Jack Glover

Jack-GloverDOB: 5/17/1996

Height: 6’3

Weight: 195

Position: Defense

Team: USA Under 18

College: Minnesota

Since moving on from Benilde St. Margaret’s, Glover has continued to steadily advance his game with the United States Developmental Program. The tall and lanky defenseman has great skating ability that should only get better as he grows into his large frame. Glover has demonstrated some clever stick work in tight areas and has shown touch while making long range tape-to-tape passes.

Glover is an intelligent player as he evaluates his options very quickly and seemingly is always aware of his surroundings and potential dangers. Does not get rattled in pressure situations, instead Glover stays composed and makes the smart play. When in the defensive zone Glover applies tight coverage and does a good job taking space away from opposing players by keeping an active stick and good footwork.

Glover will have to make some diminutive improvements in his decision making as he occasionally pinches at the wrong time. Development in this area should be made has he gains experience. Glover is a prospect loaded with potential as he is a well-round player with top-end capability. For his age Glover is playing at an advanced level of play and at this point is considered the top Minnesota prospect available for the 2014 NHL Draft. If Glover finishes the season strong, he can expect his name called in the first round.

Michael Brodzinski

brodzinski1DOB: 5/28/1995

Height: 5’10

Weight: 180

Position: Defense

Team: Muskegon

College: Minnesota

Brodzinski is the poster boy of what an offensive defenseman should be. He has good foot speed, is very agile, and he can wheel and deal with the best of them. Brodzinski possesses soft hands which allow him to maneuver around the opposition with ease. Much like his older brother Jonny, Michael possesses a cannon of a shot.

Brodzinski still needs to work out some consistency issues, as he has some problems with positioning and man coverage, but when Brodzinski is on his game, he’s defensively responsible and a force offensively.

Brodzinski had a very good season with Muskegon of the USHL, scoring 16 goals and 17 assists in 61 games, while being honored as defenseman of the week two times. Brodzinski is a likable prospects that should get some attention on draft day.

 

Erik Baskin

Erik BaskinDOB: 10/11/1993

Height: 6’3

Weight: 215

Position: Right Wing

Team: Minnetonka

College Commitment: None

 

 

There might not be a better clutch goal scorer in the state. Baskin has demonstrated over and over again that he is capable of scoring big goals in pressure situations. Baskin possesses good size and has an adequate shot. His release is a bit slow but is able to give it many different looks and with good accuracy. He does a good job of taking care of the puck and shows nice strength during one-on-one battles for the puck.

Skating is a major concern while assessing Baskin for the next level. Although his skating is a weakness he has shown major improvements in this department over the past year. If he can continue to show progression he should receive more recognition.

Class AA State Tournament Preview

ROSEAU VS. #2 LAKEVILLE NORTH
-The first AA quarterfinal match has a fun storyline, one of the state’s great traditional powers against a new rising star. This appears to be the first meeting between these two teams.

Roseau (20-7-1, #19, 1-seed in 8AA)
State appearances: 34 (first since 2010)
State championships: 7 (1946, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1990, 1999, 2007)
Key section win: 7-4 over #24 Moorhead
-The Rams had few games against most state powers, leaving them one of the bigger unknowns heading into the Tourney. What isn’t in doubt is the top-end talent on their first unit, which includes Mr. Hockey finalist Zach Yon (18), his partner in crime Alex Strand (9), and high-scoring defenseman Cole Bjugson (21). They have some offense on their second line as well, but any chance at a first-round upset will require tight defense in front of goaltender Ryan Anderson (1). If they can withstand North’s depth, stay out of the box, and spring their top guns, they’ll have a fighting chance.

Lakeville North (23-4-1, #3, 1-seed in 1AA)
State appearances: 5 (2 in a row)
Key section win: 6-0 over 2-seed Farmington
-The Panthers took the state by storm this season, surging into the top 5 with a 19-game unbeaten streak over the second half. They are led by the all-brother, St. Cloud State-bound line of Jack (3), Nick (7), and Ryan (4) Poehling, but have good depth beyond them, with no obvious weaknesses. The second and third lines can match anyone’s; Tristen Hazlett (11) is up amongst the Poehlings in points, and Jack McNeely (20) leads a quality crop of defensemen. The only real question mark here is how a very young team that is used to being the underdog will handle the pressure of being a favorite in the Tourney. They only have 6 seniors and play 3 freshmen regularly, including goaltender Jake Oettinger (29).

CENTENNIAL VS. #3 EDEN PRAIRIE
-Two large suburban schools meet in the second quarterfinal. Their only recent meeting was in 2012, a 4-3 Eden Prairie win.

Centennial (16-10-2, #23, 3-seed in 5AA)
State appearances: 3 (2 in a row)
State championships: 1 (2004)
Key section wins: 4-0 over #14 Maple Grove, 2-1 over #5 Blaine
-For a second straight year, the Cougars have found their way to St. Paul, and this year’s run was even more impressive, as a team with a mediocre record dispatched of two higher-seeded teams, including vaunted Blaine. Ryner Gorowsky (20) and Connor Lovick (17) lead the attack, and Adam Anderson (27) rounds out the top line. They aren’t going to overwhelm anyone, but they have good depth and balance, and defensively, they’ve bought into coach Ritch Menne’s scheme. Goaltender Blake Miller (1) came up big in the Blaine upset, and will have to do so again to beat Eden Prairie. 5AA is trying to break a four-year winless streak at the Tournament.

Eden Prairie (17-8-3, #10, 2-seed in 6AA)
State appearances: 7 (first since 2011)
State championships: 2 (2009, 2011)
Key section wins: 6-2 over #15 Holy Family, 3-2 (2 OT) over #17 Benilde-St. Margaret’s
-The Eagles have won the past two Tournaments they appeared in, and bring back plenty of talent this time around, including Mr. Hockey finalists Steven Spinner (25) and Luc Snuggerud (4). Sophomore Michael Graham (16) pairs with Spinner to lead the attack up front, while the versatile Snuggerud often moves up from defense to aid in the rush. The Eagles’ challenge this season has been in playing a complete team game—as they do have reasonably good depth—and not relying just on their stars. Veteran Jake Gerdes (31) gets the nod in goal.

STILLWATER VS. #1 EDINA
-The primetime battle in Class AA is a good one, as the top-ranked defending champs take on the upstart Ponies. These two have no recent history against one another.

Stillwater (16-10-2, unranked, 3-seed in 4AA)
First State appearance
Key section wins: 2-1 (OT) over #16 White Bear Lake, 2-1 over #2 Hill-Murray
-The Ponies are this season’s AA Cinderella story, coming out of nowhere to take down perennial 4AA favorites White Bear Lake and Hill-Murray. First-year coach Matt Doman has his team playing inspired hockey, taking the game to the opposition and playing tight defense. Forward John Heddle (8) is their only player with over 30 points, but a strong defense led by Mitch Reinke (20) and Zach Eder-Zdechlik (5) form the core of this squad. Goalie Josh Benson (30) will have to be on his game for the Ponies to have any hope of tripping up Edina, but they’ve already shown they can take down elite teams. How far can that momentum carry them?

Edina (23-4-1, #1, 1-seed in 2AA)
State appearances: 36 (6 as Edina East/West in 70s and 80s; 8 in a row)
Championships: 11 (1969, 1971, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1997, 2010, and 2013 as Edina; 1974, 1978, and 1979 as Edina East)
Key section wins: 8-2 over #25 Prior Lake, 5-1 over #21 Bloomington Jefferson
-The Hornets are the clear favorites coming into this tournament, though they bowed out in the quarterfinals the last two times they were the top seed. Miguel Fidler (12) and Cullen Munson (9) anchor one of their two interchangeable top lines, while Dylan Malmquist (20), Garrett Wait (17), and Kieffer Bellows (7) make up the other. Mr. Hockey finalist Tyler Nanne (23) leads the defense. If they have a weakness, it’s probably on their relatively inexperienced defense beyond Nanne; their power play has also been surprisingly poor for a team with their level of talent. Still, the Hornets have the depth and firepower to beat anyone, and when coach Curt Giles’ teams go into lockdown mode late in a game, they rarely lose.

