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Class A rankings: South St. Paul, Hibbing and Hutch break in

01/19/2009, 9:44am CST
By Tim Kolehmainen

Newcomers break into the top-15, while Little Falls remains unbeaten and on top

by Tim Kolehmainen, Editor of The BREAKDOWN

The Breakdown takes its weekly look at the top 15 teams in Class A...

1. Little Falls (12-0-0)
The Flyers looked a bit rusty after a nine-day layoff at Fergus Falls Saturday, as they fell behind 2-0 late in the first period. But they certainly shook the rust off, tallying nine straight goals in a runaway (9-2). Senior Ben Hanowski (30-22-52) took another step closer to the state scoring record with two goals and five assists in the game. But he’s not alone in Little Falls.  The Flyers have snipers like seniors Ben Nelson, Riley Hirsch and Wesley Waytashek and a big and intimidating defensive quartet in Izaak Berglund (9-21-30), Logan Kalis, Jordan Gosiak and Joe Rydeen.  With that balance, Little Falls looked every bit the part of the state’s No. 1 team.

This week: Tuesday vs. Willmar (7:15 p.m.), Thursday at Alexandria (7 p.m.).

2. St. Thomas Academy (10-3-1)
No one can argue with the Cadets’ schedule, which is the best in Class A.  St. Thomas Academy regularly plays the top teams in the state regardless of class – but this week, they drop back down into their own ranks with a pretty tough duo in Lourdes and Mahtomedi.  It’ll be a great chance for the Cadets to make a statement – or for those two to send STA tumbling down the rankings.  Last week, the Cadets shut out Sibley (6-0) and tied South St. Paul (1-1), a tie which propelled the Packers back into the top-15.  Underclassmen Christian Isackson (6-19-25), A.J. Reid (11-9-20) and Justin Crandall (10-10-20) continue to pace the young Cadets.  But are they still too young?

This week: Tuesday at Rochester Lourdes (7:30 p.m.), Thursday vs. Mahtomedi (7:30 p.m.), Saturday at Tartan (7:30 p.m.).

3. Hermantown (13-1-0)
They’ve already proven their one of the top teams in Minnesota. Now the Hawks step across the border to host the two Wisconsin-based Lake Superior Conference teams this week.  Goaltender Ben Tessier is perfect in 10 games (10-0-0, 2.28 GAA, .893 save %), while sophomore Cody Christopherson (15-11-26) has been a great addition as the team’s leading scorer.  Injuries have knicked Hermantown, but they haven’t slowed it down yet.  Last week, Hermantown doubled up Grand Rapids (6-3), but unfortunately had a showdown at St. Cloud Cathedral on Friday postponed due to inclement weather.  We’ll have to wait another week before we can see the Hawks test themselves in state again.

This week: Tuesday vs. Superior, Wisc. (7:30 p.m.), Thursday vs. Ashland, Wisc. (7:30 p.m.).

4. Warroad (14-1-0)
The Warriors made a big statement with a 5-2 victory against longtime rival Roseau last Thursday – we’re the team to beat from the Northwest this year.  Dane Shaugabay and Brock Nelson got the Warriors rolling with goals in the first 1:14 of the game and Jason Goldsmith (13-1-0, 1.38 GAA, .914 save %) made it stand up by stopping 12 of 14 shots.  Not surprisingly, Nelson (20-16-36) and Shaugabay (9-21-30) are the Warriors’ two leading scorers, but they’ve had plenty of support from Brett Hebel (10-17-27), Mickey Knox (8-13-21) and former Little Falls product Chris Sylvester (15-8-23). This week, Warroad gets a chance to put its stamp on the Mariucci Conference with two tough games.

This week: Thursday vs. Thief River Falls (7:30 p.m.), Saturday at Moorhead (6 p.m.).

