Blaine has made five straight state Class AA tournament appearances, but that streak could be in jeopardy this season after the Bengals lost much of their team – including Mr. Hockey Nick Bjugstad – to graduation.
Don’t tell that to Team Northwest’s Jonny Brodzinski, a senior forward who had the look of a Mr. Hockey candidate after scoring twice in his team’s 4-2 triumph over Team Northeast in the Elite League opener.
“We played one or two games before this,” said Brodzinski, who played last fall in what is now called the Elite Development League. “They were just scrimmages, but I could tell right there what the tempo was going to be like. I kind of got my mind set for what this game was going to be like. I just came out fast.”
The 5-foot-10¾, 184-pound Brodzinski had 22 goals and 26 assists in 30 games for the Bengals last season. His return, along with the presence of his sophomore brother, Michael, should make Blaine a dangerous team to overlook.
Michael Brodzinski, a 5-9, 178-pound defenseman, played for Team Northeast.
“We haven’t played against each other since we were little kids,” Jonny Brodzinski said. “We didn’t have many battles out there today, maybe one or two times. He’s a pretty good player. Really good.”
1. Jonny Brodzinski, Team Northwest
The senior from Blaine scored twice and created numerous other scoring chances with his speed and fearlessness in driving to the net. In an interesting sidenote, Brodzinski's younger brother Michael, a sophomore defenseman, played a regular shift for Team Northeast.
2. Anders Franke, Team Northwest
The diminutive junior from Elk River (Franke stands 5-foot-7) made his Elite League debut in style by turning aside 32 shots en route to the victory.
3. Max Birkinbine, Team Northeast
Birkinbine missed on two breakaway attempts before connecting on a penalty shot in the third period. Birkinbine tried to go glove side on Franke the first two times before faking that direction the third time but instead whipping a low shot to Franke's blocker side. "I didn't even want to do it," Birkinbine said about the penalty shot. "I was so tired."
It's always interesting to see how the forward lines are put together, especially when there are several players from one high school on an Elite League team.
Ross Luedtke-Jonny Brodzinski-Gage Torrel
Comment: Blaine's Brodzinski had two goals and was an offensive force most of the night. The speedy Torrel of Monticello and hard-hitting Luedtke of Orono gave the line a diverse set of skills.
Christian Horn-Tony Cameranesi-Mario Lucia
Comment: Cameranesi and Lucia of Wayzata, as expected, showed flashes of the chemistry that made them so dangerous last season.
Grant Besse-Tim Bonner-Pat Steinhauser
Comment: Is that really Grant Besse? Benilde-St. Margaret's sophomore looks like he grew several inches and packed on some serious pounds over the summer. Playing with B-SM teammate Steinhauser and the ever-dangerous Bonner of Osseo, this line generated heavy pressure most every shift.
Garrett Van Tuyl-T.J. Roo-Jake O'Borsky
Comment: The Kid Line with Totino-Grace's Roo, just a sophomore, and Benilde-St. Margaret's O'Borsky, just a junior, lined up with Van Tuyl, a senior from Champlin Park.
"We jumped the lines around quite a bit because one of our forwards (Centennial's Riley Colvard) had football," Max Birkinbine of White Bear Lake said. "He couldn't make it tonight. So the coaches just shot out names."
Birkinbine did end up one the ice with White Bear Lake teammate Brandon Wahlin for a majority of his shifts.
To say Team Northeast goaltender Tim Shaughnessy of Hill-Murrray was active would be like saying ants often keep themselves busy. Shaughnessy was credited with making 32 saves in the second period, a total that seems more than a bit high. Still, he was peppered with shots all game and looked rock solid.
Team Northwest goaltender Anders Franke of Elk River had a shutout going until late in the third period when he allowed two goals. He wasn't tested as often as Shaughnessy, but he also made his share of superb saves.
Team Northwest's Jonny Brodzinski of Blaine scored twice to help stake his team to a 3-0 early in the second period.
Northwest's Pat Steinhauser of Benilde-St. Margaret's, playing on a potent line with Red Knights teammate Grant Besse and Osseo's Tim Bonner, also scored during the early flurry.
Team Northeast's Hill-Murray's Zach LaValle, a sophomore, ruined what appeared could be a shutout for Team Northwest's Anders Franke of Elk River when he scored with 5:34 left in the third period.
Max Birkinbine of White Bear Lake scored on a penalty shot with just more than two minutes remaining to pull Team Northwest to within 3-2.
T.J. Roo, a sophomore from Totino-Grace, scored a power-play goal for Team Northeast with 1:57 left.
Franke finished with 32 saves and Team Northwest's Tim Shaughnessy of Hill-Murray was credited with making 56 saves.