Photo by SportsEngine
We task our reporters with identifying several intriguing games throughout the state to assemble our Top Games of the Week. The matchups are presented in no particular order, and when there are additional games we want to highlight, we’ll include them with brief notes.
It doesn’t get much better on paper than a matchup containing the best of Class 2A, according to the Dec. 22 coaches’ poll rankings with No. 1 Wayzata traveling to No. 2 Minnetonka.
This is the first of two regular-season meetings between the Lake Conference foes. The Skippers enter the week 8-1 on the season facing its first conference opponent of the season, while the Trojans are 8-1-1, losing a one-goal game to Maple Grove in the Crimson’s holiday tournament. Minnetonka won both games of last season’s series against Wayzata.
Wayzata’s defense hasn’t allowed much to opponents this season, giving up 1.90 goals-against per game. The effort is backstopped by senior goaltender Will Ingemann (7-1-1) with his 1.61 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. He’s surrendered only 15 goals this season. Junior Hawke Huff (two goals, four assists) is the leading scorer on the blue line, followed by sophomore Finn De St. Hubert (five assists). If this turns into a tight contest, the Trojans have been there before. They’re 4-1 in one-goal games and 3-0-1 in overtime this season.
Minnetonka is only allowing 1.33 goals-against per game with a 90% penalty kill and two shutouts, outscoring opponents 43-12 on the season.
Kaizer Nelson (7-1-0) gets the nod in net with a 1.11 goals-against average. Offensively, the Skippers are led by Hagen Burrows (six goals, 10 assists), Alex Lunski (five goals, 10 assists), Ashton Schultz (seven goals, six assists), Sam Scheetz (five goals, eight assists) and Gavin Garry (four goals, eight assists).
This game features two teams with three wins (six points) apiece at the top of the Mid-State Conference standings. They’ll meet again Jan. 26 at Wadena-Deer Creek. Detroit Lakes won both games against its conference opponent last season, outscoring them by a 15-1 margin.
No. 7-1A Detroit Lakes lost its first game in regulation to Fergus Falls in the final game of the Fergus Falls Holiday Classic, snapping a four-game winning streak for the senior-laden Detroit Lakes squad.
Senior Cole Larson leads the team in goals (11) and points (23), with three power-play goals and five power-play assists. Sophomore defenseman Jace Fields is the team assists leader with 14. That team is deep, with eight players into double-digits for points. In goal, senior Josh Mack is called upon as the top starter after playing backup in past seasons; he has a 2.20 goals-against average with two shutouts.
Like Detroit Lakes, Wadena-Deer Creek has scored 52 goals this season, averaging just under six goals a game. The Wolverines are riding a five-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 31-15.
They have some depth with their roster full of seniors as well. Senior Cole Woods has 30 points (eight goals, 22 assists) and five power-play assists. Senior Aron Sutherland is the team’s leading goal scorer with 15 (including a team-leading four on the power play) and eight assists.
Who doesn’t love a good rematch? The 1-2 battle is already listed in this week’s Top Games, but last season, it was Andover and Maple Grove finishing first and second in Class 2A at Xcel Energy Center when the Huskies won its first state title in an overtime thriller over its Northwest Suburban Conference rival.
This season, each team has fallen in the rankings recently. Maple Grove sits at No. 9 in Class 2A as of Dec. 22, while Andover went from No. 7 to No. 16.
The Crimson — first in the Northwest Suburban Conference with an undefeated record — have good numbers overall, with nine victories (seven in a row), scoring more than five goals a game while allowing 1.64, plus a 51.9% power play and 90% penalty kill. They’ve outscored opponents 62-18 this season, tied for the second most goals scored by a team in the state.
Finn Brink is back for his senior season for Maple Grove, leading the team with 11 goals and 23 points, plus six power-play assists. Senior Jack Kernan (seven goals, 14 assists) is next and leads the team with four power-play goals, followed by senior Blake Steenerson (nine goals, eight assists). As one might expect from a team with 62 goals, most of the roster is contributing to the scoresheet. Sixteen players have scored at least a goal.
Special teams could be a key component, as often happens. Andover has a 17% power play this season while scoring just under four goals a game overall. The Huskies had a brief two-game skid earlier this season and also lost at section foe Duluth East. But they rebounded well in the St. Louis Park Rec Center Tradition in the Park holiday tournament for victories over Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Hill-Murray and Rosemount.
Senior Beau Altman has seen the most time in net for Andover, going 5-2-1 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. In front of him are defensemen junior Landon Stringfellow (two goals, three assists), junior Caiden Belisle (one goal, four assists), junior Brooks Cogswell (one goal, three assists) and senior Tristen May-Robinson (two goals, one assist).
Stillwater vs. Cretin-Derham Hall, 7:15 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 5. Suburban East Conference foes are tied (with White Bear Lake) with six points atop the conference standings. No. 7-2A Stillwater enters the week undefeated in six games since its season opener. While No. 8-2A Cretin-Derham Hall has lost two of its last three games to top-10 teams Maple Grove and Wayzata (overtime).
Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato vs. Delano/Rockford, 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 5. The first of two meetings between these Class 1A, Section 2 and Wright County Conference squads. No. 16-1A Delano rebounded from an 0-3 start to the season by winning five of its last six games. No. 8-1A Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato enters the week after dropping its first loss of the season during a holiday tournament last week.
The MN Hockey Hub poll is for entertainment purposes only.