Senior forward Sam Majka of Wayzata celebrates a Team Northwest goal as Team Northeast goaltender Aaron Dingmann, Majka's Wayzata teammate during the high school season, reacts. Photo by Helen Nelson
For senior forward Sam Majka of Team Northwest, the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League is all about getting prepared.
The new captain of depleted Wayzata, Majka has been assigned the tough task of being ready to fill some pretty big skates.
The departure of an explosive batch of players led by Mario Lucia, Tony Cameranesi and Tyler Klein means the Trojans' offense this season has some gaping holes.
“We definitely lost a lot of offensive talent,” Majka said.
To fill the void, Majka will have to learn to routinely contribute while playing against top-tier players, and the Elite League is just the place to hone his skills.
Majka put these skills on display in the first period when on an odd-man rush, he fought off a defender and zipped a pass across the ice directly onto the stick of teammate Grant Opperman, who easily found a home for it in the back of the net. He also assisted on another key goal in the 5-5 stalemate with Team Northwest on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope.
“I take a lot of pride in the high school season and there is no better way to get ready for the season than this,” Majka said of the Elite League.
Majka had eight goals and 10 assists last season for Wayzata, ranking him eighth on a team that got a combined 137 points from Lucia, Cameranesi and Klein alone. No longer buried on the depth chart, Majka knows that this year the spotlight is on him.
“Gotta score some goals this year, obviously,” Majka said, “being a senior, a lot more weight is on your back, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Wayzata will also be featuring new head coach in Pat O’Leary, an assistant last year.
“He really stresses on the fundamentals of the game, and playing the game right,” Majka said of O’Leary. “He is a great guy, I love playing for him.”
O’Leary will be taking the helm of a squad that Majka believes is sorely underrated.
“I think defensively we are still pretty solid,” Majka responded, “I guess you could call it a rebuilding year but we are still looking to have a good run.”
--Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff
Team Northwest's Christian Horn of Benilde-St. Margaret's scored twice against Team Northeast. Photo by Helen Nelson
After watching Team Northeast score three unanswered goals, Team Northwest had seen enough.
It only took one minute and seven seconds after Edina’s Bo Brauer put Team Northeast up by two goals for Christian Horn of Team Northwest to answer the call.
The Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior forward scored his second goal of the game at the 13:32 mark of the third period to cut the deficit down to one -- a deficit that would be equalized 25 seconds later on a goal by another Red Knights’ forward Jake O’Borsky.
“We were a little mad that we were up by two and we let them come back into the game,” Horn said. “But we knew we had it in us -- we've played this team before, they battle hard.”
After scoring 45 points (13 goals, 32 assists) for Benilde-St. Margaret’s during the 2010-2011 season, Horn is getting back into to familiar place but perhaps not as quickly at a pace as desired.
Through 10 games, Horn has amassed 10 points (five goals, five assists) and his two goals scored during the Sept. 27 game against Team Northeast broke a four-game scoreless streak.
“It felt good finally getting back on the board,” Horn said. “It definitely feels good scoring goals and doing what you're used to doing.”
Not only can Horn use his two-goal performance to fuel furthered offensive production, he is also surrounded by talented linemates including fellow Benilde-St. Margaret’s forward Grant Besse and Totino-Grace junior forward T.J. Roo.
Christian Horn (on knees) celebrates with linemates T.J. Roo of Totino-Grace and Grant Besse of Benilde-St. Margaret's after Horn scored in the third period for Team Northwest. Photo by Helen Nelson
“You couldn't ask for more offensive power right there,” Horn said. “Both of those two really know how to put the puck in the back of the net. Besse is always in the right spot, he know how to make the right plays and it's the same with Roo."
That skill seems to be transforming into chemistry. Roo is currently second in Upper Midewest High School Elite League scoring with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) and Besse is fourth in scoring with 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists).
"They know how to move the puck very well and they've got the points so it's working for them," Horn said. "We're working well together.”
It's the solid play of Horn and Besse that may be most important when the 2011-2012 varsity season starts.
Horn, Besse and O’Borsky are among nine players from Benilde-St. Margaret’s currently playing in the Elite League. The other six Red Knights are Jack Glover, Jake Horton, Daniel Labosky, T.J. Moore, Ryan Collins and goaltender Justin Quale who made 39 saves for Team Northwest.
“Quale played great, we always love having him in net,” Horn said. “He's a great goalie and it's always fun playing with someone you do during the season. He played a good game. We were kind of getting worked during the last 30 seconds of the game there, so he definitely held us in it.”
On the opposite end of the ice, Wayzata junior goaltender Aaron Dingmann made 26 saves for team Team Northeast. It was Dingmann who was in goal during the Trojans’ Section 6AA Semifinal victory over Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Saturday, Feb. 26.
That playoff loss has special meaning for Horn who was happy to score two goals against Dingmann during the more recent Elite League matchup.
“I always remind Dingmann that I love scoring on him just because I had three pulled back on me that game and I never let him forget it either,” Horn said, laughing. “So whenever I score on him, I always remind him in practice or whatever that it was me that scored and it was a Red Knight that got it done.”
With so many players from Benilde-St. Margaret’s playing this year in the Elite League, Horn is counting on the experience leading to a different result in the 2012 Section 6AA playoffs.
“It's definitely a motivator,” Horn said. “We've got nine guys in the league -- more than a lot of other schools -- and we're spread out on the different teams.
“We're definitely battling hard, we're working out every day and we know this is what it comes down to. We have leaders that can pull us to the state tournament, hopefully, and do what we can.”
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff
The Benilde-St. Margaret’s duo of Christian Horn and Jake O’Borsky scored 25 seconds apart in the third period as Team Northwest rallied from a two-goal deficit to forge a 5-5 tie with Team Northeast in an Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League matchup on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope.
O’Borsky’s goal came with 6 minutes, 3 seconds remaining on a rocket wrist shot that appeared to slam off the bottom of the crossbar before glancing down and out into the crease area.
Team Northeast took a 5-3 lead 12:25 into the third period when Edina junior Bo Brauer, a call up from the Elite Development League, slammed home a loose puck during a goalmouth scramble in front of Team Northwest goaltender Justin Quale of Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Minnetonka's Jack Ramsey, another player called up from the Development League, assisted on Brauer's goal.
Horn had two goals and linemate Grant Besse, also from Benilde-St. Margaret’s, added two assists. Minnetonka’s Connor Thie and Breck’s Grant Opperman also scored for Team Northeast (5-2-3).
Colin Hernon of Bloomington Jefferson, Adam Lovick and Joey Hess of Centennial and Lucas Kohls of Forest Lake also scored for Team Northwest (6-3-1).
Team Northeast goaltender Aaron Dingmann of Wayzata made 26 saves while Quale finished with 39.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
1. Christian Horn, Team Northwest
A Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior, Horn scored twice while playing on an ever-dangerous line with Red Knights’ teammate Grant Besse and Totino-Grace’s T.J. Roo.
2. Bo Brauer, Team Northeast
A junior from Edina, Brauer made a splash in his Elite League debut by scoring a goal and adding an assist. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound Brauer scored in the third period to give Team Northeast a 5-3 lead.
3. Joey Hess, Team Northeast
A 5-foot-9½, 160-pound senior defenseman from Centennial, Hess scored a goal and added an assist. Both of Hess’ points came while he was on the ice with Team Northeast’s Crash Line that included Elite League rookies Brauer and Jack Ramsey of Minnetonka.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor