Leitner (22-25--47); Jr. Nick Leitner (7-8--15); Sr. goalie Grant Tharaldson (16-2-2, 1.28 GAA, .928 save pct.).

Edina leaders: Sr. Dylan Malmquist (28-43--71); Jr. Garrett Wait (23-48--71); Sr. Paul Meyer (4-18--22); Sr. goalie Kobi Boe (21-1-2, 1.68, .914).

The pick: As much as many Minnesotans would like to see Bemidji open the day with an upset, it's difficult to pick against Edina this time of year: Edina 3, Bemidji 1 (en).

• • •

1 p.m.  Duluth East (14-10-4) vs. No. 3 St. Thomas Academy (24-4-0)

Overview: Duluth East is in its seventh consecutive state tournament and 22nd overall. It hasn't beaten another state tournament team this season, but will play a puck possession game and attempt to keep the score down. STA is making its first Class AA tournament appearance after making eight in Class A, including winning five titles.

East leaders: Sr. Nick Altmann (14-13--27); Jr. Ash Altmann (10-14--24); Sr. goalie Gunnar Howg (10-6-4, 2.46, .904).

STA leaders: Sr. Alec Broetzman (35-31--66); Sr. Christiano Versich (24-42--66); Sr. Peter Tufto (30-42--72); Sr. D Seamus Donohue (5-34--39); Sr. goalie Matt Snow (17-3, 1.92, .912).

The pick: East is 0-5 against tournament teams this season. That won't change in the opener: STA 5, East 3.

• • •

6 p.m.  Hill-Murray (21-7-0) vs. No. 1 Lakeville North (28-0-0)

Overview: Hill is back at state for a third time in four years. It was upset in the section final last year by Stillwater, but avenged that loss in this year's section semifinals. North won't sneak up on anyone in the state this year. Led by six Division I commits, the Panthers are unbeaten, ranked No. 1 in the state and seeded No. 1 in the tournament. They haven't lost in almost a year, since an 8-2 loss to Edina in last year's state championship game.

H-M leaders: Sr. Zach Mills (23-21--44); Sr. Davis Zarembinski (7-19--26); So. Marko Reifenberger (19-21--40); So. goalie Jake Begley (11-2, 1.39, .925).

North leaders: Sr. Jack Poehling (34-35--69); Sr. Nick Poehling (32-31--63); So. Ryan Poehling (15-32--47); Jr. Max Johnson (17-30--47); Jr. goalie Ryan Edquist (26-0, 1.30, .940).

The pick: Would this really be considered a huge upset if Hill was to win? It won 21 games this season against a tough schedule and has a pair of 40-point scorers. Hill will give North a run, but ultimately the Panthers' depth and goalie play will carry them through to the semis: North 4, H-M 1.

• • •

8 p.m.  No. 5 Eden Prairie (18-9-0) vs. No. 4 Blaine (22-5-1)

Overview: E.P. lost 13 seniors from last year's team, including a pair of Mr. Hockey candidates. It hasn't skipped a beat, though, and has two Division I commits -- Michael Graham (UMD) and Casey Mittlestadt (Minnesota). Blaine has a first-year head coach and lost 15 seniors off last year's team. But aside from top-seeded North, it might be the hottest team in the state. It hasn't lost in its past 17 games (16-0-1), allowing less than 30 goals in that span. Its leading scorer, Riley Tufte, is a UMD commit.

E.P. leaders: Soph. Casey Mittlestadt (24-26--50); Jr. Michael Graham (23-23--46); Sr. D Andy Aguilar (1-15-16); Sr. goalie Shaun Durocher (14-7, 2.70, .904).

Blaine leaders: Jr. Riley Tufte (27-32--59); Jr. Luke Notermann (26-29--55); Sr. Easton Brodzinski (30-21--51); Jr. goalie Jon Kallestad (12-2-1, 2.21, .920); Jr. goalie junior Ridge Gerads (10-3-0, 2.15, .914).

The pick: Blaine hasn't lost since Jan. 2. That streak might not make it through the weekend, but it makes it through tonight: Blaine 5, Eden Prairie 4.

• • •

STATE SEMIFINALS

Edina vs. STA: The heads of hockey fans around the state might explode having to watch these two powerhouse programs that, ummmm, aren't the most-liked teams around, face off with a spot in the state title game on the line. Could Edina draw support from the fans as the public school in this battle? Could STA draw support as the former Class A team that moved up to face the big dogs? Could fans just hope for a double-countout and have the title awarded to the winner of the other semifinal? Probably not, there has to be a winner: Edina 4, STA 3 (OT).

North vs. Blaine: Don't count out the Bengals in this one. Watching North in the Section 1AA tournament, it took 6-7 minutes to get up to full speed. North doesn't take a lot of shots, but it works for good ones. I'd be tempted to call an upset here, but I love the way North goalie Ryan Edquist plays. He'll be the difference in this one: North 4, Blaine 1 (en).

