Scott Nelson of Eastview scored twice for Team Southeast in its 9-4 victory over Team Northeast. Photo by Helen Nelson
In the offense-heavy Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League there’s one line that’s proving to be extremely difficult to defend against.
Through 16 games, Team Southeast’s point-scoring powerhouse trio of Lakeville South’s Justin Kloos, Hill-Murray’s Jake Guentzel and Eastview’s Scott Nelson has registered 85 points (37 goals, 48 assists).
Eight of those points (three goals, five assists) came during Southeast’s 9-4 victory over Team Northeast on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at New Hope Ice Arena that kept Team Southeast (11-2-3) atop the Elite League standings and increased its lead by four points over Northeast (9-4-3).
“It's a big win,” Nelson said. “I'm just glad we came out with the 'W'.”
Scoring two goals in the contest, Nelson was quick to credit his linemates.
“We had a good game by (Justin) Kloos and (Jake) Guentzel,” Nelson said. “They set me up those couple times, they're phenomenal players and it's fun playing with them.
“It's a lot easier to get the puck, and give-and-go and do all the little things.”
Scott Nelson of Eastview, left, has scored 12 goals for Team Southeast this fall. Photo by Helen Nelson
Kloos had four assists, giving him an Elite League-leading 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists). Guentzel also had an assist as well as a goal that sent the water bottle of Team Northeast goaltender Justin Quale (Benilde-St. Margaret’s) flying from the net.
With an abundance of points, it’s clear to see the line’s chemistry despite being somewhat newly formed.
“I recently got moved up about two and a half weeks ago to play with them and it's been going really well,” Nelson said.
Having good things happen on a line with so much offensive power is, not surprisingly, a good thing for Team Southeast.
“We have a really good team, a fun bunch of guys,” Nelson said. “I'm having a lot of fun.”
In his first year in the league, Nelson, who has 17 points (12 goals, five assists) finds himself on both a dynamic scoring line and a first-place team. Instead of being caught in the moment, he is using the unique experience to improve.
“It's definitely a speed game,” Nelson said of the Elite League’s play. “It's a lot harder to get a shot off -- everything's quicker, faster, your passes have to be a second quicker. Everything is a lot faster.
“Hopefully I can keep the pace going and bring that back to our varsity team and push them to be better, too.”
Though the experience will likely translate to a successful senior season at Eastview, Nelson is keeping his mind in the present with Team Southeast.
“We have to keep a positive attitude, just keep buzzing out on the ice and working hard,” Nelson said.
“Things are bouncing our way.”
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff
Charlie Sampair of Hill-Murray had a goal and an assist for Team Northeast in its 9-4 loss to Team Southeast. Photo by Helen Nelson
The ring of the crossbar is a tantalizing sound for a goal scorer, especially when your team is in dire need of points.
That echoing sound was all Hill-Murray senior and Team Northeast forward Charlie Sampair heard in a Tuesday, Oct. 11, drubbing at the hands of Team Southeast.
Close, but not close enough.
It seemed to be a theme all night for Sampair in Team Northeast’s 9-4 loss.
On a breakaway attempt at around the eight minute mark in the first period, Sampair flew in and tried to put a move on Southeast Goalie Anders Franke of Elk River. Franke covered nicely and denied Sampair, keeping the score tied at one.
“I usually feel pretty comfortable coming in on that side and then going to my backhand,” Sampair said. “I felt like I had it. If I had waited a half second I would’ve had it.”
In the second period, Sampair rang the crossbar like a church bell after stepping around a defender. He also missed on another partial breakaway when he cut in front of the net and was denied again by Franke.
The missed opportunities proved crucial, and the loss dropped Northeast four points behind first-place Team Southeast in the standings.
Sampair did tie the game up with a wraparound goal in the second period and added an assist in the third. He has three goals and seven points for second-place Team Northeast.
In his first year in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League, Sampair hasn't been on the losing end of many games, and he was frank in his response to this one.
“You gotta lose some and win some, but we got beat pretty bad.” he said.
The speedy Sampair scored six goals last season for the Pioneers, compared to 15 during his sophomore campaign. He finished with nine total points in what was self-described as a disappointing output.
“Sophomore year I had a great year,” Sampair said. “I struggled with injuries last year, but I’m feeling comfortable again.”
Sampair said he has been adding a lot of muscle in the weight room this offseason as well as continuing to work on his blazing speed.
The Pioneers are facing a bit of rebuilding after the departure of their starting goaltender and all but one defenseman from last year’s squad, but Sampair thinks they will be just fine.
“We’re gonna be pretty one-sided this year,” Sampair said. “I think we’ll be fine offensively but our forwards are definitely gonna have to play some good D zone this year. I think we can handle it but our forwards are just gonna have to step it up.”
After struggling last year, Sampair just seems happy to move on.
“I’m injury free and I think I’m gonna have a good year,” he said.
--Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff
1. Justin Kloos, Team Southeast
Despite being the target of numerous heavy hits, the Lakeville South senior continued to pick himself off the ice and pick apart the Team Northeast defense. The shifty Kloos, who leads the Elite League in scoring, had four assists, and three of them directly resulted in goals.
2. Nick Kuchera, Team Southeast
A senior from Eagan, Kuchera scored twice. The high-energy forward opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first period and added a third-period goal as Team Southeast broke open what had been a hotly contested game.
3. Cody Corbett, Team Northeast
The senior defenseman from Stillwater continued his role as a dynamic offensive threat, scoring twice and adding two assists in another spectacular performance.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
Deft passing by league scoring leader Justin Kloos of Lakeville South set up teammates Eric Schurhamer of St. Thomas Academy and Scott Nelson of Eastview for goals nine seconds apart in the final minute of the second period as Team Southeast beat Team Northeast 9-4 on Tuesday, Oct. 11, in a matchup of Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League leaders at New Hope Ice Arena.
Kloos, who also set up a shorthanded goal by Hill-Murray’s Jake Guentzel, finished with four assists, bumping his league-best scoring total to 35 points.
The win gives Team Southeast (11-2-3) 26 points in the Elite League standings, four ahead of second-place Team Northeast (9-4-3) with five regular season games remaining for each team.
Team Southeast took a 5-3 lead into the third period after its two-goal flurry late in the second. It opened the third with goals in the opening 5 minutes from Nick Kuchera of Eagan and Scott Nelson of Eastview.
Team Northeast defenseman Cody Corbett of Stillwater scored twice on cannon wrist shots that zipped high into the net. His first goal sent the water bottle sitting atop the goal spiraling high in the air. Corbett finished with two goals and two assists.
Kuchera, Nelson and Tyler Sheehy of Burnsville each had two goals and Eagan’s Michael Zajac also scored for Team Southeast.
Charlie Sampair of Hill-Murray and Dylan Steman of Maple Grove added goals for Team Northeast.
Anders Franke of Elk River made 31 saves to earn the win. Team Northeast goaltender Justin Quale of Benilde-St. Margaret’s stopped 25 of 32 shots before giving way to Blaine’s Nick Malvin early in the third period. Malvin made seven saves on nine shots.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor