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9 posts categorized "Lakeville North"

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:

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.

* * * * * 

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.

* * * * * *


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):

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.

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.

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).

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.

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. 

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.

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). 

* * * *



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.

* * * * * * * * *


* 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.

* * * * * * * * *


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.

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.

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.


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.

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 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.

* * *


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.

* * * * *

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...

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.

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.

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 05, 2014

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

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

Let's start with 1AA.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 27, 2014

Boys Hockey: JM-Mayo Round 3, A look at the Section 1AA playoff race

Posted by: Feldman

We're just more than 24 hours past the third meeting of the season between Rochester Mayo and Rochester John Marshall and things are beginning to clear up a bit in both the chase for the Big Nine Conference championship and seeding in the Section 1AA playoffs.

Mayo's 6-3 victory against JM on Saturday gave it a sweep of the three-game season series, barring another matchup in the playoffs, which is a reasonable possibility, depending upon how both teams fare over the next three weeks as the regular season draws to a close.

Two things stick out to me in a big-picture view after Saturday's game:

No. 1, John Marshall is a much-improved team from the last time it met Mayo, on Dec. 28 in the seventh-place game of the Kiwanis Festival. Mayo beat JM by a combined total of 16-3 in their first two meetings this season. Mayo may have won Saturday's game by three goals, but it felt more like a one-goal game.

JM was much more competitive on both ends of the ice. I thought Rockets senior forward Sam Broman was the best player on the ice, for either team, for most of the game. He scored two goals, hit the crossbar twice and just made things happen when he had the puck and even when he didn't. He made a huge play at a tipping point in the game. With JM down 3-0 and time running down in the second period, Broman beat a Mayo defender into the Spartans zone, cut hard to the net and got off a high backhand shot before Mayo goalie Eric Gibson could get a poke-check.

That goal pulled JM within 3-1 after two and brought some life back to the Rockets bench. They struck for two more in the first four minutes of the third to tie the score and they had Mayo reeling. JM's skaters did a tremendous job of taking away space from Mayo's speedy forwards, something that killed the Rockets in the first two games against Mayo this season.

JM dictated play for a good portion of the third, until it took a couple of penalties in the final five minutes and Mayo cashed in with power-play goals from Tommy Hanson and Logan Haskins.

The Rockets are getting better, without question. If they continue to improve, particularly in getting the puck to the net on the power play, they'll be a tough out in the section playoffs.

No. 2, I really, really want to see how good this Mayo team can be if it plays its hardest and its best for 51 minutes. The Spartans completely controlled the game in stretches, holding the puck in JM's zone for minutes at a time. Mayo's power play was off-kilter early on, but they scored on three of their last four power-play chances and finished the game 3-for-6 on the power play.

It hurt the Spartans somewhat that two of their top six forwards are out with injuries, Matt Rogers and Nick Newman. With those two guys back in the lineup, Mayo instantly has three solid lines that they can roll against the top teams in the conference and section. The Max Billings-Anthony Oliveto-Austyn Renn line can score and play defense. They played with a lot of confidence for most of last night's game. Jordan Korte also looks like a top-six forward, while Justin Rein also looked comfortable playing a lot of minutes.

Along with the top line of Tommy Hanson, Logan Haskins and Justyn Sweet, potentially Mayo is looking at 11 solid forwards that could take the ice at almost any time. That kind of depth is invaluable at playoff time.

Spartans senior goalie Eric Gibson appears to have seized the starting job. His numbers continue to get better and better, too, with his goals-against average settling down below 3.00.

As for the Mayo-JM rivalry, Mayo now holds a 55-53-1 lead in the all-time series. It has won eight in a row against JM and nine of the past 10. The longest winning streak in the rivalry is 14 in a row by Mayo from 1996-97 through 2001-02. The teams have played 101 times in the regular season and are tied 50-50-1 in those games. Also, for stat junkies, Mayo has outscored JM 364-341 in their 109 games.

As for the Section 1AA playoffs, a lot will clear up after Tuesday's Mayo at Lakeville South game.

It's clear that Lakeville North will be the No. 1 seed. I won't call it a Miracle On Ice situation, but it will take a monumental effort for any other Section 1AA team to knock North off. Whether it's South, Farmington, Mayo, Century, whoever, they'll have to play the game of their lives to beat North, ranked No. 3 in the state in the most recent AP state poll.

A South victory against Mayo on Tuesday will leave it and Farmington to claim the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds. Farmington already has victories over Mayo, Century, Owatonna and John Marshall.

A Mayo victory at South on Tuesday will muddy the seeding process a bit.

Farmington is 15-3-1 right now. The Tigers have a realistic shot at finishing the regular season with 19 or 20 victories. Lakeville South is 6-12-0 right now and will likely finish with 8 or 9 victories. It's tough to vote South ahead of Farmington.

