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436 posts categorized "Hockey"

February 27, 2015

Junior Hockey | Bear Tracks: The weekend ahead for the Austin Bruins

Posted by: Feldman

I know I'm pushing this right up against game time, but, hey better a little early than never, right? Right.

Should we really be surprised that there are five weeks to go in the regular season and the Austin Bruins are starting to play their best hockey? It's been a theme under head coach Chris Tok over the first five years of the Bruins' existence.

After winning two games in extra time at the Midwest Division-leading Minnesota Wilderness last weekend, the Bruins again control their own destiny in their pursuit of a third consecutive NAHL Central Division regular-season championship.They also became the first Central team to wrap up a playoff spot. If the Bs win both games this weekend against Aberdeen (7:05 p.m. tonight, Saturday) at Riverside Arena, and Bismarck loses twice in regulation against the Wilderness, the Bruins will clinch home ice in the first round of the NAHL playoffs.

Perhaps the biggest sign that things have turned around for the Bs is their success in extra-time games as of late. They've won four of their past five games that have gone to OT or a shootout, dating back to Jan. 21. Prior to this stretch, Austin had won just three of 13 extra-time games this season.

Every point is crucial in the standings for teams in a very competitive Central Division. The Bruins have done a nice job of grabbing those extra points over the past month. 

Austin (29-10-11, 69 points) has a five-point lead over Minot (29-13-6, 64 points). Minot has 12 games remining, while Austin has just 10. But even if Minot won those two games they have in hand, that still would put them a point back of the Bruins. 

The Bruins' coaches won't let the players get caught up in counting points and chasing points. Still too much time left for that. They just need to keep playing the way they're playing. If they do, we'll see a lot of playoff hockey at Riverside again this spring.

Check out just how good Austin has been since the calendar flipped to 2015:

* In their 17 games since the start of January, the Bruins are 12-2-3 overall.

* Eight of those games have gone to OT or a shootout, with Austin winning five. 

* Five times in those 17 games, Austin has scored more than five goals.

* In the two regulation losses (both against last-place Brookings), the Bs outshot Brookings by a combined 17 shots on goal.

* Austin has outscored its opponents 66-38 over the past 17 games.

All those things considered, the Bruins can't let up. As you'll note in the next-to-last bullet point, their two regulation losses in 2015 came against Brookings, a team battling to stay out of the Central Division basement, a team that could potentially be the Bruins' first-round playoff opponent.

This weekend, Austin gets the team that Brookings is trying to track down for the final playoff spot from the division, the Aberdeen Wings.

Aberdeen is 23-24-2, and with 48 points is five points up on Brookings for that last playoff spot. That means the Bruins should get a hungry Wings team. If Austin doesn't match Aberdeen's intensity and play with the same kind of urgency, the Bs will have Minot breathing right down their necks.

Some quick notes before we break down this weekend's series:

* Former Bruins goalie Nick Lehr made his college debut on Thursday night for Minnesota in its 5-3 victory against Michigan State. It sounds like Gophers' starter Adam Wilcox will be good to go for tonight's series finale, but Lehr showed he can play at the highest level, settling in after a shaky start.

* Former Bruin A.J. Reid is the fourth-leading scorer for the Air Force Academy Falcons. He has seven goals and 24 points through 35 games for Air Force (13-18-4).

* Goalie Zach Driscoll, who started the season with Bruins before being called up to the USHL, is 6-2-1 for the Omaha Lancers with a 2.79 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage. Driscoll is a St. Cloud State University commit.

* * * * *

THIS WEEKEND'S SERIES

ABERDEEN WINGS at AUSTIN BRUINS
7:05 p.m. tonight, 7:05 p.m. Saturday, Riverside Arena

Records: Austin 29-10-11 (69 pts., 1st in NAHL Central), Aberdeen 23-24-2 (48 pts., 4th in NAHL Central)
Head coaches: Austin, Chris Tok (5th season, 184-104-30 overall); Aberdeen, Francis Anzalone (1st season, 23-24-2 overall)
Wings top scorers: F Kyle Haak (14-29--43); F Michael Soucier (16-19--35); F Bjorn Sigurdarson (11-10--21); D Tanner Okeson (6-14--20).
Wings goalies: Andrew Shortridge (15-11-1, 2.53 GAA, .915 save pct.); Tanner Elmore (0-0-0, 0.00, .000); Luke Kania (0-0-0, 0.00, .000).
Bruins top scorers: F Trevor Boyd (19-20--39); F Alex Pettersson (7-26--33); F Tony Uglem (18-14--32); F Nico Sturm (10-22--32); F Luke Dietsch (7-23--30); D Ian Scheid (10-14--24); D Cory Dunn (4-20--24).
Bruins goalies: Jake Kielly (17-4-6, 2.21 GAA, .904 save pct.); Evan Smith (6-1-2, 2.02, .923).

TALE OF THE TAPE

Records (points): Austin 29-10-11 (69); Aberdeen 23-24-2 (48)
Advantage: Bruins

Head-to-head (points earned): Bruins 3-0-3 (9); Aberdeen 2-3-1 (5)

Offense: Austin 3.32 goals per game; Aberdeen 2.35 gpg
Advantage: Bruins

Defense: Austin 2.44 goals allowed per game; Aberdeen 2.80 gapg
Advantage: Bruins

Power play (league rank): Austin 14.3 pct. (19th); Aberdeen 16.6 pct. (11th)
Advantage: Wings

Penalty kill (league rank): Austin 89.3 pct. (1st); Aberdeen 84.8 (7th)
Advantage: Bruins

Goaltending (save pct.): Austin .904; Aberdeen .906 
Advantage: Wings

SERIES NOTES

Keep an eye on the players from each team who participated in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament earlier this week, Monday and Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Mich. Trevor Boyd, Luke Dietsch, Ian Scheid and Cory Dunn represented the Bruins, while Aberdeen sent forwards Kyle Haak and Bjorn Sigurdarson. That's a lot of travel and play in a short period of time; by the time Saturday's game in Austin has finished, those guys will all have played six games in nine days. ... Aberdeen traded standout goalie Chad Catt to the Soo Eagles two weeks ago (Catt actually played for Team Central at the Top Prospects Tourney this week, as he had been named to the Central team prior to the trade). The Wings look like they'll ride Andrew Shortridge (15-11-1, 2.53 GAA, .915 save pct.) the rest of the way. They have three other goalies on the roster, none who appeared to have played in the NAHL this season. ... Six different players have scored game-winning goals for Austin in the past seven games. 

THE CALL

The Bruins haven't lost a home game in regulation since a 3-1 setback to Brookings on Jan. 3, a span of 55 days. The Bruins' coaching staff has this team playing almost exactly how it wants to at this stage of the season. The close race for the division title should help the Bs from becoming complacent. And, as you likely know, if they look complacent one night, coaches Chris Tok and Jamie Huffman will make sure they do not look complacent two nights in a row. Aberdeen has been far better at home (15-8-1) than on the road (8-16-1) this season. Add all that up and it feels like a good weekend for the Bruins and their fans in their home barn. The call: Bruins 5-2, Bruins 5-3.

February 25, 2015

High School Hockey Today | Feb. 25, 2015 (The Section Finals edition)

Posted by: Feldman

A week ago, there were 16 teams remaining in Section 1 boys hockey, eight each in Class A and AA. We're down to four, and those four will be cut to two about 36 hours from now.

The Section 1 finals are upon us, with a pair of 1 vs. 3 matchups on tap over the next two nights at the Rochester Recreation Center.

It starts at 7 p.m. tonight (game is still on, as of now -- 12:40 p.m.) with the Section 1A championship game between top-seeded New Prague (19-8-0) and No. 3 seed Northfield (16-9-2). New Prague edged Northfield 3-2 when they met in the regular season, wayyyyyy back on Nov. 29. New Prague had to score twice in the final six minutes of that game to win it.

That seems typical of Section 1A teams this season; you never know what the outcome will be on a given night. 

Section 1AA seems more clear-cut, but we've seen stranger things happen than, say, No. 3-seeded Farmington (19-7-1) pulling an upset of No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Lakeville North (27-0-0). Not many stranger things, but a few. Farmington and North are set to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Rec Center in a rematch of last year's section final, which North won 6-0.

North is a machine. It can put six D-I players on the ice at once. The most impressive of that group to me on Saturday was junior goalie Ryan Edquist, a Gophers recruit. I can't judge a goalie's play to save my Rec Center pretzel and cheese, but I don't feel too bad about it, because many coaches I talk to can't either. I guess it's kind of like watching TV -- I can't tell you how to make a good television show, but I know one when I see it.

The same goes for Edquist. In North's 10-0 win against Rochester Century on Saturday, he kept the game scoreless while Century pressured for the first nine minutes -- really the only time all game Century was able to sustain pressure. Edquist made a pair of great saves, one on a Riese Zmolek shot and another on a tip by Erik Thorvilson. Edquist has the look of a D-I goalie -- the way he played the puck, the way he kept himself in the game, very impressive. On one Century power play, he basically played catch with Century goalie Cole Walter. Century put a couple of hard shots in on goal from outside the blue line. Edquist gloved them, dropped them and fired them all the way down the ice in one fluid motion. 

