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Your complete guide to the Class AA sections

02/23/2009, 12:07pm CST
By Tim Kolehmainen

Sections 2AA and 6AA are loaded with top-15 teams

By Tim Kolehmainen, Editor of The BREAKDOWN

Section 1AA (click for bracket)

Top seeds – (record, ranking, record vs. other top seeds)
1. Rochester Mayo (16-8-1, NR, 4-0-1)
2. Lakeville North (7-18-0, NR, 3-1-0)
3. Lakeville South (9-16-0, NR, 1-3-0)
4. Rochester Century (12-11-2, NR, 0-4-1)

AlexanderLeading scorers
1. Tom Alexander (Mayo)            33-26-59
2. Alex Whitney (Mayo)            23-31-54
3. Aaron Theis (Winona)            28-24-52
4. Devon Grossell (Winona)            21-30-51
5. Jay Moran (Winona)            20-29-49

Top goaltenders
1. Jordan Yaggy (Mayo)            16-8-1, 2.82, .898
2. Sam Sellnow (Century)            9-6-2, 2.92, .899
3. Kory Reuvers (Owatonna)            5-6-1, 3.05, .867

The skinny: No team in Section 1AA is ranked in the top-15, which means two things.  The first is that it could be a wide-open race between top-seeded Rochester Mayo, the Lakeville schools and the rest of the pack.  The second is that whoever advances to state will be a decided underdog.  Mayo was the hottest team in the section, winning nine straight games until a loss (to Albert Lea) and a tie (to No. 4 seed Century) in its final two games.  But one of the previous victories was a 4-3 overtime thriller at Lakeville South.  Both the Cougars and Lakeville North were in the bottom half of the Lake Conference standings and are well under .500, but with their tough schedules, are better than their record.  Both Mayo and Winona have high-scoring front lines: Mayo with Tom Alexander (33-26-59), Alex Whitney (23-31-54) and Brad Fisher (16-31-47) and Winona with Aaron Theis (28-24-52), Devon Grossell (21-30-51) and Jay Moran (20-29-49).  Mayo has arguably the best goaltender in the section, however, in senior Jordan Yaggy.  Down in the four hole, Century has some of the most impressive victories of any team in the section, beating both No. 4 Duluth East and No. 15 Tartan.

Section 2AA (click for bracket)

Top seeds – (record, ranking, record vs. other top seeds)
1. Bloomington Jefferson (24-1-0, No. 1, 1-0-0)
2. Edina (21-4-0, No. 2, 2-0-0)
3. Holy Angels (20-4-1, No. 5, 0-1-0)
4. Burnsville (13-10-2, NR, 0-2-0)

Leading scorers
1. Danny Mattson (Holy Angels)             22-49-71
2. Zach May (Burnsville)            27-40-67
3. Anders Lee (Edina)            20-46-66
4. Marshall Everson (Edina)            35-29-64
5. Andy Pearson (Burnsville)            21-37-58

Top goaltenders
1. Casey O’Connor (Jefferson)            22-1-0, 1.35, .925
2. Johnny Ankeny (Edina)            19-4-0, 1.81, .910
3. Tommy Burke (Holy Angels)            18-4-1, 2.25, .913

The skinny: Three of the best teams in the state will duke it out in Section 2AA.  We have Jefferson, Edina and Holy Angels all ranked in the top-5 in the state and all are capable of winning the whole thing this winter.  Even No. 4 seed Burnsville has great talent and the possibility of pulling off a shocker.  Jefferson stands above the other three top seeded teams with only one loss and a No. 1 ranking. The Jaguars have great balance with two lines that can both score, defensemen who add to that offense like Joe Faust (13-21-34) and Jeff Pauluk (9-22-31) and the Brimsek Award winner in nets in Casey O’Connor.  UMD recruit Caleb Herbert (26-20-46) is the top scoring forward. Meanwhile, there are more similarities than differences between the 2-3-4 seeds.  All three clubs are powered by one potent line, which means they can get hot and carry their clubs throughout the playoffs, or they can run into a defense that shuts them down and grinds out an upset.  Edina has the top trio of Mr. Hockey candidates Anders Lee (20-46-66) and Marshall Everson (35-29-64) along with Connor Gaarder (22-34-56).  But only Charlie Taft (16-5-21) has as many as a half dozen goals.  Holy Angels rides Mr. Hockey finalist Danny Mattson (22-49-71), John Haeg (25-31-56) and Connor Reilly (25-31-56) hard for its offense, while Burnsville is paced by the high-scoring trio of Zach May (27-40-67), Andy Pearson (21-37-58) and Zack King (16-20-36 in just 17 games).  Adam Smyth (17-18-35) also puts up goals for the Blaze, but the rest of the team has combined for just 16 goals.  Holy Angels has received production from a second unit of Ryan Reilly (15-21-36), Tyler Smith (16-13-29) and Craig Fisher (10-13-23), which could bode well for their hopes.

Section 3AA (click for bracket)

Top seeds – (record, ranking, record vs. other top seeds)
1. Woodbury (20-3-2, No. 9, 3-0-0)
2. Cretin-Derham Hall (17-7-1, NR, 0-2-0)
3. Eagan (16-8-1, NR, 2-1-0)
4. Apple Valley (12-12-1, NR, 0-2-0)

Leading scorers
1. Tony Pittman (Woodbury)            22-28-50
2. Max Gaede (Woodbury)            16-26-42
3. Jesse Perron (Cretin)            17-23-40
4. Tony Barbato (Cretin)            10-23-33
5. Tony Markstrom (Eagan)            16-14-30

Top goaltenders
1. Mike Ness (Woodbury)            15-2-1, 1.70, .921
2. Trent Caspar (Eagan)            15-8-1, 2.21, .918
3. Ben Walsh (Cretin)            13-7-0, 2.41, .885

The skinny: Woodbury has represented this section each of the last two years and is certainly favored to do so again, despite graduating 12 seniors from last year’s team.  The Royals edged Cretin for the Suburban East title and also picked up the top seed in Section 3AA in the process. Tony Pittman (21-25-46), Max Gaede (16-26-42) and Tyler Nowicki (13-13-26) give the Royals a top scoring line, while Walker Hyland (10-8-18) and Andrew Herbert (4-14-18) lead the defensive corps, which has been very strong in front of goalie Mike Ness.  Pittman was the sole returning senior letter winner, but a big junior class has Woodbury on top again, in its last season before splitting off into new East Ridge High School.  Cretin could cause some trouble – in its two losses to Woodbury, the Raiders were beaten 4-1 and 3-2.  But the Raiders are scoring less than four goals a game and must grind out low-scoring games to get to state.  Big junior defenseman Mark Alt has been recruited by the University of Minnesota and has good bloodlines, his father John was a lineman for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.  Eagan and Apple Valley both met head-to-head twice in the Lake Conference, with the Wildcats winning both times.  Trent Caspar (five shutouts) can carry a team in nets, which he may have to do with the Wildcats’ low firepower.  Tony Markstrom (16-14-30) led the way on offense, but Eagan tallied just 80 goals in 25 games.  Apple Valley just hopes to get healthy in time to make a run.  They’ve missed top players like Chris Fischer (10-9-19 in 18 games) and A.J. Michaelson (9-10-19 in 21 games), who have both been out with injuries.  Colton Warner (16-8-24) is the top scorer.

Section 4AA (click for bracket)

Top seeds – (record, ranking, record vs. other top seeds)
1. Tartan (17-7-1, No. 15, 1-0-1)
2. Hill-Murray (15-9-1, NR, 1-1-1)
3. White Bear Lake (13-10-2, NR, 1-2-0)
4. Roseville (15-9-1, NR, 1-1-0)

Leading scorers
1. Mike Anderson (St. Paul Saints)   25-34-59
2. Sam Wilczyk (St. Paul Saints)       24-19-43

3. Tyler Zepeda (Hill-Murray)            18-24-42
4. Jake McKee (Tartan)            12-28-40
5. Jake Elms (Mounds View)            17-19-36

Top goaltenders
1. Alex Gierke (Tartan)            9-2-1, 1.82, .928
2. Tim Shaughnessy (Hill-Murray)            10-8-1, 2.20, .900
3. Owen Collette (White Bear Lake)            10-8-2, 2.65, .881

