Team Southeast, led by league-leading scorer Caleb Herbert of Bloomington Jefferson, won the regular-season championship of the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this past weekend in a close race that went down to the final game.
Southeast finished with a 15-5-1 record, good for 31 points, to finish one point ahead of Team Southwest, which finished 15-4-2 for 30 points.
Southeast entered the final weekend with a two-point lead, as it had earned a crucial point Wednesday by tying Shattuck-St. Mary’s 2-2 in a game played in Faribault. Michael Zajac of Eagan scored a goal and assisted on another to give Southeast a 2-1 lead late in the game, but Jason Clark’s power-play goal with 23 seconds remaining tied it for Shattuck. Southeast goalie Ryan O’Shea made 33 saves.
On Saturday, Southeast erupted for six second-period goals in a 9-5 win over Team Northwest. A.J. Reid of St. Thomas Academy scored three goals and added an assist, while Holy Angels’ Joseph LaBate added two goals.
Southeast then entered Sunday’s game with Team Wisconsin needing a win to secure the league title, and Zajac pumped in four goals to lead the club to an 8-2 triumph and the regular season championship.
Zach Schroeder (St. Thomas Academy) had two goals for Southeast, and Christian Isackson (St. Thomas Academy) added two assists.
Team Southwest made a strong run at the league championship by winning its final six games, only to come up one point short. It opened the final weekend with a 4-1 victory over Team Northeast in which Southeast goalie Alex Fons (Hopkins) made 38 saves.
In Saturday’s game eight players scored in an 8-2 win over Great Plains. On Sunday, Team Southwest played two hours before Team Southeast and knew it still had a chance to secure at least a share of the league title depending on what happened later in the day. Southeast responded by beating Team North 5-3, as Archie Skalbeck of Hopkins had a goal and an assist.
Team Northwest earned third place in the league be beating Shattuck-St. Mary’s 3-2 in its final game. Nick Bjugstad (Blaine) and Scott Holm (Wayzata) scored in the second period to give Northwest a 2-0 lead. After Shattuck’s Tanner Sorenson scored early in the third period, Andrew Pitts (North Metro) responded for Northwest with the game winner. Goalie Dan Harper of Blaine made 30 saves for the win. Earlier in the weekend Northwest rallied from a 4-2 deficit to tie Wisconsin 4-4 as Christian Horn (Benilde-St. Margaret’s) and Cal Decowski (Andover) scored third-period goals.
Team Great Plains won two of its final three games to earn fourth place in the league. On Saturday it fell behind team North 2-0, but two goals each by Warroad’s Brock Nelson and Grand Forks’ Casey Purpur led to a 5-2 win. Sunday, Tyler Larson’s goal stood up as the game-winner in a 5-4 victory over Team Northeast.
Team Northeast won one of three games to settle in fifth place. The weekend’s only win was a 10-1 romp over Team North. Connor Reilly (2 goals, 3 assists) and Ryan Reilly (1 goal, 4assists) each had five points, while Jake Erickson added a pair of goals.
Garrett Hendrickson of Virginia had a goal and an assist over the weekend to finish as the leading scorer (8 goals, 14 assists, 22 points) for Team North, which finished the season 4-15-2. Team Wisconsin ended the regular season 3-15-3, and was led in scoring by Max McCormick of Notre Dame Academy (8-12-20).
NOTES: Herbert, who has made a verbal commitment to UM-Duluth, had 13 goals and 24 assists for 37 points to earn the league scoring title. He finished three points ahead of Southeast teammate Crandall (13-21-34). … Southwest’s Skalbeck led the Elite League with 17 goals, one more than Hermantown’s Adam Krause of Team North. A total of 16 players reached double figures in goals during the 21-game regular season. … Jacob Meyers, a senior at Benilde-St. Margaret’s had both the lowest goals against average (2.55) and highest save percentage (.933) playing for Team Southwest. Blaine’s Dan Harper, playing for Team Northwest, led the league with two shutouts. … Shattuck-St. Mary’s power play clicked at a 25-percent success rate, converting 22 of 88 opportunities, the best in the league ahead of Team Northwest’s 21.4 percent. Team Southeast had the league’s best penalty kill at 87.3 percent.
The Elite League playoffs begin Friday, October 30 with four quarterfinal games at New Hope Arena. The seminfinals are Saturday and the finals Sunday, also at New Hope. Shattuck-St. Mary’s is committed to another tournament, and its spot in the field will be taken by the Omaha Jr. Lancers, a midget team from Omaha, Nebraska. For exact game times, visit www.hselitehockey.com
Friday’s quarterfinals (seeding in parentheses):
Team Southeast (1) vs. Omaha Jr. Lancers (8) – 5:15 p.m., New Hope North
Team Southwest (2) vs. Team Wisconsin (7) – 5:30 p.m., New Hope South
Team Great Plains (4) vs. Team Northeast (5) – 7:45 p.m., New Hope North
Team Northwest (3) vs. Team North (6) – 8:00 p.m., New Hope South
Tag(s): Around the State