Posted by: Feldman
With the high school hockey season in the rearview, and after a couple days to decompress from an outstanding state tournament, it's time to put a close to the local high school season by naming our Sixth Annual Faceoff Blog All-Area Team and Player of the Year.
In what was an OK year for our local and area teams (boys hockey teams in our coverage area include the four Rochester schools, Austin, Dodge County and Red Wing), there were a number of players who jumped out as the best. In fact, our Player of the Year was probably the best player in the Big Nine Conference.
I'll make my annual disclaimer here: The All-Area Team appears only on the Faceoff Blog (not in print or on PostBulletin.com) for a number of reasons, the main one being most of our other writers don't like to do all-area teams because they often become a bigger headache than they're worth. Many times, so many kids' stats are so similar, that it's a no-win situation for us. If we put a point guard who averages 14 points and 7 assists per game on an all-area basketball team, we'll get an earful from mom of kid who averages 15 points and 6 assists.
I'm fair game, though. Rip away if you don't like the team I've put together. I picked it based on who I thought the best players in our coverage area were. Since I don't see every game played, and some teams I only saw once or twice this season, I also went on word of mouth, the things I hear from area coaches during the season. By chatting regularly with coaches, you get a pretty good idea of which players mean the most to their teams, regardless of what the stats say.
And as I've said in past years, there's nothing P.C. about the team (I don't try to balance it out or make sure that every area team is represented equally), it's just a list of who I think the best players in the area were this season.
Let's get to it.
Below you'll find an All-Area First Team, Second Team, a PUC list (Players Under Consideration; my not-so-clever way of saying "honorable mention") and a list of past Players of the Year.
***PLAYER OF THE YEAR***
Riese Zmolek, senior, Rochester Century (20-21--41)
Our repeat selection as the All-Area Player of the Year, Zmolek was the fourth-leading scorer in the city, as a defenseman. He was hands-down the most versatile player I saw this year in our area. He has all the tools to compete at higher levels. He played in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League last fall, and he hit the ground running for the high school season. He finished with a career-best 41 points and capped his prep career with 103 total points, an amazing stat for a D-man, but even more astounding considering Zmolek missed half of his sophomore season with an injury.
Here's an evaluation one junior hockey scout gave me on Zmolek: "We watched him at the start of the Elite League season and thought 'I don't know, he has a ways to go.' We went back and watched him toward the end of the Elite League season and he popped. He can do it all. He should be in the USHL next season and he can play at the D-I (college) level."
Just a few days after the conclusion of his high school career, Zmolek moved over to Austin, where he'll finish the season with the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League. He was thrown right into the fire there, playing in all situations, including being sent out to kill a 5-on-3 disadvantage in the final two minutes of his second game back with the team (he played four games for the Bruins prior to the high school season).
Griff Slightam, senior, Rochester Lourdes (8-7--15)
For a second consecutive season, the skilled and big, physical d-man was hampered by injuries. Slightam missed his entire junior season due to an injury he suffered during the football season. He also missed half of his senior season because of injuries, yet put up 15 points from the blue line, and served as basically another assistant coach for the Eagles while sidelined. The fifth-year varsity player played in three state tournaments. He was at his best late in the season, recording four points in two playoff games. His two late-third period goals helped Lourdes rally to beat Mankato East in overtime of a Section 1A first-round game. He is tendered with the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League.
Logan Haskins, senior, Rochester Mayo (22-25--47)
The only repeat First Team forward, Haskins led the city in scoring for a second consecutive season. The diminutive, slick-skating playmaker finished his three-year varsity career with 116 points and he put up at least one point in 23 of Mayo's 26 games this season. He also had 13 multi-point games this season, playing on a line that combined for 125 points.
Jake Roth, senior, Rochester Century (19-25--44)
The runner-up for the city scoring title, Roth piled up 117 career points over four seasons on Century's varsity. That total includes 82 points over the past two seasons. Roth played mutliple roles for the Panthers. He wasn't afraid to dig in the corners and battle for the puck, and wasn't afraid to go to the front of the net and score gritty goals. He could make plays, too, as indicated by his 25 assists -- a total that matches Haskins for the most in Rochester this season.
