Sophomore Connor Hurley (16) is Edina's leading scorer. Photo by Adam Crane
Burnsville sophomore Tyler Sheehy ranks among the leading scorers for the Blaze with more than 40 points. Photo by Helen Nelson
The common refrain when high school hockey fanatics get to talking about Edina is, "Watch out. They are going to be great in a couple of years."
That might be true, but here’s the thing: The Hornets are great now.
Amazingly, the No. 4-ranked Hornets (20-5-0) are winning with en exceedingly un-Edina-like two seniors on its roster.
The Hornets suffered four of their five losses to two of the state’s highest regarded teams, losing twice each to No. 2-ranked Minnetonka and No. 3 Maple Grove.
Behind the stellar play of freshman Dylan Malmquist (23-21--44) and sophomore Connor Hurley (22-26--48), the Hornets feature two of the state’s highest scoring underclassmen. While Edina doesn’t get a lot of scoring from its other forward lines, it hasn’t needed the added production.
Malmquist and Hurley, who always seem to be thinking two passes ahead, have rarely been shut down this season. They each have registered at least one point in 14 of their last 15 games.
Consistent scoring from The Kid Line combined with the Hornets’ shutdown defense led by veterans Parker Reno (2-8--10) and Matt Nelson (3-9-12) and workhorse goaltender Willie Benjamin (15-5-0, 2.26, .917) equates to a winning formula.
Nate Traina is a big reason why Chanhassen has 20 wins and earned the Missota Conference championship. Photo by Helen Nelson
No. 2 seed Burnsville (15-9-1) seemed to have its chemistry mastered in early season wins over Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Hill-Murray, but a midseason swoon raised doubts about the Blaze’s playoff staying power. Burnsville, however, finished strong and is the popular choice to meet Edina in the section championship.
No. 3 Prior Lake (15-10-0) hasn’t quite reached elite program status, but the Lakers would seem to be on the verge of a state tournament breakthrough. They beat highly regarded Wayzata and swept longtime section power in the regular season, but was swept in two lopsided outcomes by rival Burnsville.
No. 4 Bloomington Jefferson (6-16-3) had its lowest win total in several seasons while playing one of the state’s toughest schedules but appeared to be gaining speed at season’s end. The Jaguars gave taste of their playoff potential by beating top 10-ranked Wayzata and rallying to tie top five-fixture Eagan.
All No. 5 Chanhassen (20-4-1) and scoring machine Connor Kelly (38-19--57) did this season was win 20 games and snatch the Missota Conference crown from Holy Angels, which had won the previous 13 league championships.
Speaking of Holy Angels (10-12-2), the No. 6-seeded Stars were once the state’s dominant program but struggled this season after losing several top players to junior teams and other high school programs.
No. 7 Shakopee (4-20-1) and No. 8 Bloomington Kennedy (5-20-0) round out the section.
Edina won a state championship two seasons ago with more senior leadership and big-game experience but less star power and pure goal scorers. Beyond that, the goaltending and defense is comparable this year to 2010. What does it all mean? It will take a monumental upset to deny the Hornets a sixth straight state tournament bid.
Rarely does a 20-win team receive the No. 5 seed and open the playoffs on the road. Such is life for Chanhassen, which will have a Zamboni-sized chip on its shoulder when it squares off against Bloomington Jefferson. It should be noted the Storm ended the longest run of conference dominance in state history when it won the Missota Conference, ending Holy Angels' 13-year reign at the top.
2011 – Edina
2010 – Edina
2009 – Edina
2008 – Edina
2007 – Woodbury
2006 – Cretin-Derham Hall
2005 – Tartan
2004 – Tartan
2003 – Roseville
2002 – Roseville
2001 – Hastings
2000 – Hastings
1999 – Hastings
1998 – Hastings
1997 – Henry Sibley
1996 – South St. Paul
1995 – St. Paul Johnson
1994 – South St. Paul