Each Monday afternoon during the hockey season, the Breakdown will throw all the teams in the state into the same hat, regardless of class, and come up with a Top-20 ranking. The slotting of Class AA and Class A programs will no doubt bring about a healthy amount of debate.
Because of the holiday, it’s been two weeks since the rankings were visited. With a big tournament schedule, there has been plenty of shifting around – except at the top, where Minnetonka claimed the Schwan Cup Gold title despite the loss of star forward Max Gardiner for up to six weeks, and in doing so, solidified its hold on the top spot in the Breakdown’s Top 20.
Other tournament champions dot the Top 20, including No. 9 Breck (which won the Schwan Cup Silver), No. 10 Roseau (Roseau Holiday Classic), No. 11 Centennial (St. Louis Park Holiday Classic), No. 12 Eagan (South St. Paul Premier), No. 15 Warroad (Warroad Invitational), No. 17 Hermantown (Ralph Engelstad Classic) and No. 19 Andover (Forest Lake Holiday Tournament).
Centennial’s victory in the St. Louis Park tournament catapulted the Cougars back into the Top 20 and all the way to No. 11. Hermantown and Mahtomedi also jumped into the rankings with good showings at holiday tournaments. On the other end of the spectrum, Holy Angels’ three-and-out in the Schwan Cup Gold knocked the Stars entirely out of the rankings, joining Moorhead and Elk River as teams who dropped out.
It was a good news/bad news holiday season for the Skippers. First the good news. Minnetonka continued its unbeaten run through the top teams in the state, beating three ranked teams (6-3 over Holy Angels, 5-2 over St. Thomas Academy and 3-2 over Edina) to take the Schwan Cup Gold title. Now the bad news. They lost star forward Max Gardiner for up to six weeks with a broken wrist. But with a stout defense featuring three D1 recruits (Justin Holl, Andrew Prochno and Troy Hesketh) and steady goaltender Jim Kruger, the Skippers should be just fine. This week will be a great test, starting with Tuesday night’s tilt against last year’s state champion, Eden Prairie.
|11-0-0||Tuesday vs. Eden Prairie (7 pm), Thursday at Holy Angels (7:30 pm), Saturday vs. Duluth East (7 pm)|
|2|| Bloomington Jefferson
The Jaguars tied Centennial (2-2) in the finals of the St. Louis Park tournament, but lost the trophy on a shootout. Officially, the game goes in the books as a tie, which keeps Jefferson at No. 2 in the rankings for at least another week. The Jaguars have been a bit up and down in recent weeks, routing very good teams and then posting close games that leave one wanting for more. This Thursday’s test against visiting Wayzata will be a telling game.
|8-1-1||Thursday vs. Wayzata (7:30 pm), Saturday vs. Lakeville North (2:30 pm)|
Edina lost last week, yet still climbed all the way up to No. 3 with a bullet. That’s what happens when you give the best team in the state (Minnetonka) all it can handle and nearly pull off the upset. The Hornets led the Skippers in the third period of the Schwan Cup Gold finals, but couldn’t hang onto the victory. No matter, coach Curt Giles’ club proved it didn’t need an All-State scoring line to be a true state title contender again.
|10-2-0||Tuesday at Chaska (7:30 pm), Saturday vs. Holy Angels (7 pm)|
Blaine was another team that lost in the Schwan Cup Gold, but proved it is worthy of a top ranking despite already having three losses. In the last two weeks, the Bengals have lost by a single goal to Minnetonka (4-3 on Dec. 21) and twice to Edina (1-0 on Dec. 26 and 3-2 on Dec. 29 in the Gold semifinals). Those teams are ranked above the Bengals, but they deserve to be slotted in ahead of nearly everyone else.
|7-3-0||Tuesday at North Metro (7:30 pm), Thursday at Duluth East (8:30 pm), Saturday vs. Elk River (7:30 pm)|
The Pioneers claimed the consolation title at the loaded Schwan Cup Gold division over the holidays, losing to Blaine (6-4) in the first round but rallying to beat Duluth East (5-1) and edge traditional rival White Bear Lake (4-3). Now comes an even more important test for Hill-Murray, which plays a pair of Classic Suburban contenders this week, including the top-ranked team in Class A, St. Thomas Academy.
|9-1-1||Thursday at St. Thomas Academy (7:30 pm), Saturday vs. Tartan (3 pm)|
|6|| Eden Prairie
The defending state champions have been out of sight, out of mind for the past two weeks. While most other top programs were playing in holiday tournaments, the Eagles took the holiday season as a practice to get ready for an intense January schedule that begins Tuesday night at Minnetonka. Don’t let the lack of news on them fool you, though. The Eagles are a top contender again.
