There will be a new State Champion this year in Minnesota High School Hockey as the Minnetonka Skippers were upset in the Section 2AA semifinals. The title is up for grabs this year as a majority of the top teams have advanced out of their Section and into the State Tournament.
The Edina Hornets are the favorites coming in but this field of teams has everyone waiting to see what could happen this weekend. It only takes one bad period or poor shift to determine who can walk away victorious in this single elimination tournament. We don’t think this group of strong teams will disappoint and should make for an exciting tournament.
Here is the tale of the tape of each participating team and the players to watch:
LAKEVILLE SOUTH COUGARS (SECTION 1AA/14-12-1) – The Cougars are the lowest seed to make the AA tournament this season after they ousted friendly foe Lakeville North 4-0. They stumbled down the stretch but were able to reel it back in and rattle off 3 big wins in a row to get out of Section 1AA. Although a long shot to win the Title, this team is well coached and won’t go down without a fight.
The backbone of the squad is the Captain of the team (G) Henry Welsch (2.27 GAA/.924SV%) who can give them a chance to win on any given night. They are a low scoring team and often turn to (F) Adam Harvey (11-14-25), (F) Nico Aguilera (9-13-22) and (F) Cade Ahrenholz (8-13-21) to get their offense going. On the blue line (D) Jacob Malinski (4-12-16) has chipped in offensively.
EDEN PRAIRIE EAGLES (SECTION 2AA/17-9-2) – It has been an interesting year for the Eagles as they have had ups and downs throughout. They play a tough schedule and have dropped a lot of games but also found a way to beat quality opponents. Most of their team has participated in the High School State Tourney or Bantam AA State Tournament before. This experience goes a long way.
If they are going to make a deep run, they will have to get great play from their goal scoring machine (F) Jack Jensen (31-21-52) (Minnesota) who can bury the puck at any moment. They get production from (F) John Mittelstadt (11-24-35) (Minnesota) who can make things happen with his skill. The depth of their scoring from the forward position comes from (F) Sam Wilhite and (F) Spencer Rudrud who are nice compliments to their top end skill. Defensively they have a stud in (D) Luke Mittelstadt (3-25-28) (Minnesota) who can defend as well as chip in offensively.
THOMAS ACADEMY CADETS (SECTION 3AA/24-3-1) – The Cadets have a riches off depth up front and get scoring from several players as they have 6 forwards with over a point per game. This is a team that will compete and play a fast game consistently. They will need to get strong play from their defensive core and play in the offensive zone to make a run.
Every night it seems to be a different player as they have a strong top 6 forward group. Their leading goal scorer is (F) Rob Christy (17-18-35) (Colorado College) and he is complemented by (F) Ryan O’Neill (15-28-43 who has had a breakout season. When they aren’t getting it done, (F) Brendan McFadden (14-22-36) is producing along with (F) Luke Herzog. The Cadets have gotten a boost with the return of (F) Ben Stucker from injury as he is over a point a game since coming back. When the puck isn’t going in the net, (G) Muzzy Donohue (1.82 GAA/.924 SV%) has had their back.
WHITE BEAR LAKE BEARS (SECTION 4AA/21-4-1) – Don’t sleep on the Bears coming in because they have several younger players who won the Bantam AA State Title a couple years ago. They are battled tested and know how to win the big game. A stingy team and doesn’t give up many goals allowing only 1.91 goals per game in the regular season. If they are going to make a splash it will be important for them to play with a lead.
Although they aren’t a high scoring team, they have 2 lines deep with the knack off timely scoring which include (F) Blake Meister (9-23-32), (F) Lleyton Roed (13-17-30) and (F) Chase Bill (10-18-28). When not getting their production, the second cast of (F) Billy Rose, (F) Grant Hofeld and (F) Sam Newpower have gotten the job done. The Bears will need to play a tight checking game and have their special teams dialed in this weekend.
