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10 posts categorized "New Prague"

March 05, 2014

Boys hockey | The Tourney: Breaking down the Class A field

Posted by: Feldman

Everyone is off of work and school the rest of the week, right? After all, it's holiday time, so call in sick today. And Thursday. And Friday. And Saturday, if you work Saturdays. And turn on channel 6.2 or 386 if you have Charter cable, pop some popcorn, get some peanuts, make a pizza or, if you're me, go grab some Chipotle and get settled into the recliner by 11:17 (I believe that's the time that the first game will actually begin) and become a high school hockey zombie for four days.

It's the best time of the year, The Tourney, the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament.

(According to the P-B's Paul Christian, The Tourney will also air locally on channels 10 and 13).

It all gets going today with the Class A state quarterfinals. We won't have an extensive preview in our print edition since we don't have an area team in the tournament. So I'll do one here for both classes.

Just a reminder that, for an eighth consecutive year, the tournament is seeded. The top 5 teams were seeded, the remaining three placed in the bracket by random draw.

No more wasting time, let's get to the Class A tourney.

THE MATCHUPS

11 a.m. — No. 2 Hermantown (22-4-2) vs. Luverne (27-0-1)

Overview: This is an intriguing matchup to open The Tourney. Everyone is picking Hermantown, and rightfully so. The Hawks are at state for a fifth consecutive season. They finished as the state runner-up in each of the past four, including a bitter 5-4 loss to St. Thomas Academy last year in which the Hawks held leads of 3-1 and 4-2, only to lose on a power play goal (after an awful sequence of bad calls and no calls, including an STA player not being called for a hold while having a Hawks player in a headlock) with 6.1 seconds to go. STA isn't in The Tourney this year, though, after moving up to Class AA and losing in the Section 3 tournament. Luverne is making its state-tournament debut. It is the last unbeaten team in the state, though the No. 17-ranked Cardinals have played just one team ranked in the top 20 — No. 20 Bloomington Kennedy (a 3-1 Luverne win on Dec. 28). Hermantown is ranked No. 2 in the state.

Hermantown leaders: Jr. F Ryan Kero (21-28—49); Jr. F Nate Pionk (22-26—48); Sr. F Scott Wasbotten (23-23—46); Sr. F Kori Ochs (15-17—32); So. F Cole Koepke (18-13—31); Sr. G Jace Thomas (10-1-2, 1.55 GAA, .926 save pct.); Sr. G Adam Smith (12-3-0, 2.50, .901).

Luverne leaders: So. F Chaz Smedsrud (38-49—87); Sr. F Logan Norman (22-49—71); 8th F Jaxon Nelson (30-40—70); Jr. D Toby Sengvongxay (20-32—52); Sr. G Kendall Meyer (21-0-1, 1.16 GAA, .949 save pct.); Jr. G Connor Crabtree (6-0-0, 1.26, .896)

Notes: You may notice Hermantown players all have the name "TIM" stickered onto their helmets. It's in honor of Tim Ellingson, an outdoor rink manager for many years, who died on Jan. 2 while skating at an outdoor rink. One of the Hermantown players found him. ... The Hawks have scored five shorthanded goals this season. ... Gunnar Olson set Luverne's career points record this season. ... Jaxon Nelson has more than 70 points as an eighth-grader.

The pick: Give me the experienced team that has a chip on its shoulder after last year's state title game. Hermantown won't overlook anyone in The Tourney: HERMANTOWN 5, LUVERNE 1.

• • •

1 p.m. — No. 3 New Prague (21-4-3) vs. Chisago Lakes Area (20-8-0)

Overview: New Prague is in the state tournament for the first time, finally breaking through in the Section 1A championship game after some close, heartbreaking losses in the section semifinals and final in recent seasons. Junior goalie Conner Wagner stood on his head for much of the Trojans' 3-2 victory against Mankato West in the Section 1A title game. At one point, New Prague led 2-0 but was being outshot 22-8. Wagner showed the poise necessary to win at state. His teammates will have to provide the offense. Chisago Lakes is at state for a second time, but the first time since 1995. Chisago Lakes was the top seed in the Section 5, Class A tournament. It beat Princeton 5-4 in the section final, scoring three times in the third period to win. Blake Lizotte scored with 2:09 to go in the third for the winning goal.

New Prague leaders: Sr. F Augie Isaacson (23-30--53); Sr. F Seth Kriha (11-35--46); So. F Alex Gregor (19-22--41); Sr. F Austin Kilian (21-12--33); Jr. G Conner Wagner (21-4-3, 2.28 GAA, .903 save pct.).

Chisago Lakes leaders: Sr. F Brandon Gillespie (25-26--51); So. F Blake Lizotte (14-34--48); Sr. F Trevor Lushanko (23-24--47); So. F Landon Lushanko (10-18--28); Sr. F Ryan Chambers (13-15--28); Jr. G Jacob Dubose (13-6-0, 1.95 GAA, .916 save pct.); Jr. G Bryce Thompson (7-2-0, 2.34, .906).

