Team Southeast senior Taylor Fleming of St. Thomas Academy leads all Elite League defensemen in scoring. Photo by Helen Nelson
They were hardly cannon shots from point. In fact, Taylor Fleming alternately described his two goals as the fortunate result of "lobs" and "flutterers."
Pretty? No. Effective? Yes.
With his four-point performance against Team Northeast on Tuesday, Oct. 12, Team Southeast’s Taylor Fleming vaulted to the top of the scoring list for Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League defensemen.
The St. Thomas Academy senior has six goals and 10 assists in 16 games, putting him ahead of not only all the defensemen in the league but big-name forwards such as Grant Besse of Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Steven Fogarty of Edina, Garrett Hendrickson of Virginia and A.J. Michaelson of Apple Valley on the scoring charts.
“It’s just kind of an extra thing that comes along with playing defense,” Fleming said about his point production after a two-goal, two-assist performance in the 7-4 triumph over Team Northeast at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope. “It’s nice to get points, but it is always defense first, obviously.”
Fleming’s goals were similar in that they came on low shots from the point that somehow worked through a maze of sticks and skates all the way to the back of the net.
“Little lobs,” Fleming said in describing his goals. “One was a little flutterer and (Team Northeast goaltender Blake Cates) was screened off. The other one, I don’t even know how it went in.”
The 5-foot-10, 180 pound Fleming scored five goals and added 16 assists for St. Thomas Academy last season. The Cadets were ranked No. 1 in Class A for much of the season, only to suffer a stunning loss to Mahtomedi in the Section 4A championship game for the second straight year.
“Two years in a row it was like the same exact loss, to a T,” said Fleming, who is joined by Cadets teammates Eric Schurhamer, A.J. Reid and Zach Schroeder on the Team Southeast roster. “I’ve been thinking about trying to get to the state tournament a lot.”
As for his future beyond the season, Fleming said he hasn’t heard from any colleges this fall. He said he made visits to Bemidji State and Minnesota State last year.
Team Northeast hasn’t had much to celebrate this fall during the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League season, especially after losing to Team Southeast 7-4 on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope.
One thing Team Northeast can be happy about is giving Jake Sampson a second chance.
Sampson is leading Team Northeast in scoring with 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in 16 games and his point total ranks third overall in the league.
Not bad for a guy that initially didn’t make any Elite League roster.
“Originally I got asked to tryout for the team and then after tryouts no team called me, so I didn’t make it,” Sampson said. “Then (Team Northeast head coach Chris McAlpine) pulled some strings and said he really wanted me on the team, so he brought me up and it’s worked since.”
That initial rejection has provided a driving force for the Edina senior who scored 12 goals and added 16 assists last season for the state Class AA champion Hornets.
“I wanted to prove everyone wrong,” Sampson, a 5-foot-10½, 174-pound forward said, “that I should have been in the league at the start after tryouts. A little chip on my shoulder.”
When Sampson began playing with Team Northeast, he had to make some new friends quickly and adjust to different players and playing styles. The coaches found a fit for him, though.
Team Northeast's Jake Sampson of Edina tried an offspeed shot during a breakaway attempt on Team Southeast goaltender Bodhi Engum of Burnsville. Engum made the save. Photo by Helen Nelson
“I think (the coaches) had the returning guys on the first line. They threw me in there with some guys I didn’t know. Then after the first game I got moved up to play with (Ben) Bahe and then they put (Max Birkinbine) on the line and then we started putting up some points.”
So far, that line has combined for 59 points (22 goals, 37 assists) for Team Northeast. Sampson seems to enjoy playing with Hill-Murray’s Bahe and White Bear Lake’s Birkinbine.
“They’re good,” Sampson said. “They see the ice well and they have good skill. It doesn’t matter who takes the body -- we all can. Then the puck pops out, you pass it to the other guy, and he puts it away.”
Sampson will certainly be looked to for improvement from the Elite League when the Hornets reconvene for the varsity season. The Hornets have several players skating in the Elite League including Team Northwest’s Ben Ostlie and Team Southwest’s Connor Girard, Max Everson, Michael Sit and Steven Fogarty.
Unfortunately, the Elite League has also provided injury woes for Edina as Team North’s Ben Walker left last Saturday’s (Oct. 9) game with a shoulder injury and Team Northwest’s Parker Reno suffered a devastating knee injury.
As for his colleges career, Sampson wouldn’t disclose which schools are showing interest. He did, however, say that before the Elite League he hadn’t heard from anyone. Now, it’s a different story.
“I’ve emailed a few schools and they’ve emailed me back saying they’re watching me and they’re going to continue to.”
-- Mike Murakami, Hockey Hub staff
Justin Kloos, left, of Lakeville South is congratulated by Team Southeast teammate Taylor Fleming of St. Thomas Academy after Kloos scored a first-period goal. Photo by Helen Nelson
1. Taylor Fleming, Team Southeast
The senior defenseman from St. Thomas Academy scored two power-play goals, added two assists and was rock solid in the Team Southeast defensive zone. Fleming's 16 points (6 goals, 10 assists) are the most of any Elite League defenseman.
2. Justin Kloos, Team Southeast
Lakeville South’s high-octane junior forward, who led the Elite League in scoring for the first several weeks of the season, revved his way to a partial breakaway goal, added an assist and was an all-around terror in the Team Northeast zone. His 23 points ranks second in the league, five behind Team Northwest's Tony Cameranesi of Wayzata.
3. Brandon Wahlin, Team Northeast
Wahlin, the senior forward from White Bear Lake, had a goal and an assist to lead a highly effective Team Northeast line that included Zach McCarver of North St. Paul and Zach LaValle of Hill-Murray, each of whom also registered a goal.
While defending state Class AA champion Edina has provided the Elite League with some of its top offensive talent, the league also has been the cause of some injury woes for the Hornets.
Team North’s Ben Walker left last Saturday’s (Oct. 9) game with a shoulder injury and, early in the season, Team Northwest’s Parker Reno suffered a devastating knee injury.
“I know Reno is out for the season so that’s a big loss but we’ve got some guys that can fill in," said Edina's Jake Sampson, a forward for Team Northeast. "Walker told me today he would be out for a month so he misses the rest of the Elite League but he’s only a junior so he’ll be back next year and we’ll have him for the (high school) season.”
-- Mike Murakami, Hockey Hub staff
Team Southeast goaltender Charlie Lindgren of Lakeville North dives through the crease in an attempt to make a save. Photo by Helen Nelson
St. Thomas Academy senior defenseman Taylor Fleming had two goals and two assists to lead Team Southeast to a 7-4 triumph over Team Northeast on Tuesday, Oct. 12, in an Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League matchup at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope.
Fleming scored twice on the power play, both times firing low shots that skidded through heavy traffic and into the back of the net. Fleming also assisted on goals by Justin Kloos of Lakeville South and Will Merchant of Eagan.
The scoring outburst bumped Fleming’s season point total to 16 (6 goals, 10 assists), the most of any Elite League defenseman.
St. Thomas Academy senior A.J. Reid scored what proved to be the winning goal off a face off during the final minute of the second period. He went airborne to launch a shot that put Team Southeast ahead 5-3 entering the third period.
Michael Zajac of Eagan and Tony Barbato of Cretin-Derham Hall also scored for Team Southeast.
Brandon Wahlin of White Bear Lake, Zach LaValle of Hill-Murray and Zach McCarver of North St. Paul each had a goal and an assist for Team Northeast.