The skinny: Could this finally be the year?  Hill-Murray and White Bear Lake have combined to advance to the state tournament in 26 of the past 27 years (only Centennial in 2004 broke their string) and were heavily favored to do so again when the season began.  But off-ice issues at Hill-Murray hobbled the defending state champions, although they still remain dangerous.  Tyler Zepeda (18-24-42) has been asked to carry a huge load on offense, while underclassmen like Ben Bahe (7-16-23), Jack Walsh (10-11-21) and Willie Faust (10-9-19) have had to step into bigger roles faster than expected.  Hill-Murray still remains stout on defense with Chris Casto (3-18-21) and crew supporting sophomore goalie Tim Shaughnessy.  But the Pioneers no longer have the firepower to blast their way past teams. In White Bear Lake, the Bears have been up-and-down, beating some of the best teams in the state and then falling shy in other games.  The Bears have a balanced scoring attack with two lines capable of scoring.  Goalie Owen Collette must come up big for them to return to state, however.  Tartan has taken advantage of the slip of the “Big Two,” earning the No. 1 seed by beating and tying Hill-Murray in the regular season.  Even when top goalie Alex Gierke was injured late in the season, backup Eric Thayer (6-5-0, 3.35 GAA, .893 save %) stepped up and reeled off four straight wins. Jake McKee (12-28-40), Ben Lovick (18-17-35), Mitch Rowe (15-20-35) and Ryan Abrahamson (17-16-33) are the team’s leading scorers. Roseville will need to fight through some low-scoring games to make it to state.  The Raiders averaged just 2.76 goals a game this year, although behind Ben Podobinski (9-7-1, 2.70, .892 save %), they also allowed just 2.76.

Section 5AA (click for bracket)

Top seeds – (record, ranking, record vs. other top seeds)
1. Blaine (21-3-1, No. 6, 4-1-1)
2. Maple Grove (19-3-3, No. 8, 3-3-0)
3. Centennial (17-4-4, No. 12, 3-2-1)
4. Osseo (13-12-0, NR, 1-5-0)

Leading scorers
1. Tyler Pitlick (Centennial)            27-31-58
2. Nick Bjugstad (Blaine)            26-25-51
3. Josh Gross (Maple Grove)            21-26-47
4. Matt Dee (Maple Grove)            20-24-44
5. Jordan Lovick (Centennial)            14-29-43

Top goaltenders
1. Sean Elmer (Maple Grove)            17-3-2, 1.75, .913
2. Danny Harper (Blaine)            19-3-1, 1.77, .914
3. Brett Larsen (Centennial)            16-4-4, 2.17, .913

The skinny: The elite of the Northwest Suburban Conference certainly represent well in Section 5AA.  Midway through the season, this appeared to be a two-horse race between Centennial and Blaine, but Maple Grove really has come on in recent weeks and jumped over the Cougars into the No. 2 slot.  Really, any of these three clubs could easily come out of the section if they can pick up momentum.  At this point, Blaine is the team with it.  A 7-2 victory over Maple Grove on Feb. 19 gave the Bengals the NWSC title and the top seed. Sophomore Nick Bjugstad (26-25-51) leads the Bengals in scoring and has been recruited by the U of M already, while junior goalie Danny Harper has been solid in nets.  But the Bengals also tied and lost to Centennial in two head-to-head battles this winter.  The Cougars appeared to be a candidate for the top seed until a late-season swoon (2-3-1 in their last six games) cost them.  In that stretch, Centennial lost to Maple Grove, Elk River and the shocker, Osseo, on the final day of the season. Coach Erik Aus will have to get his team turned around quickly, as Section 5AA won’t be forgiving.  The top line of Tyler Pitlick (27-31-58), Jordan Lovick (14-29-43) and Willie Hess (25-15-40) must lead the way and sophomore goalie Brett Larsen might have to stand on his head to pull the Cougars out of their doldrums.  Maple Grove gets great scoring balance from Josh Gross (21-26-47), Matt Dee (20-24-44), Alec Horton (21-16-37), Tommy Malone (16-18-34) and Dan Carlson (15-14-29).  Wally Cosette (6-16-22) is the anchor of the Crimson defense in front of Sean Elmer.  The Crimson are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games, but that five-goal loss to Blaine really stands out.  Osseo has a big win over Centennial on the season’s final day to give the Orioles hope – and knock Centennial into the No. 3 seed – but they shouldn’t be a factor.