I got some comments about Edquist from North coach Trent Eigner after the game that I'm saving for next week's state tournament preview, if North makes it. Eigner called Edquist the team's hardest worker.

Let's take a look at this week's Section 1 title games:

SECTION 1A
No. 3 Northfield (16-9-2) vs. No. 1 New Prague (19-8-0)
7 p.m. tonight, Rochester Recreation Center

Faribault hung with New Prague for half the game because it played a trap and didn't give the Trojans' talented skaters any open ice to use. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. Once Faribault decided ditch its trap, the game turned into a track meet and New Prague dominated in that case, scoring four times in the second period and four more in the third.

I've only seen Faribault and Northfield twice each, but it seems to me that Northfield could play that trap pretty effectively and make tonight's game into a close one all the way through. Northfield has multiple lines that can control the puck and generate offense.

That said, the Raiders went toe-to-toe with No. 2 seed Mankato West in the semifinals on Saturday without mucking things up. The Northfield-West game was wide open and, quite honestly, Northfield looked like it wore West down a bit late in the game.

New Prague is looking for its second consecutive trip -- and second ever -- to the Class A state tournament. It placed third last season.

Northfield has never been to the state hockey tournament. The Raiders have never had a better opportunity. That's not a knock on New Prague, but more a commentary on how even this section has been all season.

I'll go back to what I said wrote last week when I was making predictions for this section tournament: It's so wide open that I won't be surprised no matter who wins it.

Here's what I wrote last week, when I predicted Northfield and New Prague would meet in the title game: Why do I think this is Northfield's year to get to state? I just feel like, in a wide-open section like this, someone other than the top seed will come out of it. The Raiders have lost five games since the start of January. Three of those came against Class AA teams. The other two -- against Mankato West and Faribault -- both came by one goal. I think the Raiders flip those two one-goal games in the playoffs and advance to state. Plus, when these teams met in the regular season, New Prague had to score twice in the third period to rally from a 2-1 deficit to win. Northfield hangs on this time.

The call: Northfield 2, New Prague 1.

* * * * * 

SECTION 1AA
No. 3 Farmington (19-7-1) vs. No. 1 Lakeville North (27-0-0)
7 p.m. Thursday, Rochester Recreation Center

Nick, Jack, Ryan Poehling. Jack McNeely and Jack Sadek. Ryan Edquist. They'll all be playing D-I hockey in a few years. They'll all be on the ice for one team again Thursday night, hoping to lead Lakeville North back to state and back to the state title game, where it lost last year to Edina.

Standing in North's path is Farmington, which surprisingly blew out No. 2 seed Lakeville South 5-1 on Saturday in a section semifinal game. It was 3-0 Farmington after one and South -- despite outshooting the Tigers 38-26 -- never seriously threatened. 

Give much of the credit for that to Farmington goalie Gage Overby. At the start of the playoffs, we said Overby is one of a handful of guys in this section who could be a game changer. If Farmington wants to get to the Class AA state tournament for the first time ever, he'll have to be the star of the game tomorrow.

Overby's playoff numbers are outstanding -- 2-0, 1.50 goals-against avg., .941 save pct. -- as are his full-season numbers (15-6-1, 2.28, .905, 5 shutouts). However, he's going up against a goalie who's been perfect in the postseason. Edquist is 2-0 with 2 shutouts as North has outscored its opponents by a combined 24-0.

North is so deep and talented, though, that it's difficult to see this game going any way other than the Panthers lifting the section title trophy. In addition to those six D-I players, the Panthers also have junior F Max Johnson, who has 7 points in two playoff games. He was drafted last summer by Sioux Falls of the USHL. Johnson, sophomore Henry Enebak (18-21--39) and junior Taylor Schneider (15-20--35) are often overlooked because of what the St. Cloud State-bound Poehling brothers do, but that's a mistake. Watch for North's second-liners to make a big impact on Thursday's game.

Oh, yeah, North can play some D, too. McNeely (Nebraska-Omaha) and Sadek (Gophers) lead a defensive corps that has limited the Panthers' two playoff opponents to a total of 23 shots on goal.

As for a pick, I originally had North vs. South in the title game, so I was off the mark on that one. I wasn't surprised that Farmington beat South, but was definitely surprised that they did so in such convincing fashion.

But beating North is an entirely different challenge, and one that no team has accomplished this season.

The call: North 5, Farmington 1.

* * * * * *

AROUND THE STATE

We're down to the championship games in almost every section, so every game now is a good one. I'll pick out a few to keep an eye on (the numbers in front of team names indicate state rankings, not section seeds):

SECTION 2A CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 4 Breck vs. No. 7 Delano/Rockford (7 p.m. Thursday, Parade Ice Garden, Minneapolis)
: Breck has put up 21 goals in its first two playoff games. Delano has had to squeak out a pair of one-goal victories to get to the section final. Breck beat Delano 6-1 in their regular-season meeting, but that was the season opener, back on Nov. 25.

SECTION 6A CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 10 St. Cloud Apollo vs. No. 19 St. Cloud Cathedral (7 p.m. Thursday, M.A.C., St. Cloud): An all-St. Cloud title game, set up by fourth-seeded Apollo knocking off No. 1-seeded and No. 5-ranked Alexandria 4-2 in the section semis. These teams met once in the regular season, Cathedral winning 2-1 on Dec. 9.

SECTION 7A CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 1 Hermantown vs. No. 6 Duluth Marshall (7 p.m. Tonight, Amsoil Arena, Duluth): Could this be the year that Hermantown finally wins that elusive state championship? After five consecutive state title-game losses, that's the question that's been asked all season. But just to get to state will be a challenge for the Hilltoppers. Duluth Marshall stands in their way tonight. Hermantown hasn't lost to a Class A school this season and has two wins against Marshall (6-2 and 5-2).

SECTION 8A CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 3 East Grand Forks vs. No. 12 Thief River Falls (7 p.m. Thursday, The Gardens, Warroad): Last season, East Grand Forks had both its boys and girls team reach the Class A state championship games. The EGF boys won, while the girls lost. Thief River Falls' girls won the state championship last week. Can the boys follow suit and return to state for the first time since 2012? The Gardens in Warroad will be packed, for sure.

SECTION 2AA CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 2 Edina vs. No. 15 Burnsville (6:30 p.m. tonight, Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis): Edina hasn't lost since Dec. 4, a 3-1 setback to No. 1 Lakeville North. The Hornets are 23-1-2, including a 3-0 shutout of Burnsville on Dec. 27, and they've won their last six games by a combined score of 32-7. 

SECTION 6AA CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 5 Eden Prairie vs. No. 14 Minnetonka (8:30 p.m. tonight, Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis): The second half of an outstanding boys hockey doubleheader features a top-seeded E.P. team that will be short-handed because of this brawl after its 1-0 victory against Benilde-St. Margaret's last Saturday in a section semifinal game. E.P. will be without a first-line forward, a second-line forward and a top-four D-man for tonight's section final. It all makes this THE game to watch tonight in the state.

SECTION 8AA CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 12 Bemidji vs. No. 17 Moorhead (7 p.m. tonight, Ralph Engelstad Arena, Thief River Falls): Moorhead has been to state three times in the past four years. It's been almost 30 years since Bemidji played at the state tournament. The Lumberjacks are seeking their first trip to state since 1986 and, as the top seed in the section, they feel they have the team to break that dryspell. Bemidji beat Moorhead twice during the regular season (4-2 and 3-0) and it has not allowed a goal in two playoff games.

February 21, 2015

High School Hockey Today | Feb. 21, 2015 (The Section Semifinal Saturday edition)

Posted by: Feldman

One of the best days of the high school hockey season is upon us, Section Semifinal Saturday at the Rochester Recreation Center. It will be a little odd this year with just one Rochester team involved, but there are still four good hockey games on tap.

It starts at 11:30 a.m. with Rochester Century against undefeated and No. 1-ranked Lakeville North. That's followed by what should be a very good one between Farmington and Lakeville South.

Both of the games in the evening session should be entertaining, too. No. 4 seed Faribault and No. 1 seed New Prague face off at 5:30 p.m., with No. 3 Northfield and No. 2 Mankato West to follow.

I've watched two playoff games over the past four days and we can only hope that Saturday's games match the same level of intensity and excitement.

Tuesday, I watched Rochester Lourdes rally from a 2-0 deficit in the final five minutes of the third period to force OT, where Tucker Chapman scored the game-winner just 39 seconds in. Two nights later, Rochester Century's Connor Davies scored the game-winning goal with 3:30 left in the third period to cap the Panthers' three-goal third period for a 4-3 win against Rochester Mayo.

Let's look at the four games we'll see at the Rec today (by the way, you can follow me on Twitter -- @PBFeldy -- for updates from all of the Section 1 games). 