• • •

STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

It's the rematch everybody wanted ... well, some people wanted. I like this North team a lot. It does things the right way. It makes the smart play, moves the puck well and has the chemistry that the great teams always have. Edina has only lost once all season, though, that coming against North, back in the first week of December. As much as I'd love to see North represent Section 1 and bring a state title back to Lakeville with it, it is incredibly difficult to go unbeaten in Minnesota high school hockey: Edina 3, North 2.

March 04, 2015

Boys Hockey | The Tourney '15: Breaking down the Class A field

Posted by: Feldman

I have to start today with a mea culpa.

I'm not pround of this, but I scheduled a dentist appointment for 11:20 this morning. The Tourney '15 begins at 11 a.m.

*currently hanging my head in shame*

Thankfully, DVRs exist, and The Tourney can be found on KAAL 6.2 or Charter Cable 192 in Rochester. It's also available for $5/day on Prep45.com. So I'll be having my gums poked while New Ulm and Mahtomedi are opening tournament play this morning.

I haven't seen Mahtomedi play this season, but it's the team I'm most looking forward to watching in the Class A field. The Zephyrs are the No. 2 seed, with a 24-2-2 record, and hold some impressive victories this season (Cretin, Breck, STA, Hill-Murray). They also have one of the top scorers in the tournament -- junior F Jack Becker, who has 25 goals and 60 total points this year.

Mahtomedi hasn't lost to a Class A school -- just like top seed Hermantown -- and hasn't lost since Jan. 8. It also has avenged its only two losses this season (Hill and STA). I wouldn't be shocked if the Zephyrs are lifting the big trophy on Saturday afternoon.

Oops, did I give away a prediction already? No, of course not. Or did I? Who knows. I'm not even sure, because I change my mind every minute and my pick to win will change six times before this post is done. Keep reading and I'll make my picks at the end of this post.

Before we get into the matchups, here is the state tournament preview that ran in the Post-Bulletin print edition on Tuesday. It includes a story on Lakeville North junior goalie Ryan Edquist, a Gophers commit who has been dominant this season.

As I wrote in a previous blog, I'm not great at breaking down goalie play, but I know a good one when I see one. Edquist is most definitely one. He not only is always in the right spot to make a save, but he is incredibly adept at playing and passing the puck.

Tomorrow, we'll break down the AA tourney and on Saturday we'll have our annual P-B Faceoff Blog All-Area Boys Hockey Team and Player of the Year.

Before we get to the matchups, here are some links to previews and stories about The Tourney from around the state:

* Again, my tournament preview, including a story on North's Ryan Edquist, and a little bit on New Prague's first-round matchup, plus tournament TV and ticket info, and a "By the Numbers" bit with a fact on each of the teams in The Tourney.

* A great piece from the Star Tribune's David LaVaque on Duluth East and tourney legend Dave Spehar, who put together perhaps the single-most impressive performance by an individual in the history of The Tourney.

* Mahtomedi's confidence soared after beating Hill-Murray and STA in a two-week span (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

* As I mentioned in my preview, Breck goalie Stephen Headrick has been outstanding this season, allowing less than 1.4 goals per game. (MNHockeyHub.com)

* Kevin Hartzell at Let's Play Hockey fittingly calls this week Homecoming Week in Minnesota

* The Duluth News Tribune asks the same question we've been asking for almost a decade: Is this finally Hermantown's year?

* The defending state champions from East Grand Forks are back at The Tourney, but without four star defensemen who anchored the team last season (Grand Forks Herald)

I'm running out of time before puck drop for the opener (I believe it's officially set for 11:17 a.m.), so let's get to the matchups:

CLASS A STATE QUARTERFINALS
At Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul

11 a.m.  New Ulm (18-8-2) vs. No. 2 seed Mahtomedi (24-2-2)

Overview: Give New Ulm credit. Everyone just assumed the Section 3 champ would be Luverne. Many of us put that not in pencil, but in ink, leading up to the postseason. But New Ulm figured out a way to outscore Luverne and win the section title game 7-5 to get back to state. The Eagles have three 25-plus goal scorers, and one 30-goal scorer, Ethan Kraus (33-19--52). Mahtomedi can't overlook those guys or they'll pay for it. Mahtomedi is at state for the first time since 2010 and has its top eight scorers back from last season. The Zephyrs feature four players with 34 or more points and they haven't lost since Jan. 8.

N.U. leaders: Sr. Colin Huffman (26-36--62); Sr. Brandon Helget (26-36--62); Jr. Ethan Kraus (33-19--52); Sr. goalie Senior Matt Berkner (17-6-2, 2.31 GAA, .907 save pct.)

Mahtomedi leaders: Jr. Jack Becker (25-35--60); Sr. Kellen Campbell (17-23--40); Jr. Jack Heinsch (19-19--38); Jr. goalie Will Swanson (24-2-2, 2.24, .910)

The pick: This Mahtomedi team is deep and balanced, and it's playing with a load of confidence right now after some big wins over top Class AA schools (state tourney entrants Hill-Murray and STA) in the second half of the season: Mahtomedi 6, New Ulm 1.

