Staff Writer The Gophers didn’t win the MacNaughton Cup outright this weekend, but that didn’t…
Peewee A State Tourney Opens
Some say Minnesota is the state of hockey. Others say if you are going to the Peewee A tourney in March dress warm and when you go into the arena area to watch the game, dress warmer. The state of hockey was warm this mid-March, pre-St. Paddy’s Day. It was warm in every corner of the state. And in Alexandria the temperature hit 77 degrees outside. In the arena, the adults were dressed warm as if to fight off the usual cold and the arena was cold enough to make the adults comfortable until they went outside. Then they quickly lost those clothes.
On the ice, the first game proved tough for a gutsy MAML team. Hermantown scored three goals in the first period. The first took the Moose goalie by surprise and found the 5-hole. The second was a tip in off a high stick that the refs missed, and the third was an own goal when a pass from the Hawk’s Matt Valure to the weak side was inadvertently tipped in by a Moose defender. Valure ended up with four goals and an assist as the Hawks rolled to a 9-1 win.
Eden Prairie and Lakeville South played the second game of the day. The Eagles won 5-4 in a seesaw battle. The first minutes of play set the stage for the game. Lakeville South chose to match the Eagles top line of Casey Mittelstadt and Nolan Sullivan with their second line led by Joey Novak. A minute into the first period, Nolan Sullivan broke down the South defense on the right side and buried the puck from the faceoff circle to give the Eagles 1-0 lead. Three minutes later, the Cougar’s Austin Pratt scored to tie the game. At the 6 minute mark, the Eagles’ Nicky Leivermann scored to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. Pratt scored with two minutes to go in the period to tie the game 2-2. The Eagles drew a penalty on the play. Thirty seconds into the penalty kill, Noah Deraney scored shorthanded to give the Eagles a 3-2 lead only to have the Cougars score with 30 seconds left in the period.
After an uneventful second period, with time running out, Henry Enebak scored for the Cougars beating the goalie from the slot on the glove side. There was one second left on the clock. The Eagles came out of the locker room for the third period determined to win. They took control of the game scoring three goals to win 6-4. Hermantown and Eden Prairie meet in the first semifinal game Saturday. Lakeville South plays MAML.
In the third quarterfinal, Elk River beat St. Michael/Albertville 8-1. Prior Lake/Savage beat OMG 5-4 in overtime in the final game Saturday (see separate post). Elk River plays Prior Lake/Savage in the second semifinal Saturday. STMA and OMG play a consolation semifinal game in the morning.
It was a great opening day for the peewee A tourney. The stands, at one point, were two thirds full and there were few places to stand around the rink. Considering how nice the weather was outside, it was quite a testament to Alexandria.
MINNESOTA STATE PEEWEE “A” TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
Friday, March 16, Quarterfinals games (first game starts at 10 AM)
Hermantown beats MAML: MAML is the sentimental favorite in this tourney. It will be their first appearance. They basically skate two lines, but their players are prepared to fill in at any position. They were down to nine players during the West Regional tournament and still won because all the players understand how to play any position and how to play as team in any position.
Hermantown is a physical team that has good scoring capability. Hermantown lost to STMA 4-2 and beat Roseau 7-6 during regular season. MAML lost to STMA in the D5 finals 7-1 and in the West Regional Championship game 3-0. The Moose beat Roseau twice in the West Regional playoffs 4-3 and 4-2. But the Hawks scored two impressive wins one over Elk River 3-1 and one over Centennial 5-2 in the championship at the North Regional in Grand Rapids. The Moose are a team to be respected. They really know how to play hockey. But those two wins by the Hawks over the top two D10 teams indicate that Hermantown is ready for this tourney. Hawks win.
Lakeville South beats Eden Prairie: The Cougars impressed in the East Regionals and rolled over their opposition including beating a tough, #3 ranked, Osseo/Maple Grove team 8-1. Eden Prairie lost a tough South Regional championship game to Prior Lake/Savage 5-4 in overtime and came back later Sunday to beat defending state champions, Edina, 2-1 to take the South’s #2 seed to the state tourney.