Notes: New Prague is ranked No. 6 in the state. Chisago Lakes is unranked. ... Chisago Lakes allowed just eight power play goals all season. ... Chisago Lakes went 14-0-0 at home this season, 5-8-0 on the road and 1-3-0 on neutral ice. ... New Prague is one of three teams in the Class A tournament that has not been shut out this season. Hermantown and Luverne are the others. ... New Prague assistant coach Nick Bowe played for Austin in the 2001 Class AA state tournament. ... The Trojans 21 wins are a single-season school record.

The pick: While New Prague's skaters didn't always look poised and calm during the Section 1A title game victory against Mankato West, their goalie did. This team will go as Wagner goes at state, and that's into the semifinals: NEW PRAGUE 4, CHISAGO LAKES 3.

• • •

6 p.m. — No. 1 East Grand Forks (25-2-1) vs. Orono (19-8-1)

Overview: East Grand Forks, the No. 1-ranked team in the state, is at state for a second consecutive season and a ninth time in school history. The Green Wave have never won a state title. EGF is the favorite for a reason; they have talented players up and down the lineup and most of them played at state last year, when EGF placed fourth. EGF has outscored its opponents 117-33 this season and has allowed just one short-handed goal all year. Orono is at state for the first time since 2007 and the eighth time in school history. Orono is ranked No. 11 in the state; it upset No. 4-ranked Breck in the Section 2A championship game, 2-1, to advance to state, though Breck outshot Orono 47-20. The Spartans gave up a total of four goals in three section tournament victories.

EGF leaders: Jr. F Reed Corbid (16-26--42); Jr. F Dixon Bowen (17-20--37); So. F Grant Loven (14-21--35); So. F Tanner Tweten (15-13--28); Sr. F Brandon Loven (14-11--25); Jr. Josh Weber (20-1-1, 1.22 GAA, .922 save pct.); Jr. Garrett Lieberg (5-1-0, 1.00, .898).

Orono leaders: Jr. F Joey Luedtke (12-22--34); Sr. D Jacob Flemmer (14-17--31); Sr. F Sam Challgren (6-18--24); So. F David McCuskey (11-9--20); Jr. G Jon Flakne (18-7-1, 1.95 GAA, .918); Sr. G Grant Mathiason (1-1-0, 2.50, .898).

Notes: EGF senior defenseman Eddie Eades' sister, Erika, played in the girls hockey state tournament two weeks ago, when EGF finished second. ... The Eades' dad, Cary, is the head coach of the Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL. ... The Green Wave have eight players with 22 or more points. ... Orono is 20 miles west of Minneapolis. ... Orono head coach Kasey Yoder played for Duluth Marshall in the 2001 state tournament, the first one held at the Xcel Energy Center.

The pick: East Grand Forks has been ranked No. 1 in the state for some time now for a reason. The Green Wave are the total package and they've been here before, so they know how to deal with the pressure: EGF 4, ORONO 1.

• • •

8 p.m. — No. 4 St. Cloud Cathedral (20-7-1) vs. No. 5 Totino-Grace (17-10-1)

Overview: The only two private schools to make the 16 team field at The Tourney meet in the opening round, so anti-private school fans will be down to just one after the opening day. T-G last won a state title in 2002 and last appeared at state in 2005. The Eagles went just 4-3-0 in their final seven regular season games with lopsided losses to Hermantown (6-1) and Wayzata (9-0). T-G is used to playing under pressure, though. It came back from down 4-2 to beat Mahtomedi 5-4 in OT in the Section 4A championship. Cathedral is at state for the sixth time and the first since 2009. The Crusaders lost to the tournament's top two seeds during the regular season, East Grand Forks (3-1) and Hermantown (6-0), tied Orono and beat No. 3 seed New Prague (5-4, OT) and Totino-Grace (5-4). 

Cathedral leaders: Sr. F Will Hammer (23-30--53); Jr. F Matt Fritz (15-23--38); Sr. D Daniel Bailey (7-31--38); So. F Logan Neu (18-17--35); Jr. Zach Fritz (19-7-1, 2.17 GAA, .916 save pct.)

T-G leaders: Sr. F Nick Tandeski (15-16--31); Sr. F Kai Barber (19-11--30); Sr. F Brandon Hilliard (7-17--24); Jr. D Jason Krych (6-17--23); Jr. F Blake Vagle (7-16--23); Sr. G Dominic Wippler (15-8-1, 2.55 GAA, .904 save pct.); Jr. G Jack Lux (2-2-0, 3.38, .862).

Notes: Cathedral is No. 10 in the state, Totino-Grace is No. 8. ... Cathedral has produced some talented players in recent seasons. Former Gophers and current Washington Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt played at Cathedral. So did U.S. Olympian Anne Schleper. ... Hammer has 172 career points, a Cathedral program record. ... T-G only has two players -- Tandeski and Barber -- with more than 10 goals. 