* * * *

TODAY'S GAMES

SECTION 1AA

No. 5 ROCHESTER CENTURY vs. No. 1 LAKEVILLE NORTH
Rochester Rec Center, 11:30 a.m.

Records: Century 16-7-3, No. 1-ranked North 26-0-0
Head coaches: Century, Josh Klingfus (4th season, 53-45-7 overall); North, Trent Eigner (4th season, 76-37-2 overall)
Last meeting: North beat Century 12-0 on Jan. 9, 2014, at the Rochester Rec Center
Last game: North beat Dodge County 14-0 in a Section 1AA quarterfinal. Ryan Poehling had a goal and six assists; Century beat Mayo 4-3 in a section quarterfinal. Riese Zmolek had a goal and an assist and Connor Davies scored the game winner with 3:30 left.
Leaders: CENT -- Sr. F Jake Roth (19-25--44); Sr. D Riese Zmolek (20-21--41); Sr. D Ryan Sherden (7-13--20); So. F Eric St. Marie (7-11--18); Fr. G Cole Walter (9-2-1, 2.33 GAA, .890 save pct.). NORTH -- Sr. F Jack Poehling (28-36--64); Sr. F Nick Poehling (30-29--59); So. F Ryan Poehling (15-33--48); Jr. F Max Johnson (16-26--42); Sr. D Jack Sadek (6-20--26); Jr. G Ryan Edquist (23-0-0, 1.37 GAA, .939 save pct., 7 SO).

-----

* No. 3 Farmington (18-7-1) vs. No. 2 Lakeville South (15-10-1), 2 p.m.: The Tigers and Cougars have already met twice this season, with South winning both times (7-4 on Dec. 18, 4-2 on Jan. 29). ... Farmington is led by senior F Austin Martinsen (25-24--49) and junior F John Siebenaler (18-27--45), as well as senior G Gage Overby (14-6-1, 2.34 GAA, .899 save pct., 5 SO). ... South's statistical leaders are junior F Nick Swaney, a Minn.-Duluth commit (29-32--61) and senior F Nick Oelrich (19-24--43). The Cougars have two goalies who have shared time, senior Daniel Swail (9-7-1, 2.64, .893) and junior Kyle McKinney (6-3-0, 1.80, .923). ... South advanced by beating Farmington 7-0 on Thursday. Farmington advanced with a 5-2 victory against Rochester John Marshall. ... South is 8-3-0 in its past 11 games. ... Farmington is ranked No. 18 in the state. South is unranked.

* * * * * * * * *

SECTION 1A

* No. 4 Faribault (19-7-1) vs. No. 1 New Prague (18-8-0), 5:30 p.m.: These teams did not meet in the regular season. ... Faribault has played two one-goal playoff games to get here, while New Prague also won a one-goal game against No. 8 seed Rochester Lourdes on Thursday. ... New Prague is led by F Alex Gregor (28-22--50) and senior F Ben Witt (12-28--40). Trojans senior G Conner Wagner is 17-8-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. ... Faribault stat leaders include F Christan Von Ruden (26-30--56) and F Tyler Becker (20-35--55). Goalies Adam Johannsen (12-4-0, 2.35, .924) and Chase Batchelder (7-3-1, 2.94, .887) have split playing time, though Johannsen has started and finished both playoff games so far.

- - - - - - - - - -

* No. 3 Northfield (15-9-2) vs. No. 2 Mankato West (18-6-2), 8 p.m.: These teams couldn't have been much more even in the regular season. They played to a 3-3 tie in their first meeting, Dec. 9 in Mankato, then West edged the Raiders 3-2 on Jan. 19 at Northfield. ... West's Christian Klemme had two goals and an assist in the victory on Jan. 19, so the Raiders will have to keep him in check today. That's easier said than done. Klemme is West's second-leading scorer (15-27--42), trailing only fellow senior F Austin Langworthy (31-20--51). ... West goalie Conor Wollenzien could be another key factor today. The senior is 17-6-2 with a 2.24 GAA and a .921 save pct. He is 11-1-1 since the beginning of January, the only loss a 5-2 setback to Red Wing. ... West, the Big Nine Conference champion, has put up an impressive record in the second half of the season, but it hasn't done so in dominant fashion. The Scarlets have found ways to win some close games, including one-goal wins against Austin, Northfield, Rochester Mayo, Albert Lea, Faribault and St. Cloud Cathedral. I haven't seen Northfield play this season, but I'm told they can play a defensive style very well, which could keep this game close throughout. West had to go to double-OT to beat Albert Lea in the section quarterfinals. Another OT game here seems quite possible.

* * * * * * * * *

AROUND THE STATE

SECTION 2AA
Semifinal, No. 3 Burnsville (14-10-2) vs. No. 2 Prior Lake (17-8-1), 3:30 p.m., Bloomington Ice Garden: A matchup of top-15 teams as No. 15 Burnsville and No. 13 Prior Lake meet for a third time this season. The Lakers won the first two matchups, but only by a combined three goals. The winner is likely looking at a section title game matchup against Edina.

SECTION 6AA
Semifinal, No. 4 Benilde-St. Margaret's (15-9-2) vs. No. 1 Eden Prairie (16-9-0), Braemar, 4 p.m.: In one of the state's toughest sections, No. 5-ranked E.P. gets No. 11-ranked B-SM in a semifinal matchup. These teams split two games during the regular season, with Benilde winning 2-1 early in the year and E.P. winning 5-0 on Feb. 3.

SECTION 7AA
Semifinal, No. 3 Duluth East (12-10-4) vs. No. 2 Grand Rapids (14-10-2), 2 p.m., Amsoil Arena, Duluth: Grand Rapids rolled to a 5-1 win in the regular season matchup against East, but East is playing well, having lost just once in its past six games.

---

SECTION 7A
Semifinal, No. 3 Duluth Denfeld (19-7-0) vs. No. 2 Duluth Marshall (18-5-3), 8 p.m., Amsoil Arena, Duluth: In a section that features three of the top eight-ranked teams in the state, we knew we'd get a marquee matchup in the semifinals. This is it, as two intra-city rivals don't have to leave Duluth to battle for a spot in the section final, likely against perennial power Hermantown. No. 8-ranked Denfeld lost 4-2 to No. 6-ranked Marshall when the met in the regular season as Marshall scored twice in the final nine minutes.

SECTION 8A
Semifinal, No. 4 Detroit Lakes (19-5-2) vs. No. 1 East Grand Forks (21-4-0), 6 p.m., The Gardens in Warroad: Detroit Lakes has 19 victories and is ranked No. 18 in the state. Its reward for winning its first playoff game: A matchup with the defending state champion and No. 3-ranked East Grand Forks.

 

 

February 20, 2015

Junior Hockey | Bear Tracks: The weekend ahead for the Austin Bruins

Posted by: Feldman

Six weeks remain in the North American Hockey League regular season and, though the Austin Bruins have taken over first place in the Central Division, things get no easier this weekend for the Bs.

After splitting a home-and-home series with the last-place Brookings Blizzard last weekend, the Bruins have a two-game set at North Division leader Minnesota Wilderness this weekend (7:05 p.m. tonight, 7:05 p.m. Saturday, in Cloquet).

Austin's 4-1 loss at Brookings last Friday snapped the Bruins' 11-game unbeaten streak. They responded nicely on Saturday -- something they haven't always done this season -- with a 7-1 win at home against Brookings last Saturday. Bruins captain Brian Bachnak had his first NAHL hat trick in that game.

The Bruins (27-10-11) are 1-2-1 against the Wilderness (32-10-4) this season. The two regulation losses came back on Nov. 21-22 at Cloquet. The teams will meet this weekend, then again in a two-game series in Austin on March 13-14.

Aside from a home series against Aberdeen next weekend, the Bruins face only the Wilderness and Brookings the rest of the way.

A couple of links to check out before we get to this weekend's matchup breakdown:

* Bruins play-by-play man John Peterson wrote a piece this week for the Bruins' website on former Bs forward C.J. Smith, who is having a strong freshman season at UMass-Lowell. Smith is part of an Austin-to-Lowell pipeline that includes current Wild defenseman Christian Folin, as well as Lucas Kohls (also a freshman at UML this season) and Guillaume Leclerc, who is committed to Lowell and playing with Madison in the USHL this season.

* Bachnak made the NAHL Plays of the Week highlight video for his goal 9 seconds into a period on Saturday. Bachnak's highlight starts at about the 3:44 mark of this video.

On to this weekend's series...

AUSTIN BRUINS at MINNESOTA WILDERNESS
7:05 p.m. tonight, 7:05 p.m. Saturday
At Northwoods Credit Union Arena, Cloquet

Records: Austin 27-10-11, 65 points, 1st in NAHL Central Division; Wilderness 32-10-4, 68 points, 1st in NAHL North Division.
Head coaches: Austin, Chris Tok (5th season, 182-104-30 overall); Wilderness, Corey Millen (2nd season, 71-27-13 overall).
Bruins top scorers: F Trevor Boyd (19-20--39); F Alex Pettersson (7-25--32); F Tony Uglem (16-14--30); F Luke Dietsch (7-23--30); F Nico Sturm (10-19--29); D Ian Scheid (10-13--23).
Bruins goalies: Jake Kielly (15-4-6, 2.12 GAA, .906 save pct.); Evan Smith (6-1-2, 2.02, .923).
Wilderness top scorers: F Aaron Miller (11-30--41); F Darian Romanko (22-17--39); F Tyler Cline (20-17--37); D Ivan Chukarov (9-25--34); F Niklas Lehtimaki (19-13--32).
Wilderness goalies: Ryan Anderson (21-6-3, 2.20, .897); Brock Kautz (10-4-1, 2.09, .916).

TALE OF THE TAPE

Record (points): Austin 27-10-11 (65), Wilderness 32-10-4 (68)
Advantage: Wilderness

Head-to-head (points earned): Wilderness 3-0-1 (7), Austin 1-2-1 (3)
Advantage: Wilderness

Offense: Austin 3.27, Wilderness 3.48
Advantage: Wilderness

Defense: Austin 2.40, Wilderness 2.33
Advantage: Wilderness

Power play (league rank): Austin 13.8 pct. (18th); Wilderness 24.5 pct. (3)
Advantage: Wilderness

Penalty kill (league rank): Austin 89.5 pct. (1st); Wilderness 83.7 pct. (10)
Advantage: Bruins

Goaltending (save pct.): Austin .906 save pct.; Wilderness .898
Advantage: Bruins

SERIES NOTES

The Bruins can clinch a playoff spot with two victories and two Brookings losses this weekend. ... The Wilderness haven't lost in regulation, going 3-0-1 vs. the Bruins so far this season. The teams have four meetings remaining, counting tonight's game. ... Wilderness goalie Brock Kautz is a former Rochester Century standout, who is in his fifth season in the NAHL. He has played in 118 career games for Owatonna, Janesville and the Wilderness, and has a career record of 53-49-12, with six shutouts, a 2.72 GAA and a .912 save pct. ... Ryan Anderson has started every game except one in goal for Minnesota since Nov. 26. ... Tyler Cline has scored the game-winning goal in three of the past four games for the Wilderness. ... The Bruins are 9-1-3 in their past 14 games. Alex Jasiek has three game-winning goals in that span. ... Both teams are nearly unbeatable when they score first; the Bruins are 18-2-5, while the Wilderness are a remarkable 26-2-2. ... The Bruins haven't lost this season when leading after two periods. They're 20-0-5 in those games.

THE CALL

The Bruins got a wake-up call last Friday against Brookings, who snapped the Bs 11-game unbeaten streak with a 4-1 win. Austin responded on Saturday with one of their most impressive performances of the season in a 7-1 victory. Both of these teams are playing very well and both are holding slim leads atop their division standings (Austin leads Minot by three points, the Wilderness lead Fairbanks by one point). The Wilderness won twice in regulation against the Bruins the last time these teams met in Cloquet, but that was late November, when a Bruins team full of guys who were new to Austin was trying to find its identity. Austin seems to have found it: It's not a team that's going to win many games in blowouts, but it is a deep team that can feel comfortable rolling any of four lines or three defensive pairings. It also has two goalies playing very well. The Wilderness are playing quite well, too, going 8-1-1 in their past 10, and they're on their home ice. Both teams get some points this weekend. The call: Wilderness 5, Bruins 3 (en); Bruins 3, Wilderness 2 (OT).

February 19, 2015

High School Hockey Today: The Section 1 tournaments roll on

Posted by: Feldman

After a wild opening night in the Section One, Class A boys hockey tournament, what should we expect tonight? More of the same, most likely. I sound like a broken record, but nothing that happens in the Section 1A tournament from this point on will be a surprise. Three of the five games played Tuesday were decided by a goal, one in double overtime and another in OT.

No. 4 seed Faribault avoided a major upset when it scored a power-play goal with 3:30 left in the third period to eke out a 2-1 win against No. 13 seed Austin, which won just three games all year. Austin competed well against the best teams in the section, though. The Packers played No. 2 seed Mankato West and Faribault to one-goal games this season, tied No. 6 seed Red Wing, and also played one-goal games against section opponents Winona and Waseca.

The Section 1AA tournament gets going tonight, with undefeated and No. 1-ranked Lakeville North (25-0-0) the clear-cut favorite.

The game to watch tonight in 1AA is right here in Rochester, as No. 4 seed Mayo plays host to No. 5 seed Century in the third meeting this season and 51st overall between the long-time rivals. The teams split a pair of 4-3 games during the regular season, with Century edging Mayo last Saturday in the regular-season finale. Both of those regular-season matchups were played with the intensity cranked up to 11. My guess is both teams will take that even higher tonight; if one of them doesn't, its season will be over.

That said, tonight's game will come down to which team plays smart hockey, makes the simple plays, executes its systems the best and STAYS OUT OF THE BOX. We could say that about pretty much every postseason game at any level of hockey, but it's true, stupid penalties are killers this time of year. They dang near cost Rochester Lourdes on Tuesday in a 3-2, overtime, first-round Section 1A victory against Mankato East.

So let's get to tonight's Section 1 games; I'll cover 'em all in two sentences each. Since I posted Section 1A predictions on Tuesday, I should do the same for 1AA (you'll never ever guess who I pick to win it) today. After looking at each of today's games, I'll post some more thoughts about Lourdes' dramatic win on Tuesday, then my Section 1AA predictions.

* * *

TONIGHT'S GAMES

SECTION 1AA QUARTERFINALS
All games at 7 p.m., at higher seed

* No. 8 Dodge County (7-17-0) at No. 1 Lakeville North (25-0-0), Ames Arena, Lakeville: North has 3 Mr. Hockey finalists, 5 Division I commits (so far) and the No. 1 ranking in the state. To say it's an uphill battle for D.C. is like saying "I think I'll take a little stroll to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro today."

* No. 5 Rochester Century (15-7-3) at No. 4 Rochester Mayo (16-8-1), Graham Arena I: Juding by their regular-season meetings, this should be the game of the night in 1AA. Storyline to watch: A confident senior in goal for Mayo (Chris Wileman) vs. a confident freshman in goal for Century (Cole Walter).

* No. 6 Rochester John Marshall (13-12-0) at No. 3 Farmington (17-7-1), Schmitz-Maki Ice Arena, Farmington: Farmington has ended JM's season two of the past three years, but I haven't seen the Rockets look intimidated against anyone this season. For JM to win this one, junior goalie Brady Meyers has to be lights-out and JM's scoring depth has to show through.

* No. 7 Owatonna (11-12-2) at No. 2 Lakeville South (14-10-1), Hasse Arena, Lakeville: Owatonna is playing well, going 4-1-1 in its final six regular-season games. However, the Huskies have only beaten two teams with winning records all season.

* * * * *

SECTION 1A QUARTERFINALS
All games at 7 p.m., at higher seed

* No. 8 Rochester Lourdes (6-18-2) at No. 1 New Prague (17-8-0), New Prague Community Center: Lourdes has a lot of confidence and momentum on its side after finally getting a one-goal victory, rallying from two down to beat Mankato East in Tuesday's first round. New Prague, the defending section champion, probably isn't thrilled to see Lourdes come to town for the Trojans' first playoff game this season.

* No. 5 LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter/TCU/Cleveland (19-7-0) at No. 4 Faribault (18-7-1), Faribault Ice Arena: Faribault is not playing its best hockey right now and just suffered a 4-1 loss against LH/SP/TCU/C only nine days ago. The Falcons need to find their scoring touch again and can't get into a track meet against L-H/SP and the state's top scorer, Sam Wenner.

* No. 6 Red Wing (8-17-1) at No. 3 Northfield (14-9-2), Northfield Ice Arena: Northfield beat Red Wing twice during the regular season, both times by three goals. Guessing this one will be closer, but does Red Wing have enough energy left for another tight game after going to double-OT on Tuesday?

* No. 7 Albert Lea at No. 2 Mankato West, All Seasons Arena, Mankato: Albert Lea was the only Section 1 team that didn't have to sweat out a close first-round game on Tuesday, beating La Crescent 7-1. As for West, wouldn't it be something if, after all of the talented seniors it lost from last season, the Scarlets end up going to state this year?

* * * * *

Lourdes is playing with confidence

Some might say that, if we're being honest, Rochester Lourdes probably shouldn't be playing tonight. But that's really not the case. Sure, the Eagles got a fluke goal to start their rally late in the third period of a 3-2 overtime victory against Mankato East on Tuesday.

The Eagles outplayed East for a majority of the game, they just couldn't get anything past Cougars goalie Jack Cusey. That changed once Lourdes senior D Griff Slightam lofted a puck toward the goal from the blue line; it landed behind Cusey and went into the net to pull Lourdes within 2-1 with less than five minutes to go. Slightam scored again two minutes later to force OT, then fed Tucker Chapman seconds into OT for the game winner.

Lourdes has been through so many close games -- 11 1-goal losses, 17 losses by 2 or less -- this season that the hockey gods were bound to give them one sooner or later. The question is: Can Lourdes get another one?