This game could be tight. For those fortunate enough to be there, one of the keys will be the play of Austin Pratt. If he plays as he did in the East Regional finals, Eden Prairie will have their hands full when he is on the ice. But the thing to watch is how Eden Prairie’s top line with Casey Mittlestadt and Nolan Sullivan skate against whatever line the Cougars play when they are on the ice. Lakeville South will be home and have choice. If the Cougars match Mittlestadt/Sullivan with their top line of Pratt and Henry Enebak and these two lines are somehow nullify each other in the scoring column, the game will be won or lost in the second and third line play. The question then will be can the Eagles defense contain the Cougars second line led by Joey Novak? If the Cougars chose play Novak’s line against Mittlestadt/Sullivan and these two lines nullify each other in scoring, then Eden Prairie will be in trouble trying to stop Pratt and Enebak.
There are two wild cards in this game. One is the Cougar’s third line led by Ethan Boche. That line has shown improvement and is starting to score. They could make the difference. The second wild card is Eden Prairie’s goalie, Dayton Rasmussen, combined with a though collapsing Eagle defense. This tough defensive combination is capable of shutting the second and third Cougar lines. This will be a fun game to watch, but in the end, Lakeville South wins.
Elk River beats STMA: What few people realize is that these two teams are neighbors. The drive from rink to rink is about 10 miles and the two teams have played each other over the past two seasons, but have not played this year, at least formally. STMA just rolled through the West Regional, beating another Elk River neighbor, MAML, 3-0. Elk River was on the ropes at the North Regional in Grand Rapids after being beat by Hermantown. But the Elks came back to beat their nemesis, Centennial, 9-1 to get the #2 seed to the state.
These two teams match up well. STMA played all the top teams except the Elks. They lost two close games to Prior Lake, two games to Minnetonka, lost to Edina 6-2, tied Centennial 3-3 and beat Osseo/Maple Grove 3-2. Elk River played top teams 16 times and went 9-7.
The Elks have a good first line led by Nathan Horn and an improving line led by Max Michaelis and Jensen Zerban. Horn, Michaelis, and Zerban played in the state tourney last year. Tyler Thorson, Benton Maass, and Logan Gacke are also state tourney veterans along with both goalies, Connor Thompson and Ben Meyers. In the state tourney at Bloomington last year, Elk River lost a tough game to Wayzata 4-3 in the opening round and then lost to Grand Rapids 5-3 to end their state tourney play.
STMA returns three players from last year’s West Regional team, Jack Kelly, Ryan Copeland, and Mitch Bourgerie. The STMA Knights have two sound lines that will skate hard from start to finish and will have two lines to throw at Horn and company. The Elks will likely get their goals so this game will come down to the ability of the Knights to score goals against the Elks. The Elks are not going home early this year. Elk River wins.
Osseo/Maple Grove beats Prior Lake: The Lakeville South/Eden Prairie game will be a great game to watch, this one could be greater. These two teams split the two games they played this year; OMG wining the first game 5-2 and losing the second game 6-3. OMG comes into this tourney off of last year’s disappointing play in the West Regional where they were upset by St. Cloud 6-0 in their first game and eventually lost to Eden Prairie to end their season. Jack Kelly and Sam Huff played in the West Regional last year. Jaden Walsh and Justin Kelley also played on that team. These four will be joined by Jarrett Cammarata.
Prior Lake did not make the regionals last year. This will be the Lakers first peewee A state tourney appearance. Prior Lake features Kevin Fellows. Fellows is a smooth skating, very hockey smart, player for the Lakers. He backed by a strong cast of players. Prior Lake, when they are on, move the puck very well as a team. So well do the Lakers play, they pressure their opponent such that they forget about Fellows, when that happens Prior Lake scores.
OMG is coming off a tough 8-1 loss to Lakeville South in the East Regional. They managed to recover and beat Stillwater to take the #2 seed. OMG’s tough enough and deep enough to stop Fellows. If that happens Friday night then the other Lakers need to score. They have been taught well on how to step into the breach and score. But OMG has felt the sting of losing just short of the state tourney. They are not going to lose their first game in this tourney. OMG wins.