The pick: This one's a coin flip and I think the last game of the day is the best game of the day: CATHEDRAL 3, TOTINO-GRACE 2, OT.

• • •

STATE SEMIFINALS

The picks: As much as I'd love to see a Section 1 team in the state championship, Hermantown just appears to be a team on a mission. It blew out three good programs -- International Falls, Duluth Denfeld and Duluth Marshall -- in the Section 7 tournament by a combined score of 21-3: HERMANTOWN 5, NEW PRAGUE 2.

East Grand Forks' depth shines through in the other semifinal. The Green Wave are a poised group, having had to go to double-OT to beat Warroad in the Section 8A championship game last week. Goalie Josh Weber played an incredible game that night, and he'll do it again Friday afternoon at The X: EAST GRAND FORKS 4, ST. CLOUD CATHEDRAL 1.

• • •

CHAMPIONSHIP

The pick: It's really hard for me to pick against East Grand Forks, thanks to both my heart (I grew up right across the Red River in Grand Forks) and my head (the Green Wave have great depth and maybe 4-5 D-1 players), BUT, this Hermantown team feels like it's not going to be stopped. If I can't get their bitter, crushing loss in last year's state title game out of my head, I can't imagine how the Hawks have felt for the past 360 days. After four straight years as the runner-up, Hermantown gets to bring home a state championship trophy for the second time in school history, and first since 2007: HERMANTOWN 5, EAST GRAND FORKS 3 (empty-net goal).

June 12, 2012

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

Posted by: Feldman

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

On to some local hockey stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* KIWANIS FESTIVAL NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 24, 2012

High School Hockey | Lourdes hits tough home stretch

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 14, 2011

Hockey | The Lourdes boys are back in town (well, close to town)

Posted by: Feldman

Rochester Lourdes grads are plenty in the North American Hockey League this season, and they'll all be in their home state for this week's NAHL Showcase Tournament. The tournament, featuring every team in the NAHL (Junior A, Tier II), is a way for scouts to see all of the NAHL players in one place and a way for teams from different divisions to face each other.

It's held at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, beginning today.

The full Showcase schedule can be found here.

Now, as for the players from Rochester:

Rory Vesel, a Second Team All-State player last season as a senior at Lourdes, is one eight defensemen on the Bismarck Bobcats roster.

Bismarck faces New Mexico at 7:45 p.m. tonight in its opener. The Bobcats also play at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday.

Meanwhile, three former Lourdes standouts have made the roster of the defending Robertson Cup champion Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Defenseman Pete Spratte was a member of that championship team last season, along with another Lourdes grad, Tyler Voigt, and a Mayo grad, Charlie Thauwald. Voigt will play this season at D-3 Tufts College (who, by the way, have an awesome nickname, the "Jumbos."), while Thauwald will play close to home in the WCHA, at MSU, Mankato.

Spratte, though, is back with the Ice Dogs, and he's the greybeard of the team, the oldest player listed on the active roster. Joining Spratte in Fairbanks this year are a pair of guys from last season's Section 1A champion Lourdes team, goalie Nick Heimer and defenseman Alec Brandrup.

Fairbanks opens Showcase play at 2:30 p.m. today against the league's newest team, from Minot, N.D. The Ice Dogs then play at 8 p.m. Thursday, 1:45 p.m. Friday and 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

Other players from the Section 1 area who are in the NAHL this year: Brandon Parker, Faribault (Alexandria); John Kirby, Austin (Austin); Zach Adams, New Prague (Janesville); Bryan Mitchell, Red Wing (Odessa); and Darren Lapic, New Prague (Odessa).

From watching some conversations on Twitter, it sounds like a few of Lourdes' current players are going up to Blaine at some point this weekend to watch their former teammates play. I'm sure it'll be nice for the Fairbanks boys to have some familiar faces in the stands.

It's a busy next few days for me with events going on in Roch, but I'll do my best to follow how the Rochester/Section 1 guys do at the Showcase. Of course, you can monitor it yourself by going to nahlshowcase.com.

June 26, 2011

NHL Draft | Seth Ambroz interview

Posted by: Feldman

I'm sure it wasn't easy for Seth Ambroz, but after falling from a possible first- or second-round pick, all the way into the fifth round, he addressed the media. He answered questions for about 10 minutes, addressing everything asked of him. The New Prague native was selected No. 128 overall by Columbus. He'll play for the Gophers this fall.

Here's his interview: Ambroz0625

June 23, 2011

Hockey | NHL Draft notes, Aikens settling in Omaha (UPDATED — up to 19)

FELDY: Any of our Faceoff Faithful headed up to The X for the NHL Draft this weekend? If so, you're probably as excited as me. This will be my first NHL Draft to attend and/or cover for the paper, so I'm looking forward to seeing all of that NHL brainpower in one facility.