#5 EAGAN VS. #4 DULUTH EAST
-Two tough teams known for their defense clash in the last AA quarterfinal. These teams have only met once before, a 2012 State consolation final won by the Hounds.

Eagan (18-9-1, #13, 4-seed in 3AA)
State appearances: 4 (first since 2012)
Key section wins: 2-1 (OT) over #18 Cretin-Derham Hall, 4-2 over #7 St. Thomas Academy
-Eagan may have been a 4-seed in its own section with 9 losses, but that’s deceptive, as the Wildcats were among the toughest teams in the State, especially through the second half of the season. The offense isn’t especially deep; Jack Jenson (24) is by far their leading scorer, and Kyle Stebbing (7) is their only other forward over 25 points. Their real strength, however, is in back, where the defensive pair of Nick Wolff (5) and Tommy Muck (2) is as good as any in the state. The Wildcats are a rugged, physical team, and that strength carried them through a difficult section. They also have one of the more touted goaltenders in the Tourney in Andrew Lindgren (35).

Duluth East (21-6-1, #9, 1-seed in 7AA)
State appearances: 21 (6 in a row)
State championships: 3 (1960, 1995, 1998)
Key section wins: 5-2 over #20 Grand Rapids, 3-2 (OT) over #8 Elk River
-As with Eagan, any discussion of the Hounds must begin with their top defensive pair, which is comprised of seniors Phil Beaulieu (25) and Alex Trapp (5). The offense doesn’t put up big numbers, but has come on some as the season has gone along, and is led by Nick Altmann (19) and Jack Kolar (22). These Hounds bear the usual trademarks of a Mike Randolph-coached team with their depth, strong forecheck, and stellar special teams, though they are also on the young side, and do not always dominate play as much as some recent East editions. With strong play out of goalie Gunnar Howg (31), they could be a threat to the top teams in the field.

Avery Peterson Wins 2014 Mr. Hockey

Avery-Peterson

-Photo by David Romuald

Avery Peterson has won the 2014 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award, given to the top senior high school hockey player in the state. Peterson was selected by a panel of NHL scouts, DI coaches, and selected members of the media.

The University of Nebraska-Omaha commit scored 37 goals and assisted on 30 others in 27 games this season. Peterson scored at least one point in 26 of his 27 games this season, including four games in which he register four goals.  Peterson totaled 86 goals and 117 assists in 107 career games for Grand Rapids.

Peterson was drafted by the Wild in the sixth round (167 overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

The following is a list of past Minnesota Mr. Hockey winners.

2013 Grant Besse Benilde St. Margaret’s 5/147
2012 Justin Kloos Lakeville South Not Drafted
2011 Kyle Rau Eden Prairie 3/93
2010 Nick Bjugstad Blaine 1/19
2009 Nick Leddy Eden Prairie 1/16
2008 Aaron Ness Roseau 2/40
2007 Ryan McDonagh Cretin-Derham Hall 1/12
2006 David Fischer Apple Valley 1/20
2005 Brian Lee Moorhead 1/9
2004 Tom Gorowsky Centennial Not Drafted
2003 Nate Dey North St. Paul Not Drafted
2002 Gino Guyer Greenway 5/165 (2003 Draft)
2001 Mary Sertich Roseville Not Drafted
2000 Paul Martin Elk River 2/62
1999 Jeff Taffe Hastings 1/30 (2000 Draft)
1998 Johnny Pohl Red Wing 9/255
1997 Aaron Miskovich Grand Rapids 5/133
1996 Dave Spehar Duluth East Not Drafted
1995 Erik Rasmussen St. Louis Park 1/7 (1996 Draft)
1994 Mike Crowley Bloomington Jefferson 6/140 (1993 Draft)
1993 Nick Checco Bloomington Jefferson 6/137
1992 Brian Bonin White Bear Lake 9/211
1991 Darby Hendrickson Richfield 4/73 (1990 Draft)
1990 Joe Dziedzic Edison 3/61
1989 Trent Klatt Osseo 4/82
1988 Larry Olimb Warroad 10/193 (1987 Draft)
1987 Kris Miller Greenway 4/80
1986 George Pelawa Bemidji 1/16
1985 Tom Chorske Southwest 1/16

