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9 posts categorized "Northfield"

February 25, 2015

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

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The call: Northfield 2, New Prague 1.

* * * * * 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The call: North 5, Farmington 1.

* * * * * *

AROUND THE STATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 21, 2015

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

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

TODAY'S GAMES

SECTION 1AA

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

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

-----

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

* * * * * * * * *

SECTION 1A

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

- - - - - - - - - -

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

* * * * * * * * *

AROUND THE STATE

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

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

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

---

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

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

 

 

February 19, 2015

High School Hockey Today: The Section 1 tournaments roll on

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

TONIGHT'S GAMES

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Lourdes is playing with confidence

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

February 17, 2015

High School Hockey | Breaking down the Section 1A tournament

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRST ROUND

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

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

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

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

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

QUARTERFINALS

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

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

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

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

SEMIFINALS

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

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

CHAMPIONSHIP

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

* * *

My apologies to Northfield for likely jinxing you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October 10, 2014

High School Football picks | Week 7

FELDY: After last week, I think Phesy is waving the white flag. He is French, after all (he's not, and no offense meant to our readers in France). Let's get going with Week 7 games. I went 6-1 last week to improve to 35-7. Phersy went 4-3, in his defense, trying to make up some ground, but now sits at 28-14. Maybe he better go all 7 different than me over the next couple weeks.

This week's games:

BIG NINE CONFERENCE

* Rochester John Marshall (3-3) at Owatonna (4-2)
* Northfield (5-1) at Rochester Century (4-2)

SFA RED DIVISION

* Lourdes (6-0) at Lake City (4-2)

SFA WHITE DIVISION

* Triton (5-1) at Lewiston-Altura (4-2)
* Dover-Eyota (2-4) at Zumbrota-Mazeppa (2-4)

SFA BLUE DIVISION

* Goodhue (5-1) at Chatfield (4-2)

SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE

* Spring Grove (5-1) at Lanesboro (4-2)

* * * * *

PHERSY: I stink anyway, so no research, no wise thoughts, just picks...

BIG NINE CONFERENCE

* Rochester John Marshall 21, Owatonna 14: Rockets need this win badly.
* Northfield 37, Rochester Century 21: Northfield is the second-best team in the conference.

SFA RED DIVISION

* Lourdes 35, Lake City 34: Closer than most think, but Eagles still win a big one on the road.

SFA WHITE DIVISION

* Triton 27, Lewiston-Altura 20: Good game, Cobras steal a road W.
* Dover-Eyota 20, Zumbrota-Mazeppa 12: Sticking with the road theme.

SFA BLUE DIVISION

* Chatfield 29, Goodhue 2: I don't usually bet against the Wildcats, but when I do, it's against a good wrestling school.

SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE

* Spring Grove 41, Lanesboro 34: Nine-man ... who knows.

* * * * * * * 

FELDY: This can never be easy, so I'm sure I'll lose 3-4 games this week, even if I pick the same as Phersy.

BIG NINE

* JM 31, Owatonna 20: JM's a better team than its 3-3 record shows. Think about it: This team is 4 points away from being 5-1, if it flips 1-point losses to Mayo and Northfield.

* Century 33, Northfield 31: Call it an upset if you want. Northfield is a good football team, but so is Century, and Century has flown under the radar all year, even after beating JM. Time for the Panthers to stand up and be recognized.

SFA RED

* Lourdes 38, Lake City 28: I agree with Phersy, Lake City will keep this one close and it'll be one of the best 4-3 teams in the state afterward.

SFA WHITE

* L-A 24, Triton 20: The Cards are ticked after their first division loss last week and they bounce back with a quality victory against the snakes.

* D-E 24, Z-M 10: The Cougars have really struggled to score this year. That continues this week, and D-E gets its third win of the season.

SFA BLUE

* Chatfield 28, Goodhue 17: What a brutal way for Goodhue to end its season: at Chatfield, then home for Caledonia. Chatfield has lost twice this year and won't let it happen again in the regular season

SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE

* Spring Grove 63, Lanesboro 56: As Phersy said, we have no clue how to pick 9-man games. That's a credit to those teams in a balanced SEC, who believe they can win on any given week. Spring Grove put up 98 last week against G-E, so I'll take them to win this week in a defensive battle.

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.

SECTION 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.


SECTION 1A

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.

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.

February 29, 2012

Section 1A final | 3 keys for each team

(Note: I've updated the stat about the past four section 1A title game winners scoring three goals in their win. It's three of the past four. Lourdes won 2-0 last year.)

Rochester Lourdes is on the verge of doing something only two other Rochester hockey teams have ever accomplished -- make it to the state tournament four years in a row.

Rochester High School went from 1945-48, and Lourdes did it from 2000-03.

The No. 1-seeded Eagles can match those teams if they beat No. 3 seed Northfield in the Section 1A championship game tonight at 7 p.m. at the Rec Center.

This is the fifth consecutive season that Lourdes has reached the section final -- every year since returning to Section 1 from Section 3. If recent history gives us any indication, the first team to three goals will win. Three of the past four winners of the Section 1A title games scored three goals in their victory (2008: West 3, Lourdes 1; 2009: Lourdes 3, Red Wing 2; 2010: Lourdes 3, RW 0; 2011: Lourdes 2, New Prague 0).

The Eagles (19-8-0) hope to buck that trend tonight. Well, actually, I'm sure they'd be just fine with a 3-2 or 3-1 win, but they're averaging more than five goals per game and feel pretty confident in their chances if they can meet their scoring average.

The big equalizer could be Raiders senior goalie Isaak Tjaden, who comes in with a sub-3.00 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. As Lourdes coach Josh Spaniol told me on Monday, it's playoff hockey. You can put a lot of shots on goal and only score one, then you get a bounce to go against you, and all of a sudden, your season's done.

As usual, the key for Lourdes will be sustaining pressure in the offensive zone and making Northfield use up its energy. The Raiders rolled two lines for most of their semifinal victory against Albert Lea. Lourdes will roll three, if not four. Plus, as the home team, Lourdes will get the last line change and can get the matchups it wants. That means we'll probably see a lot of the Nellans-Nicolay-Weir line against Andrew Scofield's line.

We've already mentioned a key for each team, but let's throw out a couple more:

3 KEYS FOR NORTHFIELD
1. Goalie play -- we mentioned Isaak Tjaden earlier in this post. The Raiders senior goalie will have to have his best game of the season if Northfield is to win a section title for the first time. Lourdes put 44 shots on him when they met in the regular season. He stopped 39 of them, but if five get by him tonight, Lourdes wins.
2. Keep it close -- let's see if the Raiders watched what Red Wing did in a semifinal loss to Lourdes on Saturday. The Wingers packed things in around goalie Preston Blaney and didn't let Lourdes get many chances in close, at least until the final five minutes of the game. On two occasions, Lourdes held the puck in the WIngers zone for more than two minutes without getting a goal. It ultimately took a toll on Red Wing, whose players looked tired in the second half of the third period. But, the Winger strategy was to keep it close going into the third and then take their chances (Red Wing and Lourdes were tied 2-2 into the final six minutes of the game). Northfield needs to do the same thing. The Raiders gave up four second-period goals to Lourdes in a 5-2 regular season loss. They can't let Lourdes get that far ahead tonight.
3. Stay out of the box -- Lourdes moves the puck extremely well on the power play and Karl Krecke has settled in nicely as the point man, a role he inherited from All-State defenseman Rory Vesel, who ran the point last season. Plus, the Raiders' top players play on the penalty kill. They're already at a disadvantage if they just roll two lines against Lourdes' three when it's 5-on-5. If the Raiders' top guys have to work their tails off on the PK, too, they're going to wear down that much faster.

3 KEYS FOR LOURDES
1. Leave any overconfidence in the locker room -- I haven't seen any cockiness or overconfidence from the Lourdes players this week. They all know they can't overlook Northfield, and that message was hammered home when they had to fight in the final five minutes to beat Red Wing in the section semifinals, 5-3, after beating it 8-0 in the regular season. Still, when you're a three-time defending champion, and your opponent has never been to state and hasn't been in a section final for 11 years, it has to be difficult to not think ahead a little. There will be no "ahead" though if they don't focus completely on beating Northfield.
2. Solid play in the defensive zone --  If you haven't already read it, here's a preview of tonight's game from the Northfield News. In it, Raiders coach Bryce Barry says: "We don’t think (the Eagles) are too solid in their own end because they don’t spend much time there." Lourdes' defensemen and senior goalie Jesse Neumann have improved dramatically from the start of the season to now, but keep in mind that this is the first time a lot of them have been on the spot in a section final. Goalie Nick Heimer and veteran d-men Rory Vesel, Sam Slightam and Alec Brandrup are all gone from last year's team. That means Neumann is playing in a section final for the first time, and d-men such as Justin Dewitz (who played forward until this season), Robby Campbell, Griff Slightam and Nathan Roth are going to be taking on big roles on the blue line in a title game for the first time.
3. Have fun -- How many hockey players around the state would love to still be playing tonight? Part of being in a section final for a fifth consecutive time is, it loses a little of its luster. The Eagles pretty much expected themselves to be in this spot. But, that doesn't mean they shouldn't enjoy it. Soak it in. Some hacks (finger pointing at myself) never had the opportunity to play in a state tournament or in a game that could get you to a state tournament. So, take the game seriously, take your jobs on the ice seriously, but don't start gripping the sticks, don't panic if the game is close in the third period. Enjoy the experience and, if you're ahead at the final buzzer, enjoy it even more.

Section 1A final on as scheduled

Posted by: Feldman

Tonight's Section One, Class A boys hockey championship game is on as scheduled.

Top-seeded Rochester Lourdes will face third-seeded Northfield at 7 p.m. at the Rochester Recreation Center. The winner advances to next week's Class A state tournament.

Rochester Mayo activities director Jeff Whitney, the Section 1 hockey tournament director, said he has received a good number of calls and e-mails today wondering if the game will be played. 

The Section One, Class AA title game is still scheduled for a 7 p.m. puck drop at the Rec Center on Thursday. That game features No. 1 seed Lakeville South against No. 2 seed Lakeville North, with the winner moving on to the Class state tournament next week.

I'll have more thoughts about tonight's Lourdes-Northfield game on the blog later this afternoon.