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Frozen Four has Minnesota flavor

By Pete Waggoner, Hockey Hub contributor and My Fox Hockey, 04/05/11, 8:00AM CDT

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Nineteen players on Frozen Four rosters developed in Minnesota high school hockey


UM-Duluth veteran Mike Montgomery looks to relive past magic at the Xcel Energy Center. Photo by Jordan Doffing

As the Frozen Four descends upon the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul this week, there will be a decided Minnesota flavor. Led by 13 Minnesota-Duluth players, the tournament field boasts 19 rostered players who were developed in Minnesota’s high school hockey system.


UM-Duluth forward Kyle Schmidt is rewarded through perseverance after injuries the last two seasons. Photo by Jordan Doffing

Making their fourth Frozen Four appearance in school history, the Bulldogs have relied heavily on members of their roster who played for Minnesota high schools.

North Dakota and Notre Dame each have three players on their roster who were developed through the Minnesota high school league.

Led by 2009-2010 All-American and 2011 Hobey Baker finalist Jack Connolly, the Bulldogs have developed a team that takes pride in its roots.

Playing in his hometown of Duluth was important to Connolly, and having an opportunity to win a national title in St. Paul, a building he knows well, is an added bonus for the UMD leader. During his high school career, Connolly led Duluth Marshall to back-to-back runner-up finishes. He compiled 37 goals and 40 assists for 77 points in 31 games as a senior season in 2006-07.

"It was a dream of mine to play for my hometown and the Bulldogs and it definitely has been a while since they have been to the Frozen Four," Connolly said. "We felt that we had all the potential in the world with this team this year. It has been a little up and down this year but we battled hard in the post season and we have given ourselves the opportunity to try to make history in our program. Being a hometown kid, it is an unbelievable experience for me right now and I can't wait to get down to St. Paul."


Duluth East's Max Tardy is one of 13 Minnesota high school players on the UMD roster. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen

Connolly has surpassed his All-American season from a year ago (18 goals, 31 assists) this winter (17 goals, 41 assists). He plays on one of the best lines in the nation, one that features Alberta native Justin Fontaine (22g-33a-55pts) and Calgary, Alberta, native Mike Connolly (27g-26a-53pts) – no relation to Duluth’s Connolly brothers.

While the Bulldogs are known to keep their homegrown products from leaving the northland area, head coach Scott Sandelin and his staff travels the state to recruit players and takes pride in not losing them.

"I know those guys take a lot of pride being from here," Sandelin said of his Minnesota-bred players. "They chose this program. Some guys had opportunities to other places but for them to pick us certainly means a lot. It doesn't always work that way -- sometimes kids want to get away from home. They chose us and have been great additions to our program.

“It's been our goal since we started here as a coaching staff to try and find the best players and identify the best players on our area and go after those guys. We have done that and haven't lost too many to other schools. We have lost a few, but it tells a lot about those kids and their commitment. It is great to have a local flavor on your team and the guys have been impact players."

J.T. Brown is another of the Minnesota-bred players. He has made a major impact during his freshman campaign. The former Rosemount Irish has scored 15 goals and added 19 assists for 34 points in 40 games played. He is fourth on the team in points behind the big line of the Connollys and Fontaine.


Edina's Anders Lee leads all Notre Dame players in goals scored. (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).

Other players, such as former Centennial defenseman Mike Montgomery, have contributed to UMD's success. It was Montgomery who scored Centennial's lone goal in the 2004 state tournament final as the Cougars beat Moorhead 1-0. He has come full circle in his amateur career as his final game will be played on Xcel Energy Center ice.

The development style of Sandelin's Bulldogs is not lost on the Minnesota high school coaches, who view a player's development on the rink and off it through their senior season as important in high school.

"I think it is admirable that UMD has the confidence in their program and in high school hockey that they are willing to wait for a kid to develop through his senior year," Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knight coach Ken Pauly said. "It is an outstanding development model to allow for a young man to fully mature, develop, and experience his life through his senior season.

“Too many people don't recognize how valuable that senior season is for a young player on every level. UMD's success and the success that these players have enjoyed speaks for itself."

It is well stated that players develop at different levels, and for many a stint in the USHL or NAHL is required for at least a year or two after graduation. It affords them an opportunity to handle life's adjustments and continue to develop on the rink. For some it is not required however, and they can make the jump straight in from high school to college.

"I think that kids need to touch the puck as much as possible no matter what," former Hopkins head coach Chad Nyberg said. "They need to be the go-to guy and play on the power play and the penalty kill. They need to score and set up game winning goals. The more they are the 'man' the more creative they will become. This will help them be successful as they move up the levels because they are confident in their abilities to contribute."