I'll have a bunch of NHL Draft preview stuff in Friday's Post-Bulletin, so check that out (please, please, please), and I'll be up in St. Paul Friday and Saturday to cover the draft, so check out Saturday and Monday's print editions, too, for that coverage.

I'll also be posting here on the blog throughout the weekend, hopefully live from The X both days. I don't know exactly what the setup is going to be like for media or where I'll be stationed, but I'll do my best to get on here and/or Twitter (@PBFeldy).

The draft begins at 6 p.m. Friday (on Versus), for Round 1, and 10:30 a.m. Saturday (NHL Network), for Rounds 2-7.

As I was doing some research for my draft preview stuff, I found some facts that I thought Rochester hockey fans might be interested in.

(Update: I had forgotten that Scott Schneider was drafted, as well as goalie Jeff Kruesel, so my total of 14 goes up to 16. Much thanks to former JM star/coach Scott Lecy for reminding me that Schneider was drafted, as well as to Jeff Kruesel's parents for notifying me he was not on the list.)

(Update #2: So, of course, an hour after our print edition goes to press today (Friday, June 24), I get a complete list of all the Minnesotans who have ever been drafted. Turns out, there are 19 from Rochester, so I missed three in today's print edition. My apologies to those guys -- Ethan Philpott, Ross Johnson of Mayo and Doug Wieck of Mayo; I'll try to run their short bios, like I did for the other 16, in Saturday's paper).

I attempted to compile a list of every Rochester player ever drafted by an NHL team. I came up with 19(including Johnny Pohl, who, I know, is iffy at best, but he was born in Roch, so we'll add him in).

Of the 19 Rochester players who have been drafted, seven were drafted by franchises that no longer exist (two by the Atlanta Thrashers, two by the first incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets, and one each by the Hartford Whalers, Colorado Rockies and Minnesota North Stars). 

Two -- Doug Zmolek and Mark Stuart -- were drafted in Round 1. None of the remaining 12 was drafted earlier than Round 4.

Two others -- Colin Stuart and Alex Kangas -- were drafted in the exact same draft position (Round 5, No. 135 overall) by the same team (Atlanta). And, yet, two more -- Guy Gosselin and Scott Schneider -- were drafted by the old Winnipeg Jets franchise.

Finally, five of the 19 wouldn't have been drafted if, in their draft years, the draft was formatted like it is now. Currently, the draft is just seven rounds. Eric Strobel, Shjon Podein and Gosselin were all drafted in Round 8, Pohl went in Round 9 and John Johannson in Round 10.

Here's my list, please tell me if I'm missing anyone:

Guy Gosselin
Jim Johannson
John Johannson
Ross Johnson

Alex Kangas
Jeff Kruesel
Bryce Lampman
Ethan Philpott

Shjon Podein
Johnny Pohl
Scott Schneider
Eric Strobel

Colin Stuart
* Mark Stuart
Mike Stuart
Jake Taylor
Jeff Teal
Doug Wieck

* Doug Zmolek

* -- first round pick

I'll have more information about each of those 15 guys in Friday's paper, as well as a look at some of the players the Wild are likely targeting with the 10th overall pick. I'll also have a look at some of the top Minnesotans available in this draft, and a story on New Prague native and former Section 1A standout Seth Ambroz.

He left the Trojans after his freshman year, when he piled up 69 points and led them to the Section 1A semifinals, where they lost to Lourdes in OT. He has played for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL the past three seasons. He is expected to be a low first-round or high second-round pick this weekend. 

For the story on Ambroz, I talked to 1989 Rochester John Marshall graduate Mike Aikens, who was an assistant with the Lancers this year. He had lots of good things to say about Ambroz, particularly his work ethic, which was questioned by some hockey bloggers throughout the season.

The 6-feet-3, 203-pound Ambroz -- who is headed to the U of M this fall -- has been criticized by some for not having a more productive season (he had 46 points in 2010-11, after a 49-point season in 2009-10). 

But, Aikens said, Ambroz was productive in areas other than the scoresheet early in the season. He said Ambroz's physical play was a huge boost for the Lancers early on, when he wasn't scoring. Aikens said Ambroz would often have as many as 15 hits in a game (approaching Cal Clutterbuck territory) and that he didn't receive enough credit for the dirty work he did.

"He was phenomenal on the forecheck and willing to take a beating," Aikens said.

Aikens added that Ambroz does have some things to work on, that he's not NHL-ready right now. The biggest thing Ambroz needs to work on, Aikens said, is his skating. But, it's something Ambroz is aware of and "has worked really, really hard to get better at."

As for Aikens, he thoroughly enjoyed his first season back in Omaha (he spent three seasons there at the start of his coaching career) and is ready to settle there. He and his wife bought a house there and are moving their daughters (ages 5 and 7) down in about two weeks. They kept their house here in Rochester during this past season and waited to move until the school year was finished.

