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Breck takes run at rare repeat

03/07/2010, 8:24pm CST
By Loren Nelson, Editor

Class A preview: Second straight title for Mustangs would be a first

This probably isn't the first time you've heard this, and it undoubtedly won't be the last as the state tournament is played out in St. Paul: No Class A team ever has won back-to-back state titles.

That topic is in vogue because so, too, is defending Class A champion Breck (26-2-0). The Mustangs are the tournament's top seed and ranked No. 1 in the Hockey Hub's final Class A poll. They've lost just twice this season, and only one of those losses came against state high school league competition.

No team had a more potent offense (7.40 goals per game) or better big-game goaltender (senior John Russell) than the Mustangs.

If any team has the talent to dethrone Breck, it's No. 2 seed Mahtomedi (23-5-0). Zephyrs' goaltender Brad Wohlers seems to play his best in the biggest of games, two of which were section championship upsets of St. Thomas Academy each of the past two seasons.

While the Zephyrs have figured out how to beat the Cadets, they haven't had much success against the Mustangs, losing both matchups this season.

With 13 seniors, led by Mr. Hockey candidate Adam Krause, longtime Hermantown coach Bruce Plante has said his third-seeded Hawks can compete against anyone. The Hawks (25-3-0) proved that was true most notably against big-school power Eden Prairie in a thrilling 4-3 loss outdoors in Hermantown during Minnesota's Hockey Day.

No. 4 seed Warroad (24-4-0) has become a fixture at the state tournament, and the Warriors return this season led again by Mr. Hockey candidate Brock Nelson, a North Dakota recruit and likely NHL draft pick.

Rochester Lourdes (17-8-3) recovered from a rocky start to the season to make a return state tournament trip. The Eagles don't get much scoring, but then not much is required with standout junior Nick Heimer in goal.

Alexandria (21-6-1) won 11-straight games before closing the regular seaoasn with a 4-3 loss to Moorhead. The Cardinals won their three section playoff games by a combined score of 16-4 and are playing their best heading into the state tournament.

Virginia/Mountain-Iron Buhl (18-7-3) played some of the state's best Class AA and A teams during a rugged regular season the Blue Devils hope have them better prepared for the state tournament than last season, when they lost both their games.

New Ulm (16-9-1) is making its first state tournament appearance since 1992, when current head coach Erik Setterholm was playing for the Eagles, but they had the misfortune of drawing Breck as a first-round opponent.

Warroad's big Brock Nelson (he's 6-foot-3) has exceptional speed, size and stickhandling skills, and he doesn't mind throwing his body into an opposing defenseman if the opportunity presents itself. His 47 goals and 85 points are the most of any player in the Class A tournament. The North Dakota recruit is a Mr. Hockey finalist and likely NHL draft pick. 

Nelson's wing man, fellow senior Brett Hebel (26g, 44a) can bury the puck with the best of them and also can provide a physical presence when needed.

Breck's Tyson Fulton (34g, 50a) is on the short list of the state's best seniors who haven't committed to a Division I program, although he recently returned from a visit to Nebraska-Omaha and has been in regular contact with UM-Duluth. Fulton's linemate, senior Mike Morin (33g, 28a) has committed to Colorado College.

Mahtomedi's Brandon Zurn (pictured above) and Charlie Adams each have 33 goals, and when they are scoring -- which is most every game -- the Zephyrs' typically are winning. Giving the duo extra room to operate is junior defenseman Ben Marshall, a Minnesota recruit whose mesmerizing up-ice rushes and pinball-machine point totals (19g, 34a) draw plenty of attention from opposing defenses.

Two more of the state's best players, Hermantown's Mr. Hockey finalist Adam Krause (36g, 28a) and Virginia junior and likely NHL draft pick Garrett Hendrickson (32g, 44a) are big, strong centers who are the catalysts of their teams' offenses.

Alexandria's Thomas Williams is a 37-goal scorer few casual observers have heard of, although he has the chance to change that now that he's playing in front of a statewide TV audience.

