by Tim Kolehmainen, Editor of The BREAKDOWN
The Breakdown takes its weekly look at the top 15 teams in Class A...
1. Little Falls (23-0-0)
The Flyers are now the only unbeaten team remaining in the state after winning three relatively easy games last week. But after exploding for goals in bunches, including a 10-2 romp at St. Cloud Tech last Tuesday, Little Falls ran into some tough goaltending in its final two games (a 4-0 win at Prairie Centre and a 5-2 win over River Lakes). Sure, the Flyers still had nine goals in the two games, but had to take 74 and 44 shots to get them. Ben Hanowski’s quest for the all-time state scoring record also slowed down slightly, as he had three goals and eight assists in the three games. He’s now at 53 goals and 48 assists on the season, bringing his career total to 371 points, just seven behind Red Wing’s Johnny Pohl. Barring injury, if he keeps up his pace, Hanowski could surpass the record at home in the regular season finale against Apollo.
This week: Tuesday at Willmar (7pm), Thursday vs. St. Cloud Apollo (7pm).
2. Warroad (22-2-0)
It took a big rally for the Warriors to stay in the No. 2 spot in the rankings. Trailing Grand Forks Central (N.D.) 5-1 after two periods on Tuesday, the Warriors stormed back with five unanswered goals in the final 17 minutes to win 6-5. Brett Hebel (15-34-49) and Brock Nelson (34-21-56) each scored two goals and linemate Dane Shaugabay (18-32-50) added the other and kept up their potent offensive seasons. “They’re good hockey players,” Central coach Tony Bina told the Grand Forks Herald after the game. “If you leave them room to operate, they’re going to bury it on you.” Warroad also clobbered Bemidji (7-2) in a Section 8A tune-up for both teams.
This week: Tuesday vs. Lake of the Woods (7:30pm).
3. St. Thomas Academy (18-4-1)
It’s a big week for the Cadets to show they’re the class of Section 4A – and of the Classic Suburban – as they visit two of the contenders to knock off them off their perch. The games will be a tune-up (and a chance to sort out the section seeding) for the sections, which begin the following week. Speaking of big weeks, St. Thomas Academy romped to two victories by a combined 22-1 score last week over Richfield and Henry Sibley. Christian Isackson (16-32-48) and Matt Kroksa (7-9-16) each had a hat trick, but plenty of Cadets contributed to the routs.
This week: Tuesday at South St. Paul (7:30pm), Friday at Mahtomedi (7:30pm).
4. Breck (19-3-1)
News flash! Breck finally gave up a goal. After posting five straight shutouts in the last two weeks, the Mustangs actually gave up two goals to St. Paul Como, but still won handily, 11-2. For perspective, the Mustangs had allowed more than one goal just once in the previous 14 games. Breck also beat St. Paul Academy (7-0) earlier in the week to cap a five-game stretch in which they outscored their Tri-Metro Conference opponents by a combined 33-0. Check out these goaltending numbers for John Russell (13-3-1, 1.62 GAA, .933 save % and four shutouts) and backup Max McCormick (6-0-0, 0.50 GAA, .946 save % and four shutouts). Breck has allowed just 32 goals in 23 games this season – but will they be ready for the playoffs with a soft conference schedule?
This week: Tuesday at St. Paul Saints (8pm), Saturday vs. Blake (1pm).
5. St. Cloud Cathedral (19-2-1)
In their first game in 10 days, the Crusaders shook off the rust to beat Delano/Rockford (5-2) Friday night. The Tigers actually led 2-0 late in the first period, but two goals each from Jordan Palusky (23-14-37) and Jon Larkin (5-11-16) powered Cathedral to victory and the Wright County Conference title. Even with two league games remaining, no one can catch the Crusaders. Cathedral’s strength is its defense, led by junior University of Minnesota recruit Nate Schmidt (17-21-38), seniors Joe Nessler (5-22-27) and Jon Rowe (3-6-9) and sophomore Bret Schwinghammer. They support junior goalie Nick Maiers (16-2-1, 1.54 GAA, .919 save %) quite well and have helped him to seven shutouts on the season.
This week: Tuesday at Mound-Westonka (7pm), Thursday vs. Waconia (7pm), Saturday vs. Duluth Marshall (1pm).
6. Virginia/MI-B (19-5-0)
Only one game this week for Virginia, but it’s a doozy. The Blue Devils host Iron Range Conference rival Hibbing/Chisholm in our game of the week – and likely the game that decides the top seed in the Section 7A playoffs to follow. Virginia held serve by beating Duluth Marshall 4-3 last Tuesday, keeping the defending section champions from earning the top spot. Now they have to beat the Bluejackets, the same program that beat them earlier this year, in order to pull into a dead heat with Hibbing. It’s not a stretch to say it’s going to take a big game from the high-powered, odd-company line of senior Chris Westin (28-38-66), junior Andrew Judnick (12-21-33) and sophomore Garrett Hendrickson (20-33-53) to lead the way.
This week: Tuesday vs. Hibbing (7:30pm).
7. Hermantown (20-3-0)
After romping over Section 5A and Lake Superior Conference rival Duluth Denfeld (7-0) on Tuesday, the Hawks hit a speed bump Saturday, falling 4-1 way down the road in Red Wing. It was enough to knock them down a few spots in the rankings (and pull the Wingers up a few) and throw more doubt into their state tournament bid. Cody Christopherson (22-18-40) netted the lone Hermantown goal against Red Wing and is tied for the team’s goal-scoring lead with Adam Krause (22-28-50). Hermantown is still dangerous because of its offensive balance, however, as four more players are in double figures in goals: Kurt Peterson (12-20-32), Charlie Comnick (12-12-24), Branden Perrault (12-11-23) and Grant Huttel (13-6-19).
This week: Tuesday vs. Duluth Central (7:30pm), Friday at Hibbing (7:30pm).
8. Thief River Falls (18-4-2)
The Prowlers had the kind of week that makes the teams in Section 8A (Warroad anyone?) stand up and take notice, beating Bemidji (3-1), Roseau (4-3) and Park Rapids (5-0) in succession. They’re a legitimate contender to knock off the Warriors and get to state, particularly if junior goalie Zane Gothberg (17-4-2, 1.46 GAA, .940 save %) continues his stellar play. Against Roseau, he stopped 51-of-54 shots, including 21 in the third period alone. The three goals against were the only time in the last six games that he’s given up more than one. Three of the six games were shutouts (Gothberg split the first one with backup Ryan Sagstuen).
This week: Tuesday vs. East Grand Forks (7:30pm).
9. South St. Paul (16-4-3)
The Packers survived a scare on Valentine’s night, as Corey McGinn (9-12-21) scored 44 seconds into overtime to give them a 4-3 win over North St. Paul and stretch their winning streak to five in a row. It was an odd game, scoreless through two periods before the two teams combined for six goals (three each) in a span of 5:04 midway through the third. North actually outshot South St. Paul, but Adam Wilcox (14-4-3, 2.14 GAA, .917 save %) made 30 saves to get the victory. Wilcox also shut out Simley (5-0) on Thursday night. We may get a preview of the Section 4A finals this Tuesday night as South St. Paul hosts defending state champion St. Thomas Academy.
This week: Tuesday vs. St. Thomas Academy (7:30pm), Thursday vs. Richfield (7:30pm).
10. Alexandria (18-3-1)
Goalie Matt Hemingway (18-3-1, 1.47 GAA, .937 save %) continued his outstanding season by allowing a single goal in two victories last week, as the Cardinals beat Sauk Rapids-Rice (5-0) and Fergus Falls (8-1) in Central Minnesota Conference action. Now in the final week, it’s time to gear up for the Section 6A showdown with top-ranked Little Falls, which appears to be what everyone in the area is expecting. A regular season-ender with Moorhead should be a great test, as the Spuds can roll out depth that not many Class A schools can match.