The Eagles have their work cut out for them tonight, facing defending section champion and No. 1 seed New Prague.

Lourdes is playing with confidence, though. And it knows it can hang with New Prague. The teams played a pair of one-goal games in the regular season, with the Trojans winning both times (New Prague went 6-0-0 against section opponents). As always, Lourdes needs senior goalie Jack Burkel to be sharp and they'll have to have a more defense-first mindset tonight. East got behind the Eagles' defensemen a handful of times on Tuesday. My guess is Lourdes won't get away with allowing a bunch of odd-man rushes tonight.

* * * * *

Now, some Section 1AA predicitions, and I really go out on a limb here, so brace yourself...

QUARTERFINALS
Lakeville North 13, Dodge County 1: D.C. gets a late goal to spoil the shutout.
Lakeville South 9, Owatonna 3: South scores early, often to advance to semis.
Farmington 5, Rochester JM 3: Rockets push til the end before an empty-netter seals the Tigers' win.
Mayo 4, Century 3: The coin says heads; Mayo wins by the same score as the other two Mayo-Century games had this season.

SEMIFINALS
North 7, Mayo 2: What can we say? North is the best team in the state.
South 3, Farmington 2, OT: Maybe the best game of the tournament, South finds a way to beat Gage Overby and the Tigers.

CHAMPIONSHIP
North 8, South 2: North wants to send a message to the teams it'll face at state. It does that against its top rival.

February 17, 2015

High School Hockey | Breaking down the Section 1A tournament

Posted by: Feldman

This will serve as an extended version of High School hockey today. The Section 1A tournament begins with five first-round games tonight (I cringe when they are called play-ins; they're tournament games, just like quarterfinals and semifinals), so we'll take a look here at the wide-open 1A tourney.

I'll preview the Section 1AA tournament in Wednesday's P-B and take a look at that bracket here on the blog either Wednesday or Thursday (it's safe to say that tournament is not as wide-open as 1A).

This should be as fun as any Section 1A tourney in recent memory. Last year's was enjoyable to watch, too, particularly the well-played section title game between New Prague and Mankato West, where New Prague built a 3-0 lead through two periods then held off a furious charge by West in the third.

Could we see a rematch of that title game? Absolutely.

Could we see two different teams in this year's title game? Absolutely.

I have been looking at the bracket since it came out Sunday and I think every time I look at and pick winners in my head, the results are different.

First, some hockey-related links to stories from around the area and the state:

* Here is my preview of the Section 1A tournament, including a short look at the top seeds and the local teams, as well as three players who could have a big impact on the tournament.

* The girls hockey state tournament begins Wednesday. Red Wing is going for a fifth consecutive season and it's bringing its deepest defensive corps.

* The Star Tribune looks at each of the 16 boys hockey sections in one sentence each.

* Mankato Free Press hockey writer Shane Frederick writes that Mankato East seniors are looking to win the first playoff game of their high school careers, and Mankato West hopes to navigate a competitive Section 1A tournament and get to the state tournament.

* * * * *

As for the Section 1A bracket, it had to be fun to be part of the seeding meeting.

Maybe the only clear-cut decision was New Prague earning the No. 1 seed by going 6-0-0 against section opponents.

Every other team had some wins and losses along the way that could have justified moving them up or down. For example, Mankato West was awarded the No. 2 seed, which they earned and deserved, but the Scarlets lost to LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter, Faribault and Red Wing, and tied Rochester Lourdes, all teams seeded below them.

The seeds played out like this: 1-New Prague, 2-West, 3-Northfield, 4-Faribault, 5-L-H/SP, 6-Red Wing, 7-Albert Lea, 8-Lourdes, 9-East, 10-La Crescent, 11-Waseca, 12-Winona, 13-Austin.

If I had a vote, this is how I had them ranked: 1-New Prague, 2-West, 3-Faribault, 4-Northfield, 5-LHSP, 6-East, 7-Albert Lea, 8-Red Wing, 9-Lourdes, 10-LaCrescent, 11-Waseca, 12-Winona, 13-Austin.

It just goes to show that there was a lot of wiggle room for those teams from about Nos. 6-10.

I also had Faribault ahead of Northfield because they split during the regular season and Faribault finished ahead of Northfield in the Big 9. But I have no problem with Northfield being the 3, as you'll see at the end of this post.

* East was the one team I was way off about. My guess is the Cougars' 1-5-0 record down the stretch didn't help their seed, but I was looking at their wins against Albert Lea (twice), Faribault, Red Wing and L-H/SP. They also lost to Faribault, Red Wing and L-H/SP late in the season, so that justifies East as the No. 9 seed. As I looked through results, I wished Lourdes and East had played during the regular season. I guess we'll get that wish tonight.

* It is good to see Red Wing get the No. 6 seed. The Wingers are 6-3-0 in their past nine games after a 1-14-1 start. That start wasn't as bad as the record looks, though, as they went to OT six times in that stretch and lost seven one-goal games. If Red Wing gets past Waseca, Northfield better lace its skates tight for a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday. (Though, to be fair, Northfield was the one Big 9 team that handled Red Wing fairly well during the regular season, scoring a pair of three-goal wins).

Against my better judgement, I'll go ahead and make some picks. Feel free to let me know why I'm wrong...

FIRST ROUND

Rochester Lourdes 4, Mankato East 3: East is a scrappy team. Its 7-5 loss to Rochester Mayo on Feb. 3 keeps sticking in my head. Mayo coach Lorne Grosso talked about how resilient East is, how they don't stop coming after you. I'm extremely tempted to pick them here, but I think Lourdes senior goalie Jack Burkel will win this one for his teammates. Lourdes has only scored more than three goals in a game four times this season. They'll do it for a fifth time and advance to face top-seeded New Prague on Thursday.

LeSueur-Henderson/SP/TCU/C 6, Winona 1: The state's leading scorer Sam Wenner and the LHSPTCUC (that looks like I hit the caps-lock button and mashed my hand on the keyboard) Bulldogs roll on.

Faribault 8, Austin 2: I thought Faribault should have a bye tonight, but the No. 4 seed in the section will pounce on the Packers early and pull away to move on to Thursday's section quarterfinals.

Red Wing 6, Waseca 3: The Wingers are 6-1-0 over the past month against Section 1A opponents. They'll make it 7-1-0 after taking down Waseca.

Albert Lea 5, La Crescent 2: Albert Lea is on a three-game winning streak after snapping a seven-game losing skid. The Tigers are playing with confidence and that will carry them past the Lancers (19-6-0), who put up a good record primarily against teams from Wisconsin.

QUARTERFINALS

New Prague 4, Lourdes 2 (en): Lourdes pushes the top-seeded Trojans, but NP gets a late empty-netter.

L-H/SP/TCU/C 4, Faribault 3: The Bulldogs pull the first (mild) upset of the tourney and advance to the Rec Center.

Northfield 5, Red Wing 3: The Raiders were the only 1A team to beat Red Wing over the past month. They'll do it for a third time this season.

Mankato West 6, Albert Lea 2: West's upperclassmen have had a sour taste in their mouths for a year, since that close loss to New Prague in last year's section final. They start their push for a state tourney berth with a big win.

SEMIFINALS

New Prague 5, L-H/SP/TCU/C 2: The Trojans figure out how to slow the Bulldogs' high-scoring offense and return to the section final.

Northfield 6, Mankato West 5: The game turns into a track meet at the Rec Center and Northfield gets the last goal, late in the third, to win.

CHAMPIONSHIP

Northfield 2, New Prague 1, OT: Why do I think this is Northfield's year to get to state? I just feel like, in a wide-open section like this, someone other than the top seed will come out of it. The Raiders have lost five games since the start of January. Three of those came against Class AA teams. The other two -- against Mankato West and Faribault -- both came by one goal. I think the Raiders flip those two one-goal games in the playoffs and advance to state. Plus, when these teams met in the regular season, New Prague had to score twice in the third period to rally from a 2-1 deficit to win. Northfield hangs on this time.

* * *

My apologies to Northfield for likely jinxing you.

This section is entirely up for grabs. The team I just picked to win it could quite possibly not even play a game at the Rec Center. Would it really surprise anyone if Red Wing went to Northfield on Thursday and won? No. Would it completely surprise anyone if No. 9 East or No. 8 Lourdes goes to New Prague on Thursday and wins a close one? It shouldn't.

