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101 posts categorized "Sports"

December 29, 2011

Kiwanis Festival, Day 1

Posted by: Feldman

Day 1 of the 2011 Kiwanis Festival is in the books, with a couple of close games and a few that weren't close.

We saw 78 total goals scored; 48 in the four games in the Class A bracket, 30 in the Class AA bracket. I didn't see all 78 go in, but it feels like it (and, no, that's not a complaint. I'll suck it up and take 10 hours of watching hockey if I have to).

As we expected might be the case, Rochester Mayo and Eau Claire Memorial put on the game of the day. I, and most everybody at Graham I, thought we were headed for a shootout in the second game of the day, but ECM's Mike Kapla scored with 38.7 seconds to go in OT to send the Old Abes (don't ask me, I don't know what an Old Abe is, either) to the semifinals.

Some links to the stories that will appear in today's paper (and if you're heading out to the Festival, you can pick up a complementary copy of the P-B at the Graham Arena complex):

* Class AA roundup This turned into a short feature-type story on Kapla, Memorial's junior defenseman who was selected by Sioux City in last spring's USHL Draft. Kapla also played in the Upper Midwest Elite League this fall. One note that I couldn't fit in the story: Kapla's dad is a Minnesota native and the family has had season tickets to the Gophers hockey games for years. Kapla said his dream is to play D-I college hockey for the U of M.

* Class A roundup I led the Class A roundup with Lourdes, which did something quite impressive tonight. I've never seen 17 players get on the scoresheet, but the Eagles managed that against Richfield, in a 12-2 win. They had 17 players record at least one point each. That's probably some sort of Kiwanis Festival record, but I don't have deep enough archives to check, so let's go with it as a record. Lourdes was able to get its third and fourth lines a lot of ice time and those guys produced tonight, as did all of the team's defensemen. It was an impressive showing that I'll get into in more detail one day this weekend or next week.

Some Faceoff Blog awards from Day 1:

* Game of the Day: Eau Claire Memorial 2, Mayo 1. If I had more space to write about this game in print, Mayo goalie Case Hansen would have received a lot more ink. He was tremendous, stopping 35 shots and keeping Mayo in the game when it struggled to get anything going offensively in the first two periods. Hansen, a junior, is staking his claim to that starting spot. Senior Michael DeBusman has played well, but Hansen has been really good in his past couple of starts. The few rebounds that Hansen didn't control on Wednesday were cleared by his defensemen. The game-winning goal that Kapla scored was just a good shot. Kapla and Charley Grasskamp worked a nice give-and-go and Kapla ripped a wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle that beat Hansen to the short side. It was fitting that a good goal ended a really good game.

* Goalie of the day: Case Hansen, Mayo. See above. Hansen was outstanding in the Spartans' loss.

* Player of the day: Hayden Ashworth, Century. The speedy sophomore was all over the ice for the Panthers. He had a hand in all six of their goals in a 6-3 victory against New Richmond. Ashworth had a hat trick and three assists. He scored twice in the first period, when Century built a 3-0 lead, then scored an empty-netter in the third to seal the victory.

* Play of the day: ECM's game-winning goal in OT. It's late (early, actually) and this is the one play that keeps coming to mind when I try to think of the best goal I saw today (yesterday, actually). The give-and-go between Grasskamp and Kapla was worked nicely, in crunch time of a well-played game. ... Lourdes' junior Jason Samuelson's goal on a powerful slapshot also comes to mind because it caught me off guard. I can't remember seeing Samuelson wind up with a big slap shot like that before. He put some zip on it; it'd be fun to see that more often.

Hey, let's go back to the rink in, say, 8 hours. Who's with me? C'mon, you must have some sick days to use up before year's end, right? Push the paperwork aside and come to Graham Arena. I'm particularly looking forward to the two Class AA semifinals. Memorial and Prior Lake (4:45 p.m.) are both stocked with big, bruising guys. That should be a physical, hard-hitting contest. They'll be followed by Fargo South and Century (7 p.m.), who will meet for the fifth time in the past six years. That's also always an intense matchup. Get your seats early.

December 28, 2011

It's Tourney Time!

Posted by: Feldman

So, we're a little more than 12 hours away from the first puck drop of the Kiwanis Festival. It's always a fun time of year for me — three straight days of nothing but hockey. And sometimes I actually call this work (don't tell the bosses I said that, please).