BLAINE BENGALS (SECTION 5AA/22-2-2) – The Bengals have been an offensive juggernaut all season long racking up the goals. They have game breakers up front who know just how to put the puck in the back of the net. Their power play during the regular season clicked along at a whopping 39.7% leaving opponents scared to take penalties. This is a team that has won a lot and comes into the tournament with confidence making them scary to face. Although they didn’t have the toughest of schedules, there is something to be said for knowing how to win.
When you start with Blaine, you don’t have to go far without mentioning their lethal weapon (F) Bryce Brodzinski (32-44-76) (Minnesota) who has terrorized opponents this season. His line mate (F) Carsen Richels (35-34-69) has burst on the scene and gained a lot of Division 1 attention while pilling up the points. Both of these players are big and strong which make them hard to deal with. They are complimented by (F) Cole Hansen and (F) Will Hillman in their destruction. On the blue line, (D) Nick Hauck (3-28-32) has moved pucks very well and gotten them up ice to their forwards to make plays. The Bengals have also gotten strong goaltending from (G) Joe Daninger (1.58 GAA/.928 SV%) who can be their great equalizer.
EDINA HORNETS (SECTION 6AA/24-2-1) – The Hornets cruised through one of the toughest schedules in the state to become the clear favorites going into the State Tournament. They have been very consistent and haven’t showed any signs of wavering. This is a team that has 2 really great lines and is well coached. To go along with their fire power, they bolster the deepest defensive core in the state with 3 Division 1 commitments who can make them a nightmare to play against. It is their tournament to win if they can play their game for 3 days.
You don’t have to look any further that the high flying (F) Jett Jungels (27-27-54) (Northern Michigan) when you talk about Edina. He has had an unreal year and has been very difficult to shut down with his speed. This is a team that can come at you in waves when (F) Liam Malmquist (23-29-52) and (F) Mason Nevers (17-32-49) (Minnesota) get it going. You can’t just shut them down because (F) Kevin Delaney and (F) Brett Chorske can make plays to hurt you. The embarrassment of riches doesn’t stop up front as they shut down opponents with their big time defensive core of (D) Mike Vorlicky (4-18-32) (Wisconsin), (D) Jake Boltmann (Minnesota), (D) Nick Williams (Minnesota) and Mason Reiners.
DULUTH EAST GREYHOUNDS (SECTION 7AA/18-6-2) – The Greyhounds are no stranger not only getting to the tournament, but winning it as well. They are the strength of Northern Minnesota who are on a mission to come to St. Paul and reclaim the State Title for the Great North. If you are going to knock them off, you better come ready to play a physical and old school type of game as they will be hard to play against. They are well coached and play extremely hard in all areas of the game giving up only 2 goals per game during the regular season.
They are led up front by NHL Draft prospect (F) Ryder Donovan (12-25-37) (Wisconsin) who is hard to slow down at 6ft 4inches tall. To complement Donovan, they roll out (F) Logan Anderson (8-20-28) and (F) Ricky Lyle (12-13-25). Don’t be confused by the numbers of their forward group as they play one of the toughest schedules in the state and are battle tested. Their defensive core is big and will take the body on opponents. They are led by hard hitting (D) Frederick Paine, who will lay the hammer down in the neutral zone.
MOORHEAD SPUDS (SECTIONS 8AA/18-6-1) – The Spuds are a throwback team coming from Northern Minnesota that have made several appearances in the State Tournament without every winning the title. In fact, they have lost several State Final games and have never been able to bring the elusive trophy back to Moorhead. This is not one of their most potent teams in terms of offense, but they can be stingy defensively and will compete extremely hard. They are a program with great pride and won’t be an easy out for anyone.
Most of their scoring comes from the duo of (F) Kyler Kleven (13-23-36) and (F) Isaac Henkemeyer-Howe (9-24-33). They will come at you in waves and be very relentless in the dirty areas. The two top players are accommodated by (F) Nolan Westra. They can be opportunistic on the power play with (D) Luke Gramer (4-21-25) (Northern Michigan), who can move the puck extremely well. In the pipes, (G) Hudson Hodges (1.83 GAA/.928 SV%) has been stellar and consistent while putting up great numbers.
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images