|6-1-0||Tuesday at Minnetonka (7 pm), Thursday at Rosemount (7:30 pm), Saturday vs. Lakeville South (7:30 pm)|
Wayzata suffered its first defeat of the season in the opening round of the St. Louis Park Holiday Classic, losing by a single goal (4-3) to Benilde-St. Margaret’s. But it amounted to a home game for the Red Knights, who play their games on the SLP Rec Center ice. When they fell behind a reeling Woodbury team 3-1 early in the second period of the consolation semifinal, it appeared as if perhaps the clock had struck midnight on coach Carl Davis’ team. Not so. The Trojans rallied past the Royals (7-5) and then blitzed Moorhead (6-0) in the consolation finals, as impressive a game as the score might indicate.
|8-1-1||Thursday at Bloomington Jefferson (7:30 pm), Saturday at Moorhead (7:30 pm)|
|8|| St. Thomas Academy
The Cadets haven’t shied away from the toughest Class A schedule in the state, but they did take their lumps over the holidays. After pounding White Bear Lake (7-0) in the opening round of the Schwan Cup Gold, St. Thomas Academy dropped its final two games to Minnetonka (5-2) and Blaine (4-1). Back in the Class A portion of their schedule, the Cadets beat Duluth Marshall (5-1) last Saturday.
|6-3-0||Thursday vs. Hill-Murray (7:30 pm), Saturday at Richfield (3 pm)|
After claiming the Schwan Cup Silver title over the holidays with victories over Stillwater (4-2), Lakeville South (6-0) and Mahtomedi (4-2), it may be a while before the Mustangs taste defeat again. They open the new year by getting into the meat of the Tri-Metro Conference, which they dominated last year. Breck doesn’t play another team currently ranked in the top-10 in either class the rest of the way.
|7-1-0||Tuesday vs. Minnehaha Academy (7:30 pm), Saturday at Providence Academy (3 pm)|
The Rams’ big offense continued through its holiday tournament with victories over Class A teams Lake of the Woods (6-2), Faribault (8-3) and Alexandria (3-1). The top line of Shane Omdahl (17-22-39), Adam Knochenmus (14-17-31) and Cole Kostrzewski (10-17-27) has been as dangerous as any in the state. They had 23 points in the three holiday games alone. Much of Northwestern Minnesota – as well as the rest of the state – is anxiously awaiting the two games against Warroad to come.
|10-1-1||Tuesday vs. Crookston (7:30 pm), Saturday at East Grand Forks (7:30 pm)|
When the season began, Centennial was expected to be a top-10 team. But then the Cougars dropped their first two games to Wayzata and Bloomington Jefferson and disappeared from the rankings. Until now. With a big victory in the St. Louis Park Holiday Classic, the Cougars are back – and quite likely to stay. After beating Jefferson in a shootout for the tourney title, coach Erik Aus talked about how his team finally realized it was a blue collar bunch that needed to play strong defense. He has the players to do it, including blueliners like Brett Stern and Charlie Aus.
|6-3-1||Monday at Elk River (7:30 pm), Saturday at Maple Grove (3:30 pm)|
All the Wildcats do is win. And that’s enough to get them ranked well into the top 20 this week. Eagan cruised to a surprisingly easy victory in the South St. Paul Premier Tournament with big wins over Robbinsdale Armstrong (8-1), South St. Paul (4-1) and Hopkins (7-1). They’ve already beaten Bloomington Jefferson (4-3 in overtime) and with the only loss against the U.S. Women’s Olympic team, the Wildcats are a force to contend with in the Lake Conference and Section 3AA. Eagan has been terrific defensively thus far, allowing only 12 goals in nine games against Minnesota high school opponents. Goaltender Tommy Bodeker is 7-0-1 with a 1.30 GAA and .933 save percentage.
|8-1-1||Thursday vs. Eastview (7:30 pm), Saturday vs. Apple Valley (7:30 pm)|
|13|| Benilde-St. Margaret's
The Red Knights have shown they can beat nearly anyone, as Holiday Classic victories over Wayzata (4-3) and Maple Grove (5-1) proved. But they also have let-downs that result in games like the 7-2 loss to Centennial in the tourney semifinals. That’s likely attributed to the Red Knights’ youth, which is even more pronounced after losing defenseman Patrick Daly for the year to injury. Freshman Grant Besse (13-6-19) and sophomore Christian Horn (9-12-21) are the team’s two top goal-scorers.