If you can't be at all of the Festival games, I'll provide as many updates as I can via Twitter (@PBFeldy), then I'll try to recap the tourney each night here on the blog. I'll probably miss the opening game in each bracket today, because of a doctor appointment for Baby Feldy that has to happen today, but I'm hoping to be to the rink by the time the puck drops for the Eau Claire Memorial vs. Mayo game, at 3:15 p.m.

Games start at 12:30 p.m., with Albert Lea facing Dodge County in the Class A bracket opener at Graham Arena IV. Over at Graham I, play in the Class AA bracket begins at 1 p.m. with two South Suburban Conference rivals facing off, Prior Lake vs. Eastview.

As for tourney preview stuff ... well, you want links? I'll give you links, mainly because I don't feel like re-typing all this stuff!

Tuesday's P-B featured a story on Century senior captain Blake Heroff, who has battled through some pretty nasty injuries the past couple years. He's finally healthy and enjoying his senior season. He's a heart-and-soul type of guy on a Century team whose expectations seem to grow with each game.

Also on Tuesday, I had capsule profiles of all 16 teams in the Kiwanis Festival, as well as a tournament schedule and three players to watch in each bracket.

In today's (Wednesday's) paper, I'll have a story on Rochester Mayo coach Lorne Grosso, who is itching to get back to the rink on a full-time basis after having quadruple bypass surgery on Nov. 28.

Here are the links to all of the pre-tournament coverage:

Grosso recovering well from quadruple bypass surgery

Healthy Heroff leads Century

Class A bracket team profiles

Class AA bracket team profiles

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.

August 18, 2011

Hockey | Playing catch-up, part I

Posted by: Feldman

Amazing what can pile up when you're on vacation for a bit (Phersy should know what this feels like, since he's always on a vacation).

Here are a few notes to toss out there for now, and I'll have a post on the Lourdes boys hockey team's summer practices a little later tonight. I went over and talked to coach Josh Spaniol during their final week of summer workouts in late July. I didn't get around to posting anything, as I was waiting to hear how a couple of their players did in Junior tryout camps (not that any of them anticipated leaving high school, but I was waiting to see how they fared at those camps).

So, for some notes:

• Former Rochester Century standout d-man Connor Faupel will play for Neepawa of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League this coming season. It's a nice move for Faupel, who passed up his senior season at Century to play for the Russell Stover midget program in Kansas City. I'll put in a call to Faupel tonight and hopefully find out more about his decision.

From what I'm told, he had the chance to go to three or four other places, including another team in the MJHL (which is a Tier II league in Canada), and to Helena, which won the USA Hockey Junior A, Tier III, national championship here in Rochester back in April. Faupel leaves for Neepawa on Tuesday. Neepawa is about 45 miles northeast of Brandon, Manitoba, or about 130 miles west of Winnipeg.

• Former Rochester Mayo forward Charlie Thauwald has become the most recent Rochester native to commit to a Division I hockey program. Thauwald made it official with Minnesota State, Mankato, last week. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Thauwald could make an immediate physical impact for the Mavericks. He'll be the biggest player on the team (along with LaCrescent's Eriah Hayes, who goes 6-4, 210) and the second member of his family to play D-I hockey (his brother, Scott, played at Colorado College and now plays professionally in Australia).

Charlie left Mayo before his senior season to play with Chicago of the USHL. After suffering an injury there, he played part of the 2009-10 season with Owatonna of the NAHL. Last season, he was a key member of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs' run to the NAHL (Robertson Cup) championship, along with Lourdes grads Tyler Voigt and Pete Spratte.

• The University of Maine has posted its men's hockey roster, and former Mayo defenseman Bill Norman will wear No. 12 for the Black Bears. Norman is listed at 5-feet-9, 160 pounds, so he'll have to use his speed and hockey sense — like he did at Mayo last season — to have an impact in Hockey East this year. The closest Maine comes to Minnesota this season is a two-game series at North Dakota, Oct. 14 and 15.

• Another former Century standout, goalie Alex Kangas, is officially a free agent. He wasn't signed by the team that drafted him — Winnipeg (actually drafted by Atlanta, of course, in 2006) — by Monday, so he's free to sign with another NHL team, or go overseas, if he chooses.