Aikens said he enjoys working for the Lancers organization and head coach Bliss Littler, a successful long-time junior hockey coach. Aikens moved to Omaha after coaching in the Russell Stover Midget Major program near Kansas City. He worked with fellow Rochester native Pat Ferschweiler there. Ferschweiler left prior to last season to become an assistant coach at his alma mater, Western Michigan University.

"We have two young daughters," said Aikens, whose brother, Bruce, played on the 1977 JM state championship team, "so we were looking for a place to settle down. When Omaha called, it was a no-brainer.

"The organization in Omaha is so good, from the owners on down. They treat everyone so well. We like to call it the Yankees of junior hockey, because everyone is treated so well. I feel like I can really be choosy and pick my next move. If I'm here for 10 years, or more, that would be great."

March 04, 2011

H.S. Hockey | Section 1A championship Rewind

FELDY: I'm not even sure what time it is right now. Anybody know? Anybody still awake? Maybe some Lourdes fans are, some fans who are like the kid on the Disney World commercial "I'M TOO EXCITED TO SLEEP!"

What a game at the Rec Center tonight. Wasn't always pretty, but it was a cleanly-played game. Lourdes didn't get called for a penalty; New Prague got called for four minors, but really just two because the double minor to Curt Brezina came with 40 seconds to play, when the outcome was decided.

Some random thoughts on the game, because, well, my head is full only of random thoughts right now:

* What a tremendous effort by New Prague. I'm not sure what more the Trojans could have done, other than convert one of their two great scoring chances. Lourdes goalie Nick Heimer robbed Brezina on one of those chances, just seconds after Rory Vesel scored the game's first goal, on a power play. NP then missed on a short 2-on-1 rush when Cole Mason fed Mike Fadden across the slot. Fadden had a yawning net to look at but shot the puck wide.

* Trojans' goalie Joe Morris was phenomenal for a second straight game. He stopped 28 of 29 shots tonight, giving him a .976 save percentage for the playoffs (83 of 85 shots). It's a shame to see an effort like Morris' not rewarded with a W; he didn't allow an even-strength goal. And the box score on mnhockeyhub.com is incorrect. He should not be charged with two goals-against in this game, as the Eagles last goal was an empty-netter.

* More than the first half of the game (27:25, to be exact) was played without a goal scored or a penalty being called.

* Lourdes starting line, centered by Ryan Nicolay, with Connor Nellans and Brian Wasz on the wings, played a tremendous game. I'm going to start calling it the "2-3-2-3 Line" because, well, it's late and that sounds clever to me right now (Nellans is No. 2, Nicolay No. 3 and Wasz No. 23). I might change my mind Friday when I wake up. Who knows? I didn't have room to include the comments from coach Josh Spaniol about that group in the game story, but here are his thoughts about the line that he matched up against the Trojans' top line most of the night: "They were tenacious. They played a really good game defensively, kept things simple, took the body. That's how we're going to win. We have to really get those guys going. When that happens, our other lines can be more aggressive."

That's it for tonight. My brain is mush (even mushier than normal). I'll leave you with another audio recording. This one of my post-game interview with coach Spaniol. I was going to try to get some audio interviews with players, but the arena and the hallway near the locker rooms were too loud to get good quality sound. So, here's my interview with Spaniol, after the hallway had cleared.

Download Spaniol postgame

March 02, 2011

H.S. Hockey | Lourdes feels ready for New Prague

It should come as no surprise that top-seeded and No. 3-ranked Rochester Lourdes feels ready to face third-seeded New Prague in Thursday's Section 1A championship game.

After all, Lourdes is 6-2-1 against the Trojans since the 2007-08 season, including a 5-0-1 mark in the past six meetings. That stretch includes three consecutive victories by Lourdes against New Prague in the section tournament; the Eagles have ended the Trojans' season in the section semifinals each of the past three seasons.

A little more is at stake Thursday night.

HIstory seems to be on Lourdes' side. The Eagles have been to state six times in school history, including each of the past two years. New Prague has never been to the state hockey tournament. Of course, none of that has any bearing on this year's teams.

Lourdes has five seniors who are chasing a third state tournament berth -- G Nick Heimer, D Rory Vesel, Sam Slightam and Alec Brandrup, and F Brian Wasz.

Lourdes (23-3-1) is playing well, but so is New Prague (14-11-2). Both teams have goalies who are playing at a high level. New Prague's Joe Morris leads all goalies in Minnesota in playoff save percentage (.982), while Lourdes' Nick Heimer has the most victories of any goalie in the state (23) and ranked eighth in goals-against average in the state in the regular season (1.85), among Minnesota goalies who played 12 or more games.

I don't see my game preview posted online yet, but I'll post a link to it if/when it gets posted this afternoon.

