The new-look Lake Conference, made up of heavyweights Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Wayzata, was much ballyhooed for its football dominance. But hockey is no slouch, either. Let's Play Hockey magazine's preseason poll listed defending Class 2A champion Edina at No. 1, with Wayzata and Eden Prairie next in line. No. 8 Minnetonka gives the Lake four top-10 teams.
A strong Lake Conference presence makes Class 2A, Section 6 the most difficult path to the state tournament. Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Wayzata makes for a formidable draw, but throw in No. 5 Benilde-St. Margaret's to make it a fearsome foursome. There is no easy way to St. Paul, but Section 6 is the most challenging. And something to make hockey fans smile: The Section 2 and Section 6 finals doubleheader is back at Mariucci Arena.
Only eight Minnesota high school puck-chasers were expected to sign a national letter of intent during the recent early-signing period – half the number who did so last season. While there is time for seniors to garner college interest, Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith believes many of them "are going to probably play a year in the USHL." In addition, Lee said the Class of 2011 is "a skill class. There are not too many big guys out there."
Eden Prairie's Kyle Rau told coaches and teammates he was bypassing his senior season to play with Sioux Falls of the USHL, then changed his mind one day later. His departure would have expanded an already impressive list of players you won't see at local rinks this winter. Gophers recruits Ben Marshall (defenseman) and Adam Wilcox (goaltender) skipped their senior seasons for the USHL. Three others – Travis Boyd, Matt McNeely and Matt VanVoorhis – are Division I recruits once again playing with the U.S. National Team development program in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The comeback of the year award already is going to St. Paul Highland Park. The Scots are dressing a varsity roster this winter for the first time since 1987. Their first game takes place Dec. 1 against the St. Paul Saints at Highland Arena. Meanwhile, hockey in Minneapolis is down to one team – the Novas – for all seven public schools. Projections indicated the two previous Minneapolis teams, East and West, would not return or attract enough players for two varsity and junior varsity teams.
— David La Vaque