By Tim Kolehmainen, Editor of The BREAKDOWN
Game of the week
Edina at Wayzata (7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 22)
It might be tough to tab a rematch of an earlier game as the game of the week, but this tilt between No. 1 Edina and surging Wayzata gets the nod.
The two teams played back on the season’s first weekend in the Wayzata Turkey Trot tournament championship with the Hornets claiming a 4-1 victory. Michael Sit, Connor Gaarder, Charlie Taft and Anders Lee netted goals for Edina to offset a goal by Wayzata’s Danny Walsh. Alex Clayton got the start in nets for the Trojans and was stung for four goals on 26 shots.
Plenty has changed for both teams since that game.
Edina has won 11 straight games since losing in the second week to Hill-Murray. Coach Curt Giles shook up his top two lines, combining the powerful Marshall Everson (19-19-38), Lee (14-24-38) and Gaarder (14-19-33) on his No. 1 unit. Since that point, they’ve been nearly unstoppable, scoring 29 of the last 37 goals the Hornets have tallied. Edina averages just over five goals a game despite playing arguably the toughest schedule in the state. The Hornets have already played
Johnny Ankeny (12-1-0, 1.62 GAA, .915 save %) has backstopped Edina in nearly every game, giving it a solid last line of defense in front of underrated blueliners Max Everson (1-5-6), David Jarrett, Patrick Regan, Brendan Baker, Matt VanVoorhis and Jake Heck. They’ve allowed just 26 goals in 15 games and no more than four to any opponent (Buffalo tabbed them for four in the season opener and Blaine hit four the day after Christmas).
Last week, Edina fought through a pair of tough games, beating Benilde-St. Margaret’s (6-2) on Tuesday and edging Eden Prairie (2-1 in overtime) on Friday night. Wayzata posted a trio of victories to remain hot, defeating Rogers (9-2) on Tuesday, Eastview (1-0) on Thursday and Shakopee (10-0) on Saturday.
Wayzata has reeled off 10 straight wins since starting the season 1-3-1. Senior goaltender Ty Simcoe (9-2-0, 1.55 GAA, .923 save %) has been even hotter. He’s posted three shutouts in the last five games (Clayton has a fourth during that same streak), starting with an impressive 21-save blanking of Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the Schwan Cup Silver division championship game on New Year’s Day.
The Trojans are a hard-hitting, well-disciplined bunch. They’re aren’t as high-scoring as the Hornets, having netted just under four goals a game (and that includes the two big outbursts last week), but are just as stingy on defense, with only 24 goals allowed in 15 games. Billy Soule (5-13-18), Matt Straate (7-9-16), Kevin Blackley (6-10-16), Seth Barnes (8-6-14), Scott Holm (5-9-14), Walsh (9-4-13) and Bryan Tabery (5-5-10) lead Wayzata’s forward lines, showing the balance that has been tough to stop. The Trojans aren’t reliant on one line to ignite their offense.
Sophomore D.J. Jones (2-8-10) has been a great addition to the blue line, joining Lucas Whelan (4-5-9) and crew in front of Simcoe.
Common opponents: Other than each other, Benilde-St. Margaret’s (2-0 win for Wayzata, 6-2 win for Edina) and Moorhead (1-0 win for Wayzata, 3-0 win for Edina).
Terrific 10 games of the week
2. Little Falls at Alexandria (7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 22)
Top-ranked Little Falls gets one of its toughest tests in Central Lakes foe Alexandria with top goaltender Matt Hemingway. The Flyers won the first meeting back on Dec. 12, 4-3 on Wesley Waytashek’s goal with 6:46 remaining.
3. Mahtomedi at St. Thomas Academy (7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 22)
The Zephyrs are hoping to break the Hill-Murray/St. Thomas Academy stranglehold on the Classic Suburban – and also to prove they belong among the top Class A teams in the state. The Cadets are trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.
4. Benilde-St. Margaret’s at Totino-Grace (7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 22)
The North Suburban race heats up Thursday night when the conference’s two private schools square off for the first of two meetings this season. Benilde likely comes in as the favorite, but the Eagles’ have arguably the top player in UMD-bound Dan DeLisle.
5. St. Francis at Totino-Grace (7:45 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24)
But St. Francis warns both NSC privates – and the rest of the state – not to ignore them. The Saints have been a huge surprise, more than doubling their victory total. If you haven’t seen state scoring-leader Joey Benik yet, here’s your chance.
6. Warroad at Moorhead (6 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24)
Despite an under .400 record and seven-game losing streak, Moorhead still can claim the Mariucci Conference title this winter, but only if they send the Warriors packing Saturday. On the other side, the Warriors will likely wrap it up with a victory.
7. St. Thomas Academy at Rochester Lourdes (7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 20)
After all the conference showdowns above, this one stands out as perhaps the best non-conference game in the state next week. The Cadets are always a player in the Class A title race, a position Lourdes hopes to get itself into with home victory Tuesday night.
8. Park Rapids at Northern Lakes (7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 20)
Yes, there is hockey played in the Mid-State and these are the two top programs vying for the conference crown. Park Rapids is the defending champ and isn’t eager to give way to Northern Lakes, which has stumbled recently after opening the season with nine straight wins. Two weeks ago, Park Rapids took a 4-3 victory – and a leg up on repeating.
9. Buffalo at St. Michael-Albertville (7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24)
Another lesser-known hockey conference, the Mississippi 8, gets its showcase game on Saturday when defending champion Buffalo visits upstart St. Michael-Albertville. The Bison won the first meeting 4-3 way back on Dec. 6 on Nick Johnson’s power play goal.
10. Luverne at Redwood Valley (3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24)
Redwood Valley won the first meeting of the Cardinals 5-1 back on Dec. 12 – and quickly propelled itself into an impressive season in just its fourth varsity year. Redwood Valley has only lost one of its last 12 games (10-1-1 in that stretch). Luverne features one of the state’s leading scorers in Phil Paquette.
Player of the week
Trent Caspar (Eagan)
Caspar couldn’t have been any better last week. The Wildcats’ goaltender stopped all 65 shots he faced as Eagan defeated Apple Valley (3-0 Tuesday) and Rosemount (2-0 Thursday). He now has four shutouts in his past six games, pushing his season totals to 9-4-1, 2.18 GAA, .907 save percentage.
Caspar started the week under heavy pressure, as Apple Valley outshot the Wildcats 35-18 on Tuesday night. But they couldn’t solve Caspar. Then on Thursday, Caspar stopped all 30 shots winless Rosemount sent his way to complete the perfect week.
Caspar has now played every second of every game this season for Eagan, which has ridden its top goalie to a 9-4-1 record.
Leaderboards (through Pointstreak)
Scoring leaders -- http://mbhsh.stats.pointstreak.com/scoringleaders.html?leagueid=538&seasonid=3534
Goalie leaders –
Where will we be?
Thursday, Jan. 22: Northern Lakes at Detroit Lakes
Saturday, Jan. 24: Warroad at Moorhead
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