This week: Tuesday at River Lakes (7:30pm), Thursday vs. Moorhead (7pm).
11. Red Wing (16-7-0)
The Wingers made the biggest jump in the rankings, courtesy of their 4-1 victory against Hermantown on Valentine’s Day. The Wingers took advantage of a penalty-laden Hawks’ club by going 2-for-8 on the power play and outshooting the Hawks 26-23. George Noesen (14-15-29), Mark Giorgi, Patrick Noesen (19-22-41) and Josh Mensing (13-18-31) netted goals for the Wingers. Coach George Nemanich’s club could take another big step up in the eyes of many with big home games this week against New Prague and Hutchinson, two of the other top teams in the Missota. Red Wing hasn’t lost to a Class A team since falling at South St. Paul on Jan. 13.
This week: Tuesday vs. New Prague (7pm), Thursday vs. Hutchinson (6pm).
12. International Falls (16-6-2)
Talk about balance. Eight Broncos have between 10 and 19 goals and a baker’s dozen have at least 12 points, led by Will Corrin (19-20-39) and Jace Baldwin (12-24-36). Glenn Walls (3-1-1, 1.21 GAA, .910 save %) has taken over in nets, at least temporarily, starting each of the last three games since Mike Hart was pulled in the third period against Silver Bay on Feb. 6. Last week, Walls and I-Falls won twice (6-0 over Greenway and 4-1 over Lake of the Woods) and tied (2-all to Grand Rapids). He made 50-of-53 saves in the three games.
This week: Tuesday at Roseau (7:30pm).
13. Hibbing/Chisholm (14-7-1)
The top seed in Section 7A is up for grabs this Tuesday when the Bluejackets travel to Virginia in our game of the week. Hibbing has the leg up courtesy of its 4-2 win on Jan. 17, but Virginia is hot on its heels. Last week, the Bluejackets stumbled in a 2-0 loss to Grand Rapids but recovered to rout Eveleth (8-1). Senior Aaron Jamnick (26-21-47) is the leader on offense and has also netted eight of the team’s amazing 13 shorthanded goals this winter. Hibbing has hitched its wagon to sophomore goalie Nate Tromp (14-7-1, 2.62 GAA, .890 save %).
This week: Tuesday at Virginia (7:30pm), Friday vs. Hermantown (7:30pm).
14. Duluth Marshall (13-8-1)
The Hilltoppers make a couple of trips south this week to face fellow private schools (Cretin on Tuesday and Cathedral on Saturday) who have their sights set on the state tournament, as well. After a rough patch, Marshall has come on recently with the welcoming back of scorer Zach Mausolf. He has six goals in three games since his return, including a hat trick in an 8-5 win against Superior (Wisc.) on Valentine’s Day. He’ll help power up an offense that has averaged 4.1 goals a game, led by Pat Mahoney (12-24-36), Joe Kozlak (12-19-31), Derek Stauber (12-17-29) and Dane Morin (14-7-21).
This week: Tuesday at Cretin-Derham Hall (7pm), Thursday vs. Proctor (7:30pm), Saturday at St. Cloud Cathedral (1pm).
15. New Ulm (18-4-1)
The Eagles stretched their unbeaten streak against in-state foes to 18 games (17-0-1) with three more victories last week, defeating St. Peter (8-1), Litchfield/D-C (3-1) and Dodge County (3-1). Sure, it isn’t the toughest schedule around – and there are those two holiday losses to Superior (Wisc.) and Fort Frances (Ont.) – but the Eagles are a good club deserving of mention in the top-15. Kyle Reinerts (31-30-61) leads the team in scoring and had a big week, netting four goals and four assists in the three games. Goalies Justin Wiggins (12-2-0, 2.06 GAA, .902 save %) and Blake Burgau (6-2-1, 1.86 GAA, .918 save %) allowed just one goal a game in the three games.
This week: Tuesday vs. Waseca (7:30pm), Thursday at Windom Area (7pm).
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