Section 6AA (click for bracket)

Top seeds – (record, ranking, record vs. other top seeds)
1. Eden Prairie (22-3-0, No. 3, 2-0-0)
2. Minnetonka (18-7-0, No. 7, 3-3-0)
3. Wayzata (16-8-1, No. 10, 3-2-0)
4. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (20-6-0, No. 11, 1-1-0)

Leading scorers
1. Travis Boyd (Hopkins)            26-25-51
2. Archie Skalbeck (Hopkins)            18-30-48
3. Kyle Rau (Eden Prairie)            24-21-45
4. Brett Patterson (Benilde)            14-29-43
5. Sam Coatta (Minnetonka)            21-21-42

Top goaltenders
1. Andrew Ford (Eden Prairie)            11-1-0, 1.41, .940
2. Nik Job (Minnetonka)            8-0-0, 1.63, .906
3. Jim Kruger (Minnetonka)            10-7-0, 2.08, .910

The skinny: The deepest section the state runs at least five deep in teams that could easily win (including fifth-seeded Hopkins at 15-9-1, ranked No. 14 and 1-4-0 against the other top seeds).  All five teams are ranked in the top-15 and all have impressive victories on their resume.  In showing the teams’ record against the top seeds, Section 6AA was the only one in which I went five teams deep instead of just the top four.  Eden Prairie was the easy choice as the top seed, as the Eagles are on a 12-game winning streak and recently handed Jefferson its only loss of the season.  Eden Prairie is a very young team, with sophomores playing key roles all over the ice, which has jelled at the right time.  Sophomore Kyle Rau (24-21-45) has proven to be a big-time scorer in his first varsity season and has plenty of help up front from youngsters like Mitch Rogge (13-24-37), Taylor Wolfe (16-19-35) and Mike Erickson (11-18-29). Senior defenseman Nick Leddy (8-29-37) is one of the favorites for the Mr. Hockey award and can spur the Eagles both on offense and defense.  Coach Lee Smith has split time in nets nearly evenly between Andrew Ford and Matt Halloran (11-2-0, 2.23, .900 save %).  Minnetonka has challenged itself with one of the toughest schedules in the state. The Skippers can play with any team in the state – and beat them – but they’ve also proven they can be beat.  Sam Coatta (21-21-42) and Max Gardiner (15-24-39) are the top scorers, while defensemen Andrew Prochno (9-23-32) and Troy Hesketh (7-14-21) can add plenty of offense from the blue line. Wayzata is a ways off its 10-game winning streak in late December and January, but it remains dangerous.  Despite only two scorers with double-digit goals – Matt Straate (12-10-22) and Danny Walsh (14-6-20) – the Trojans can grind out victories with a hard-hitting team.  Sophomore defenseman D.J. Jones (3-13-16) has developed very nicely into a dual threat.  Benilde slipped up with a two-game losing streak in mid-February that dropped the defending section champions into a No. 4 seed and a home game with the best No. 5 seed in the state, Hopkins.

Section 7AA (click for bracket)

Top seeds – (record, ranking, record vs. other top seeds)
1. Duluth East (21-3-1, No. 4, 3-0-0)
2. Elk River (15-9-1, NR, 2-1-0)
3. Grand Rapids (11-10-4, NR, 0-2-0)
4. Andover (11-12-2, NR, 0-2-0)

Leading scorers
1. Joey Benik (St. Francis)            63-35-98
2. TJ Belisle (St. Francis)             27-33-60
3. Jesse Orttel (Cambridge-Isanti)            22-27-49
4. Max Tardy (Duluth East)            28-20-48
5. Sam Rendle (Grand Rapids)            14-26-40

Top goaltenders
1. Matt Cooper (Duluth East)            21-2-1, 1.37, .915
2. Anders Franke (Elk River)            12-9-1, 2.17, .906
3. Andy Benik (St. Francis)            19-6-1, 2.25, .929

