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Star Tribune hockey preview: Five story lines

11/23/2015, 2:28pm CST
By David La Vaque, Star Tribune

Can the defending champs repeat? When will Lorne Grosso get victory No. 700?


Lakeville North players embrace the coaching staff after defeating Duluth East 4-1 in the Class 2A hockey championship game on March 7, 2015 at Xcel Energy Center. Star Tribune file photo by Aaron Lavinsky

1 CHECKING IN WITH THE CHAMPS

Graduation and other departures gutted both defending state champions. Lakeville North (Class 2A) graduated four Division I skaters and lost goaltender Ryan Edquist (committed to the Gophers) to juniors. In Class 1A, two-time defending champion East Grand Forks lost Mr. Hockey candidate Dixon Bowen and coach Tyler Palmiscno. Weep not for either program, however. Max Johnson (Bowling Green) and Ryan Poehling (St. Cloud State) return to lead the Panthers while Grant Loven and Tanner Tweten will keep the Green Wave rolling.

 

2 GUN LAP FOR GROSSO

Minnesota high school hockey’s leader with 693 career victories, Lorne Grosso of Rochester Mayo, announced his 49th season will be his last. Grosso helped launch the Spartans’ program in 1966 and became a fixture behind the bench, missing one season while on sabbatical. Mayo plays two games this winter against Albert Lea and coach Roy Nystrom, who ranks seconds with 683 career victories. Grosso and Nystrom, close friends who were linemates with the Gophers, face off one final time Jan. 14 at Albert Lea.

 

3 SHIFTING SECTION ASSIGNMENTS

The Minnesota State High School League caused a stir with the latest changes in its two-year section placement cycle. Eden Prairie, Holy Family and Minnetonka departed Section 6 for Section 2. The new-look Section 6 includes Edina, Cretin-Derham Hall and Holy Angels. Of the trio, only Edina has reached the state tournament since 2009. Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Wayzata are Section 6 holdovers with recent Class 2A state tournament experience. In Section 3, newcomers Bloomington Jefferson and Burnsville hope to challenge St. Thomas Academy.

 

4 MORE HOCKEY, PLEASE

How would you improve high school hockey? Let’s Play Hockey magazine recently asked 100 current Minnesota coaches to rank five potential ways to bolster the game. It wasn’t close. Eight out of 10 coaches (82 percent) chose adding three games to the regular season schedule with their first or second vote. Extending period length from 17 to 20 minutes ranked second, with 47 percent of coaches using their first or second votes.

 

5 SO MANY QUESTIONS

Programs throughout the state offer intriguing story lines. Dwindling numbers forced Richfield to cancel its varsity season. The Spartans hope to co-op with another program next season, a reality for several inner-city and first-ring suburban programs. Duluth Marshall opted-up to Class 2A and joins Section 7 powers Duluth East, Elk River/Zimmerman and Grand Rapids. Former NHL standout Mark Parrish took the Orono job. And St. Paul Johnson senior goaltender Sam Moberg begins his fifth consecutive season between the pipes. He has not missed a single start the past four seasons.

DAVID LA VAQUE

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