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19 posts categorized "Owatonna sports"

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.

January 27, 2014

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

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 13, 2013

High School Football Picks | Week 3

FELDY: There are a couple of really big early-season games this week, none bigger than No. 1 Owatonna at No. 2 Mankato West in a game that could decide the Big 9 Conference champ. Phersy went 4-3 last week and is 8-6 overall; I was 6-1 and improved to 11-3.

Phersy picks first this week, so here are the games we'll predict in Week 3:

THIS WEEK'S GAMES

BIG 9 CONFERENCE
Owatonna (2-0) at Mankato West (2-0)
Winona (0-2) at Rochester Century (1-1) 

SFA
Plainview-Elgin-Millville (1-1) at Byron (2-0)
Stewartville (2-0) at Lourdes (2-0)
Cannon Falls (1-1) at La Crescent (1-1)
Lewiston-Altura (0-2) at Triton (1-1)

SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE
Mabel-Canton (1-1) at Lanesboro (1-1) 

*****

PHERSY: I hate picking second; you always pick a few just to be different. At least that's my excuse for stinking last week. I have no excuse this week ...

BIG 9 CONFERENCE

Owatonna 40, Mankato West 21: I know it's in Mankato, but I'll take Huskies to win big in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2. Owatonna is a more balanced team, and West doesn't have as many offensive weapons this season (after Claussen, there's a big dropoff at receiver).

Century 20, Winona 6: Battle of the bottom half of the Big Nine. Century doesn't have much, but Winona is really down.

SFA

Byron 15, Plainview-Elgin-Millville 8: The Bulldogs look like one of the better defensive teams in the SFA. But Byron will do just enough.

Stewartville 26, Lourdes 21: Stewartville is coming off of an impressive victory over Lake City, while Lourdes beat PEM by a point. Maybe this is a sucker game? Lourdes has the tools, but I love that Stewartville passing game.

La Crescent 28, Cannon Falls 14: La Crescent is back. It lost a close game to K-M last week, but the Lancers already have a win over Triton and they look much improved. Cannon Falls has great line play, but the Bombers need some skill players to step up.

Triton 19, Lewiston-Altura 6: This might be a better game than people think...

SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE

Lanesboro 34, Mabel-Canton 33: This might be the game of the week. But I learned my lesson. I'm not betting against Niko Anderson again. He's a monster on both sides of the ball.

* * *

FELDY: Lots of tough games this week. Maybe Phersy will be back in this thing come Week 4...

BIG NINE

Owatonna 35, West 21: Not only is this a matchup of the top two teams in the state, it's also likely a battle for the Big 9 title and, dare we say, a possible preview of the Class AAAAA state title game? The Huskies are just too good in every phase, though. They prove it tonight.

Winona 23, Century 12: The Winhawks have had a really tough start to the season, having to face Rochester JM and Owatonna in the first two weeks. They'll rebound this week against a Century team that struggled to get much going up front against Mayo last week.

SFA

P-E-M 18, Byron 15: P-E-M showed just how good it is defensively a week ago, when it limited a potent Lourdes offense to one touchdown in a 10-9 loss. The 'Dogs will try to slow down another strong offense (Byron averages 34 points per game through two weeks) this week, on the road. 

Lourdes 27, Stewartville 24: This isn't a bad upset special on your part, Phersy, picking Stewie to beat Lourdes, especially based off how they played last week. I think Lourdes received an early-season wake-up call, though. It doesn't matter how talented you are, you can't let down in practice or on game day, especially in an SFA Red Division that is strong from top to bottom. This is the Eagles' home opener; they'll go up by a couple scores in the third quarter and hold off a very good Stewie team in the fourth.

La Crescent 33, Cannon Falls 23: The Lancers pushed a really good Kasson-Mantorville team to the end last week at K-M. The Lancers return home this week and get a two-score win against the Bombers.

Lewiston-Altura 21, Triton 14: I went back and forth on this one before deciding on L-A in a slight upset. Sure, it's Triton's first home game and the Cobras are coming off a big win at Cotter last week. L-A played well in its opening loss to P-E-M despite the 26-9 score. The Cards are still searching for their first win; I think they get it this week.

SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE

Lanesboro 38, Mabel-Canton 30: The Burros get back on track after a tough loss to a top-10 team last week (Spring Grove). I still think Lanesboro shows up as the third-best team in a really good SEC, behind No. 8 Spring Grove and No. 2 Grand Meadow.

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.

