Game of the week
South St. Paul at Mahtomedi (7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31)
Until stumbling badly this week, Mahtomedi has been consistently ranked above the Packers all season long, despite losing a 5-2 game at South St. Paul on Dec. 18. That hasn’t sat well with Packer fans, who are sure to get fired up for the rematch between these Section 4A rivals this Saturday.
In that game and on that night, South St. Paul was clearly the better team, outshooting the Zephyrs 29-16. The Packers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on goals by Adam Barlow and Austyn Young, but Mahtomedi’s Tanner Jordan notched two quick tallies in the second to tie it at 2-all. Zach Palmquist regained the lead for the Packers a few minutes later, then Trevor Mikacevich and Corey McGinn poked in third-period goals to extend the lead.
South St. Paul has had some very good victories, but perhaps even more impressive are two of its ties (4-4 with Woodbury on Dec. 29 and 1-1 at St. Thomas Academy on Jan. 17).
Palmquist (12-15-27) leads the Packers in scoring from his defensive position. In our encyclopedia, coach Jeff Lagoo said Palmquist is a “great skater, great vision, great puck movement and can score from the blueline.” He could set the career scoring record for defensemen at South St. Paul, a considerable feat as the school is the alma mater of former NHL star Phil Housley (now the coach at Stillwater).
Forwards Young (7-16-23), Jesse Poznikowich (2-19-21), Mikacevich (10-7-17), Ryan Miller (8-8-16), Tim Kohlmann (8-5-13) and McGinn (6-7-13) add punch to a well-balanced lineup. Sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox (9-3-3, 2.25 GAA, .906 save %) has been even better than in his breakout freshman campaign. He’s come up big in big games, as well, stopping 41 of 42 shots in the tie at St. Thomas Academy.
Mahtomedi also has a top sophomore in defenseman Ben Marshall (14-22-36), who paces his team in scoring, as well. Marshall is University of Minnesota recruit and can control both the offensive and defensive game from the blue line. Zephyrs’ coach Jeff Poeschl predicts Marshall will one day be playing in the NHL, with his great end-to-end speed and puck-handling ability. Marshall has a big help on defense in senior Mike McDonald (2-10-12), who stands 6-foot-4 and is a tough, solid defenseman.
Four forwards have double-digit goal tallies: leading returning scorer Charlie Adams (10-22-32), Brandon Zurn (13-13-26), Jordan (11-6-17) and Ben Holker (10-7-17).
The Zephyrs have also raised eyebrows with a tie against a top Class AA team, tying 3-3 against then-unbeaten Maple Grove back on Dec. 30. Last week, Mahtomedi played St. Thomas Academy tough in an 8-5 shootout which included an empty-netter. The Zephyrs trailed 5-2 early in the third period before twice rallying within a goal. But a 5-4 loss to Richfield on Saturday hurt. Now they’ll look to regain that momentum against South St. Paul.
Common opponents: Other than each other, Richfield (Mahtomedi lost 5-4, South St. Paul won 4-2), Hill-Murray (Mahtomedi lost 3-2, South St. Paul lost 3-2), Red Wing (Mahtomedi won 3-0, South St. Paul won 6-3), Sibley (Mahtomedi won 6-1, South St. Paul won 6-0), Simley (Mahtomedi won 9-2, South St. Paul won 11-3), Richfield (Mahtomedi won 5-2, South St. Paul won 4-2), and St. Thomas Academy (Mahtomedi lost 8-5, South St. Paul tied 1-all).
Terrific 10 games of the week
2. Hermantown at St. Cloud Cathedral (7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 26)
We’ll finally get this battle between two of the top Class A teams in the state after it was postponed due to poor weather earlier. Hermantown has suffered just one setback (an overtime loss to International Falls), while Cathedral’s only blemishes came in early December to Little Falls and Lourdes.
3. Roseau at Moorhead (6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27)
There is no argument here. The annual contenders for the Section 8AA crown are struggling right now. Moorhead finally ended an eight-game losing skid this week – and yet still might be the favorites in the northwest. Roseau, the defending section champs, just lost to rival Warroad and has been hovering around .500 all season.
4. Centennial at Edina (7:15 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27)
Both teams have a loss to Classic Suburban frontrunners (Centennial to White Bear Lake and Edina to Hill-Murray) but feature two of the best lines in the state. Edina’s Marshall Everson, Connor Gaarder and Anders Lee have been the best since they were teamed up in late December, while Centennial’s Jordan Lovick, Willie Hess and Tyler Pitlick are a handful, as well. Edina may be angry after losing to Hopkins Saturday.
5-6. (tie) Hopkins at Wayzata (2:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31)
Wayzata at Minnetonka (7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 29)
Both of these games have big Section 6AA implications for who is to get the likely No. 2 seed behind Eden Prairie. Wayzata had been streaking since the season’s second week, but ran into Burnsville and Edina last week. Meanwhile, Hopkins got blasted by Minnetonka, which is surging at the right time. But the Royals came right back to shock Edina on Saturday.
7. Duluth Marshall at Warroad (7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 30)
One of the best in the northeast heads to the northwest for an “outstate” grudge match. Have I mentioned how I hate the term, “outstate?” Marshall is looking to get back on track for another state tournament berth, while Warroad seemingly has Section 8A on cruise control.
8. Buffalo at Rogers (3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31)
Let’s give two of the Mississippi 8’s best programs some love. This game could decide the champion of the M8, especially if Buffalo follows up its earlier 4-2 victory over the Royals with another one Saturday.
9. Grand Rapids at Duluth East (8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 28)
At first glance, other than possibly Elk River, Section 7AA seems to be easy pickings for the Greyhounds this winter. But don’t count out Rapids, one of the top programs from the northeast who always seem to give East fits, no matter their record. This is the last of four games in six nights for East, as well, so watch for tired legs.
10. (tie) Bloomington Kennedy at Jefferson (7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27)
Grand Rapids at Greenway (7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 29)
Mankato West at Mankato East (7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 29)
Breck at Blake (7:45 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 29)
These aren’t necessarily top games in a state-wide sense, but they have some intra-city and intra-regional importance for the programs. Each is widely expected to be a walk in the park for one of the teams (I’ll let you figure that out on your own), but when close rivals get together, the games can still remain interesting.
Player of the week
Joe Nessler (St. Cloud Cathedral)
Nessler is often overshadowed by teammate and fellow blueliner Nate Schmidt when it comes to talk of Cathedral’s defense, but he’s a very good player in his own right. Last week, he showed on both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. Nessler notched six assists in two games, while helping goalie Nick Maiers post a pair of Wright County Conference shutouts, 4-0 over Delano/Rockford on Tuesday and 6-0 over Mound-Westonka on Saturday.
Nessler is the fourth-leading scorer for the Crusaders with three goals and 18 assists for 21 points in 17 games. Last year, he racked up more than 30 points and was named All-Conference. Coach Erik Johnson calls Nessler, “the most underrated player in our section. He is a very intelligent two defender.”
Leaderboards (through Pointstreak)
Scoring leaders -- http://mbhsh.stats.pointstreak.com/scoringleaders.html?leagueid=538&seasonid=3534
Goalie leaders –
Where will we be?
Tuesday, Jan. 27: Roseau at Moorhead
Saturday, Jan. 31: Centennial at Moorhead
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