Saturday, March 17, Consolation and Semifinal Games (first game starts at 12:00 PM)
Lakeville South beats Hermantown: These two teams played once before in the Cloquet tourney in early February. The Cougars won 4-1. This will be a tough physical game and both teams will be prepared to play. But Hermantown won’t be able to match South’s firepower. The Cougar’s win.
Elk River beats OMG: If you see a large white object thrown out on the ice during this game, don’t be surprised. Both coaches will throw everything they have out on the ice to win this game including the kitchen sink. The two teams played each other at White Bear Lake’s tourney in early February. OMG won 4-2. This time OMG runs into a determined, state tourney veteran, team that will find a way to stop the OMG big guns and win.
In Saturday’s consolation play, Eden Prairie beats MAML. The Eagles are too strong for the Moose. Prior Lake beats STMA. The Lakers bounce back from a tough loss to OMG.
Sunday, March 18, Trophy Games (first game starts at 9:45 AM)
State Championship: Elk River beats Lakeville South-In a replay of the Edina Championship Game that was won by Elk River in double overtime, double shootout; the Elks win again. The Elks defense will stop Enebak and Pratt and their improving second and third lines will out play South’s lines. The Elks win. This time in regulation.
Third Place: OMG beats Hermantown-OMG comes back to beat Hermantown as Huff, Kelly, and Camarata score often.
Consolation Championship: Prior Lake beats Eden Prairie-This will be a tough game for both teams to play. Both are great teams and both have played well. Fellows and Mittlestadt always show up to play and in this game, Fellows has the edge.
MINNESOTA PEEWEE “A” STATE TOURNAMENT TEAM PREVIEWS
The following summarizes the final eight Minnesota peewee A hockey teams left in the race for the state title. With two time defending champion, Edina, out of the tourney; a new state champion will be crowned this year.
Two districts, D5 and D6 have two teams that have won their way to the state. D5 is represented by D5 runner-up, Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake, and D5 champion, St. Michael/Albertville. D6 is represented by their champion, Prior Lake/Savage, and Eden Prairie, D6 runner-up. D3 sends their champion, Osseo/Maple Grove. D8 sends their champion, Lakeville South. D10 sends their runner-up, Elk River and D11 sends their champion, Hermantown. Five of the top six ranked teams are in the tourney (Lakeville South #1, Prior Lake/Savage #2, Osseo/Maple Grove #3, Elk River #4, and Eden Prairie #6). Hermantown is ranked #10, St. Michael/Albertville is ranked #16, and Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake is ranked #39. One thing for certain, whoever is crowned state champion two Sundays from now, will be ranked #1.
Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake (MAML) (#39 ranked)
Season Record: 30-12-1 D5 Second Place in regular season, D5 second place in playoffs, #2 Seed West Region
Northfield Jesse James Tourney (second place, lost to Cottage Grove 5-4)
Bloomington Midwest Regional Holiday Tourney (third place, beat Jefferson 4-3 in overtime/shootout)
Anoka Classic (third place, beat Mound/Westonka 2-1 in overtime)
Fargo Peewee Ice Jam (third place, beat Fargo Freeze Black 4-2)
Best Wins: Crow River 4-3 on last second shot at the Anoka Classic, Jefferson 4-3 in overtime/shootout, Roseau 4-2 for the West #2 seed to the State Tourney
Toughest loss: STMA 7-1 in D5 playoff finals
Game stories on this site: Cottage Grove, Crow River, STMA, and River Lakes
Team Summary: This team skates out of Monticello’s Moose Sheriff Arena, and they call themselves the Moose. Their arena has a single sheet of ice and has one very unique feature. A fireplace with two large, log cabin styled, wooden chairs placed in the front, sits against one wall inside the arena near the playing surface. On the wall near-by is a sign that says “15 minutes of heat for one dollar”. The sign may not apply to the fireplace, but it is different. It is Minnesota.