Impact players make their presence felt on the North Dakota roster as Joe Gleason (Edina) and Brock Nelson (Warroad) both contributed to the success of coach Dave Hakstol's Fighting Sioux this year.

Ryan Hill, who captained Hermantown to a third-place finish his senior season in 2006, has yet to play this season, which is his sophomore year in North Dakota. The Sioux are in search of their eighth national title this season and are considered favorites to capture it.

Led by Ryan Guentzel (Hill-Murray) and Anders Lee (Edina), Notre Dame has two impressive Minnesota high school-developed players. Brian Brooke (Eden Prairie) is on the roster as a goaltender as well.

Lee is second on the team in points with 44, led the Irish in goals with 24 and was named co-rookie of the year with the dynamic T.J. Tynan.

Meanwhile, Guentzel won the Charles "Lefty" Smith Coaches' Award as the team's unsung hero. Guentzel is a steady senior who anchors the Irish blue line.

As the Frozen Four plays out, The State of Hockey and its high school hockey legions have plenty of which to be proud, including its favorite sons who will be on display for the national audience at the Xcel Energy Center.

2011 Frozen Four

For extended coverage of 2011 Frozen Four, check out the MN Hockey News!

Future college players from Minnesota high schools

Minnesota-Duluth

Name School Graduated
Tony Cameranesi Wayzata 2011
Chris Casto Hill-Murray 2010
Willie Corrin Int'l Falls 2010
Cal Decowski Andover 2010
Adam Krause Hermantown 2010
Adam Johnson Hibbing/Chisholm 2013

North Dakota

Name School Graduated
Zane Gothberg Thief River Falls 2010

Notre Dame

Name School Graduated
Steven Fogarty Edina 2011

Quoted

"Being a hometown kid, it is an unbelievable experience for me right now and I can't wait to get down to St. Paul."

-- Jack Connolly, UMD

“It's been our goal since we started here as a coaching staff to try and find the best players and identify the best players in our area and go after those guys. We have done that and haven't lost too many to other schools. We have lost a few, but it tells a lot about those kids and their committment. It is great to have a local flavor on your team and the guys have been impact players."

--Scott Sandelin, UMD coach

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UMD Bulldogs from Minnesota high school ranks

Name High School 2010-2011 Notes
J. T. Brown Rosemount 15g-19a-34pts Fourth on Bulldogs in points
Jack Connolly Duluth Marshall 17g-41a-58pts All-American 2010, Hobey Baker Finalist 2011
Dan DeLisle Totino Grace 4g-2a-6pts 3rd round draft choice (89th overall) of the Chicago Black Hawks
Christian Gaffy Forest Lake --- 13-2-2 senior season at Forest Lake and was second in state save percentange .935
David Grunn White Bear Lake 3g-5a-8pts Two year captain of the Bears in High school, AP All State both years
Jake Hendrickson Burnsville 1g-4a-5pts Was a 2007-08 AP All State Selection
Chad Huttel Hermantown 0g-1a-1pt 2g-7a-9pts in 85 career games, two time All-Academic honoree
Scott Kishel Virginia-MIB 0g-1a-1pt 0g-11a-11pts in 47gp, played with Matt Niskanen as a soph in H. S.
Luke McManus Rosemount --- All Lake Conference 2007-2008
Mike Montgomery Centennial 0g-10a-10pts 130 career games played on blue line 4g-34a-38pts
Drew Olson Brainerd 1g-3a-4pts 1g-5a-6pts in 66gp. Draft pick of Columbus and Mr. Hockey Finalist
Kyle Schmidt Hermantown 9g-11a-20pts Won WCHA Scholar Athlete Award plays all three forward positions
Max Tardy Duluth East 0g-2a-2pts Freshman is a St. Louis Blues draft pick

Brock Nelson has had a successful freshman season at North Dakota. (Photo by Tim Kolehmainen).

North Dakota Fighting Sioux from Minnesota high school ranks

Name High School 2010-2011 Notes
Joe Gleason Edina 1g-3a-4pts Was a +13 last year in 39 games and has appeared in 22 games this year
Ryan Hill Hermantown --- All State, section, and conference honors as a senior in 2006 at Hermantown
Brock Nelson Warroad 8-13-21 1st Round pick, 30th overall by New York Islanders, Mr. Hockey Finalist 2010

Notre Dame Fighting Irish from Minnesota high school ranks

Name High School 2010-2011 Notes
Brian Brooke Eden Prairie --- Hard working goaltender in senior year serves as 4th goalie
Ryan Guentzel Hill-Murray 6g-31a-37pts Four year letter winner, 3rd on team in points, tied for lead in assists
Anders Lee Edina 24g-20a-44pts Led team in goals and is 2nd on points, 6th round pick of the Islanders