2014 Final Class AA Rankings

These rankings place added emphasis on playoff performance. One last time before November:

1. EDINA
-Two in a row, three out of five: the Edynasty is here. The Hornets may have an edge in numbers and resources that others can only dream of, but these past two years, this team’s coaching staff has taken them to the next level in the playoffs. They set the bar for the rest of the state, and it’s up to everyone else to respond.
2. Lakeville North
-A laugher of a state title game does little to diminish an otherwise superb breakout season for the Panthers, who are now on the map and unlikely to be going away anytime soon. They dazzled with their depth and talent, and were one of my biggest misses in six years of rankings. That won’t be the case next year.
3. Eagan
-The gritty Wildcats might have gotten more out of less than any team this season, playing excellent defense and giving Edina its lone close game of the playoffs. On paper this looks to be the end of the line for a bit, but if the coaching staff can get similar defensive performances in the future, they’ll still be a factor.
4. Eden Prairie
-The Eagles went on a strong run through sections, and gave North all they could handle in an instant classic of a semifinal. Their top players gave some heroic performances, and they also found some of the balance that had eluded them at times over the course of the year. Despite the final two losses, it was a memorable year for the Eagles.
5. Roseau
-The Rams were one of the most impressive teams in St. Paul, giving North all they could handle in the semis before picking up a consolation title. Their stars were ready for the biggest stage, and they played strong enough defense to compete with anyone. Success for Roseau at State is always a good sign for Minnesota hockey, proving even the smallest communities are capable of great things.
6. Hill-Murray
-A strong season came crashing down in the section final for the Pioneers, and for the third time in four years, the end result was a bit disappointing. Still, we all know they’ll just be reloading for next year.
7. Wayzata
-The Trojans were looking like a serious title contender down the stretch, but it all came apart against Benilde in the section semis, and 6AA remains a minefield for any defending champion. They should be right back in the mix next year.
8. Duluth East
-The Hounds had a strong run through a difficult section to claim a sixth straight tournament berth, though their thin offense ran out of gas in St. Paul. Even if the front-end talent is down somewhat, this program still has good depth and a lot of momentum, and that won’t be changing any time soon.
9. Burnsville
-It was a year of ‘what could have been’ for the Blaze, as they suffered some of the highest-profile defections in the state, then stumbled in the section semis. The talent was there, and a regular season win over Edina was a nice step, but they still have yet to close the deal.
10. Blaine
-Like Burnsville, the Bengals came up short, and the tough results in sections are becoming a theme here. Still, that doesn’t take away from a regular season in which they competed with many of the best teams in the state. The end result was a tough loss for a very deep senior class.
11. St. Thomas Academy
-Like many of the teams in this part of the rankings, the Cadets fell short in sections despite high expectations. Still, it was a strong AA debut for a young team, and they could easily be a serious title contender next year.
12. Benilde-St. Margaret’s
-The Red Knights turned it on in sections after a somewhat disappointing regular season, knocking off Wayzata and coming ever so close to a Tourney berth. They’ll be back in the mix in the 6AA meat-grinder once again next year.
13. Centennial
-The Cougars went on a great run in sections, taking down Maple Grove and Blaine, and they gave Eden Prairie a good fight in the State quarterfinals as well. They may have gone 2-and-out the past two years, but that’s a bit deceptive, as they’ve been very competitive in the Tourney, and do a great job despite not being among the favorites.
14. Elk River
-The Elks came awfully close to making their way back to St. Paul, but came up empty in the 7AA final. There’s a lot of talent coming up here, and sooner or later they’ll break through.
15. Stillwater
-It was a breakthrough year for the Ponies, as they stunned White Bear and Hill and made their first trip to State. That State experience didn’t go particularly well, but it was an important first step, and judging by their youth program, this program should continue to be on the rise in the coming years.

Honorable Mention (In No Real Order)
Maple Grove
-Was in the top 15 all season long, though they fell to Centennial in the 5AA semis.
Eastview
-Like Maple Grove, spent a lot of time in the top 15, and had the misfortune of drawing STA in the 3AA semis, though they came close to beating them.
Bloomington Jefferson
-Had a decent year and scored a big upset in sections over Burnsville.
Farmington
-Put together a nice record and made their first AA section title game, which is an important step forward for the program.
Holy Family
-The Fire continued their slow but steady improvement by making their way into a 6AA semifinal.
Andover
-Went on a very nice run over the second half of the season, though they couldn’t quite follow it up with any playoff success.

2014 State Hockey Tournament Reflection

The seventieth State Tournament has come and gone, its whirlwind collision of nostalgia and renewal consuming us for four days before melting away into a Minnesota spring. The best team in each class was obvious, but it was still more competitive than last year’s, particularly on the Class A side. We had one instant classic, a double overtime thriller with drama and intrigue at every turn, as stars dropped like flies with injury and exhaustion late in the game. Gary Thorne graced the Tourney with an added dose of gravitas, and the referees made their presence felt a bit more than usual. Edina’s repeat at the top of the heap lets us use the word ‘dynasty’ for the first time in many years, and with an all-public AA field, the Hornets had little trouble claiming the villain tag.

Some of the best stories in this Tourney came far from that small town on the west side with a dream, though. Feisty Luverne proved its doubters wrong and proved it can compete on the highest stage, while New Prague recorded the South’s first top-3 finish in over ten years. Roseau added to its proud Tourney history with a very competitive 5th place showing in AA, its stars once again coming south to dazzle the St. Paul crowds. The biggest of the small-town winners, though, was East Grand Forks, and with its seamless breakouts and a relentless Green Wave of powerful hits, the Class A champion’s mysterious mascot only seemed apt. There is room for all types at the Tourney, but the growth and sustenance of hockey in small towns keeps the Tourney in touch with its roots. There were good storylines among the big city schools, too: Stillwater made its debut, Lakeville North’s thrilling overtime victories put AA’s southernmost section in the title game for the first time in 25 years, and while their faces are a bit more familiar, section wins by Eagan, Centennial, and Duluth East were a reminder of what good coaching and smart defense can do in the playoffs.

As always, the players make the Tourney. There was the delight of Eddie Eades, posing theories on cookies and ice cream, and then there was the agony of Luc Snuggerud, the wounded warrior bowed in defeat. Tyler Nanne channeled his grandfather’s ease with words, while Nick Wolff probably still hasn’t finished his latest shift for Eagan. Zach Yon of Roseau made a last-second pitch for Mr. Hockey, while Luverne eighth-grader Jaxon Nelson gave us a glimpse of the future. Erik Gadbois proved an unlikely hero for scrappy St. Cloud Cathedral, and Eden Prairie’s Michael Parrish mustered a heroism that transcended hockey, putting together a hat trick in the shadow of his father’s death.

The coaches, too, add their own distinct flavor. The old guard was on hand, still plugging along; Bruce Plante was understandably chastened after a fifth straight second place finish, but still managed to show why he is beloved in Hermantown, and a vintage Mike Randolph pulled all the levers he could in a losing cause before making “embellishment” the word of the Tourney. The bubbly and quotable Trent Eigner took his program to the next level, while Luverne’s rising star, Derrick Brown, did a victory lap for all of small-town hockey. But the clear-eyed focus of Tyler Palmiscno (with an assist from the peerless Scott Oliver) and the supreme confidence of Curt Giles carried the day.