When the Moose come out on the ice, you would expect a Moose of a team. The MAML program skated three peewee teams (A, B1, and B2) this year. The Moose’s peewee B team also played in the West Regional, but lost. When the Moose Peewee A’s come out on the ice, you would expect a Moose of a team. They are not. They skate 12 players including the goalie. One line, a very good line, consists of all first year kids. The second line, a very good line, is not large.
They have no outstanding players; they are all “outstanding”. And somebody has taught them how to play the game. What they do best is react as a team to a game situation and move the puck playing off of each other. If one kid moves the puck along the boards, another positions himself to help and to move the puck forward, another fills the defense spot on that side, another swings to the center neutral ice, and the fifth kid positions himself for a wide side defense. That happens in a few seconds and when the puck takes it’s inevitable bounce somewhere, all five adjust to the puck and to each other.
Somebody has done a remarkable job teaching the Moose kids. This team will be the sentimental favorites of the tourney fans and of those who understand how hard it is to get 11-12 year old kids to play good hockey. Fans will be surprised. The hardest part the Moose may have in playing in the state tourney is in believing they deserve to be on the ice in the opening game at Alexandria. They do.
Hermantown (#10 ranked)
Season Record: 31-4-0, D11 First Place in regular season, D11 first place in playoffs, #1 Seed North
Hermantown Peewee A Tournament (Championship beating Lakeville North 7-3)
Roseau Peewee A Tournament (Lost in pool play to Osseo/Maple Grove 9-1)
Superior Colder by the Lake Tourney (Championship beating Highland 7-4)
Cloquet Peewee A Barn Burner (Third Place beating Tartan 6-0)
Best Wins: Beating Elk River 3-1 in the North Regional Semifinal and beating Centennial 5-2 in the North Regional Championship
Toughest loss: First loss of the season to STMA at Bemidji, the loss to OMG at Roseau and the 4-1 loss to Lakeville South in the Cloquet tourney
Game stories on this site: none
Team Summary: Hermantown always skates a tough physical game. This year is no different. They are led at forward by Matt Valure. Their defense is tough and the goal tending good. They impressed during their tournament in early December by beating Apple Valley on Saturday, stepping outside their tournament to beat a touring Roseau team, and then on Sunday beating Lakeville North for the Championship. The Hawks could surprise.
Eden Prairie (#4 ranked)
Season Record: 30-19-3, D6 Second Place in regular season, D6 third place in playoffs, #2 Seed South Region
Eden Prairie First Test of the Best (Second Place losing to Prior Lake/Savage 3-2)
Spirit of Duluth (second place losing to Prior Lake/Savage 5-3)
Edina Invitational Hockey Tournament (fourth place losing to Edina 6-4)
Roseau (lost in pool play to Lakeville South 9-1)
White Bear Lake Moose Goheen Invitational Tournament (fourth place losing to Elk River 6-3)
Best Wins: Beating Elk River 4-2 in White Bear Lake tourney pool play, beating Edina 2-1 in the South Regional for the #2 seed to the State and eliminating the Hornets from the tourney.
Toughest loss: D6 loss to Waconia 5-1, loss to Lakeville South at Roseau, South Regional semifinal game loss to Prior Lake 5-4 in overtime
Game stories on this site: Regional game with Edina, D6 game Burnsville, D6 game Prior Lake/Savage, D6 game Edina
Team Summary: If this team was a military force, it would have a lightning striking air force and strong defenders on the ground. It would not have an armored attack at the blue line. The Eagle forwards play defensively most of the game and look for that opening. Led by forwards Casey Mittlestadt and Nolan Sullivan, the Eagles are quick to take advantage of an opening or an opponent’s mistake. Once established in the opponent’s zone, they never let up and often score by applying continuous pressure around the net. Their offense becomes like flypaper stuck on their opponent’s hands. You can shake and shake it with one hand, but it never lets go. You grab it with the other hand and suddenly you are shaking all over again. That is what happens with the Eagle opponent’s defense, they try and try to clear the zone on one side and they can’t. They rotate the puck to the other side and try and try again and they can’t.