Finally, if you're looking to follow tonight's games on Twitter, here's a quick list to check:

No. 9 East at No. 8 Lourdes -- me (@PBFeldy), Lourdes activities (@LHSEagles), and perhaps @PaulAllan5 for the East perspective

No. 12 Winona at No. 5 LHSPTCUC -- Bulldogs hockey (@BBulldog_Hockey)

No. 13 Austin at No. 4 Faribault -- check out Miles Trump (@FDNMilesTrump), Faribault activities (@Frbo_Falcons), Faribault hockey (@FBO_BHS_Hockey)

No. 11 Waseca at No. 6 Red Wing -- I'm guessing either Kyle Stevens (@RE_KStevens) or Joe Brown (@RE_JBrown) will be at Prairie Island Arena for this one

No. 10 La Crescent at No. 7 Albert Lea -- check Albert Lea hockey (@BoysALhockey), La Crescent coach JP Piche (@JeepPiche30), or the Albert Lea Tribune (@altribunesports)

 

December 29, 2014

BLOG: Kiwanis Festival previews; more on @DCWildcatsboys hockey captain @ColinSherden

Posted by: Feldman

As I begin typing this, we're less than an hour away from the opening puck drop of the 2014 Kiwanis/Home Federal boys hockey Festival. It's one of the best times of the year for local hockey fans. Three straight days of hockey, close to 12 hours each day. 

As I wrote in today's paper, it's tough to pick a favorite in either division this year.

Eau Claire Memorial, the No. 5-ranked team in Wisconsin, might seem like a favorite in the Blue Division. But, the Old Abes will have to go through Verona, the defending Wisconsin state champ; Rochester Lourdes, which ECM beat just 3-1 in the season opener last month; and Fargo South, whose only losses are to Minnesota Section 8AA power Moorhead and a one-goal setback to Grand Forks Red River, the top-ranked team in North Dakota.

As for the Gold Division (formerly the AA division), this seems like as good of a year as any for a Rochester team to win the championship. Rochester Mayo has the best record in the field (6-2-0), though Rochester John Marshall (4-6-0) enters the tournament on a two-game winning streak, with both victories against Big Nine Conference teams that had been playing well, Northfield and Rochester Century. As for Century (5-4-1), the Panthers are a talented group who have lost three times by one goal (their other loss was a two-goal set back to state-ranked Farmington). It won't be an easy path for any of those teams, though, with defending champ Northland Pines and a 4-2-0 New Richmond team also in the field. Dodge County has played well in its past two games, too.

Here are some links to more tournament preview info. that was in the P-B on Saturday:

* A list of the past Festival champions, and this year's Festival schedule

* A team-by-team preview of the Festival

* A profile story on Dodge County senior forward and team captain Colin Sherden, who suffered broken vertebrae and spine injuries during a football game nearly 16 months ago. After some tremendous surgeons at Mayo Clinic Hospital performed surgeries, Sherden was up doing homework within a week and back in the weight room within a month.

The story on Sherden and the bond he formed with Dodge County coach Eric Hofmann could've been twice as long as it ended up. I talked with both Sherden and Hofmann for about 8 minutes before we even got around to talking about his role on the hockey team and what type of player he is. 

In light of that, here are the transcripts of the interviews with Sherden and Hofmann. Enjoy the Kiwanis Festival if you make it over to Graham.

Dodge County senior F Colin Sherden:

What's it like to be back on the ice, when you thought you might never skate again?
 
A year and a half ago I never thought this would be possible again. But I have been blessed with a good supporting cast around me, good family, good teammates, good coaches 

 

Do you remember the play? (In a game against P-E-M)
 
It was a spread-wide, 11 follow; it was a low snap and I had my head down and got hit with a shoulder to the top of my head, pushed my head down
 
What was the feeling right away?
 
I remember getting back up to my feet and was going to call the next play, I remember thinking 'it's not that big of a deal.' Then the coaches saw I was stumbling all over the place, so they called a timeout and I walked off the field. I remember being really emotional, and I'm not sure why. Trainers came up to me immediately and did some concussion tests. At first they thought it was a neck strain. They said I had a weird gait and a slow heart rate, so they called an ambulance to the field and that's when I was taken to the E.R.
 
When you found out the diagnosis, what were the emotions like?
 
That was a scary time. I wasn't concerned with the injury itself. I wasn't as concerned right away with the injury, but just thought about not being able to play sports. I remember busting into tears ... my parents were there and were having a tough time with it, too, but it was great to have them there with me.
 
Being able to walk off the field, that was awesome and I tried to keep it in perspective of 'at least I'm alive and walking.' But that kind of wore off and the more I went to football games and hockey games I kept thinking 'OK, I really need this back,' so I started working out harder so I could get back.
 
In terms of your injury, you had a pretty rapid recovery?
 
I had a six-week limit for weight; I could hold 10 pounds and then add 10 pounds each week after that, so it was pretty quick. 
 
Now I look back at it as probably the best thing to ever happen to me. Physically, it wasn't, but it was just what you can learn about life when you go through something like that and who you have around you, who's in your corner. 
 
The thing I missed most was just being with the team. Playing sports is awesome, but just being around the guys is what I missed most.
 
What did it mean to have coach and friends come be with you in the hospital?
 
It meant a lot. When coach came we talked for an hour, not about hockey, but just about every-day stuff. My mom was there; she said that was one of the coolest things she's seen, just like two friends sitting and talking.
 
What does it mean now to have him as a coach and being back on the ice playing for him?
 
I've really learned ... I'm thinking about being a coach when I get older and I'm really going to try to follow the way he coaches. Just the way he cares for his players is pretty unbelievable. We've always had a good relationship, but since that injury, it's taken off. It's a friendship, but it's definitely still a coach-player relationship, too.
 
What does it mean to you to be a captain and have a letter on your sweater?
 
It means a lot, it really does. You're trying your best to get your team name out there and make sure the guys are doing what they're supposed to be doing. It really makes you accountable and responsible.
 
(Being a captain, it's everything...) from housekeeping things to just being the best person and teammate you can possibly be. You want to show the younger guys and even the players in the youth program what it means to be a good man and a good teammate.
 
What kind of coaching do you want to go into? What do you hope to take from coach Hofmann and other coaches?
 
Hockey and football. ... Just communication, being there for your players. (Hofmann) is all business, but at the same time, you know he's a friend to you and you can talk to him about anything. For some players and some kids, they might not have a father figure in their lives, and that's what coach is.
 
Are you a two-sport athlete or something in the spring, too?
 
Two sports, football and hockey.
 
How was football season this fall, especially at the start?
 
It was a fun year, just the chance to play was great. ... I got 10 plays as a QB last year before I got hurt, and our first scrimmage this fall was against (P-E-M). I think I got hit on the first play and that's all it took, I was back into it. After that, it was just football again. And it helped that I had played summer hockey and (had physical contact).
 
How about this hockey season, the way you've seen the team and program grow?
 
This is the year I've had the most fun. This team is really close. We all hang out together and have fun. There aren't a lot of cliques, which would be easy to have happen when you have eight different schools in one program. Our effort -- coach has talked all year about working hard and having a good attitude. That's really starting to catch on.

* * *

Dodge County coach Eric Hofmann

 

Colin, as a person, going through what he's been through. Did you know he had that kind of character?
 
I knew he had leadership qualities and that type of character prior to his injury, but the way he bounced out of it, it just goes to show how deep-rooted his character is. He was never depressed, never down, he was always trying to find the good in it and he was able to make a really good comeback.
 
Even when he was injured last year, he did everything he could to be a part of the team, even if it was just to put a jersey on and be around the team. He was at practices, meetings, team bonding, he started developing into a captain and the man he's turning out to be. It was impressive to see.
 
What do you remember about your hospital visits?
 
I remember taking the elevator ride up, I wasn't sure what I was going to say or how it was going to go. If he'd cry or be happy or mad, but when I got in there, his mom and dad were there, and his older brothers. As soon as I walked in he said "Hi, coach," just like normal. And here's this kid with a big mark running along his neck, you know he's been through hell. He was in good spirits. We didn't talk about sports, just talked about life. He mentioned to me once or twice how upsetting it was for him, that he couldn't play, but there was no negativity. It was a good, positive chat.
 
How did you hear about it?
 
Living in a small town, I had a flurry of text messages that night. We're a co-op of several different schools, so there were players from Byron, K-M and other places that sent me messages saying something had happened to Colin. The next day is when I really found out how severe it was. I got four or five phone calls and at that time, I reached out to Colin's mom and dad about going to see him.
 
How scary was it for you as a coach to know a player was going through that?
 
Anytime one of your players or anyone in your program goes through something like that, the first thing you think about isn't hockey, it's 'how is he going to be for the rest of his life?' It was a very scary time. 
 
Considering his injuries, what does it say about him just to want to come back and play again?
 
It speaks volume of the kind of kid he is now and the man he's becoming. It's incredible, there are so many people who would just roll over and say 'this is it,' maybe be confined to a wheelchair or walking but not playing, but with Colin, there was never any negativity. With him it was always just do whatever he could do, within limits and never pushing it, but he did all his rehab and had good spirits.
 
Most phenomenal about the whole thing is his first scrimmage in football this fall was against the team that he got hurt against. To overcome that mental barrier, that's incredible and inspiring.
 
Do you see some of that with his teammates, too, being impressed and inspired by him?
 
First and foremost, they're friends and they're very happy that he's OK and that he's back playing. He's one of the most respected, if not the most, in that (locker) room, by the players and the coaches, too, just because we all know what he went through. He never plays the 'poor me' card and rarely ever brings it up. 
The team had a meeting last week and he brought up and said 'we have to give full effort and work hard, have fun and have good attitudes, because you never know when it might be your last time or it could be taken from you.' 
 
