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Class AA rankings: Jefferson hangs onto No. 1

By Tim Kolehmainen, 02/02/09, 9:36PM CST

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Jefferson has some narrow victories, but remains unbeaten and atop the rankings

By Tim Kolehmainen, Editor of The BREAKDOWN

Editor's note:  The MnHockeyHub works in conjunction with MnSportsPreview.com and The Breakdown.  Each week, Breakdown editor Tim Kolehmainen offers up their top 15 teams.  These are not to be confused with the MnHockeyHub rankings that are observed as the official MyFoxHockey.com rankings.  To view the MnHockeyHub/MyFoxHockey.com rankings, click the rankings button on the top navigation bar.  Compare/contrast/enjoy.

The Breakdown takes its weekly look at the top 15 teams in Class AA…

1. Bloomington Jefferson (18-0-0)
Jefferson retained its hold on the top spot, despite a scare from Lakeville South (4-3 in overtime) and a less-than-impressive victory over crosstown rival Bloomington Kennedy (5-1) – but a closer look reveals a combined shots advantage of 96-23 in the two games.  All the Jaguars do is win night-in and night-out, which makes them the only club in Class AA to do so this season.  UMD recruit Caleb Herbert (15-15-30) bailed the Jaguars out against South, netting his third goal of the game just 47 seconds into overtime to keep Jefferson unbeaten.  Casey O’Connor (16-0-0, 1.23 GAA, .927 save %) also stayed unbeaten on the season and near the top of most of the goaltending leaderboards.  This week, Jefferson faces three tough games, two against Lake Conference teams bent on knocking them off and a third against visiting Moorhead, which just tied No. 2 Centennial.

This week: Tuesday vs. Apple Valley (7:30pm), Thursday vs. Eagan (7:30pm), Saturday vs. Moorhead (2:30pm).

2. Centennial (14-1-3)
Many will knock the Cougars for their tie against Moorhead (4-4) on Saturday, but the Moorhead Sports Center is a tough place to play for any team – and the Spuds have been better recently.  Top scorer Tyler Pitlick (24-20-44) gave the Cougars a lead with 27 seconds to play in Moorhead, but the Spuds scored with one second left to forge the tie.  And lest we forget, Centennial also beat Coon Rapids (7-2) and Edina (3-1) last week, as well.  Sophomore goalie Brett Larsen (13-1-3, 1.78 GAA, .928 save %) stood on his head in the win over the Hornets, making 41 saves on 42 shots.  It’s a good sign for playoff success for the Cougars, who a few years ago won a state title when Greg Stutz recorded three straight state tournament shutouts.

This week: Thursday at Anoka (7:30pm), Saturday vs. Maple Grove (7:30pm).

3. Edina (16-3-0)
The unthinkable happened as the Hornets lost back-to-back games, but then rebounded with a 5-0 shutout over Armstrong Saturday.  Even in defeat, however, Edina’s top line of Marshall Everson (25-20-45), Anders Lee (16-30-46) and Connor Gaarder (16-21-37) created plenty of offensive chances, but couldn’t bury them past Hopkins’ Alex Fons or Centennial’s Brett Larsen.  The Hornets outshot both teams by a combined 101-48 in the two games.  The schedule doesn’t get any easier this week, as coach Curt Giles continues to test his club in advance of the upcoming playoffs. Edina must find some other scoring options, such as sophomore Michael Sit (3-11-14) or junior Charlie Taft (9-4-13) to balance the scoring load.

This week: Thursday at Minnetonka (7:15pm), Saturday vs. Wayzata (3pm).

4. Blaine (16-1-1)
The Bengals only blemish was an overwhelming 8-4 loss to Edina the day after Christmas, but otherwise Blaine is rolling.  In their past nine games, the Bengals are 8-0-1, with a 4-all tie at Centennial the only non-victory.  Last week, Blaine romped past Osseo (4-1) and Anoka (9-0) and have only allowed five goals in their past four games.  Other than the Edina loss, junior goalie Danny Harper (15-1-1, 1.87 GAA, .905 save %) has been stellar, helped by a tough defense of Tony Larson (4-12-16), Ryan Brockway (6-9-15), Matt Blomqist, Taylor Richart and Jay Wagamon.  U of M recruit Nick Bjugstad (20-19-39) may just be the best sophomore forward in the state.