So if Mayo beats South and can manage to beat Century and Owatonna down the stretch, the Spartans should be the No. 3 seed. That would also mean South and Century would likely be the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds in some order. That would mean there would be no shot of another all-Lakeville section final.

Whew. (and by "whew" I mean "whew" as in, that was a lot of scenarios to ramble through, and I hope I didn't put you to sleep; not "whew" as in, "whew" we won't have to see another all-Lakeville section final.)

In other words, everything is clear as mud, but that mud will start to dilute quite a bit after Tuesday's game in Lakeville.

January 10, 2014

Ice Time | Friday, Jan. 10

Posted by: Feldman So we're a week and a half into this new year; it's time to get the blog fired up again since I've been slacking all hockey season. I'll try to put something new up here each day, whether it's about the local high school teams, the Austin Bruins (I'll leave Ice Hawks notes to Phersy; he's all on top of that beat and I don't see them play often enough), former Rochester players who have moved on to juniors, college or pros, or maybe just some random thoughts on the Wild or NHL or college hockey. Whatever it may be, I'll try to have something fresh up here as often as possible. I have high school hockey on the brain right now, so let's get to it: * Rochester Century: The Panthers took one on the chin on Thursday night, a 12-0 loss to No. 6-ranked Lakeville North. But, at least from what I observed, it's not as bad as that score may indicate. For one thing, North piled on six goals in the third period, including four after Century made a goalie change. Not that North shouldn't have kept playing hard -- they are relentless on the forecheck and every bit deserving of their top-10 ranking in the state -- but when you get down 6-0 after two like Century did, then it climbs to 7 or 8 and keeps going, it's easy to sort of shut down. Century can take a couple of positive things out of the loss, though. First, if Century wants to make a run in the postseason, it's going to have to meet North again at some point. Aside from Lakeville South, Century is the only team in Section 1AA that will have faced North in the regular season. Century knows exactly what to expect and how hard it'll have to play if they meet North again. Second, from what I've seen of this Century team, it's not afraid to be physical and match opponents when it comes to hitting and battling in the corners and in front of the net. I also like to see that star defenseman Riese Zmolek has the green light to jump into the offensive play, and not only does he take advantage of those situations where he can join the rush, but his teammates are aware that he can and will do that and they cover for him defensively. Things don't get much easier for the Panthers, who are still unbeaten in Big Nine COnference play. They'll face Mankato West, the conference co-leader, on Saturday at the Rec Center. Speaking of West ... * Rochester Mayo: Mayo showed that it is among the best in the Big Nine on Thursday, playing West -- the No. 7-ranked team in Class A -- to a one-goal game at Graham Arena. West's Derek Frentz scored a short-handed goal with less than 30 seconds to go to win it 2-1. One of Mayo's concerns after the Kiwanis Festival had to be its play in its own end. And I'm not just talking about the defensemen, but all five skaters. It looks like they cleared some things up against West, and Mayo got another nice effort in goal from senior Eric Gibson. Gibson and Luke Utley have split time equally in goal and will continue to unless/until one of them grabs the job and runs with it. Mayo and Century meet next Thursday for the first time this season. Their matchups could be very important when it comes to home-ice advantage for the opening round of the section playoffs. North is clearly the No. 1 seed and Farmington has an argument to be No. 2, based on wins over all three Rochester teams already. If Lakeville South can beat Mayo when they meet on Jan. 28, the Cougars could have the inside track to the No. 2 or 3 seed. That would leave Century and Mayo to battle for No. 4 and a home game in the section quarterfinals, likely against each other. All of those things will shake out soon enough, but it's not too soon to start thinking about playoff matchups. * Rochester Lourdes: I can't remember a team I've covered being hit as hard by injuries as the Eagles have been this season. They lost D Griff Slightam before the season started. They've lost leaders Cody Cossette, Connor Fitzpatrick, Nick Roth and now Mason Carstens to injuries during the season. All that considered, the Eagles should still be competitive come playoff time. They're getting excellent goalie play from junior Jack Burkel and they've learned how to play in close, low-scoring games. That's likely how they'll have to win if they want to have some success in the postseason. They're also eight days away from playing on state-wide TV in Hockey Day Minnesota. It's a real bummer and shame that a few guys won't get to play in that game. ... While I'm thinking of HDM '14, I'll have a bunch of preview stories in next Friday's paper, the Jan. 17 edition. Regardless of how many players Lourdes is missing, I know the coaches and players will be sure to soak in the experience and just enjoy being a part of it. That's it for tonight. I'll try to put together more coherent thoughts from now on; tonight's post is just sort of a stream of consciousness that came out while watching a replay of the Wild game. I'm in the process of putting together this year's "The List." A list of all former Rochester-area players who are currently in juniors, college or pros. There are so many leagues and teams, I'm sure I'm bound to miss someone, but as soon as I get through all the leagues and team rosters, I'll post the list here. As always, let me know if I've omitted anyone.

