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Hockeytown USA tussle headlines the week ahead: Jan. 12-19

By Tim Kolehmainen, 01/12/09, 11:40AM CST

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Roseau and Warroad square off for the latest game in their longtime rivalry

By Tim Kolehmainen, Editor of the BREAKDOWN

Game of the week
Roseau at Warroad (7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 15)
I’m not sure there’s a better high school rivalry in any sport, anywhere in the country than the annual Roseau-Warroad clash. Sure, some of the edge has been taken off in recent years because the two teams don’t compete for the same section title anymore. Some will say Moorhead is a bigger rival for Roseau now and that Warroad has to compete with Thief River Falls, East Grand Forks and others. But the history involved in the series can’t be beat. Even the New York Times featured the game back in January 2007.

http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/01/26/travel/escapes/26hockey.html?pagewanted=print

I won’t try to compete with the eloquence of the Times, which compared the two towns just 20 miles apart on Highway 11, saying that “like most great rivalries, this one is between two places that are more alike than not.” Warroad boasts of Henry Boucha and the Christian family and its amazing run of Olympians. Roseau can claim Rube Bjorkman, the Broten family and a sizeable clan of NHL alumni.

The Roseau Rams hockey website has a specially-dedicated page breaking down the game’s history, on which they can brag of a 92-57-4 edge. The Rams have also won the past four meetings.

http://www.roseauramshockey.com/rams_warriors/Rams_Warriors.htm

PieperWarroad has hope of turning that around this year after surging to a 12-1-0 record through a baker’s dozen games. The Warriors have been very stingy defensively for goalie Jason Goldsmith (11-1-0, 1.45 GAA, .914 save %) thanks to the play of top defensemen Michael Pieper (2-9-11), Tai Larson (2-9-11), Carson Gray (3-8-11), Joey Olson and Eric Milbridge.

Up front, the Warriors are plenty potent, having pumped in 71 goals in 13 games. Brock Nelson (17-14-31) leads the way, but is followed closely by Brett Hebel (8-16-24), Dane Shaugabay (7-16-23), Chris Sylvester (13-7-20) and Mickey Knox (7-10-17).  Warroad was expected to get a challenge in Section 8A after losing several top players to graduation, but as the Warriors usually do, they just churn out good hockey players.

After two straight years of competing for the state title (and winning it all in 2007), the Rams have stumbled a bit thus far with a 6-5-2 record. They’ve yet to put a winning streak together and earlier were shut out by section rival Moorhead, 5-0.

Roseau has played without one of its top players, Nick Oliver, who just returned to the lineup after missing much of the first six weeks with an injury suffered while playing for the USHL’s Fargo Force. In just two games, he’s already tallied two goals and two assists and given them a big lift. But the Force also nabbed All-State goaltender Mike Lee before his senior season and fellow All-State junior (and Mr. Hockey) Aaron Ness graduated early to attend the University of Minnesota.

LandmanRoseau still has firepower with Tyler Landman (9-17-26), Adam Knochenmus (14-10-24), Shane Omdahl (6-11-17) and the return of Oliver. But they’ve only received 17 goals from the rest of the lineup. In nets, coach Scott Oliver has rotated three goalies in an attempt to find a replacement for Lee: Brady Wrightsman (3-1-0, 3.29 GAA, .845 save %), Ethan Kvidt (2-2-1, 2.48 GAA, .892 save %) and Allen Mekash (1-2-1, 3.11 GAA, .875 save %).

Common opponents: Thief River Falls (Roseau won 3-1, Warroad won 3-1), East Grand Forks (Roseau won 6-1 and 7-3, Warroad won 10-3), Lake of the Woods (Roseau won 8-2, Warroad won 4-0), Hibbing (Roseau tied 5-5, Warroad won 5-0) and Grafton-Park River, N.D. (Roseau lost 6-3, Warroad won 3-1).

Terrific 10 games of the week
2. Edina at Eden Prairie (7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 16) – the Hornets get their latest test against a top foe, while the Eagles have a chance to further muddle the top of the Class AA rankings…and place themselves in a select group that can claim to have a shot at No. 1.
3. Blaine at Centennial (7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17) – the two Northwest Suburban powers are only separated by a few miles…and are even closer in talent level. They should also compete for the Section 5AA title which the Bengals have claimed the last three years.
4. Hermantown at St. Cloud Cathedral (7:15 p.m., Friday, Jan. 16) – Hermantown finally lost its first game of the season last week, but the Hawks are still a state championship contender. Cathedral is also and this game should help sort out the top of the Class A rankings.
5. Virginia/MIB at Hibbing/Chisholm (7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17) – the Iron Range Conference is a bit down this year, but these two are among the cream of the crop up in the Northeast. Both feature big-time scorers, which should make for a fun shootout.
6. Maple Grove at Blaine (7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 15) – another week, another test for the surprising Crimson. Perhaps it’s now past time to call them a surprise, though. Beating Blaine Thursday would certainly put a stop to that.
7. Hill-Murray at Holy Angels (7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 13) – the Pioneers are reeling with the loss of four of their top players to rules violations. Don’t expect Holy Angels to take it easy on the defending Class AA champions, though.
8. Breck at Rochester Lourdes (3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17) – another top battle in the Class A ranks, which just may be a preview of a state tournament game. Breck’s young Mustangs head south to face arguably the top team from Rochester.
9. Duluth Denfeld at Duluth East (7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 13) – a rivalry game that has had its ebbs and flows over the years. Denfeld was the dominant team in the late 80s, heading to state tourneys with goalie Robb Stauber. Then Mike Randolph took over at East and the Greyhounds have surged ahead.  In a few years, these might be the only two public schools in the city…further intensifying the rivalry.
10. Minneapolis East at Minneapolis West (7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17) – the battle for the city, which has seen its many hockey programs shrivel and co-op until just East and West were left. The game is more for bragging rights than anything else, but don’t discount bragging rights as a motivating factor.

Player of the week
Cody Hotchkin (Duluth Denfeld)
HotchkinThere were many players who put up bigger stat lines last week than Hotchkin, a 5-9/170 senior forward for the Hunters, but none had his timing. Denfeld won all three games last week by a single goal and Hotchkin had the game-winner in two of them and assisted on the winner in the other.
Hotchkin started the week by scoring both of Denfeld’s goals in a 2-1 victory at Princeton on Tuesday. He gave the Hunters a lead with a powerplay tally early in the first, then after the Tigers tied it up early in the third, Hotchkin notched the game-winner less than four minutes later. He only scored one goal in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win over Proctor, but made it count, netting the game-winner 4:07 into the extra session. In Denfeld’s final game of the week on Saturday, Hotchkin tallied assists on both of the Hunters’ goals in a 2-1 victory over Sauk Rapids-Rice.
After posting a 19-28-47 line last season, he now has 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points on the season to lead the team.

Leaderboards (through Pointstreak)
Scoring leaders -- http://mbhsh.stats.pointstreak.com/scoringleaders.html?leagueid=538&seasonid=3534
Goalie leaders –
http://mbhsh.stats.pointstreak.com/goalieleaders.html?leagueid=538&seasonid=3534

Where will we be?
Saturday, Jan. 17: Little Falls at Fergus Falls

State rankings (01-11-2009)

Class AA

1. Edina (12-1-0)
2. Bloomington Jefferson (12-0-0)
3. Eden Prairie (9-2-0)
4. Blaine (12-1-0)
5. Centennial (9-1-1)
6. Holy Angels (7-2-1)
7. Woodbury (12-1-1)
8. Duluth East (9-2-1)
9. Wayzata (8-3-1)
10. Minnetonka (8-5-0)
11. Maple Grove (10-1-2)
12. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (10-2-0)
13. Hill-Murray (8-3-1)
14. Moorhead (5-5-1)
15. White Bear Lake (7-7-1)

Class A

1. Little Falls (11-0-0)
2. St. Thomas Academy (9-3-0)
3. Hermantown (12-1-0)
4. Mahtomedi (10-2-1)
5. St. Cloud Cathedral (11-2-1)
6. Warroad (12-1-0)
7. International Falls (9-4-1)
8. Rochester Lourdes (9-2-0)
9. Breck (9-3-0)
10. Virginia/MI-B (11-4-0)
11. Alexandria (10-2-0)
12. Duluth Marshall (7-5-0)
13. Thief River Falls (8-3-1)
14. Red Wing (8-5-0)
15. Albert Lea (9-3-0)