Giles is normally one to run a tight ship; he’s not one to furnish reporters with juicy quotes, nor does he hold strong public opinions on the endless debates over private schools and junior hockey. Such is the luxury of Edina, of course: he presides over a program of unmatched depth, and he knows he’s blessed not to have many of the worries facing others. Back at the pinnacle yet again, though, Giles let the façade come down and channeled that old Herb Brooks line, saying the emotion of a Tourney win rivals that of the Stanley Cup. Repeats may tire some fans, especially when they taste of cake, but sports need dominant powers to serve as the measuring stick. Edina sets the standard for all of hockey in Minnesota, and it’s up to the rest of the state to find a response to this latest Hornet run. They came in with the flair and swagger of champions, a fast and edgy team unafraid to show off its talents and let the world know who is number one. Oh, to be young and a Hornet.

The whole weekend overflows with youth, even for those whose follicles have forsaken them, rendered them ineligible for the Hockey Hair Team. This year there was no one quote that fixed itself in my mind, no one poignant moment that pierced through the din. Instead, it was a steady, sustained buzz, fueled by stops at bars between sessions and those incessant Hornets. There are the kids doing what we once did: plotting an off-color chant, smuggling in a beach ball, fighting the crowds at the Expo, bumming around the upper deck, perhaps going on a run through the St. Paul night in the ecstasy of victory, or off to a party in some hotel room, all pretense of dignity and decorum forgotten for a weekend at the start of Lent. For those of us with some remove from the glory days, we have the impromptu reunions, the ease of chatting up anyone knowing we have common ground, the gathering of generations, the march of time and a ceaseless cycle bearing us back to the past. Those of us in the stands can lose track of the constant turnover, forget the rawness of emotions that come out no matter who is on the winning or losing end. That part never changes, and even as we head into summer or perhaps out into the world beyond high school, it long lingers, waiting to be brought forth again for four more days next March. No matter where the world takes us, the memory endures.

Final 2016 AA Rankings

One last ceremonial set of rankings, with heavy emphasis on playoff performance:

1. WAYZATA

-The Trojans are a testament to that old maxim: defense wins championships. They locked down over the second half of the season, and while they sometimes teetered on the edge, there was never any doubt that the talent was there. In the end, they all bought in, and their depth wore down the rest of the state as they marched to a first ever title. It’s a well-earned crown for the Trojans.

2. Eden Prairie

-After an up-and-down regular season, the Eagles turned it on in the playoffs, and the Casey Mittelstadt show nearly became the headline of the Tourney. But in the end, they were just a little too vulnerable in back, and they were worn down by a deeper, more defensive squad. It’s a bitter end for a loaded team, but we’ll be seeing a lot more of some of these players long beyond high school.

3. Grand Rapids

-It was a banner year for the Thunderhawks, who finally broke back through in 7AA, and went home with 3rd place honors at State. It was their most talented team in many years, and they now have a chance to continue this quality run. One of the state’s most storied programs renewed its tradition in dramatic fashion.

4. Stillwater

-The Ponies dominated the east metro and had a breakthrough year by making their way to the state semifinals as a high seed. The weak schedule may have been an issue when they finally collided with other deep, talented teams that could wear them down, but they have plenty of quality in their own right. If everyone comes back, they’ll be among the favorites again next season.

5. Bemidji

-Lost a heartbreaker to Grand Rapids at State, but followed it up with a solid run through the consolation bracket. This Lumberjack group has had an impressive run, with two straight Tourney berths and a 25-win season this year.

6. Benilde-St. Margaret’s

-A dream season went sour in the section semis for the Red Knights, as an undefeated run came to a very unexpected end. Still, they performed far better than most would have guessed, and one bad loss doesn’t invalidate that.

7. Minnetonka

-The Skippers were as good as anyone over the second half of the season, but it all came crumbling down against Prior Lake in the 2AA semifinals. With a fairly young core and a top-flight bantam team coming up, they should be back with a vengeance next season.

8. Farmington

-Proved their worth with three wins over Lakeville North and a first AA Tourney berth. They looked respectable at State, too. They’ll be back in the not-so-distant future.

9. Lakeville North

-The Panthers looked like one of the teams to beat in the state, but never could figure out Farmington, and were left watching the Tourney from home for the first time since 2012. Their weakness in back came back to haunt them at the worst possible time.

10. Burnsville

-An old Tourney standby brought back the glory days as they roughed up St. Thomas Academy to claim a 3AA crown. They went on a very strong run near the end, and while they were two-and-out at State, it was still a memorable run.

11. Blaine

-The Tufte and Notermann show put up some big numbers all year, but their lack of depth was a concern all season long, and it came back to bite them against Maple Grove in sections. They were a very senior-heavy team, so it may be another year or two before they’re back in the picture.

12. Prior Lake

-The Lakers took a step forward for their program with a win over Minnetonka, and gave Eden Prairie a decent game in the final as well. While they’ll miss a number of departing seniors, the future does look pretty bright here.

13. Holy Family

-The Fire had some decent moments this season, especially around Christmas, and gave Eden Prairie a very good fight in their semifinal. Still, they have yet to break through into a final, and that Wright County portion of their schedule doesn’t do them any favors.

14. Duluth East

-The Hounds had an up-and-down season, but were playing some of their better hockey at the end when they rolled past Elk River and pushed Grand Rapids to the brink before falling.

15. Edina

-The Hornets had a rebuilding year, missing the Tourney for the first time since 2006. They stayed a step behind the top teams from start to finish, but are primed to return to normal next year.

Honorable Mention

Anoka

-The Tornadoes busted through to become this season’s surprise Tourney entrant. They had a streaky season and didn’t do much at State, but did upset Centennial and put away Maple Grove to claim a crown few would have expected.

St. Thomas Academy

-The Cadets had a fairly strong year with a young team, though they ran into a Burnsville buzzsaw in the 3AA final. They should be the clear favorite in the section next year.

Hill-Murray

-The Pioneers had one of their weaker regular seasons, but still managed to give Stillwater all they could handle in the 4AA final.

Elk River

-Did somewhat better than expected in the regular season with a young team, but beating Duluth East in sections apparently remains too much to ask.

Centennial

-Like Elk River, had a pretty strong year, but got upended by Anoka in sections.

***

As always, I have to offer up a host of thank yous: to Doug at FollowThePuck, to my brothers in arms on the weekly Cold Omaha podcast, to everyone who puts games up online so that we can watch or listen from home (particular thanks to Pete Waggoner, Bart Archer, and Zach Halvorson for the on-air call-outs and guest appearances), my press box friends at the Tourney (Tim, Dave, and Dave…thanks for the candy)…I could go on and on. Basically, thanks to anyone who puts in the effort to promote high school hockey and carry on this tradition. And, of course, thanks to my loyal readers for all their comments and nitpicking over the course of the season…your feedback makes it much more fun than it would be if I just talked at an empty room.

I’ll see you again in earnest in another nine months, though I’ll certainly be around as the summer months go by. The annual reflection essay should be along sometime in the next 48 hours as well.

State Tournament Reflection 2016

Sixteen games across four days, gone in a blur and ending in a daze: another Tourney has come and gone, and as always, I’ll put fingers to keys to find what few words have not yet been said. By early March my mind is all too ready for a trip to some exotic locale, but the vacation I really need takes me just a few miles east. We make our yearly pilgrimage to the spectacle in St. Paul, a dip into tradition that somehow offers a compelling new drama, night after night.

For a second straight year, a first-time champion hoisted a trophy. Wayzata proved all those old clichés about depth and defense true, as they locked down in the first two rounds and rediscovered their game with their backs to the wall in the final. The winning goal came from pure grinding hockey, a steady offensive zone cycle that wore down Eden Prairie, forced a turnover, and a set up a shot from the point. Their hard-nosed effort warmed this Northern boy’s heart, and the relentless push was a vindication for coach Pat O’Leary, who has made an art of overpowering hockey and finally brought his crew along, rolling his four lines right down to the final horn.