December 02, 2012

High School Hockey Rewind | Week 1

Posted by: Feldman

The first week-plus of the boys high school hockey season is in the books and it was a mixed bag for Rochester and area teams. Rochester teams Mayo and John Marshall went 1-1, Century went 0-2 and Lourdes went 0-1. As for the area teams, Dodge County is 1-3, Red Wing is 0-3.

That's a combined 3-11 among the six teams in our circulation area, but those records aren't all as bad as they may seem.

Last week: 0-2-0. Lost to Farmington, 6-0; lost to Tartan, 4-0.
Season: 0-2-0 overall, 0-0-0 Big Nine Conference.
What happened: Yes, Century was outscored 10-0 in two games. Yes, Century was outshot 44-13 and 52-15 in those two losses. Reason to panic? Definitely not. The Panthers have 23 games left in the regular season. This is a team that will get better as the season goes on. They're running a lot of young guys and first-year varsity players out there and they've played two pretty good teams. The loss to Farmington was not nearly as lopsided as the score indicates. Farmington led just 1-0 entering the third, then scored five times in the third, including four times in the last 6:35 (the last three of those on a five-minute major penalty against Century). And one really bright spot: Senior goalie Eric Rohleder is playing well. He made 38 saves in the opener and 48 against Tartan. That's a good start for a guy who had seen minimal varsity experience coming into the season.

Last week: 1-1-0. Lost to Farmington, 4-3. Won at St. Paul Johnson, 6-2.
Season: 1-1-0 overall, 0-0-0 Big Nine Conference.
What happened: I really believe this JM team can challenge for a Big Nine title. Why? It has two quality scoring lines and four veterans on the blue line (two, as has been noted multiple times here and in print, are brand new to the position). The Farmington score was a bit of a surprise, and it could ultimately play a factor in the seedings for the Section 1AA tournament, but keep in mind that JM played its first two games without starting goalie Jacob Garvey. That said, Patric Sadecki played well in his first two varsity starts, making a total of 49 saves. His early-season playing experience will be a benefit as the season goes on. His nerves will be gone. He's played two full varsity games. ... JM doesn't play again until Saturday, when it opens Big Nine play at home against Mayo. The one thing I know coach Jay Ness wants to develop is some consistent scoring from the second line. The Rockets got a little of that against Johnson, but they'll need more than just Gavin Sandwick, Nick Paulson, Jared Bromberg and Sam Broman to score on a regular basis.

Last week: 0-1-0. Lost at No. 1-ranked St. Thomas Academy, 8-1.
Season: 0-1-0 overall.
What happened: What happend is, a Lourdes team that had about six or seven guys with just a few days of practice under their belts, ran into the top-ranked team in the state, and the defending Class A state champ. The Eagles know they have to be patient this year and they'll have some ups and downs early in the season. A half-dozen or so guys just returned to practice last week after making a run to the state football championship game. Thinking back to 2010, when Lourdes won the state football title (and had a handful of players miss the first two-plus weeks of hockey practice), it took until mid-January before they really began clicking on all cylinders. We'll have a better idea of where this team is at right now after the upcoming week, when it goes to New Prague (Tuesday), and plays host to Chanhassen (Thursday) and No. 5-ranked St. Cloud Cathedral (Saturday).

Last week: 1-1-0. Lost to Lakeville North, 3-0. Won at Faribault, 4-2.
Season: 1-1-0 overall, 1-0-0 Big Nine Conference.
What happened: The Spartans are one of the favorites to win the Big Nine and a big reason why is senior goalie Case Hansen. He was sharp last week, stopping 30 shots against North and 18 against Faribault. Mayo managed just 14 shots against North, but I know at least one of the Spartans' top forwards was feeling ill that day, plus they had four or five sophomores playing in their first varsity game. Plus, North is always one of the top teams in Section 1AA and has generally put up six, seven or more goals against the Rochester teams (North beat Mayo 12-1 last season). Mayo's win at Faribault was a bit disjointed without a lot of five-on-five time. Still, the Spartans will want to make more of a statement in their next three games, all against teams expected to be in the top half of the Big Nine: Thursday at Mankato West, Saturday at John Marshall and Dec. 11 against Owatonna.