He talked about becoming a coach. What are the qualities he possesses that will make him a good coach and leader?
 
He's inspiring and is a natural motivator. He has that ability to motivate the guys around him, especially now with his own experiences already as an 18-year-old. He has very good leadership qualities that are raw and that he continually works on and develops. On top of that, his priorities are straight when it comes to life, family, relationships, he really has his head on straight.
 
It says a lot about Colin that we've talked for 8 minutes and haven't talked about him as a player. What type of player is he on the ice; what does he bring that impresses you?
 
He brings those leadership qualities, intensity, energy, always gives 100 percent effort. He's been a defenseman for most of his life. We recently moved him up to forward and he's excelling at that, too. He's versatile and can adapt to different situations without ever questioning the coaches or being upset. He's had a good attitude and worked hard at becoming a good forward.
 
Why the move from defense to forward?
 
We wanted to move a younger forward back to defense, to help him develop better as he can see the plays unfold in front of him. So we thought Colin, with his size, would help add some depth to our forward group. So far it's worked out really well. 
 
He's a playmaker and grinder. We need a guy with good size to get in there and establish a forecheck, protect his center and his other wing, and he does a fantastic job of it. He works hard and has a good frame, he's a good guy to be down deep in the offensive zone.
 
Anything else to add about Colin?
 
Whatever Colin decides to do in life, in general, whether it's coaching or teaching or whatever, I'm very confident he'll be successful.

 

December 13, 2014

High School Hockey Today | Saturday, Dec. 13

Posted by: Feldman

All four Rochester teams are in action today, with Century and Lourdes hitting the road for non-conference games, while Mayo and JM meet at the Rec Center for the 110th time in the history of the rivalry.

Lots of big games going on across the state today, too, so read all the way to the bottom.

Here's a look at today's games:

ROCHESTER TEAMS

LOURDES at ACADEMY OF HOLY ANGELS
2:30 p.m., Richfield Ice Arena
Records
: Lourdes 1-3-1 overall; Holy Angels 4-3-0.
Coaches: Lourdes, Josh Spaniol (6th season, 93-55-7); Holy Angels, Trent Palm (2nd season, 14-17-2)
Last game: Lourdes lost at No. 7-ranked New Prague, 2-1, on Thursday; Holy Angels won at Buffalo, 5-2, on Thursday.
Last meeting: Holy Angels beat Lourdes 5-2 on Dec. 14, 2013, at Graham Arena I.
Lourdes leaders: F Tucker Chapman (4-1--5); D Dakota Streit (1-1--2); F Nick Roth (0-2--2); F Peter Alexander (0-2--2); F Mason Carstens (1-1--2); G Jack Burkel (1-3-1, 1.68 GAA, .943 save pct.).
Holy Angels leaders: F Marshall Barnes (5-10--15); D Cooper Sande (4-9--13); C Joseph Sullivan (3-8--11); F Owen Larson (7-3--10); G Jake Fleming (2-1-0, 3.90, .843).
Notes: Stars head coach Trent Palm played in 127 games for Minnesota-Duluth between 2006-2011, recording 20 career points. ... Holy Angels has won two in a row after a three-game losing streak. ... The Stars' three losses are all against teams ranked in the Class AA state polls (No. 5 St. Thomas Academy, No. 14 Cretin-Derham Hall, No. 16 Holy Family Catholic). ... AHA's Barnes played in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League in the fall, as did Lourdes' Griff Slightam and goalie Jack Burkel. ... Lourdes' three losses have come by a combined four goals. ... The Eagles play host to Section 1A rival Northfield on Tuesday.

CENTURY at CHANHASSEN
3 p.m., Victoria Recreation Center
Records
: Century 4-2-0 overall; Chanhassen 2-3-1.
Coaches: Century, Josh Klingfus (4th season, 41-40-4); Chanhassen, Chris Wilson (5th season, 51-52-7).
Last game: Century beat Austin, 7-3; Chanhassen lost to No. 6-A Breck, 6-0.
Last meeting: n/a
Century leaders: F Jake Roth (7-8--15); D Riese Zmolek (7-4--11); F Sam Batterson (5-3--8); F Pat Bower (3-3--6); G Cole Walter (3-0-0, 1.33, .939); G Joey Pundt (1-2-0, 3.23, .857).
Chanhassen leaders: F Benny Bjerken (2-5--7); F Jake Bever (1-4--5); F Jake Theis (1-4--5); G Calvin Green (1-3-0, 4.63, .861).
Notes: The Storm have had 11 players score at least one goal this season. ... Chanhassen's three losses are to ranked opponents (No. 12-A Delano/Rockford; No. 10-AA Prior Lake and No. 6-A Breck). ... The Storm beat No. 19-AA Hopkins 4-2 on Nov. 29. ... Century snapped a two-game losing skid at Austin on Thursday with a 7-3 victory. ... After this game, the Panthers don't leave Rochester until a Jan. 8 game at Owatonna. ... Century has outscored its opponents by a combined 33-14. ... Three Panthers have scored five or more goals.

MAYO at JOHN MARSHALL
7:30 p.m., Rochester Rec Center
Records
: Mayo 3-1-0 Big Nine, 3-2-0 overall; JM 2-1-0, 2-5-0.
Coaches: Mayo, Lorne Grosso (48th season, 680-428-27); JM, Jay Ness (4th season, 36-45-4).
Last game: Mayo lost at Albert Lea on Thursday, 2-1; JM beat Winona on Thursday, 3-1.
Last meeting: Mayo beat JM 6-3 on Jan. 25, 2014, at Graham Arena I.
Mayo leaders: F Logan Haskins (3-4--7); F Ethan Moore (3-4--7); F Anthony Oliveto (3-2--5); G Chris Wileman (3-2-0, 2.20 GAA, .899 save pct.).
JM leaders: F Cory Checco (4-7--11); F Brady Dahl (5-4--9); G Brady Meyers (2-4-0, 4.07, .884).
Notes: This is the 110th meeting all-time between the rivals. ... Mayo leads the series 55-53-1. The Spartans have won nine consecutive meetings against JM. Last season, Mayo gained the lead in the all-time series against JM for the first time ever. ... JM's last victory against Mayo came on Dec. 10, 2011, a 4-3 win at Graham Arena. ... Mayo's Haskins has all seven of his points in the past four games. ... Checco, a sophomore, is tied with Century's Riese Zmolek as the current second-leading scorer in Rochester. Checco has had at least one point in all seven games this season.

* * * * * 

AREA GAMES

Dodge County (2-5-0) at Minneapolis (3-2-0), Parade Ice Garden, 2 p.m.: Three of Dodge County's five losses have been by two goals or less, including a 3-2 setback against Faribault on Tuesday. ... Seven players are tied for the Wildcats' lead in scoring with four points each. ... Dodge County has rotated three goalies -- Mitch Sobotta, Joe Biwer and Gus Kirsch. ... Junior F Connor Fulco leads Minneapolis in goals (3), assists (6) and points (9). ... Junior Will Graves is Minneapolis' top goalie. He is 2-2-0 with a 2.68 GAA and an .815 save pct.

Mankato East (2-3-0 Big Nine, 2-4-0 overall) at Red Wing (0-4-1, 0-7-1), Prairie Island Arena, 3 p.m.: Red Wing has come oh-so-close to victory a handful of times this season, including its most recent game, a 5-5 tie against Austin on Thursday. ... Four of the Wingers' losses have been by one goal. ... Red Wing is led by the Defore brothers, sophomore F Tyler (5-3--8) and senior G Adam (0-7-1, 4.16 GAA, .877 save pct.). ... Senior F Grayson Gavin is East's leading scorer (5-6--11). He has seven points in the past three games.

* * * * *

AROUND THE STATE

* No. 1-AA Lakeville North (4-0-0) at No. 12-AA Grand Rapids (4-1-0): North has earned its top ranking, with wins at No. 18 Farmington and against No. 2 Edina. This will be yet another very difficult pre-Christmas road test for the Panthers.

* No. 4-A Mahtomedi (5-0-0) at No. 3-AA Hill-Murray (3-0-0): Something has to give in the only matchup today between unbeaten teams. Unless they tie. Then nothing gives.

* No. 13-AA Blaine (3-2-0) at No. 6-AA Elk River/Zimmerman (5-1-0): Elk River has two of the state's top goal-scorers in Reggie Lutz (11) and Jacob Jaremko (9). Jaremko is second in the state with 23 total points.

* No. 2-A Hermantown (4-2-0) at No. 8-A Thief River Falls (2-3-0): TRF is trying to bounce back from consecutive one-goal losses, to No. 6-A Breck and Class AA Bemidji. Hermantown's two losses are to ranked Class AA teams, No. 4 Wayzata and No. 19 Hopkins.

* No. 9-A Orono (0-4-0) at No. 13-A St. Cloud Cathedral (2-3-0): Orono is the only winless team ranked in the state polls. Its losses are to Class AA Stillwater, No. 2-A Hermantown, No. 3-A Duluth Marshall and 14-A Blake.