After talking to several Lourdes players yesterday, I'd say they're confident, but not overly confident. And, all the Eagles coaching staff has to do to find some more motivation is point out a couple of scores from other sections. In fact, two of the eight No. 1 seeds in Class A didn't make it to their section title games. Little Falls was upset by a No. 9 seed, St. Cloud Apollo, in a Section 6A quarterfinal last week, while No. 6-ranked and top-seeded Blake was upset by fourth-seeded Orono last night in a Section 2A semifinal.

What Lourdes can't do is get sucked into New Prague's style of game. The Trojans will probably muck it up, play a physical style to try to neutralize Lourdes' speed. New Prague was outstanding against Albert Lea in the section semifinals at slowing the Tigers' top line, and taking advantage of offensive chances when they had them.

The way Lourdes is playing defense right now, I'd be shocked if New Prague gets 34 shots on goal, like it did against Albert Lea.

The blueprint for Lourdes is pretty clear: Use its speed early, get an early lead and clamp down defensively. Easier said than done, though, right?

Here are a few comments from Lourdes coaches and players that didn't get into my article in the print edition today:

LOURDES GOALIE NICK HEIMER

On the possibiility of the game being a goaltending battle...
"Anytime it comes down to defense and goaltending, it's going to be a good game. We wouldn't have it any other way."

On what it's like to not face many shots (he's seen only 17 total in two playoff games) ...
"It's nice to face a lot of shots because it gets you into the game, but I've been able to stay focused. It's nice to see a lot of shots, but at the same time, that can wear you down, so it's kind of a double-edged sword."

On what makes Lourdes' defense so good ...
"A lot has to do with our forecheck and when (the opponent) does get the puck in our zone, we don't run around (chasing it). The defense does a good job protecting against back-door plays, too, so I don't have to worry about them being there. The guys talk a lot, too. They're always hollering to each other so we always know where everybody is."

SOPHOMORE FORWARD ALEX FUNK

On his recent scoring success against New Prague (6 points in past 3 meetings) ...
"It's just the luck of the draw, I guess; being in the right place at the right time."

On the pressure of being the No. 1 seed and the No. 3-ranked team in the state ...
"The nerves will be there, but we all know what to expect. ... There's a little pressure, but we just have to come out, play our game and deal with it. ... We feel like we can play with anybody. When we went to OT with (No. 1-ranked) St. Thomas (Academy), we realized we can play with the big boys."


SOPHOMORE DEFENSEMAN KARL KRECKE

On the Eagles' successful penalty killing units (Lourdes has killed 15 of 16 in past five games)...
"Everyone is really comfortable out there. We all know our roles so well. We always know where to be and where everyone else is, and we all know how to stay calm."


COACH JOSH SPANIOL

On whether the game will come down to the play of the goalies...
"I hope not" (laughing), "but it's a section final, so it could come down to who gets the better bounces and turns them into goals."

On Lourdes' effort against Red Wing in the section semifinals ...
"We need to come out with a better effort against (New Prague). Their goaltender is good, but we have a very good goalie, too. They like to bang a lot, and we can't get into that game. We can't get into a battle along the boards. We want to use our speed, get the puck out of the zone quickly."

February 27, 2011

H.S. Hockey | Section Semifinal Saturday rewind

Good Sunday afternoon, all.

Thanks to those of you who joined me for the live blogs from Section Semifinal Saturday at the Rec Center yesterday. If you would like to read a replay of any of the live blogs from yesterday, they can all be found here.

If you can't make it to Thursday's Section 1A final between Lourdes and New Prague, I'll be back on the live blog at 6:45 p.m. Just log on to PostBulletin.com and click the link on the homepage. Or, you can go to the link I provide above.

* * *

After three-and-a-half months of hockey, the Section 1A and 1AA tournaments are down to the teams that we thought would be here.

In 1AA, we'll have a rematch of last year's all-Lakeville section title game. A year ago, North upset top-seeded South to get to the state tournament. Can the Panthers do it again? They've lost to South twice already this season, by three goals each time. Second-seeded North's best shot at a second consecutive upset of No. 1 seed South is to stop the high-powered scoring trio of Justin Kloos, Drew Brevig and Alex Harvey.

North and South are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Friday at the Rochester Rec Center for the section championship. ... Maybe later this week we'll get into the whole issue of two Lakeville schools having to come to Rochester to play in a section final.

In 1A, No. 3-ranked and top-seeded Rochester Lourdes is back in position to go to state for a third consecutive season. Standing in their way: third-seeded New Prague.

The Eagles will make their fourth consecutive appearance in the section title game. They lost three years ago to Mankato West and beat Red Wing each of the past two years. The Eagles advanced to this year's section final by ending the Wingers season for a third straight year, 4-2, on Saturday. New Prague advanced to the tite game with a 4-1 win against Albert Lea.

Lourdes and New Prague will play at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Rec Center. If New Prague plays like it did in the first period on Saturday, it will give Lourdes all it can handle. These teams have some history, too, which we'll get into more as the week goes on. Lourdes has knocked New Prague out of the playoffs each of the past three years, and each time in the section semifinal round.