Last week: 1-3-0. Lost to Faribault, 3-2; lost at Minnehaha Academy, 5-2; lost to Waseca, 4-3 (OT); won at Austin, 9-7.
Season: 1-3-0 overall.
What happened: The Wildcats are 1-3-0, but could just as easily have two or three wins. They led Faribault entering the third period, but gave up the game-winning goal with just 1:33 to go after taking a penalty 21 seconds earlier. Against Waseca, Dodge County had a 3-2 lead late in the third, after a seemingly momentum-changing short-handed goal by Stefan Rechtzigel with 7:13 to go. Waseca tied it 59 seconds later, then won 50 seconds into OT. The 'Cats offense broke out on Saturday, with seven players scoring at least once. Their defense wasn't as sharp as it had been, though, allowing seven goals and 37 shots on goal. ... Dodge County plays host to Winona on Tuesday in a game that could have a big impact on the seedings for the Section 1AA playoffs.

Last week: 0-3-0. Lost at Buffalo, 5-1; lost at Hudson (Wis.), 5-3; lost at South St. Paul, 3-1.
Season: 0-3-0 overall; 0-0-0 Missota Conference.
What happened: No need to panic, Wingers fans. Just think back to two years ago, when Red Wing started 0-9-0. That team made it all the way to the Section 1A semifinals and pushed Rochester Lourdes in a 4-2 loss. So far, it looks like this year's team needs to figure out how to be a third-period team. The Wingers have been tied or trailing by just one goal entering the third period of all three games so far. Eight players have at least one point so far for the Wingers, so they know they don't have to rely on one or two guys to do all the scoring. ... The Wingers play four of their first five games on the road, including games this week at North St. Paul (Thursday) and Fergus Falls (Saturday).

June 12, 2012

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

Posted by: Feldman

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

On to some local hockey stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 17, 2012

Boys Hockey | Looking at Section 1AA

Posted by: Feldman

The boys hockey regular season comes to a close on Saturday and it doesn't look like much can happen in Saturday's games to alter the way teams will be seeded in next week's Section 1A and 1AA tournaments.

Section 1AA appears pretty clear cut, aside from the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds.

Before my long-winded theory on those two seeds, here's how the section should shake out (explanations shouldn't be necessary, aside from the 5-6 seeds): 1. Lakeville South, 2. Lakeville North, 3. Rochester Century, 4. Rochester Mayo, 5. Rochester John Marshall, 6. Owatonna, 7. Farmington, 8. Winona, 9. Dodge County.

The actual seeds will be determined Sunday afternoon. JM should be the No. 5 seed and Owatonna should be No. 6. For the past few weeks, it looked like it should fall the other way around, but a few games in the past week have changed things.

First, JM went to Owatonna last Saturday and shut out the Huskies, 2-0. That gave the teams a split of the season series, with Owatonna having beaten JM, 2-1 in OT, when the teams played in Rochester on Jan. 10.

Second and third, JM beat Austin on Thursday night, while Owatonna lost to Mankato West.

In my mind, those results sealed JM as the 5 seed for a couple of reasons. One, JM will now finish above the Huskies in the Big Nine Conference standings by at least one point. Two, JM is playing better hockey right now, having won four in a row, and the teams' records are nearly identical (JM is 12-5-0 in the Big Nine, 13-10-2 overall; Owatonna is 10-5-1, 13-8-3).

JM is done with its regular season, while Owatonna plays  host to Austin on Saturday, an almost certain victory.

Of course, coaches are human and emotion often plays a part in the seeding process when it really doesn't need to. We saw that a couple years ago in Section 1A when Faribault coach Brad Ryan seeded Rochester Lourdes No. 4, when all reasonable logic said the Eagles should have been no worse than No. 2 on every ballot. (In the end, Faribault got the top seed, but was knocked off by Red Wing in the section semifinals).

And though JM's record is just slightly worse than Owatonna's, that shouldn't really be a factor. Last season, Mayo was awarded the No. 3 seed ahead of JM, despite JM having beaten Mayo two out of three times in the regular season and having three more wins than the Spartans. Mayo had defeated JM in their final regular season meeting and, in all fairness, the Spartans were playing better than any team in the Big Nine when the regular season ended.

The seedings didn't work out for either team. Mayo lost to No. 6 seed Century in the quarterfinals, while JM lost at home to No. 5 Farmington.

The twist if JM gets the No. 5 seed ahead of Owatonna: it sets up a fourth meeting of the season between Mayo and JM. Mayo won two of the previous three. A fourth meeting would be a tossup. There's not much, at this point, these two teams don't know about each other. I could be wrong, but I bet both teams would be OK with not playing a fourth game against its oldest rival this year. The fans may want it, the players and coaches may get jacked up for it, but it also probably would cause coaches on both sides some restless nights next week.

From an unbiased perspective, I'd love to see JM and Mayo play again. There's nothing much better than rivals facing off with their seasons on the line. Of course, we will have an intra-city showdown if JM ends up as the 6 seed, too. The Rockets would stay on their home ice and face No. 3 Century in Thursday's quarterfinals.

Thursday can't get here soon enough!