This week: Thursday at Champlin Park (7:30pm), Saturday vs. Elk River (7:30pm).

5. Eden Prairie (15-3-0)
The Eagles continue to keep pace with Jefferson in the Lake Conference, winning both games last week over Eastview (6-1) and Chaska (12-4).  Three tough road games loom this week, however, a true test for the young Eden Prairie club before they host Jefferson on Feb. 10.  Eden Prairie plays as a well-rounded team, with scorers up and down the lineup and two solid goaltenders who split time in Andrew Ford (8-1-0, 1.21 GAA, .948 save %) and Matt Halloran (7-2-0, 2.00 GAA, .911 save %). Sophomore Kyle Rau (14-15-29) has stepped onto the varsity and made a big splash in his first season, while the defense is anchored by Mr. Hockey candidate Nick Leddy (7-20-27), who has already committed to the U of M.

This week: Tuesday at Lakeville North (7:30pm), Thursday at Hopkins (7pm), Saturday at Burnsville (7:30pm).

6. Duluth East (15-3-1)

There may be no better two-way forward in the state than East’s Max Tardy (22-15-37), who has committed to UMD for next season.  He helps an already strong defensive team become even better. East has allowed just 30 goals all season (in 19 games).  Senior goalie Matt Cooper (15-2-1, 1.39 GAA, .922 save %) had a state-leading seven shutouts.  The Greyhounds continue to methodically push their way through another great season, their 56th straight winning campaign.  Last week, East solidified its hold on the Section 7AA top seed by beating Forest Lake (6-0), Grand Rapids (6-2) and Andover (4-2).

This week: Tuesday vs. Superior, WI (7:30pm), Saturday at Apple Valley (2:15pm).

7. Minnetonka (14-5-0)
The Skippers have won six straight games since losing a 4-3 thriller to Benilde on Jan. 10.  Last week, they shut down Wayzata (2-1) in an overtime battle to remain unbeaten in the Classic Lake.  Wazyata took a 1-0 lead just 17 seconds into the game, but Jim Kruger (8-5-0, 1.98 GAA, .905 save %) stopped the final 32 shots as the Skippers rallied late.  Pete Carbonneau sent it to overtime with just under five minutes remaining, then Sam Coatta (15-11-26) tallied the game-winner just 30 seconds into the extra session.  Backup goaltender Nik Job (6-0-0, 1.33 GAA, .926 save %) has been perfect in relief of Kruger this winter.

This week: Thursday vs. Edina (7:15pm), Saturday at Hopkins (3pm).

8. Holy Angels (13-4-1)
Holy Angels has been fairly difficult to rank because of its odd schedule.  Two of the Stars’ losses have come to non-high school programs, including a 7-0 shutout loss to Shattuck last Saturday.  Otherwise, Holy Angels has a mix of tough non-conference games (including a 5-2 loss to Edina in the championship game of the Schwan Cup Gold) and a less-competitive Missota slate.  The conference schedule is as tough as it will be this week with games against Red Wing and New Prague looming.  The Stars’ top line of Danny Mattson (18-33-51), Connor Reilly (20-24-44) and John Haeg (19-19-38) should continue to lead the way.

This week: Tuesday vs. New Prague (7:30pm), Friday at Red Wing (7pm), Saturday vs. Shakopee (2:30pm).

9. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (14-4-0)
Benilde also took on Shattuck last week, falling 7-3 as Shattuck took control in the third period of a 3-all tie.  The Red Knights had led 2-0 on goals by Bryan Glynn (12-13-25) and David Tranvik before Shattuck scored three straight. But Christian Horn’s (12-10-22) short-hander in the final minute of the second period tied it at 3-all.  In the third, however, Shattuck tallied four unanswered goals and outshot the Red Knights 17-1.  Glynn, Horn and Brett Patterson (12-18-30) all have a dozen goals to lead Benilde.

This week: Tuesday at Osseo (7:30pm), Thursday vs. St. Louis Park (7pm), Saturday at Chisago Lakes (2pm).