March 16, 2012

H.S. Hockey | All-Big Nine Team announced

Posted by: Feldman

The All-Big Nine Conference boys hockey team was released on Thursday. As you'd expect, the conference champion Century Panthers led the way with six players on the team, plus four honorable mention. Big 9 runner-up Mayo has five players on the team, plus four honorable mention; JM has two players on the team and six honorable mention. 

Here's the complete list, which you can also find by going to the Big 9 website and clicking the link that says "2011-12 Big 9 Boys Hockey All-Conference."

BIG 9 ALL-CONFERENCE

Century: F Nick Jacobs, Sr.; D, Brandon Kautz, Sr.; G, Erik Wennberg, Sr.; F, Dalton Travis, Jr.; F, Hayden Ashworth, So.; D, Riese Zmolek, Fr.
Mayo: D Steve Serratore, Sr.; G Case Hansen, Jr.; F Adam Alcott, Jr.; F, Ryan Martin, Jr.; F, Max Whitney, Jr.
John Marshall: F, Gavin Sandwick, Jr.; D, Alec McGinn, Jr.
Owatonna: F, Justin Brown; F, Soren Colstrup; F, Matt Ratzloff.
Mankato West: F, Tyler Resnar; G, Zach Fox.
Albert Lea: F, Levi Hacker; D, Auston Larson.
Winona: D, Luke Hemker.
Austin: F, Ethan Larson.
Mankato East: G, Lucas Weihe.
Faribault: None.

HONORABLE MENTION
Century: D, Matt Sturchio; F, Blake Heroff; F, Tyler Iverson; F, Isaac St. Marie.
Mayo: D, Jack Dingle; D, Tommy Fjelsted; D, Will Holtan; F, Nolan Edwards.
JM: G, Jacob Garvey; D, Matt Broman; D, Ryan Lakin; F,  Alex Lovett; F, Hunter Heightland; F, Kyle Andrews.
Owatonna: G, Luke Ebeling; Aaron Kirsch; Robert Dietz; Tyler Yentsch; Alex Whited.
Mankato West: D, Billy Bingham; Josh Christenson.
Albert Lea: None.
Winona: F, Cameron Kelly; F, Ryan Grant.
Austin: F, Marcus Stoulil.
Mankato East: None.
Faribault: G, Cody Morsching.

February 17, 2012

Boys Hockey | Looking at Section 1AA

Posted by: Feldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday can't get here soon enough!

January 24, 2012

High School Hockey | Breaking down the Big 9 race

Posted by: Feldman

While the boys hockey regular season is two-thirds complete, most Big Nine Conference teams are only halfway through their conference schedules. Still, to me, it's not too early to break down the race for the conference crown.

I know, teams are ultimately judged on what they do once the Section 1 tournament starts, but let's not discount the significance of the bragging rights, the banner and the great memories that come with winning a conference championship.

Austin and Mankato East are officially eliminated from winning the conference; Winona and Faribault are on the verge of elimination.

Mayo, Owatonna, Century, John Marshall and Albert Lea all still have realistic hopes of winning the Big Nine; Mankato West can still be considered a contender, too, though they'll need a little more help than others to win the conference.

So, here's where the contenders for the Big Nine title stand with about three weeks to go in the regular season:

ROCHESTER MAYO
Currently: 8-1-0 Big Nine, first place, 18 points
Conference loss: John Marshall 
Points remaining to play for: 16
Total possible points: 34
Notes: Mayo has the best-case scenario on its side. The Spartans get to use the cliche, they "control their own destiny." Indeed, if they win out, they win the Big Nine. They're the only one-loss team left, though they still have games left against four of the other five teams with hopes of winning the conference. The Spartans have avenged their only conference loss twice, beating JM at the Kiwanis Festival and again last Saturday.

OWATONNA
Currently: 7-3-1, second place, 17 points
Conference losses: Albert Lea, Century, Mayo.
Conference tie: Century
Points remaining to play for: 12
Total possible points: 29
Notes: The Huskies hold one-goal wins against JM and Mankato West, a tie and a one-goal loss against Century, and a one-goal loss against Mayo. In other words, they're a couple of bounces away from leading the conference right now. ... If the Huskies are going to capture the Big Nine crown, they'll have to be road warriors. They have road games remaining against Albert Lea, Mayo and Mankato West.