5. Mahtomedi (12-2-1)
The Zephyrs had a lone game last week because of bad weather across the state, but managed to stay on track with a 9-2 rout of Simley on Saturday.  As he has done much of the season, sophomore defenseman Ben Marshall – and Minnesota recruit -- led the way with four goals and an assist. Marshall (12-19-31) is the team’s leading scorer from the blueline, just ahead of forwards Charlie Adams (9-18-27) and Brandon Zurn (12-12-24). Tanner Jordan has chipped in with 11 goals, as well.  Mike McDonald (2-9-11) is a very capable defenseman in his own right.

This week: Thursday at St. Thomas Academy (7:30 p.m.), Saturday vs. Richfield (3 p.m.).

6. St. Cloud Cathedral (12-2-1)
Because of postponements, it will have been nine days since the Crusaders last played a game when they host Delano/Rockford in a Wright County Conference game on Thursday.  Will they be rusty?  Tough to say, but they did rout state-qualifier Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato 7-1 way back on Tuesday, Jan. 13 behind two goals from leading scorer Jordan Palusky (19-11-30).  Junior Nate Schmidt (12-15-27) is one of the top scoring defensemen in the state and has committed to Minnesota.  With the talent and experience on the Crusaders, it’s not likely a good week to be a WCC opponent.

This week: Thursday vs. Delano/Rockford (7 p.m.), Saturday vs. Mound-Westonka (1 p.m.).

7. Breck (11-3-0)
The Mustangs made their own statement last week by beating Rochester Lourdes 5-3 on Saturday afternoon down south. Trailing 3-2 late in the second period, Breck rallied with three straight goals from Joe Zeidler and a pair from Riley Borer, including the game-winner with just 2:32 remaining.  Breck has been a bit up-and-down at times this year, but that should be expected from a team relying on as many juniors as the Mustangs do.  Tyson Fulton (10-14-24), Joe Rehkamp (7-15-22) and Mike Morin (9-9-18) lead the scoring race, while John Russell (8-3-0, 2.24 GAA, .911 save %) has played well in nets.  An interesting tidbit: backup goalie Max McCormick has started two games – and has posted two shutouts.

This week: Tuesday at Totino-Grace (7 p.m.), Thursday vs. St. Paul Saints (7:30 p.m.), Saturday at St. Paul Como (3 p.m.).

8. Alexandria (10-2-0)
The Cardinals get a bump in the rankings in anticipation of their Central Lakes showdown with Little Falls this week.  The contest will cap a stretch in which the Cardinals played five straight home games.  Last week, the Cardinals stayed on track for the showdown with a 5-1 victory over Sauk Rapids-Rice.  Alexandria is one of the stingiest defensive teams in the state, allowing only 20 goals in 12 games. Senior netminder Matt Hemingway (10-2-0, 1.61 GAA, .931 save %) is a big reason the Cardinals are off to a terrific start, while Thomas Williams (10-12-22) and Tyler Resch (13-7-20) handle much of the scoring load.

This week: Monday vs. Moorhead (7 p.m.), Tuesday vs. River Lakes (7 p.m.), Thursday vs. Little Falls (7 p.m.).

9. Rochester Lourdes (9-3-0)
The Eagles took a hit last week with a 5-3 home loss to Breck on Saturday, but remain arguably the best team from the south.  The line of Tyler Voigt (14-14-28), Cole Peterson (8-18-26) and Taylor Funk (13-8-21) makes Lourdes run, as they did even in the loss to the Mustangs.  The Eagles trailed 2-0 after the first period, but responded with three quick goals to lead off the second period, two from Voigt and the other from defenseman Pete Spratte (3-10-13). Yet they couldn’t hold off Breck in the end.

This week: Tuesday vs. St. Thomas Academy (7:30 p.m.), Friday vs. East Grand Forks (7:30 p.m.), Saturday at Delano/Rockford (3 p.m.).

10. South St. Paul (9-3-3)
It’s a big debut in the rankings for the Packers, who have done too much to ignore any longer. Last week, South St. Paul ripped Red Wing (6-3) and tied No. 2 St. Thomas Academy (1-1) to stake their top-15 claim – heck, their top-10 claim.  Now they have to avoid a letdown against Richfield, something they couldn’t dismiss after losing earlier games to Park and Tartan.  Defenseman Zach Palmquist (10-15-25) leads the Packers in scoring and is tied for first in goals with forward Trevor Mikacevich (10-6-16). Austyn Young (7-16-23) and Jesse Poznikowich (2-18-20) are both playmakers, while sophomore goalie Adam Wilcox (8-3-3, 2.26 GAA, .906 save %) has been as good as advertised.

This week: Thursday at Richfield (7:30 p.m.).

11. Hibbing/Chisholm (11-4-1)
The Bluejackets are another team with a great jump into the rankings after sweeping two games last week. And yet the Bluejackets are an enigma. They have some great victories, including both last week (1-0 over Cloquet and 4-2 over Virginia), but also some games in which they fell shy of expectations. They’re on the right track now, but have a strange schedule with only two games in the next two weeks – so whether they can keep their momentum is an open question.  What isn’t a question is the skill-level of leading scorer Aaron Jamnick (20-14-34). The senior sniper has tallied a third of the team’s goals and already has two four-goal games, including a shocker in a 6-2 win against perennial power Duluth Marshall before Christmas.

This week: Tuesday at Duluth Denfeld (7:30 p.m.), Friday at Grand Rapids (7:30 p.m.).

12. Virginia/MI-B (11-5-0)
The Blue Devils are most certainly powered by a strong first unit that includes a front line of Chris Westin (19-23-42), Garrett Hendrickson (9-20-29) and Andrew Judnick (7-14-21) along with blueline scorer Jordan Krebsbach (13-10-23).  They were stymied last week by Hibbing/Chisholm, however, as the Bluejackets limited they to just a goal and an assist each from Westin and Judnick in a 4-2 Hibbing victory.  The loss hurts Virginia/MIB in the Iron Range Conference race, as they have now lost to both International Falls and Hibbing already. Two rematches still remain, though, including a visit by the Broncos this Friday.

This week: Tuesday vs. Two Harbors (7:30 p.m.), Friday vs. International Falls (7:30 p.m.).

13. Thief River Falls (9-3-1)
The Prowlers took care of business in their lone game last week, beating visiting Crookston 5-2 on Thursday behind two goals each from Lucas Dillon (14-16-30) and Kent Peterson (8-10-18).  Is Thief River Falls ready to hit the road, though?  After hosting Moorhead Tuesday, the Prowlers will have played nine straight home games and haven’t left the friendly confines of the Ralph since heading to Bemidji back on Dec. 18.  Visiting Warroad on Thursday might be a rude awakening.  Goalie Zane Gothberg (8-3-1, 1.44 GAA, .941 save %) could be a big factor.

This week: Tuesday vs. Moorhead (7:30 p.m.), Thursday at Warroad (7:30 p.m.)

14. Red Wing (9-6-0)
Red Wing may still be seeking itself out more than halfway through the season.  The Wingers haven’t had a winning streak longer than three games, nor have they had a losing skid longer than two.  They have some quality victories, but also some losses against quality opponents.  For example, last week the Wingers split a pair of tough games, losing to South St. Paul (6-3) and downing Albert Lea (5-3) on Saturday.  The Wingers held onto the top-15 rankings, but had some serious competition from Duluth Marshall and International Falls – which suffered a shocking loss to Greenway last week (the Raiders’ first win after 13 straight losses).

This week: Friday at New Prague (7 p.m.).

15. Hutchinson (10-1-1)
The 15th and final spot appears to be constantly in flux, recognizing teams that have earned their way to it, but aren’t perhaps as well-versed in success as the other teams in the rankings.  This week it’s Hutchinson’s turn to try to hold onto the slot.  The Tigers earned this spot by rebounding from their only loss (8-1 to Holy Angels) by beating a very good Class A team in New Prague (4-3) last Tuesday.  Mitchell Cowger (12-15-27) and Riley Bengsten (16-10-26) can both snipe and Zak Swenson (10-1-1, 2.35 GAA, .896 save %) has been solid in nets.

This week: Tuesday vs. Prior Lake (7 p.m.), Thursday vs. Shakopee (7 p.m.).

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