Anthony Oliveto, sophomore, Rochester Mayo (26-17--43)
The city's goal-scoring champ finished third in points in Rochester, behind only Haskins and Roth. Just a sophomore, Oliveto already has 67 career varsity points. The big, skilled forward led Rochester with 26 goals and finished his sophomore season on a nine-game point streak.
Jack Burkel, senior, Rochester Lourdes (5-18-2, 2.80 GAA, .901 save pct., 3 shutouts
The veteran goalie was far better than his record indicates. The goals-against average and save percentage tell a more accurate story. In 17 of his 25 starts, Burkel allowed three goals or less. Lourdes scored more than three goals in a game just four times all season, so Burkel had to be sharp each night out. He gave his team a chance to win nearly every game it played, including a narrow season-ending 2-1 loss to top-seeded New Prague -- the eventual section champ -- in a Section 1A quarterfinal game.
* * * * *
Dakota Streit, senior, Rochester Lourdes (4-11--15): Played the "Ryan Suter" role for the Eagles, eating big chunks of ice time on a nightly basis, all while being the team's most steady defenseman on both ends of the ice.
Will Zmolek, sophomore, Rochester Century (5-12--17): By the mid-point of his first varsity season, he was as reliable as any defenseman in the Big Nine. Rarely was beaten or caught out of position. Wasn't asked to do a lot of scoring, but finished with 17 points, a good total for a young d-man.
Ethan Moore, senior, Rochester Mayo (12-23--35): Had at least a point in 20 of Mayo's 26 games this season. Totaled six points in three games at the Kiwanis Festival as Mayo captured the tournament championship in late December.
Cory Checco, sophomore, Rochester JM (15-16--31): Led the Rockets in goals, assists and points in his second varsity season. Had at least one point in 21 of JM's 26 games. He'll go into his junior season with 56 career points.
Tyler Defore, sophomore, Red Wing (21-13--34): One of just four 20-goal scorers in our area, the sophomore was his team's leading scorer and finished the season strong. He had 14 points over the final eight games, including four points in a playoff win against Waseca.
Chris Wileman, senior, Rochester Mayo (16-8-1, 2.98 GAA, .871 save pct., 2 shutouts): The senior had a strong start to his season, recording a shutout in his varsity debut. He finished the season with a sub-3.00 GAA and helped Mayo earn a home playoff game.
* * * * *
PUC (Players Under Consideration)
* Tucker Chapman, soph., Rochester Lourdes (17-7--24)
* Brady Dahl, junior, Rochester JM (14-9--23)
* Dylan Goggin, senior, Red Wing (18-15--33)
* Sam Hanson, junior, Red Wing (17-16--33)
* Nic Leisen, sophomore, Dodge County (11-14--25)
* Josh Frerks, junior, Rochester JM (5-9--14)
* James Johnston, senior, Rochester Mayo (7-12--19)
* Alex Ney, senior, Rochester Century (12-7--19)
* Adam Defore, senior, Red Wing (8-18-1, 3.98 GAA, .873 save pct.)
* Brady Meyers, junior, Rochester JM (9-13-0, 3.31 GAA, .886 save pct., 1 SO)
* Cole Walter, freshman, Rochester Century (8-3-1, 2.96 GAA, .872 save pct., 1 SO)
* * * * *
FACEOFF BLOG ALL-AREA PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
* 2015: Riese Zmolek, senior, D, Rochester Century
* 2014: Riese Zmolek, junior, D, Rochester Century
* 2013: Alex Funk and Jason Samuelson, seniors, F, Rochester Lourdes
* 2012: Alex Funk, junior, F, Rochester Lourdes
* 2011: Rory Vesel, senior, D, Rochester Lourdes
* 2010: No POY (the inaugural all-area team didn't include a POY)
* * * * *
BELOW: Two All-Area First Team players battle during a Section 1AA quarterfinal game at Graham I on Feb. 19. Mayo's Logan Haskins, left, attempts to carry the puck around Century's Riese Zmolek. (Photo credit to Post-Bulletin's Scott Jacobson)