|7-2-1||Thursday at St. Louis Park (7 pm), Saturday at Spring Lake Park (7:30 pm)|
|14|| Duluth East
Another young team finding its way, Duluth East opened the Schwan Cup Gold tournament with losses to Edina (3-0) and Hill-Murray (5-1) in which it struggled to score goals – a problem over the past year at times for the Greyhounds. They rebounded to beat Holy Angels (3-2) in the seventh place game and now play arguably two of the best teams in the state in Blaine on Thursday and Minnetonka on Saturday. They could drop both teams and not lose ground in the rankings if they show well. Expect low-scoring games, as the Greyhounds average only 3.5 per game, but allow just 2.1.
|8-3-1||Thursday vs. Blaine (8:30 pm), Saturday at Minnetonka (7 pm)|
The Warriors might not have much scoring depth, but that top line sure is potent. Brock Nelson (15-13-28), Brett Hebel (11-16-27) and Nick Stoskopf (8-10-18) have combined for 34 of the team’s 48 goals through 10 games. Warroad won its own holiday tournament with victories over North Dakota teams Grafton (2-0) and Fargo North (7-1) and a good win against Osseo (4-3) – the team right behind it in the top 20 rankings.
|9-1-0||Tuesday at East Grand Forks (7:30 pm), Friday vs. St. Cloud Cathedral (7:30 pm), Saturday vs. St. Cloud Tech (2:15 pm)|
Osseo got nicked by Warroad in the Warriors’ own holiday tournament, but otherwise have been on a roll since losing to Blaine way back on Dec. 10. The Orioles could keep it going another week before really running into the thick of the tough Northwest Suburban Conference slate. Osseo gets the bottom of the draw this week, but then must run the gauntlet through Elk River, Maple Grove, Centennial and Andover. That will be the true test of how highly-ranked the Orioles should be.
|7-2-1||Thursday at Anoka (7:30 pm), Saturday vs. North Metro (7:30 pm)|
The Huskies have been quietly plugging along with eight wins in their first 10 games, including a sweep at the Forest Lake Holiday tournament this past week, where they beat Cambridge-Isanti (5-2), Forest Lake (7-1) and Chisago Lakes (9-3). There haven’t been many tough tests so far and Andover did split its four toughest games, losing to Elk River (6-3) and Osseo (4-2) and beating Hermantown (2-1) and Duluth Denfeld (3-2). Both the victories were against Class A teams, while both losses were to Class AA teams. Thursday’s game against Maple Grove will be a good indicator for where Andover stands.
|8-2-0||Tuesday vs. Coon Rapids (7:30 pm), Thursday vs. Maple Grove (7:30 pm), Saturday at Champlin Park (3 pm)|
The Hawks were the class of the Ralph Engelstad Classic at Thief River Falls over the holidays, rolling past three Class A teams from the Northwest in Crookston (3-0), Thief River Falls (7-0) and East Grand Forks (9-3). Now they take their game back to the Northeast against two of the other top teams from that region in Duluth Marshall and International Falls. UMD recruit Adam Krause (15-12-27) has scored nearly a third of the Hawks’ goals on the season, including seven in the Engelstad Classic, but Hermantown is far from a one-man team. Coach Bruce Plante’s defensive corps of Jeff Paczynski, Chad Bannor, Conner Hady, Jared Kolquist and Brian LeBlanc is very strong.
|8-1-0||Tuesday vs. Duluth Marshall (7:30 pm), Saturday at International Falls (3 pm)|
Mahtomedi secured its position as one of the top-five teams in Class A (and the top 20 overall) with a successful holiday season at the Schwan Cup Silver division. The Zephyrs finished as runners up to Breck, losing 4-2 in the finals on New Year’s Day at the X. But perhaps even more important was a 5-2 victory over Virginia/MIB the next day up north in which Charlie Adams netted a hat trick. Mahtomedi’s top line, also including whirling dervish defenseman Ben Marshall, can play with anyone in the state.
|7-3-0||Tuesday at Totino-Grace (7 pm), Thursday vs. Bloomington Kennedy (7:30 pm), Saturday at Henry Sibley (7:30 pm)|
|20|| Cretin-Derham Hall
Cretin nearly tumbled out of the rankings entirely after last week’s Schwan Cup Silver tournament, quite a fall for a team that began the season with seven straight victories. But the problem is the last two losses, a 7-2 handling by Lakeville South and a 6-0 shutout by Burnsville. Teams may have figured out that when you stop the top line of Bob Kinne, Tony Barbato and Jesse Perron, you stop Cretin. That trio has 24 of the team’s 33 goals through 10 games. The Raiders will try to get back on track this week with a pair of Suburban East games.
|8-2-0||Thursday vs. Hastings (7:30 pm), Saturday at White Bear Lake (8 pm)|
Breakdown editor Tim Kolehmainen may be reached at email@example.com.
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