JOHN MARSHALL
Currently: 7-4-0, T-3rd place, 16 points
Conference losses: West, Century, Owatonna, Mayo
Points remaining to play for: 12
Total possible points: 28
Notes: JM holds victories against two of the Big Nine teams it lost to -- Mayo and Century. The Rockets can avenge their other two conference losses, with games against West (Thursday) and at Owatonna (Feb. 11) still to come. ... JM plays four of its final six conference games on the road.

ALBERT LEA
Currently: 7-3-0, T-3rd place, 16 points
Conference losses: Mayo, Century, JM
Points remaining to play for: 14
Total possible points: 30
Notes: The Tigers will have to find some consistency if they hope to challenge for the conference title into the final week. They had a five-game winning streak early in the season (Dec. 6-Dec. 20), but have not won two games in a row since then. 

CENTURY
Currently: 7-2-1, 5th place, 15 points
Conference losses: JM, Mayo
Conference tie: Owatonna
Points remaining to play for: 16
Total possible points: 31
Notes: Along with Mayo, Century has the most remaining points to play for. The Panthers have been battling some injury issues, particularly on defense, but it appears as though they may be getting healthy in time for the stretch run and the postseason. They also have two four-point games remaining -- at Austin and at Mankato East. Four of Century's six remaining conference games are on the road.

MANKATO WEST
Currently: 6-5-0, 6th place, 12 points
Conference losses: Albert Lea, Mayo, Century (x2), Owatonna.
Points remaining: 14
Total possible points: 26
Notes: The Scarlets need to win out and get a lot of help; they need Mayo to lose at least three more times, and need the other teams in front of them to lose at least once. West has games remaining against JM, Albert Lea, Mayo and Owatonna. Five of the Scarlets' final eight games are at home, including their last three.

January 06, 2012

High School Hockey | Thursday Night Playback (Century-JM; 'brawl' in Winona)

Posted by: Feldman

It's been nearly a month since Rochester Century lost a boys hockey game. The Panthers can thank their defense for playing a huge part in their 6-0-1 streak since losing to Rochester John Marshall on Dec. 13.

The Panthers avenged that loss on Thursday night, beating JM 4-1 in a game that wasn't very pretty at times. Some of that "ugliness" was due to the emphasis both teams have placed on playing good defense first.

Here's the game story from today's P-B.

Some other thoughts from Thursday's game:

* Century and JM each had just eight shots through two periods. Century was limited by JM's defense in the neutral zone. The Panthers had no time or space between the blue lines to move the puck in the opening two periods. JM was able to get the puck into Century's end, and maintain possession in stretches, but the Rockets couldn't generate scoring chances. I didn't keep track, but I'd guess Century players blocked 10 or more shots through two periods.

* Both goalies -- JM's Jacob Garvey and Century's Erik Wennberg -- played well for a majority of the game, though both allowed a goal in the third period that they'd like to have back. Even so, it was good to see Garvey back in goal after missing the entire Kiwanis Festival last week with an injury. And Wennberg was again praised by coach Josh Klingfus for preserving the Panthers' 1-0 lead through two periods. 

* Wennberg's shutout streak was snapped at 171:24 -- more than 10 periods of playing time -- when Alec McGinn scored at 6:34 of the third period to pull JM within 3-1. The goal was the first allowed by Wennberg since the second period of a Kiwanis Festival semifinal game against Fargo South on Dec. 29.

* After two periods, Century held a 1-0 lead. If that score had held up as the final score, Wennberg would have had three consecutive shutouts in which Century had scored a total of two goals. Of course, that became moot when the teams combined for four goals in the final 12 minutes of the game.

* Century pulled into a three-way tie for first place in the Big Nine with Albert Lea and Mayo. JM is in fourth, two points behind those three teams.

* * *

'BRAWL' IN WINONA

It's clear that the paralyzing injury suffered by Benilde-St. Maragaret's hockey player Jack Jablonski last week has opened eyes throughout the hockey community in Minnesota and around the country. Jablonski was checked from behind into the boards head-first by two players during a JV game. He underwent surgery on Wednesday, after which doctors said it's "very unlikely" he'll ever have the use of his hands and won't be able to walk or skate again.

(Here's a link to the CaringBridge page set up for Jablonski. And if you would like to see more tributes, links to articles, etc., go to Twitter and search "#Jabs")

The hit that injured Jablonski is obviously on the minds of players throughout the state. Last night, in the Owatonna at Winona game, a similar hit sparked a fight that caused 10 players to be tossed from the game.

Owatonna's Matt Ritter checked Winona's Ryan Grant into the boards from behind during the second period. Grant got up and went after Ritter, tackling him to the ice. At that point, all 10 players on the ice skated over to where Ritter and Grant were scrapping and began a fight that lasted a couple of minutes, according to a report on mnhockeyhub.com

"Being hit in the back [just as Jablonski was] caused that reaction by Ryan," Winona coach Fran McDevitt told mnhockeyhub.com. "He's too good a kid to react that way."

Grant was not injured by the check and none of the players who were thrown out were injured.

Again, this raises the question: How do we prevent these types of hits?

I wrote in Thursday's P-B that maybe a two- or three-game suspension is warranted for players who are called for checking from behind. I've had three people since then respond the same way: You can't do that because kids will be scared to check, and it will take checking out of the game.

Nobody wants that, but if the punishment for a check from behind isn't more severe, how do kids learn how big of a problem it can cause? Coaches can tell kids over and over and over about the dangers of hitting from behind, but most coaches I know have always done that, so what will it take for those words to actually sink in with players?

The bottom line is that it's a player's responsibility to know the difference between a clean hit and one that is against the rules. If it means a player might have to sit out a couple of games as a consequence, and if it means players become a little less physical (or they have to think before delivering a check), isn't that better than having one more kid suffer an injury like Jablonski's? 

I've also read in more than one place that now isn't the time to talk about ways to change the game or eliminate the bad hits. I'd say it's the perfect time to talk about those things.

I get it. Hockey, just as football, is an extremely physical sport, often with violent collisions. Maybe there are better ways to curb the illegal hits than by suspending offending players for two or three games. But, in time, Jablonski's story will fade from the front of everyone's minds. That's why now is the ideal time to get everyone's ideas out there about how to make the sport safer. 

December 02, 2011

High School Hockey | Thursday Night Playback

Posted by: Feldman

Thursday night treated Rochester high school hockey teams much better than Tuesday. Mayo, Century and JM went a combined 0-2-1 on Tuesday night. Thursday, Lourdes, JM and Century combined to go 3-0-0. They won by a combined 18 goals and a combined score of 21-3.

Here are links to the stories (click on the scores to take you to the P-B stories):

Lourdes 8, Red Wing 0: The No. 5-ranked Eagles were fast out of the gate and never let the Wingers have much hope. Lourdes led 4-0 after one. Red Wing put a bit of a flurry together in the first six minutes of the second, but Lourdes popped in a couple quick goals after that, and it was over at that point. Lourdes just had too much speed for the Wingers, up and down the lineup. As Wingers coach Mike Belisle said, "Speed kills."

It was a very good performance by Lourdes, a great way to start the season. The good news for the coaching staff is that there are still things to work on. The Eagles were 1-for-5 on the power play and struggled early to keep the puck in the zone with a man advantage. Red Wing also missed a couple of chances that faster teams might capitalize on.

But that's being nitpicky after an 8-0 win. One thing that I can't remember if I put in my game story was a comment about the play of junior forward Ben Weir. He played a very strong, aggressive game in both ends. He was more physical than I remember him being a year ago. That line -- with Ryan Nicolay centering Weir and Connor Nellans -- was really good throughout the night. I believe it ended up with only two points (a goal and an assist from Nicolay), but they did a great job of keeping the Wingers top line neutralized.

---

JM 7, Bloomington Kennedy 1: Five Rockets had three points each as they earned their first win of the season, and the first under new head coach Jay Ness. 

Ness had good things to say about JM's lineup, up and down, from starting goalie Jimmy Casazza earning his first win of the year, to the strong play of the entire defensive group (limiting Kennedy to 19 shots).

As far as the offensive outburst, Ness was very pleased with the Rockets' balance. Yes, five guys had three points (Alex McGinn, Nick Paulson, Hunter Heightland, Alex Lovett and Jared Bromberg), but a total of eight players got on the scoresheet.

JM plays host to St. Paul Johnson on Saturday and I'm just guessing here, but I'd imagine we'll see junior Jacob Garvey back in goal for the Rockets. Again, just guessing, but I'd suspect Garvey and Casazza will rotate until one of them really siezes the job. If they both continue to perform at a high level, that's a bonus for the Rockets. One of the things Ness told me prior to the season was, a team cannot get through a season with just one goalie. It looks like the Rockets might have two to choose from. 

---

Century 6, Farmington 2: Like JM, Century earned its first victory of the season and the first under new head coach Josh Klingfus

The Panthers veterans really stepped up tonight and produced. Nick Jacobs, a senior co-captain, had four points. Brandon Kautz, another senior co-captain, had three assists. For a second consecutive game, forwards Isaac St. Marie and Dalton Travis had two goals each. Sophomore Hayden Ashworth netted his first varsity goal, and freshman Jake Roth had an assist (as did junior D Matt Sturchio).

Century peppered the Tigers net, outshooting Farmington 43-21. 

It was a nice bounce-back win for Century, after facing two very good opponents (No. 16 White Bear Lake and defending section champ Lakeville North) to start the season.

Century now has a week to prepare for its Big Nine Conference opener, next Thursday against Faribault at the Rec Center.

---

AROUND THE AREA: Either Mankato East has improved defensively, or Mankato West really did lose a majority of its talent from a year ago. West beat East by a score of just 4-0 on Thursday. ... In a matchup of Section 1A teams, Northfield proved it's a team to watch. The Trojans went to Albert Lea City Arena -- not an easy place to play -- and thumped the Tigers, 7-2. Tyler Grave had a hat trick for Northfield. ... Skyler Grossell and Ryan Grant each had two goals and an assist for Winona in a 5-0 win against La Crosse Logan. Winona will take a 2-0-0 record into its Big Nine Conference opener against Mankato West on Saturday.

November 25, 2011

High School Hockey Today | Nov. 26, 2011

FELDY: Here we go!

It's been more than nine months since Kyle Rau made an unbelievable "hustle" play to tap a puck into an open net in the third overtime of a classic Class AA state championship game. Rau is now a Gopher, tearing up the WCHA as a rookie forward, and Duluth East -- the team that lost to Rau's Eden Prairie club in the state final -- is the No. 1 ranked team in Class AA to start the season.

A good number of games were played around the state on Friday, including one Big Nine team playing. Owatonna lost to Delano, 5-0.

The season gets going in Rochester tonight, as Century head coach Josh Klingfus makes his debut when the Panthers play host to No. 18-ranked White Bear Lake at 7:30 p.m. at the Rec Center. So, here you go, the first edition of the season of High School Hockey Today:

GAMES IN ROCHESTER

No. 18 WHITE BEAR LAKE at CENTURY
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight
Where: Rec Center
Records: WBL 0-0 (22-7-2), Century 0-0 (11-16-0 in 2010-11)
Coaches: WBL, Tim Sager; Century, Josh Klingfus.
About the Bears: WBL made it to the Class AA state tournament last season, where it placed sixth. It played a total of seven overtimes in its three tournament games, yet finished 1-2 in the tournament. WBL lost to eventual state runner-up Duluth East, 4-3 in double OT, in the state quarterfinals; then defeated Blaine, 4-3, in double OT in the consolation semifinals, before falling to Section 1AA champion Lakeville North, 4-3, in triple OT in the fifth-place game.
WBL players to watch: The Bears lost their top three scorers -- the clear-cut top three on their team -- to graduation: Brandon Wahlin (34-31--65), Mac Jansen (38-17--55) and Max Birkinbine (19-23--42). That's a total of 162 points. Senior F Mitch Morrisette (7-12--19) is the top returning scorer for WBL. The strength of the Bears will be from their blue line back, with four top defensemen returning (seniors RJ Majkozak and Jack Morrisette, and juniors Lance Carney and Thomas Delaney) and a third-year goalie, senior Jared Schletty. Schletty is built more like a defensive lineman (he's listed at 6-1, 247), but he put up very good numbers last year (17-4-2, 2.31 GAA, .907 save pct.) and Century will have to figure out a way to solve him. He had three shutouts last season, including one against Century in the season opener at WBL.
Century player to watch: I'm more interested in seeing how Century performs as a team, what looks different about it with a new head coach in charge. As for a particular player, I'll probably spy No. 4 quite a bit. Junior F Dalton Travis will anchor the team's second line after putting up 10 points (3-7--10) as a sophomore. He'll be joined by senior Isaac St. Marie and freshman Jake Roth. Coach Klingfus called Travis the most consistent forward on the team throughout last week's scrimmage fest at Graham Arena. Klingfus said Travis did a very good job of adapting to what the opponents were doing and what Century's coaches were asking him to do.
Useless trivia: White Bear Lake is the only boys hockey team in the state with the words "White" or "Bear" in its name (excluding nicknames, of course). (Yeah, I know you don't care, that's why I called it "useless" trivia).

AROUND THE STATE
SATURDAY'S GAMES OF INTEREST
* No. 2 Breck at No. 14 Duluth Marshall, 4 p.m.