10. Woodbury (16-2-2)
The Royals proved stingy on defense last week, allowing a single goal in victories over Stillwater (5-1) and Hastings (2-0). Goalie Mike Ness (12-1-1, 1.42 GAA, .933 save %) stopped 50 of 51 shots combined in the two games, settling into the lead role quite nicely. He’s had plenty of help from a strong defense led by offensive-capable Walker Hyland (9-7-16) and Andrew Herbert (4-10-14). The line of Tony Pittman (16-21-37), Max Gaede (12-24-36) and Connor Delaney (10-12-22) has been potent and have combined for a plus-92 rating.

This week: Thursday at Mounds View (7:30pm), Saturday vs. Park (7:30pm).

11. Hill-Murray (12-5-1)
The Pioneers appear to have recovered and have won five of their past six games (the only loss in that span was a 3-2 overtime heart-breaker at Benilde, a game the Pioneers led 2-0 midway through the third period).  Tyler Zepeda (11-17-28) continues to lead Hill-Murray in scoring, adjusting nicely to the loss of his linemates.  Sophomore Ben Bahe (5-10-15) has stepped up nicely into a scoring role, as has Jeff Westerhaus (10-4-14) and Jack Walsh (5-8-13).  Junior Chris Casto (2-13-15) is a solid force on the blue line for the Pioneers, a big and physical defensemen who can also provide some offense. 

This week: Tuesday at Mahtomedi (7:30pm), Saturday at St. Thomas Academy (7:30pm).

12. Wayzata (12-6-1)

It’s the thick of the Classic Lake schedule for Wayzata, which split a pair of conference games last week against Minnetonka (2-1 overtime loss) and Hopkins (3-1 win).  More of the same comes this week with two more conference road games.  The Trojans have the misfortune of playing in not only one of the toughest conferences in the state, but also in arguably the toughest Section (6AA), along with Minnetonka, Hopkins, Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Eden Prairie.  Come playoffs, they’ll certainly be tested, as will goalie Ty Simcoe (10-5-0, 1.99 GAA, .911 save %).  The Trojans are rugged and sound defensively, which should help.

This week: Thursday at Armstrong (7pm), Saturday at Edina (3pm).

13. Maple Grove (14-2-3)
Limiting goals against continues to be a strength of the Crimson and goalie Sean Elmer (13-2-2, 1.33 GAA, .932 save %).  In five games since losing to Blaine, Maple Grove has given up just three goals, although the most recent game was a 1-1 tie with Elk River last Saturday.  Having a quintet of goal scorers like Josh Gross (17-19-36), Matt Dee (15-18-33), Tommy Malone (13-13-26), Alec Horton (14-11-25) and Dan Carlson (9-10-19) certainly helps, as well.  The Crimson has one more round with their Northwest Suburban Conference and Section 5AA rivals Centennial and Blaine, beginning this Saturday up in Circle Pines.

This week: Thursday at North Metro (7:30pm), Saturday at Centennial (7:30pm).

14. Hopkins (12-6-1)

The Royals continue to prove they can play a tight game against anyone – from the top teams in Class AA to others who are not quite there.  They’re a tough club to figure out, but if they get hot, they can make some serious noise in the Section 6AA playoffs.  Last week, Hopkins beat Armstrong (5-4) and lost to Wayzata (3-1).  Travis Boyd (20-19-39) is a big force as just a freshman, but the Royals also get double-digit goal-scoring from Archie Skalbeck (16-21-37), Nate Seashore (10-16-26), Kyle Dalton (10-9-19) and Johnnie Hicks (10-9-19).  Goaltender Alex Fons (11-4-1, 2.71 GAA, .904 save %) is one of the state’s best.

This week: Thursday vs. Eden Prairie (7pm), Saturday vs. Minnetonka (3pm).

15. Moorhead (8-8-2)
The Spuds cracked the top-15 again by following up their eight-game losing streak with a four-game unbeaten streak, all of which went to overtime.  Included in that stretch were wins over Brainerd (2-1), Warroad (5-4), Roseau (4-3) and in the latest game, a 4-4 tie with No. 2 Centennial.  Trent Johnson (10-6-16) made sure the Spuds would not go home a loser, tying the Cougars up with one second left in regulation.  Senior Alex Altenbernd (12-6-18) also rediscovered his scoring touch in the stretch, tallying a hat trick against Warroad, two more against Roseau and a single goal against Centennial.

This week: Thursday vs. East Grand Forks (7:30pm).