The lockdown Trojans were never a given, as their midseason stumbles inspired a sea of skeptics. But by the end Alex Schilling pounced on every loose puck while Hank Sorensen hammered all in sight, and they just managed to find a healthy channel for that simmering fire. They stole the headlines from Casey Mittelstadt, the Eden Prairie golden boy who nearly willed a team to a title. Casey’s dazzling show throughout puts him in elite company, his performance comparable to Besse or Rau in recent years. But he saved his most genuine moments for after the game, pulling himself from tears to speak with poise about his loss; even in defeat, he quickly righted any wrongs, and began to learn the burdens of stardom that will likely follow him for years. His Eagles fell short in the title game for the first time, but gave every last ounce for their teammates and their inspiration behind the bench, Steve Ollinger.

Wayzata’s physical play was far from the only throwback in a Tourney field devoid of its usual suspects. The Halloween Machine from Grand Rapids made its way south for the first time since 2007, and the old northern giants flashed some of their nostalgic magic on their way to a third-place berth. They were no match for Middelstadt, but for a spurt in the second period on Friday night they had all of 218 Territory rising in unison, as the band cranked out one of its impeccably timed Olés and the west end of the arena, painted in orange, bounced in unison. United with the mass of Wayzata yellow on Saturday afternoon, Grand Rapids pulled off one last stirring comeback to bring home another trophy for 7AA.

The Burnsville black and gold also made its way back to St. Paul for only the second time in twenty years, and for one period gave us a hint of past glory. Thief River Falls, another claimant to dynasty in a more distant age, cruised to small-school third place behind a pair of genuine stars. Anoka’s Tornadoes shocked the world by spinning their way back to the Tourney, and the Lumberjacks from Bemidji axed their way through the consolation bracket. Their effort against Rapids gave us the Tourney’s only overtime affair, and its one true thriller before Saturday night. All four northern squads went home with at least two wins and a trophy in tow.

But even as the old guard kept up its proud legacy, newer faces showed the changing tides in hockey and beyond. As the suburbs grow, so goes the high school hockey success, and Farmington and Stillwater gave us glimpses of the future with their tight opening game. There is a learning curve for these teams, as there is for the southerners who got shellacked on the first day of Class A, but whole towns turned out anyway, and who can forget Mankato West’s display on that first skate up to the line? The flow poured forth from buckets left and right, its perfection driving me to self-consciously run a hand through my own mediocre mane at the intermission.

There were no surprises in Class A this year: everything went according to seed, up and down the bracket. But there was sheer, sweet relief, as Hermantown finally threw off a burden worthy of Buffalo and brought a title back to northeast. The Hawks left no doubts, dominating each and every game, and while they’re no longer the scrappy upstart story they were a few years ago, they are out of a long shadow and ready to claim a higher mantel. One hopes they embrace the challenges that may come their way next, and whatever Bruce Plante decides for the future, he has now earned himself a less anxious summer on his lake.

With no Duluth East in the field, I thought it might be a more relaxed Tourney for me, but the infectious nerves still swept through on Saturday night as the Trojans ran the clock down. That emotion never gets old, nor does this yearly dive back in to meet friends old and new, to revisit those Tournament institutions along Seventh Street or opposite Rice Park. I can even enjoy a momentary foray into that cloud of adolescent male hormones that hangs over the upper deck of the X, though before long I’ll beat my hasty retreat back to the land of free popcorn up in the press box. It’s a reminder of who we are and where we come from, even if our immediate alma maters may not have made this trip this year. It’s all timeless, and we can all go back, if only for a little while.

It’s all over now, headed into history books and video vaults and the realm of memory. Memory and that sense of rightness, emblazoned in the mind’s eye, a home where it will stay longer than in any pictures or words that try to capture it. An early spring is already melting away any icy dreams, but there’s work to be done, and it won’t be long before we begin the cycle anew. Thanks, boys, for another memorable year.