* No. 1-ND Grand Forks Red River at No. 5-A Warroad (6-1-0): Red River shut out top-ranked East Grand Forks last week. Warroad, which scored an impressive win at Grand Rapids a week ago, will have to work for win No. 7.

December 06, 2014

High School Hockey Today | Saturday, Dec. 6

Posted by: Feldman

Before we get into today's games, the brackets have finally been released for this year's Kiwanis Festival.

It will again feature a 12-team varsity field, with a Gold Division (8 teams, elimination-format) and a Blue Division (4 teams, round-robin format).

Here's how the field stacks up for this year's tourney, which runs Dec. 29-31:

GOLD DIVISION
(Games at Graham Arena I)
Quarterfinals, Dec. 29
Dodge County vs. New Richmond (Wis.), 12:30 p.m.
Park-Cottage Grove vs. Rochester John Marshall, 3 p.m.
Northland Pines (Wis.) vs. Rochester Century, 5:30 p.m.
Ashwaubenon (Wis.) vs. Rochester Mayo, 7:45 p.m.

BLUE DIVISION
(Games at Graham IV)
First day, Dec. 29
Eau Claire (Wis.) Memorial vs. Verona (Wis.), 3 p.m.
Rochester Lourdes vs. Fargo (N.D.) South, 7:30 p.m.

* * * * *

TODAY'S GAMES

No. 10-A St. Cloud Cathedral at Rochester Lourdes
2 p.m., Graham Arena I
Records
: Cathedral 0-3-0; Lourdes 1-1-1.
Last meeting: Cathedral topped Lourdes 3-0 on Dec. 7, 2013, at the Municipal Athletic Complex in St. Cloud.
Head coaches: Cathedral, Eric Johnson (11th season, 187-66-9 overall); Lourdes, Josh Spaniol (6th season, 93-53-7).
Players to watch: Senior F Matt Fritz was the Crusaders second-leading scorer last season with 44 points in 32 games. He leads the team this season with two goals. He had eight points in six postseason games last year as Cathedral placed fourth at the Class A state tournament. ... Lourdes junior F Peter Alexander had a strong sophomore season and could be one of the breakout players for the Eagles this season. He has the ability to be a scorer; he had just nine points last season, but now has a full year of varsity hockey under his belt.
Notes: Cathedral is 0-3-0 to start the season, but its losses have come against three of the best teams in the state -- No. 7 New Prague, No. 1 East Grand Forks and No. 6 Mahtomedi. ... Cathedral didn't come close to beating any of those teams, though. It lost all three by at least four goals and by a combined total of 19-5. ... Cathedral has four of its top six scorers back from last season. ... Lourdes F Mason Carstens missed Thursday's win at Mound-Westonka with an illness, but could be back in the lineup today. ... This is the home opener for Lourdes, which plays seven games in the next 17 days.

Rochester Century at Northfield
2 p.m., Northfield Ice Arena
Records
: Century 2-0-0 Big Nine Conference, 3-1-0 overall; Northfield 1-1-0, 2-2-0.
Last meeting: This is the first meeting between the teams as Big Nine Conference foes and according to a check of Century's records, appears to be the first meeting ever between these teams in boys hockey.
Head coaches: Century, Josh Klingfus (4th season, 40-39-4 overall); Northfield, Bryce Barry (8th season, 85-101-4).
Players to watch: It's an obvious choice, but Century senior F Jake Roth is on fire early this season. He is tied for ninth in the state with 13 points through four games (including six goals) and has recorded three or more points in three of Century's four games. ... Northfield junior Erik Bartho, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, has scored in three of his team's four games. He has nearly matched his goal total from a year ago (5) already.
Notes: Century plays four of its next five games on the road. ... Nine players have already scored at least one goal for the Panthers, while an incredible 16 players have at least one point. ... Northfield has played four close games, the past two decided by one goal. ... The Trojans hold wins against Albert Lea (4-2) and Bloomington Kennedy (2-1). They lost to Rochester Mayo (3-0) and New Prague (3-2). ... Trojans goalies Ryan Bielenberg and Matthew Foss have split time equally.

Richfield at Dodge County
3 p.m., Kasson Ice Arena
Records
: Richfield 1-2-0 overall; Dodge County 1-4-0.
Head coaches: Richfield, Mark Johnson (3rd season, 17-37-1 overall); D.C., Eric Hofmann (5th season, 37-65-6).
Notes: This is the first of three scheduled meetings between these teams this season. They'll play again on Dec. 20 at Richfield and on Jan. 10 at Kasson. ... These teams split two meetings last season; Dodge County won at home 11-7, while Richfield won at home 6-5. ... Richfield is led by a pair of players with four points each -- Maxwell Krueger (2-2--4) and Bailey Olson (1-3--4). ... Eight players have recorded at least a point for Dodge County this season. ... The Wildcats are led by Drew Kirmse (3-0--3).

December 05, 2014

High School Hockey Rewind | Thursday, Dec. 4

Posted by: Feldman

I was traveling and didn't get a chance to do a High School Hockey Today today, so I figured I'll play catch-up tonight after a decent night for Rochester's boys puck teams.

Game roundups:

Farmington 5, Century 3

This was a good early test for Century to see just where it's at as a team. The answer: It's right where it wants to be at this stage of the year. Granted, the Panthers are just four games into their season, but they have some high hopes for a team that has 18 seniors on the roster. 

It's way to early to judge teams by comparing scores, but... I'm going to do it anyway. Farmington, ranked No. 19, pushed No. 2-ranked Lakeville North to OT last week before losing 6-5. Century was right with Farmington into the third, with the score tied 3-3 entering the final 17 minutes. The Panthers showed some resiliency, too, battling back from an early 2-0 deficit to build a 3-2 lead.

Century hits Big Nine Conference play in full force now, with four of its six games left before Christmas against conference opponents. With a strong two-and-a-half week stretch, the Panthers could set themselves up well for the second half.

Lourdes 3, Mound-Westonka 0

Lourdes notched its first victory of the season to improve to 1-1-1, beating a M-W team that had shut out two of its first four opponents and outscored them 11-5. Jack Burkel recorded the shutout and sophomore Tucker Chapman scored twice.

Lourdes coach Josh Spaniol said before the season that he wants Chapman to elevate his game this season and be a vital cog in the offense. It looks like that's happening. This team could and should be a Section 1A contender, especially when forward Montana Streit returns from an injury sometime around the Kiwanis Festival.

Spaniol said the Eagles also played without top-line forward Mason Carstens on Thursday. He was out with an illness, but hopes to be back for Saturday's 2 p.m. home opener against No. 10 St. Cloud Cathedral.

Mayo 6, Winona 3

Mayo showed some mental toughness in this win. The Spartans were down 3-2 on the road to a team that -- let's be honest -- they should beat. But Winona goalie Eric Schoh was playing well, and Mayo beat up the goalposts a bit during the first two periods.

The Spartans stuck to their game, though, and scored four times in the third to win.

The really likeable thing about this game, and this team: Six players scored one goal each and nine guys got on the scoresheet. If Mayo wants to challenge for titles in the Big Nine and Section 1AA, it will need that balance to hold up. Mayo has been pretty sound in its own end, allowing just 21.3 shots per game.

Owatonna 5, JM 4, OT

It's a frustrating thing for the JM coaching staff to figure out and probably frustrating for the Rockets' players, too: In most of their six games this season, they've had good stretches and confounding stretches of subpar play.

The Rockets have hung with every opponent they've faced when they've played their game. But, again tonight, they were off their game for the first 10 minutes and it took them almost a full period to recover. They did show some perseverance by briefly taking a lead in the third period, then rallying to force OT after giving that up.

There's a lot of talent on this Rockets team and, though they're 1-5-0 overall, they're just 1-1-0 in the Big Nine, so they have plenty of opportunities and plenty of time to develop into a solid 51-minute team.

AROUND THE STATE

* Lakeville North 3, Edina 1: This was the grand-daddy of hockey games tonight, and maybe for the regular season, a rematch of last year's Class AA state championship game. No. 2-ranked North earned a bit of revenge against top-ranked Edina and, barring a loss to Apple Valley next Tuesday, will be the new No. 1 team in Class AA next week.

* New Prague 6, Mankato West 0: A rematch of last year's Section 1A championship game ended with the same result: The No. 7-ranked Trojans topped the No. 14-ranked Scarlets.

* Grand Forks (ND) Red River 5, East Grand Forks 0: Two nights after knocking off the No. 1-ranked team in North Dakota, the defending Minnesota Class A state champion Green Wave received a reality check from the No. 2-ranked team in North Dakota. No, I'm not just including this here because I'm a Red River grad, though it is nice to see the boys from the west side of the Red River show up against EGF.

* Some other scores of interest:
     * No. 17-AA Minnetonka 3, No. 9-AA Burnsville 1
     * No. 13-AA Blaine 6, No. 11-A Totino-Grace 1