When their opponents do breakout, they are faced with two tough lines of Eagle defenders. To gain the Eagle’s zone they have to beat a tough pair of defensemen. The Eagle defensemen are just good across the board. They really push any attack to the boards and clog up any shot from the middle. That is the first line of defense. If a team breaks down the Eagle’s first line of defense, then they have to beat one of best goalies in the state, Dayton Rasmussen.
Lakeville South (#1 ranked)
Season Record: 48-6-2, D8 First Place in regular season, D8 First Place in playoffs, #1 Seed East Region
Eden Prairie First Test of the Best (Consolation Champion beating Farmington 10-1)
Edina Invitational Hockey Tournament (second place losing to Elk River 7-6 in overtime shootout)
Roseau (second place losing to Osseo/Maple Grover 5-3)
Cloquet (Champions beating Cloquet 8-2 in the finals)
Best Wins: Osseo/Maple Grove 8-1 in East Regional championship game (showed that they could dominate a good team), Hermantown 4-1 in the semifinals of the Cloquet tourney
Toughest loss: Prior Lake/Savage 2-1 in Eden Prairie pool play, Edina 7-4, Farmington 2-1 (beaten by a good goal tender)
Game stories on this site: East Regional Championship game with Osseo/Maple Grove, East Regional semifinal with Wayzata Blue, Edina, Edina championship game with Osseo/Maple Grove, D8 playoff championship game Lakeville North
Team Summary: If Lakeville South were a military force, they would have storm troopers, heavy artillery, mine fields, and solid defenders. The South forwards are the storm troopers. Led by Joey Novak, the Cougar forwards simply never stop being on the hunt when on the ice. The Novak lead line, but line mates are all ready to attack. Reed Smith is the spark plug on another line that makes that line click. The heavy artillery in the Cougar arsenal is Austin Pratt. His shot is like a Tiger tank firing an 88mm round. But his all-around play against Osseo/Maple Grove in the East Regional was a dominating factor in the Cougars win. The South’s smaller forwards are the mine fields. If the opponent focuses on the heavy stuff, they explode often scoring at critical times.
The Cougar defense has been great all year statistically. They have held their opponents to 1.4 goals a game. But thirty seven of those goals came in 6 games. Most of those six games were losses. In the other 50 games they played, they gave up 44 goals. In all of their 56 games, it did not matter how good the opponent was, the Cougars could “tank it”. In military terms, their front collapsed. At South Regional in Woodbury they buried everybody. At Alexandria, what will they do? They will be the state tourney favorite; all #1 ranked teams are the favorite.
ST. Michael/Albertville (#16 ranked)
Season Record: 33-8-3, D5 First Place in regular season, D5 First Place in playoffs, #1 Seed West Region
Eden Prairie First Test of the Best (Consolation round lost to Farmington 3-2)
Stillwater Elite (Champions beating Lakeville North 6-5 in championship game)
Bemidji Paul Bunyan (second place lost to the Grand Forks Greyhounds 2-1 in championship game)
Best Wins: Hermantown 4-2 (Hawks first loss) at Bemidji, OMG 3-2 in Eden Prairie tourney
Toughest loss: Prior Lake/Savage 5-2 in February
Game stories on this site: D5 game MAML
Team Summary: STMA is the “Rodney Dangerfield” of this tourney. They get no respect. In a way, it is easy to understand. They, like MAML, have no outstanding players. They are just good, but unlike MAML, they are deeper and bigger. There is very little fall off in their three lines. They play steady hockey and hold their positions well. Their defense is sound and their goal tending is good. And they are experienced. The Knights have been one of the top teams in the northwestern part of the twin cities for the past three years and have played in regional tourneys the past four years. This is the first time they have made it to state.
Elk River (#4 ranked)
Season Record: 45-9-2, D10 Second Place in regular season, D10 Second Place in playoffs, #2 Seed North Region
Eden Prairie First Test of the Best (fourth place losing to Minnetonka 5-3)
Spirit of Duluth (Consolation Champions beating Wayzata Blue 4-1)
Edina Invitational Hockey Tournament (Champions beating Lakeville South 7-6 in overtime/shootout)
White Bear Lake Moose Goheen Invitational Tournament (Third place beating Eden Prairie 6-3)
Best Wins: Edina Championship win over Lakeville South 7-6, Prior Lake 4-1 in January, Centennial 9-1 in North Regional game for #2 seed to the state tourney
Toughest loss: Prior Lake 4-3 in Eden Prairie Tourney semifinals, 4-2 loss to Centennial in D10 playoff championship game
Game stories on this site: Edina championship game with Lakeville South, Blaine
Team Summary: The Elks have been a team of streaks. They got hot in mid-December and went on a 12 game streak that terrorized their opponents winning by an average score of 8-1. The streak started with a 5-2 win over Centennial and was ended by a 5-2 loss to Centennial. The Elks play a tough pressing game of hockey. They have balance at the forwards and a stingy defense. Their team is led by Nathan Horn, a gritty hard working center and a great goal scorer. The Elks beat up their nemesis, Centennial, 9-1 to get to the state. If that score is any indication, they could be hot in Alexandria and that will be tough on the other teams.
Prior Lake/Savage (#2 ranked)
Season Record: 54-7-0, D6 First Place in regular season, D6 First Place in playoffs, #1 Seed South Region
Eden Prairie First Test of the Best (Champions beat Eden Prairie 3-2)
Spirit of Duluth (Champions beat Eden Prairie 5-3)
Bloomington Midwest Regional Holiday Tourney (Champions beat Woodbury 4-1)
St. Cloud Geyer Center Ice Classic (placed second losing to Minnetonka 6-4)
Best Wins: Edina 5-0 in the South Region championship game and Minnetonka 8-1 in the D6 playoff championship game the week before. The other 52 wins were not bad either.
Toughest loss: Three late season losses to Lakeville South 2-1, Elk River 4-1 and Minnetonka 4-1.
Game stories on this site: Bloomington tourney Marquette Sentinal game, D6 Eden Prairie, D6 Waconia, D6 playoffs Minnetonka
Team Summary: Prior Lake/Savage is just a tough peewee team. They have depth and skate three lines. All three lines will compete with most any line the opponent puts out on the ice. Their forwards are led by smooth skating Kevin Fellows, perhaps the best center in the state. The Laker defense is tough and their goal tending is great. They play with confidence and are smart about working the puck in their opponent’s zone. The Laker defensemen combine with the Laker forwards to contain opponents, boxing them off the puck.
The Lakers play together as a team. Since the season started in early October, their coaches have had approximately 25 days off in the l35 days leading up to the state tourney. That’s dedication. The Lakers play more games, they practice often, and it shows.
Osseo/Maple Grove (#3 ranked)
Season Record: 38-9-5, D3 First Place in regular season, D3 First Place in playoffs, #2 Seed East Region
Eden Prairie First Test of the Best (lost in pool play when beaten by STMA 3-2)
Spirit of Duluth (third place beating Minnetonka 7-4)
Edina Invitational Hockey Tournament (lost in pool play when tied by Stillwater 3-3 and Lakeville South 6-6)
Roseau (Champions beat Lakeville South 5-3 in championship game)
White Bear Lake Moose Goheen Invitational Tournament (second place losing to Centennial 5-1)
Best Win: Lakeville South 5-3 in Roseau Tourney
Toughest loss: Lakeville South 8-1 in East Regional finals
Game stories on this site: Lakeville South East Regional final, Centennial game in January, D3 playoff title game against Crow River, D3 game Wayzata Gold
Team Summary: This team has been a tough, defensive team all season long. Their defense is led by Jack Kelly who can dominate and control the game flow. But with one of the best goal scorers in the state, Sam Huff, out for the tourney, the Crimson will have to rely on Jarrett Cammarata and Mitchel Machlitt to provide the offensive firepower. OMG’s outstanding goal tender Mitchell James will have to play well and he has had some good games.
OMG has been on a roll for the past month winning the Roseau tourney, taking second at White Bear Lake, winning the D3 playoffs and winning the #2 East seed. They are a good team and will be prepared to play the Lakers. Nobody should count them out of the state tourney.