• Rochester native Colin Stuart re-signed with the Buffalo Sabres organization last month. Stuart reportedly signed a one-year, two-way deal, which will pay him $525,000 if he sticks in the NHL, or less if he plays with Buffalo's AHL affiliate in Portland, Maine. Stuart had 16 goals and 28 assists in 72 regular season games with Portland last season. He added three goals and four assists in 12 playoff games. He also played in three games for the Sabres, with no points and two penalty minutes.

• As Phersy noted in a previous post, the Rochester Ice Hawks are holding their final tryout camp this weekend, beginning tomorrow (Friday) and running through Sunday. They jump right into training camp on Monday.

July 18, 2011

H.S. Hockey | Neurer completes Century's varsity coaching staff

Posted by: Feldman

The Rochester Century boys hockey team was facing a complete makeover, as far as its coaching staff is concerned, when long-time head coach Bruce Frutiger resigned on May 11.

The Panthers will have an entirely new coaching staff this season, but none of the coaches are new to high school hockey in Rochester. Josh Klingfus was hired on June 8 to take over for Frutiger as head coach; Klingfus spent eight seasons as Frutiger's top assistant.

Century's varsity coaching staff is now complete, and it's full of very good coaches. Former Rochester John Marshall head coach Aaron Neurer will serve as Klingfus' top varsity assistant, while former NHLer and JM graduate Doug Zmolek will once again serve as a volunteer assistant.

Neurer, a phyiscal education teacher at Bamber Valley Elementary School, took over as JM's head coach in the 1999-2000 season, after serving as an assistant for two seasons. He resigned shortly before the 2006-07 school year began, when he and his wife learned they were going to have twins. For P-B subscribers, here's a link to the article that former P-B hocker writer Steve Webb wrote in July of 2006, when Neurer stepped down.

Neurer always had teams at JM that were competitive, even though he constantly battled low numbers. The Rockets went 14-12-0 and advanced to the Section 1AA semifinals in his final season as head coach, 2005-06. The 2003-04 Rockets team may have been the best team he coached there; they went 21-4-2 and lost to Century, 2-1, in double-OT in the Section 1AA semifinals.

Century is wrapping up its summer practice sessions this week. I'll have another post up later tonight about how the Panthers' summer workouts have gone.

April 26, 2011

H.S. Hockey | Ness to take over at JM

Official word will come Wednesday, but this afternoon, multiple sources have confirmed that former Rochester Mustangs player and assistant coach, and former Lourdes High School head boys hockey coach Jay Ness has been named the new head coach at John Marshall.

Ness will take over for Scott Lecy and Jared Skovbroten, who served as co-head coaches this past season, when the Rockets went 15-10 and earned home-ice advantage for the first round of the Section 1AA playoffs.

Ness coached at Lourdes with Bob Ellinghuysen in the 1998-99 season, when the Eagles went 18-5-1. He took over as head coach the following year and led the Eagles to three consecutive Section 1 championships. Ness guided Lourdes to the Class A state championship game in 2001, where the Eagles lost to Benilde-St. Margaret's, 2-1. Ness was named the Class A recipient of the John Mariucci Award that year, given to the state's top boys hockey coach (as voted by the boys hockey coaches from around the state).

In Ness' final season as Lourdes' coach, the Eagles went 28-2-1 and finished third in the state Class A tournament. They were ranked No. 1 in the state Class A poll briefly that season. The Eagles blasted Fergus Falls, 7-2, in the third-place game after falling to Red Wing in the state semifinals.

Ness played multiple seasons for the Mustangs, finishing his USHL career in the 1989-90 season, when he had 25 goals and 53 assists, for 78 points. He went on to play four seasons of NCAA Division I hockey at Lake Superior State, where he put up 24 goals and 38 assists, for 62 points, in 144 career games.

We'll have more here on the blog tomorrow, after the official announcement has been made, and we'll have a story in Thursday's print edition of The Post-Bulletin.

 

March 18, 2011

H.S. Hockey | 2010-11 All-Area Team

FELDY: You'll see in the post below this, that for the first time, I decided to name a Player of the Year, to go along with our All-Area Team. Yes, we've also changed our boys hockey All-City team to an All-Area Team, to incorporate Dodge County and Red Wing players; both of those teams are squarely in our coverage area.