Forwards Yr. G A Pts
Brock Nelson Sr. 47 38 85
Tyson Fulton Sr. 34 50 84
Garrett Hendrickson Jr. 32 44 76
Brandon Zurn Sr. 33 39 72
Brett Hebel Sr. 26 44 70
Charlie Adams Sr. 33 33 66
Adam Krause Sr. 36 28 64
Thomas Williams Sr. 37 24 61
Michael Morin Sr. 33 28 61
Riley Borer Sr. 18 40 58
Casey Vangsness Sr. 15 30 45
Ross Thompson Sr. 12 31 43
Zach Fisher Sr. 18 16 34
Kaleb Juntunen Jr. 18 16 34
Alex Funk Fr. 15 14 29
Defensemen Yr. G A Pts
Ben Marshall Jr. 19 34 53
Carson Gray Jr. 7 33 40
Jordan Krebsbach Sr. 12 19 31
Ben Gislason Sr. 7 21 28
Jeff Paczynski Sr. 6 22 28
Michael Mooney Sr. 5 23 28
Jared Kolquist So. 3 25 28
Rory Vesel Jr. 5 23 28
Kirby Nelson Sr. 4 10 14
Goalies Yr. W-L-T GAA SV%
John Russell Sr. 19-2-0 1.43 .934
Casey Myhre Sr. 10-3-3 1.91 .922
Erich Murphy So. 16-3-1 1.90 .914
Tyler Ampe Sr. 12-3-0 1.85 .909
Brad Wohlers Sr. 14-4-0 2.61 .908

Hub Prediction

Team Record
  Breck 26-2-1

The scary thing about the Mustangs, who lost just two seniors from last year's championship team, is that Breck coach Les Larson (pictured above) believes this year's version might be better than the squad the rolled through the state tournament a year ago. "I don't think we've played our best game yet," Larson said. Yeah, we're picking the Mustangs.

Bracket Buster

Team Record
  Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl 18-7-3

The Blue Devils could very well upend quarterfinal opponent Hermantown, if they can get a game-of-a-lifetime from senior goaltender Casey Myhre.

State Tournament Guide

Your printable, portable 20-page primer to the nation's greatest high school sporting event.

Past Champions

Two Class
2009
Class AA – Eden Prairie
Class A – Breck
2008
Class AA – Hill-Murray
Class A – St. Thomas Academy
2007
Class AA – Roseau
Class A – Hermantown
2006
Class AA – Cretin-Derham Hall
Class A – St. Thomas Academy
2005
Class AA – Holy Angels
Class A – Warroad
2004
Class AA – Centennial
Class A – Breck
2003
Class AA – Anoka
Class A – Warroad
2002
Class AA – Holy Angels
Class A – Totino-Grace
2001
Class AA – Elk River
Class A – Benilde-St. Margaret's
2000
Class AA – Blaine
Class A – Breck
1999
Class AA – Roseau
Class A – Benilde-St. Margaret's
1998
Class AA – Duluth East
Class A – Eveleth-Gilbert
1997
Class AA – Edina
Class A – Red Wing
1996
Class AA – Apple Valley
Class A – Warroad
1995
Class AA – Duluth East
Class A – International Falls
1994
Class AA – Bloomington Jefferson
Class A – Warroad

Two Tier
1993
Tier I – Bloomington Jefferson
Tier II – Eveleth-Gilbert
1992
Tier I – Bloomington Jefferson
Tier II – Greenway

Single Class
1991 – Hill-Murray
1990 – Roseau
1989 – Bloomington Jefferson
1988 – Edina
1987 – Bloomington Kennedy
1986 – Burnsville
1985 – Burnsville
1984 – Edina
1983 – Hill-Murray
1982 – Edina
1981 – Bloomington Jefferson
1980 – Grand Rapids
1979 – Edina East
1978 – Edina East
1977 – Rochester John Marshall
1976 – Grand Rapids
1975 – Grand Rapids
1974 – Edina East
1973 – Hibbing
1972 – International Falls
1971 – Edina
1970 – Minneapolis Southwest
1969 – Edina
1968 – Greenway
1967 – Greenway
1966 – International Falls
1965 – International Falls
1964 – International Falls
1963 – St. Paul Johnson
1962 – International Falls
1961 – Roseau
1960 – Duluth East
1959 – Roseau
1958 – Roseau
1957 – International Falls
1956 – Thief River Falls
1955 – St. Paul Johnson
1954 – Thief River Falls
1953 – St. Paul Johnson
1952 – Hibbing
1951 – Eveleth
1950 – Eveleth
1949 – Eveleth
1948 – Eveleth
1947 – St. Paul Johnson
1946 – Roseau
1945 – Eveleth

Tag(s): Hub Exclusives  Alexandria  Mahtomedi  Rochester Lourdes  Breck  Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl  Hermantown  New Ulm  Warroad  All Articles  The Full Nelson  Class A  Tourney Headquarters  Class Previews