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Talent, talent everywhere

By Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor, 02/19/12, 11:04PM CST


Section 6AA preview: Minnetonka is favorite in field loaded with top teams, star players

Minnetonka coach Brian Urick has the Skippers in position to claim their second section title in three seasons. Photo by Helen Nelson

Benilde's Dan Labosky is one of several Red Knights who posted big offensive seasons. Photo by Helen Nelson

Insanely gifted goal scorers, tough-as-nails defensemen, supremely skilled goaltenders – Section 6AA once again offers a hockey lover’s smorgasbord.

The survivor of this incredibly tough bracket has finished first, second and first in the state Class 2A tournament the past three years.

There’s no reason to believe this year’s Section 6AA champion can’t make another extended state tournament run. The bigger surprise would be if the 6AA champ doesn’t reach the state title game.

How good is this section? The top four seeds (Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Wayzata) all are ranked among the state’s top 10. Six of the nine teams have 15 or more victories.

Four Section 6AA players (Minnetonka’s Joe Schuldt and Vinni Lettieri and Benilde-St. Margaret’s Grant Besse and Dan Labosky) have committed to Division I programs. Schuldt is a senior and the rest are juniors.

No. 5 seed Holy Family Catholic features the state’s two highest scoring freshmen in John Peterson (22-41—63) and Shane Gersich (30-30—60).

Minnetonka junior goaltender Paul Ciaccio ranked fourth in the state in the regular season with a 1.54 goals against average. 

So how will it all play out? There’s no guarantee here, other than to say the semifinals will offer compelling drama.

Sophomore Steven Spinner is the leading goal scorer for Eden Prairie. Photo by Helen Nelson.

Even the quarterfinals are intriguing, with No. 3 Benilde-St. Margaret’s (19-6-0) and No. 6 Holy Family Catholic (18-7-0) squaring off in a matchup that has shootout stamped all over it. The Red Knights scored an average of 7.12 goals per game in the regular season, second only to Breck’s 7.56 per-game average. Holy Family Catholic averages 6.71 goals to rank third.

Despite amassing 17 regular-season victories Minneapolis (17-8-0) was seeded eighth and, should it get past Robbinsdale Cooper (9-15-1) in a Tuesday play-in game, draws top-seeded and No. 2-state ranked Minnetonka (22-3-0) in the quarterfinals.
No. 5 seed Hopkins (10-15-0) pushed No. 4 seed Wayzata (15-9-1) to overtime before losing 3-2 on Saturday in the regular season finale, and the Royals should have an abundance of confidence when teams meet again in a Thursday quarterfinal.

No. 2 Eden Prairie (17-7-1) has been reeling from injuries that have knocked as many as five forwards, including its entire top line, out of the lineup in recent weeks. The Eagles face No. 7 Robbinsdale Armstrong (7-17-1) in the other quarterfinal.

Scoring Leaders G A Pts
Grant Besse 40 35 75
Newton Fuller 33 41 74
John Peterson 22 41 63
Shane Gersich 30 30 60
T.J. Moore 27 32 59
Christian Horn 22 36 58
Vinni Lettieri 22 36 58
Dan Labosky 14 42 56
Goaltending Leaders W-L-T GAA SV%
Paul Ciaccio 12-1-0 1.54 .910
Anders Jecha 11-3-0 2.01 .906
Matt Behounek 10-2-0 2.22 .904
Derrick LaCombe 9-6-0 2.68 .903
Alec Almquist 13-7-1 2.24 .893

Hub Prediction

Team Regular Season
Minnetonka 22-3-0

Who would argue this isn't the toughest section in the state? All of the top four teams in Section 6AA has the talent to not only challenge for the section championship but also be a top contender for the state Class 2A title. The No. 2-ranked Lake Conference champion Skippers, however, are the only team to beat top-ranked Duluth East this season and have several more quality wins (over Burnsville, Edina, Eden Prairie, Eagan, Moorhead and Hill-Murray, among others) from which to build confidence for the playoffs.

Bracket Buster

Team Regular Season
Holy Family Catholic 18-7-0

The Fire moved up from Class 1A so they could face some of the state's toughest competition in the playoffs. Well, here we go. Holy Family Catholic has defeated several of the state's top Class 1A teams, but do they have the firepower -- and more importantly the goaltending and defense -- to keep pace with juggernauts such as Minnetonka? Freshmen Shane Gersich and John Peterson are game breakers brimming with enough goal-scoring talent to make the Fire capable of a shocking upset.

Past Champions

2011 - Eden Prairie
2010 – Minnetonka
2009 – Eden Prairie
2008 – Benilde-St. Margaret's
2007 – Edina
2006 – Minnetonka
2005 – Bloomington Jefferson
2004 – Wayzata
2003 – Eden Prairie
2002 – Bloomington Jefferson
2001 – Eden Prairie
2000 – Edina
1999 – Eden Prairie
1998 – Edina
1997 – Edina
1996 – Edina
1995 – Edina
1994 – Minnetonka

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