As I've mentioned when I've done this the past two years, the All-Area hockey team shows up only on the Faceoff blog for a number of reasons. The main one is, our other writers don't want to choose All-Area basketball teams because they usually end up being more of a headache than they're worth, particularly with moms and dads who feel their sons or daughters were overlooked.

I'm fair game, though. Go ahead and rip away if you don't like the way the A-A Team is put together. For the first time in the three years I've put this team together, I decided to get some input from some area coaches and people who follow hockey closely.

I'll stop rambling now and get to the First Team, Second Team and PUC (Players Under Consideration, a somewhat clever, or not so clever way of saying "honorable mention").

ALL-AREA FIRST TEAM
GOALIE -- Nick Heimer, Sr., Rochester Lourdes (25-5-1, 1.88 GAA, .908 save pct.)
Comments: Heimer led the state in victories (25) and was in the top 10 in goals-against average most of the season. The three-year varsity player set the school record for single-season victories this year, backstopping Lourdes to its third consecutive Class A state tournament appearance. Earned honorable mention All-State honors.

DEFENSE -- Bill Norman, Sr., Rochester Mayo (17-30--47)
Comments: Norman, a foreign exchange student from Sweden, did a lot of everything for the Spartans. The University of Maine recruit ran the power play, played on the penalty kill, skated the puck into the offensive zone and whatever else Mayo needed. His speed and vision are his strongest assets, and he has a deceptively good shot. Earned honorable mention All-State honors.

DEFENSE -- Rory Vesel, Sr., Rochester Lourdes (13-19--32)
** PLAYER OF THE YEAR **
Comments: See the blog post below this for all you need to know about Vesel's season. The four-year varsity player leaves some big skates to fill. Earned Second Team All-State honors.

FORWARD -- Jason Samuelson, So., Rochester Lourdes (27-20--47)
Comments: Just a sophomore, Samuelson was often the most dynamic player on the ice. His speed and vision caued fits for many opponents, and he was often at his best in big games. The honorable mention All-State forward finished the state tournament with seven points, after scoring five goals in the Section 1A tournament.

FORWARD -- Derek McMasters, Sr., Rochester Mayo (23-15--38)
Comments: McMasters gave Mayo the scoring forward they were searching for a year ago. Much of his success came on the power play, and was a result of how well he worked with the two sophomores on his line, Adam Alcott and Ryan Martin. The honorable mention All-State pick was the Spartans top-scoring forward and their second-leading scorer overall.

FORWARD -- Landon Farrell, Jr., Rochester Lourdes (16-19--35)
Comments: Farrell gets the nod here for a couple of reasons. He was arguably the Eagles' best two-way forward and he stepped up his play in big games this season (the late-season meeting with St. Thomas Academy comes to mind). The honorable mention All-Stater had at least one point in 22 of Lourdes' 31 games.

ALL-AREA SECOND TEAM
GOALIE -- Alex Van Galder, Sr., Rochester Mayo (11-10-2, 2.87, .897)
Comments: Got stronger as the season went on. Was 7-1-2 in last 10 regular season games.

DEFENSE -- Nick Raehsler, Sr., Rochester Century (7-10--17)
Comments: Great defenseman on both ends of the ice. Created a lot of offensive chances for Panthers. Numbers were down because wasn't playing with the dynamic first-line players Century had a year ago.

DEFENSE -- Alec Brandrup, Sr., Rochester Lourdes (10-17--27)
Comments: Had six points in the postseason and 11 in the final eight regular season games. Key cog in Lourdes power play and penalty kill.

FORWARD -- Chad Mundy, Sr., Dodge County (17-24--41)
Comments: A leader for the Wildcats on both ends. Was a dynamic forward, after previously playing D.

FORWARD -- Eric Mackey, Sr., John Marshall (17-16--33)
Comments: The diminutive forward started season with two hat tricks in first five games. Scored the best goal I saw all year, against Century, coming out of the penalty box, chasing down a sliding puck near the goal line, diving and batting it in from a sharp angle. Named honorable mention All-State.

FORWARD -- Alex Funk, So., Rochester Lourdes (17-24--41)
Comments: Dangerous scorer anytime he was near the puck. Had 10 points in the postseason. Had 12 multiple-point games this season. An honorable mention All-State player.

ALL-AREA PUC (Players Under Consideration)
Goalie -- Sam Amendolar, Red Wing (10-17-0, 3.52, .882).
Defensemen -- Brandon Kautz, Jr., Century (9-12--21); Steve Serratore, Jr., Mayo (9-14--23); Jack Strusz, Jr., Red Wing (6-14--20).
Forwards --Adam Alcott, So., Mayo (10-13--23); Austin Head, Sr., Dodge County (20-10--30); Nick Jacobs, Sr., Century (10-12--22); Zach Johnson, Sr., JM (16-14--30); Sam Orth, Sr., Dodge County (13-19--32); Gavin Sandwick, So., JM (12-17--29); Mike Stegora, Jr., Red Wing (13-14--27); Dillon Stevens, Sr., Dodge County (17-17--34); Drew Wohlfiel, Sr., Dodge County (13-19--32).

February 27, 2011

H.S. Hockey | Section Semifinal Saturday rewind

Good Sunday afternoon, all.

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* OK, on to the Section 1A side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 18, 2011

Mark Stuart traded to Atlanta

FELDY: Rochester native Mark Stuart is going from a division-leading NHL team to one that is battling just to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. The 26-year-old Rochester native was traded just more than an hour ago from the Boston Bruins to the Atlanta Thrashers.

Stuart has been a healthy scratch in recent weeks for the Bruins, after returning from a hand injury. But the former first-round pick was dealt today mainly because of salary cap reasons. The Bruins needed to clear space to acquire Tomas Kaberle from Toronto, so they sent Stuart (and his $1.675 million cap hit) and former Gopher Blake Wheeler ($2.2 million cap hit) to Atlanta in exchange for center Rich Peverley and minor league defenseman Boris Valabik. Peverley and Valabik together earn barely more than $2 million.

Once the Stuart/Wheeler trade was completed, Boston sent another former WCHA standout, Joe Colborne (a former first-round pick who played college hockey at Denver), and its 2011 first round draft pick to Toronto for Kaberle.

So, what does this mean for Stuart?

First and foremost, it means he gets to give life in Atlanta a two-month trial run to see if he would like to play there in coming years. Stuart will be just 27 when the season ends, and he'll be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. (Obvious question: Might the Wild be interested in him? We'll get back to that point later.)

Second, The move reunites Stuart and Wheeler with Thrashers head coach Craig Ramsay, who was an assistant in Boston until taking the job in Atlanta this season. But his injury issues over the past two seasons have left some Bruins fans disgruntled with a former first-round pick they perceive as injury-prone. The reality is, Stuart is a gritty player. He plays a style of game that can lead to injuries. But his name was batted around a lot after last season as a potential captain of the team, so you know players and coaches around the NHL have a lot of respect for the way he plays. He has a goal and four assists in 31 games this season (Wheeler has 11-16--27 this season).

And, third, Stuart will likely see more playing time in Atlanta, too. The Thrashers need his physical presence on the blue line. Stuart (6-feet-2, 213 pounds) and Wheeler are being viewed in Atlanta as guys who can help take the Thrashers from tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference up into the top eight and a playoff berth.

The Thrashers now have the market cornered on Rochester natives, as they also hold former Century goalie Alex Kangas' rights. Other Minnesota connections in the Atlanta system: former Cup winner Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau), forward and ECHL All-Star Michael Forney (Thief River Falls) and forward/draft pick Tanner Lane (Detroit Lakes).

So, whether the Thrashers reach the postseason or not, Stuart will have the chance in June to pick where he wants to play in 2011-12 and beyond. Which begs the question, is there a chance he ends up in a Minnesota Wild uniform next season?

It's a great thought, but it looks unlikely. Of the eight d-men the Wild have on their NHL roster right now (Burns, Barker, Schultz, Scandella, Spurgeon, Stoner, Zanon, Zidlicky), six are between the ages of 20-28. And with guys such as Justin Falk, Tyler Cuma (his injuries not withstanding) and Nate Prosser in the minors, it seems unlikely that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher would be willing to pay the kind of money Stuart may get in other places (it's reasonable to think he could get $2 million per year or more in a free agent deal).

As for Stuart potentially getting back into the playoffs, this time with the Thrashers, it could come down to the final weeks of the season. Atlanta is currently tied for ninth in the East with Buffalo, two points behind eighth-place Carolina.