• • •

1 p.m.  New Prague (20-8-0) vs. No. 3 East Grand Forks (23-4-0)

Overview: New Prague returns to state for a second consecutive season and second time overall. The Trojans had a couple of tough games in the Section 1 tourney, surviving a 2-1 game against eighth-seeded Rochester Lourdes in the quarterfinals, then outlasting Northfield 2-1 in the title game. Likewise, defending state champ EGF had to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the third period to force OT and beat Thief River Falls 4-3 to get back to state. New Prague will have to find some scoring depth if it hopes to advance. EGF senior F Dixon Bowen (56 pts) is a Mr. Hockey finalist and one point from setting the program's single season scoring record.

N.P. leaders: Jr. Alex Gregor (31-24--55); Sr. Ben Witt (13-31--44); Jr. Zach Davis (16-24--40); Sr. goalie Conner Wagner (19-8-0, 2.13 GAA, .912 save pct.)

EGF leaders: Sr. Dixon Bowen (25-31-56); Jr. Tanner Tweten (19-23-42); Jr. Grant Loven (11-17-28); goalie Josh Weber (16-3-0, 1.51, .925); goalie Garrett Lieberg (7-1-0, 1.80, .920)

The pick: EGF lost some talented players from last season, but the Green Wave play a tough schedule and they still have a lot of guys back from last season, including senior forward and Mr. Hockey finalist Dixon Bowen: EGF 4, New Prague 2.

• • •

6 p.m.  Spring Lake Park (16-11-1) vs. No. 1 Hermantown (25-2-1)

Overview: SLP is making its first-ever state tournament appearance and, as the luck of the draw went, it got matched up with top-seeded and ticked-off Hermantown. H'town has lost in the past five state championship games, including a 7-3 loss to East Grand Forks last year. SLP is a defensive-minded team, as evidenced by its 5-0 shutout victory against Chisago Lake in its section championship game.

SLP leaders: Sr. Jacob Nystrom (28-28--56); Sr. Deven Sunell (23-31--54); Jr. Zach Benson (4-18--22); Jr. goalie Aaron Furlano (16-10-1, 2.98 GAA, .903 save pct).

Hermantown leaders: Sr. Ryan Kero (29-37--66); Sr. Nate Pionk (31-32--63); Jr. Cole Koepke (20-22--42); Jr. goalie Luke Olson (21-1-1, 1.51, .932).

The pick: This is a game Hermantown should win. And the Hawks generally don't lose games they're supposed to win. Nothing different here: Hermantown 7, SLP 1.

• • •

8 p.m.  No. 5 St. Cloud Apollo (22-4-2) vs. No. 4 Breck (21-7-0)

Overview: This should be the best matchup of the opening round, and, of course, the latest-starting. Generally the "8 p.m." game actually sees the puck drop about 8:45 p.m. Remember waiting all day for a couple of these games, Lourdes fans? It's hard to say what the long day and wait will do to the players, who have to keep their minds and bodies busy for a full day, but don't want to wear themselves down. Watch for this game to come down to goaltending. Breck's Stephen Headrick (1.29 GAA) and SCA's Nick Althaus (1.47 GAA) have been almost unbeatable this season.

SCA leaders: Jr. D Tanner Breidenbach (10-25--35); Sr. Jason Omann (18-15--33); Jr. Gino Lucia (17-15--32); Jr. Tyler Scott (18-15--33); Jr. goalie Nick Althaus (20-4--2, 1.47 GAA, .917 save pct.).

Breck leaders: Jr. Chase Ellingson (25-21-46); Jr. Will Blake (12-21--33); Sr. goalie Stephen Headrick (21-7-0, 1.29 GAA, .931 save pct.).

The pick: Breck's goaltender, Stephen Headrick, has been outstanding all season, allowing 38 goals in 28 games. That means Apollo will have to keep this close to have a chance. They'll do it, and they'll get the break they need in extra time to advance to the semis: St. Cloud Apollo 2, Breck 1, OT.

• • •

STATE SEMIFINALS

• Mahotomedi vs. East Grand Forks: EGF has a bunch of talented players, including a Mr. Hockey finalist in Dixon Bowen. The Green Wave lost four really talented defensemen from last season, though (two in the USHL, two in the NAHL) and that will show here: Mahtomedi 5, EGF 3.

Hermantown vs. St. Cloud Apollo: Hermantown coach Bruce Plante told the Duluth News Tribune that his team has been very even-keeled this season, not a lot of ups and downs. That poise and experience will show this week: Hermantown 5, SCA 2.

• • •

STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

Hermantown vs. Mahtomedi: I haven't gone out on much of a limb with these picks, I know, but history has shown that coaches know what they're doing when it comes to seeding teams in The Tourney, especially in the first round. It gets a little more even after the first day, and a little more difficult to pick winners. Count me in the group of Tourney watchers who would love to see Bruce Plante and Hermantown snap their streak of losses in the title game. BUT, Mahtomedi has been outstanding all season, too, and their wins in the second half of the season have been quite impressive. The Zephyrs are deep and led by one of the tourney's top scorers, junior F Jack Becker (25-35--60). They'll make the most of their first tourney appearance since 2010: Mahtomedi 4, Hermantown 3.