* But, back to Saturday's games at the Rec. It's usually one of the most entertaining days of the hockey season around here, but none of the four games on Saturday provided much drama or excitement. The building was never more than half full, either, and there wasn't a single band there all day. The atmosphere was flat and that, I believe, had an impact on several teams.

Both of the Section 1AA games were effectively over after the first period. North led Century 4-0 after one period, scoring twice in the final 2 minutes of the period to zap any momentum Century had gained. South led Farmington 3-0 after one and outshot the Tigers 25-2 in the first 17 minutes. Both games resulted in 7-0 final scores.

Century players said they had a good practice on Friday, after an emotional victory Thursday night against rival Mayo. Century actually had good energy right off the bat, but the Panthers had some miscues they couldn't afford.

First, they took four penalties in the first period. North only scored on one power play, but it kept many of Century's top players on the ice in penalty killing situations. It was energy Century couldn't afford to use. Second, Century gave up too many odd-man rushes. I counted five in the first period alone, and at least three of those were the direct result of North forwards blocking shots by Century d-men near the blue line.

A number of Century players were visibly hurting (emotionally) after the game, especially several underclassmen, who had a strong bond with this group of seniors. It was a tough year for Century, with so many players battling injuries and illnesses.

Senior Matt Mills unfortunately had injuries cost him a good portion of the season, including the playoffs. Junior Blake Heroff was in and out of the lineup all season with a nasty hip injury. He rested and iced it as much as he could; he'll have surgery about a month from now. I've been told it's the same injury that cost former Century goalie Alex Kangas his season with the Gophers this year.

The gratifying part of this season for the Century coaching staff has been the past couple of weeks, watching how some seniors were playing their best hockey (coach Bruce Frutiger gave a big nod to d-man Joe Canakes, who had a huge goal in the first period of the Mayo game). We sure can't forget d-man Nick Raehsler or goalie Cam Sellnow. Those guys have been a big part of the program for three years; both played in the state tourney as sophomores and were there game-in, game-out this season, doing what the coaches asked.

* OK, on to the Section 1A side.

The Lourdes-Red Wing game was close for a couple of periods, but with the way Lourdes was playing defense, I never got the feeling that the Eagles were in jeopardy.

Coach Josh Spaniol could sense the Eagles were a bit flat when he entered the locker room before warmups, but, he said, they were able to fight through it. Jason Samuelson had two goals, one set up nicely by Alex Funk. Senior D Rory Vesel also had a nice individual effort on his unassisted goal in the second period. And Andy Benner got Lourdes on the board with a nice play while forechecking at the end of a penalty kill. He took the puck away from a Wingers player, skated in and beat Red Wing goalie Sam Amendolar five-hole.

In the other 1A final, New Prague jumped on Albert Lea early and the Big Nine Conference-champion Tigers never really recovered. The Trojans scored twice in the first five minutes of the game, then Curt Brezina scored twice in a five-minute span early in the second for a 4-0 lead.

Albert Lea had some good chances, and actually tied New Prague with 34 shots on goal in the game, but either the Tigers shot the puck high or wide, or Trojans goalie Joe Morris robbed them.

Morris could be the great equalizer in Thursday's section final. He was outstanding in the first period against Albert Lea. Had he not been at his best, that could have been a 2-2 game after one; then who knows what happens.

When the teams met in the regular season, Lourdes beat New Prague, 3-1, at Graham Arena, back on Dec. 7. Lourdes scored twice in the final 4:12 of the first period that day, both on the power play, and never trailed. Both teams put 21 shots on goal in that game. Both teams are obviously playing better now than they were at that time, but based on what we saw Saturday, I'd expect another close game on Thursday.

 

February 22, 2011

H.S. Hockey | Breaking down the brackets (1A)

FELDY: If the past few years are any indication, the Section 1A boys hockey tournament, which gets underway tonight at four sites, should be entertaining.Plus, Semifinal Saturday at the Rec Center is only four days away! That's one of the most enjoyable days of the season for me as a reporter and a hockey fan, getting to watch four good hockey games, from 11:30 a.m. until after 10 p.m. It's a long day, but a fun one.

As I was looking at this year's bracket, I noticed that New Prague is in the opposite half of the bracket as Lourdes. That has to make the Trojans breathe a little sigh of relief, with some of the postseason heartbreakers they've had against Lourdes in recent years.

That gets me thinking about some of the fun games we've had at the Rec Center over the past three years.

An interesting note here: The top seed in Section 1A has lost in the section semifinals or final the past three years. (In other words, Lourdes can't afford to get complacent at any time from now until whenever its season comes to an end.)