The skinny: A few weeks ago, Duluth East was a prohibitive favorite to reach the X in mid-March.  But Elk River rallied with a 9-1-1 stretch and now should provide plenty of competition, even though they ended the season on a shocking two-game losing skid to Osseo and Champlin Park.  The Greyhounds ripped off 10 straight victories to end the regular season since their own shocking loss to Century in late January.  The Greyhounds have arguably the best three players in the section at each position in forward Max Tardy (28-20-48) a Mr. Hockey candidate, defenseman Derek Forbort (4-14-28) and goalie Matt Cooper.  Tardy has committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Forbort, though only a junior, will be headed to North Dakota.  But it isn’t a three-man team at East.  Joe Arbour, Jake Williams and Al McLean give the Greyhounds a great four-man rotation on the blue line and have helped East earn eight shutouts on the season.  East beat Elk River 5-3 back on Jan. 10 in Duluth, but outshot the Elks 49-13.  Freshman goalie Anders Franke came up big in that game and will need to do so again should the teams meet in the section finals if Elk River is to have a shot.  Chad Hennum (15-20-35), CJ Pullar (11-23-34), Levi Lutz (11-21-32) and Ben Jarmenko (18-9-27) lead the Elks’ offense, which averages 3.4 goals a game.  Grand Rapids and Andover are a distant 3-4.  Both have some talented players, but not as much depth as the top two seeds.  The Thunderhawks boast of high-scoring defenseman Sam Rendle (14-26-40) and forward John Skrbec (13-17-30), while Andover has junior threats Cal Decowsky (13-19-32) and goalie Matt Ray (8-12-2, 2.80, .900 save %).

Section 8AA (click for bracket)

Top seeds – (record, ranking, record vs. other top seeds)
1. Moorhead (12-9-3, No. 13, 3-0-1)
2. Roseau (13-9-3, NR, 2-2-1)
3. St. Cloud Tech (14-9-2, NR, 0-1-2)
4. Buffalo (14-11-0, NR, 0-1-0)

Leading scorers
1. Tyler Landman (Roseau)            16-29-45
2. Adam Knochenmus (Roseau)            26-17-43
3. Shane Ohmdal (Roseau)            13-27-40
4. Evan Hesse (Monti/AML)            17-20-37
5. Gus Miller (St. Cloud Tech)            17-19-36

Top goaltenders
1. Trey Flesch (Northern Lakes)            17-4-3, 1.76, .923
2. Michael Bitzer (Moorhead)            7-0-0, 1.98, .910
3. Ethan Kvidt (Roseau)            8-5-2, 2.27, .903

The skinny: The favorites, Moorhead and Roseau, have experienced their struggles this year, although both remain popular picks.  The Spuds endured an eight-game losing skid at mid-season in which they couldn’t score (only seven goals).  But they’ve recovered to go 7-1-2 since, with five of the games going to overtime.  They get the nod over Roseau courtesy of two head-to-head victories. The Spuds are well-balanced and have plenty of team speed.  Alex Altenbernd (15-8-23) and Trent Johnson (15-7-22) are the top scorers, while young goalies Logan Marks (4-9-3, 2.53 GAA, .893 save %) and Michael Bitzer (7-0-0, 1.98 GAA, .910 save %) have been very solid.  Marks endured the eight-game losing streak, opening the door for more time for Bitzer, who responded.  Both have played very well since. The Rams were hurt by injuries to Nick Oliver and Kevin Erickson, although both are back in the lineup now.  Both now team with Tyler Landman (16-29-45), Adam Knochenmus (26-17-43) and Shane Ohmdal (13-27-40) to make the Rams the most explosive team in the section.  Goaltender Ethan Kvidt has come on in recent weeks, as well, taking the load in nets for coach Scott Oliver, who had been searching for a top goalie much of the first half of the schedule.  St. Cloud Tech could be the darkhorse, as they’ve tied both Moorhead and Roseau in recent weeks.  Defensemen Gus Miller (17-19-36) and Jared Maetche (9-17-26) lead the team in scoring.  Buffalo plays a difficult non-conference schedule outside its Mississippi 8 slate, but has lost five straight games entering the playoffs, beginning with a 6-2 setback against Roseau.  Their first-round game against fifth-seeded Brainerd could be a dogfight.

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