And, for anyone who wondering if the Thrashers play near Minnesota again this season, they don't. They played the Wild, in Atlanta, back in November (a 5-1 Thrashers win). Just two of Atlanta's remaining 23 games are against Western Conference opponents.

February 08, 2011

High school hockey tonight | Feb. 8, 2011

FELDY: Three Rochester teams are in action tonight; Century is off, after a tough stretch that included games against Lakeville South, Minnetonka and Benilde-St. Margaret's. John Marshall and Mayo are playing some of their best hockey of the season right now -- JM is 8-3-0 since the beginning of January, while Mayo is 5-1-1 in its past seven games. Mayo's game at Owatonna tonight is big for section seeding purposes, while JM's game against Mankato East is key for the Rockets to see if they can maintain a high level of play against an inferior opponent.

The big game of the night, though, is the one in Mendota Heights. No. 11-ranked Rochester Lourdes faces top-ranked St. Thomas Academy. Lourdes gained some confidence and momentum on Saturday, jumping out to a three-goal lead on its way to a 5-3 win against No. 5 Breck at the Rec Center.

STA will be an entirely different challenge for the Eagles. The Cadets are 14-5-0. Their 25-game schedule includes 14 games against teams ranked in this week's Class A or AA polls, as well as games against non-MSHSL teams Delbarton Academy (N.J.) and Shattuck St. Mary's Prep of Faribault. The schedule also includes two games against Class AA powers Hill Murray (ranked No. 1) and Minnetonka (No. 4).

TONIGHT'S GAMES

No. 11 LOURDES at No. 1 STA
When: 7 p.m. tonight
Where: St. Thomas Ice Arena, Mendota Heights
Records: Lourdes 19-2-0; STA 14-5-0
Last game: Lourdes beat No. 5-A Breck, 5-3, on Saturday; STA beat No. 7-A South St. Paul, 5-0, on Saturday.
Spotlight players: Lourdes senior F Connor Nellans has eight points this season (3-5--8) and one in the past six games, but the things he does on both ends of the ice that don't show up on the scoresheet are what makes him so valuable. Nellans' effort set the tone for the Eagles on Saturday in the win against Breck. He's a key member of the Eagles' penalty-killing unit, too, which was perfect on four kills against Breck. ... STA senior F Zach Schroeder (yep, younger bro of former Cadet and Gopher Jordan Schroeder) is the Cadets' leading scorer and has committed to play Division I hockey at RPI. Zach has 37 points through 19 games (14-23--37). He has been on a tear lately, with 23 points in the past seven games.

MAYO at OWATONNA
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight
Where: Four Seasons Centre, Owatonna
Records: Mayo 7-2-1 Big Nine, 9-11-1 overall; Owatonna 4-7-0, 7-14-0
Last game: Mayo beat Winona, 7-1, on Saturday; Owatonna lost to Orono, 6-0, on Saturday.
Spotlight players: Spartans goalie Alex Van Galder has continued his strong play throughout the second half of the season. The senior has allowed one goal or less in four of the past six games. In three of those games, he faced 31 or more shots. ... Offensive production has been a struggle for the Huskies this season. Senior F/D David Feichtinger leads the team with 19 points. He has 11 of those in the past seven games, but that stretch includes a seven-point game against Mankato East and a hat trick against Winona.

MANKATO EAST at JOHN MARSHALL
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight
Where: Rochester Recreation Center
Records: East 0-8-0, 1-20-0; JM 7-4-0, 12-9-0
Last game: East lost to Austin, 8-1, on Thursday; JM beat St. Paul Highland Park, 12-1, on Saturday.
Spotlight players: East goalie Lucas Weihe doesn't have great numbers (7.64 GAA, .852 save pct.), but those aren't entirely his fault. A young East team has struggled to score and struggled defensively, but Weihe has faced more than 660 shots in 16 appearances (he faces an average of 41.3 shots per game, and averages 35.1 saves per game). ... JM junior D Matt Broman had a breakout game on Saturday, nearly doubling his season goals total with a hat trick at St. Paul Highland Park. He now has 14 points (7-7--14) this season. Broman not only can provide some offense for the Rockets, but his physical presence (6-feet-2, 185 pounds) is big for JM in their own zone.