Three years ago, then-junior Cole Peterson scored with less than a minute remaining in OT to give Lourdes a 3-2 victory against a New Prague team that inculded a freshman named Seth Ambroz. He'll play for the Gophers next fall. Then, in the section final, a Mankato West team led by guys named Litchfield and Leivermann. Of course, the star of that section final was West's diminutive goalie, Tyler Bruggeman, who stopped 40 shots to deny the top-seeded Eagles a trip to state.

The following year (2009), a sophomore goalie for Lourdes named Nick Heimer stopped 23 shots in his first section championship game to lift the Eagles past top-seeded Red Wing, 3-2. That sent Lourdes to state for the first time since 2003. That win came on the heels of a 4-0 win against New Prague in the section semis, a game that Lourdes led just 1-0 six minutes into the third period.

And, last year, the game that sticks out to me is Red Wing's victory against top-seeded Faribault in the section semifinals. The Wingers put on a clinic, perfectly executing a great game plan designed by coaches George Nemanich and Bob Rajanen. The Wingers went on to fall to Lourdes in the section final.

Back to the present. Let's take a look at the favorites, the other contenders and the rest of the field:

THE FAVORITES

* No. 1 Rochester Lourdes: The Eagles have won the section title two years in a row. They're ranked No. 5 in the state and have lost just three times this season (to the No. 1 Class A team in Minnesota, STA; the No. 1 team in Wisconsin, Eau Claire Memorial; and the then-No. 5 team in Class A, Duluth Marshall). That said, the Eagles have won five games by one goal, and if I know the Lourdes coaching staff, they're reminding the players this week of how close a few teams in this section were to beating them.

Heimer is the backbone for this team. Coach Josh Spaniol has praised Heimer's efforts after every game for the past month or so, even in the 6-5 loss to top-ranked St. Thomas Academy (a game in which the winning goal was scored on a rebound that the Eagles defenders didn't clear). Heimer, like many of the players on this team, has been through two section tournaments, two section title games and two state tournaments. They're comfortable in big-game situations, but if they let down in the slightest, any of the other top five teams are capable of beating them.

* No. 2 Albert Lea.The Big Nine conference champion Tigers are playing with a load of confidence. They're 9-0-1 in their past 10 games and haven't lost in 40 days, since a 6-5 setback at Mankato West on Jan. 13. They have perhaps the premier scorer in the section -- F Eric Carlson (35-25--60) -- and goalie Griffin Wangen has shown in several recent games that he can hold his team in a game.

THE OTHER CONTENDERS

* No. 3 New Prague.The Trojans aren't exactly on a roll coming into the postseason. They're just 2-2-1 in their past five games, but they can certainly take some confidence out of tying Holy Angels, 5-5, in their final regular season game. N.P. doesn't have the high-powered scorers it has had in recent years -- the team's leading scorer is soph. F/D Cody Meyer (8-10--18) -- so it has to rely on solid defense and strong play from veteran goalie Joe Morris (10-11-1, 2.76 GAA, .909 save pct.).

* No. 4 Mankato West.The Scarlets showed that they could hang with the best in the section this year, playing Lourdes to a one-goal game in January, and splitting the season series with Albert Lea. The obvious fear factor for opponents of the Scarlets is senior F Ville Rantanen, the state's leading goal scorer (48) and second-leading points producer (80). Rantanen is not great on the defensive end, but West's opponents better take notice when he has the puck on his stick. West isn't a one-man band, though. Senior Drew Weber has 58 points (22-36--58) and senior F Andrew Frentz has 46 points.

THE FIELD

No. 5 Red Wing has been in the section title game each of the past two seasons, falling to Lourdes both times. There's a chance the Wingers could meet Lourdes in Saturday's semifinal round, if Red Wing can get past Mankato West on Thursday. Jr. F Mike Stegora leads the team with 22 points.

No. 6 Northfield lost to its likely quarterfinal opponent, New Prague, twice this season, each time by three goals. The Raiders have to beat Austin tonight, though, in order to face New Prague on Thursday in the quarterfinals. Northfield is led by soph. F Andrew Scofield (22-12--34), who is on a tear, with 18 points in the past eight games.

The rest of the field faces an uphill battle to even get to the Rec Center on Saturday for the semifinals. No. 7 Faribault was the top seed in the section a year ago, but was outplayed and outcoached in the semis. The Falcons would have to upset Albert Lea just to reach the semifinals this year.

So, that's it for Section 1A. Games get going tonight with first-round play at four sites -- No. 12 Mankato East at No. 5 Red Wing; No. 11 Austin at No. 6 Northfield; No. 10 Waseca at No. 7 Faribault; and No. 9 LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter at No. 8 La Crescent.

A preview of the Section 1A and 1AA tournaments will appear in the P-B print edition on Wednesday. It will include a feel-good story about some Rochester John Marshall players rallying together to help one of their teammates and his family off the ice. It's a story that's close to my heart, too. I'll explain more about that on here tomorrow. Hopefully my writing does the story justice. The previews in the print edition will also include a team-by-team look at all of the quarterfinal matchups in Section 1A and 1AA.