High drama has been a sidekick to St. Thomas Academy for a while now, dating back to last season's stunning section final playoff loss to Mahtomedi.
Fueled in part by the lousy mood created from that heartbreaking setback, the Cadets opened their season last week by beating defending state Class A champion Breck on Dec. 8 in an overtime thriller.
"We’ve got a lot of the guys from the team back from last year, and we were pretty bitter about the way it all ended for us," senior forward Justin Crandall said. "We didn’t get to state like we wanted."
What was expected to be a more casual victory, over Tartan, later in the week instead almost turned into another stunning upset. The back-and-forth goalfest on Dec. 10 eventually was won 8-5 by St. Thomas Academy.
The storybook saga continues this week for the Cadets, newly crowned No. 1 in Class A according to the Hockey Hub's poll of statewide coaches and media members, when they take on Minnetonka, the state's No. 1 Class AA team on Saturday.
Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub managing editor, can be reached at 612-379-1030 ext. 126 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Rank||Team||Record||Prev.||Last Week||This Week|
Skippers are back in action after taking a week off to -- here's a scary thought -- sharpen their game. Classic big-school versus small-school, No. 1 (Class AA) versus No. 1 (Class A) matchup on deck Saturday against St. Thomas Academy.
|4-0-0||1||Did not play||vs. Park Cottage Grove, Tuesday, Dec. 15; vs. No. 1 (Class A) St. Thomas Academy, Saturday, Dec. 19|
|2|| Eden Prairie
Kyle Rau has eight goals in three games and linemate Mitch Rogge has nine points (three goals, six assists). Eagles have not been as dominant as Minnetonka or Bloomington Jefferson, but there is no such thing as style points in hockey. All this team does is win, although three tough opponents await this weekend in tournament at Edina.
|3-0-0||2||Beat Chaska/Chanhassen 7-2, Beat Lakeville North 4-2||vs. No. 9 Elk River at Edina, Thursday, Dec. 17; vs. Grand Rapids at Edina, Friday, Dec. 18; at Edina, Saturday, Dec. 19|
|3|| Bloomington Jefferson
Jaguars apparently trying to keep pace with Minnetonka in the most impressive blowouts category; they've scored seven or more goals in each of their five games. Jeffrey Pauluk has just one goal but a whopping 16 assists. Biggest test of the season so far will come on Dec. 28 against Moorhead at St. Louis Park tournament.
|5-0-0||3||Beat Lakeville South 9-3; Beat Apple Valley 10-3||vs. Eagan, Thursday, Dec. 17; vs. Eastview, Saturday, Dec. 19|
Trend of flip-flopping with Benilde-St. Margaret's in the poll continues. Teams skated to 2-2 tie last week, only causing further confusion among pollsters. Pioneers' defense and goaltending has been dominant, allowing five goals in five games. Game against White Bear Lake on Tuesday showcases one of the state's best rivalries.
|5-0-0||5||Tied Benilde-St. Margaret's 2-2; Beat Henry Sibley 10-0; Beat South St. Paul 4-0||vs. White Bear Lake, Tuesday, Dec. 15; at Simley, Thursday, Dec. 17; at Mahtomedi, Saturday, Dec. 19|
|5|| Benilde-St. Margaret's
Kiddie Corps leading the way for Red Knights, as freshman Grant Besse leads team with six goals and sophomore Christian Horn ranks second with four. B-SM plays another monster showdown of private schools Tuesday against Cretin-Derham Hall.
|1-0-0||4||Tied Hill-Murray 2-2; Beat Irondale 10-1||vs. Cretin-Derham Hall, Tuesday, Dec. 15; vs. Chisago Lakes, Saturday, Dec. 12|
Bengals won another one-goal game against quality team, beating Osseo 3-2, then cranked up offense in rout of Coon Rapids. Is it too early to look ahead to Monday night (Dec. 21) special against Minnetonka?
|3-0-0||6||Beat Osseo 3-2; Beat Coon Rapids 10-0||at Champlin Park, Thursday, Dec. 17; at Anoka, Saturday, Dec. 19|
Trojans' last two games have gone to overtime, as they beat Duluth East and tied Osseo. Offense locked in at four-goal per game pace, scoring that amount in each of the last four games. Another tough game looms Tuesday against Apple Valley, the only game this week for Wayzata.
|4-0-1||7||Tied Osseo 4-4||vs. Apple Valley, Tuesday, Dec. 15|
|8|| Holy Angels
Stars finally played a game, such as it was, thumping Shakopee. Two more Missota Conference opponents are on tap this week before intriguing pre-Christmas matchup Dec. 23 against Elk River.
|1-0-0||8||Beat Shakopee 12-0||vs. Northfield, Tuesday, Dec. 15; vs. Prior Lake, Friday, Dec. 18|
|9|| Elk River
Elks steamrolled to two victories last week by combined 17-1 score; competition gets a bit stiffer this week at Edina holiday tournament. Opening-round draw of No. 2 Eden Prairie couldn't be described as favorable.
|3-0-0||9||Beat Anoka 9-1; Beat North Metro 8-0||vs. No. 2 Eden Prairie at Edina, Thursday, Dec. 17; at Edina, Friday, Dec. 18; vs. Grand Rapids at Edina, Saturday, Dec. 19|
Roseau makes its first appearance in the top 10 this season, knocking out Edina, behind the prolific scoring of first line Shane Omdahl, Adam Knochenmus and Cole Kostrzewski, who have combined for 50 points. Four-game week includes matchup with longtime Section 8AA rival Moorhead and tournament in Grand Forks.
|4-1-0||Not ranked||Beat East Grand Forks 12-2; Beat Hibbing 6-0||at Moorhead, Tuesday, Dec. 15; vs. Grand Forks Red River in Grand Forks holiday tournament, Thursday, Dec. 17; vs. opponents to be determined at Grand Forks holiday tournament, Dec. 18-19|
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Edina, Duluth East, Cretin-Derham Hall, Moorhead, Osseo.
|Rank||Team||Record||Prev.||Last Week||This Week|
|1|| St. Thomas Academy
Cadets' opened season with busy three-game week, kicked off by impressive overtime win against defending state Class A champion Breck that reshuffled the rankings at the top. Hangover effect may have come into play in surprisingly tough tussle with Tartan. Game of the Season? It just might be the Cadets' No. 1 vs. No. 1 matchup at Minnetonka on Saturday.
|3-0-0||2||Beat No. 2 Breck 4-3 in OT; Beat Tartan 8-5; Beat Simley 10-2||at North St. Paul, Thursday Dec. 17; at No. 1 (Class AA) Minnetonka, Saturday, Dec. 19|
Loss to St. Thomas Academy might have been was described by Mustangs coach Les Larson as "a kick in the pants." Breck responded by routing highly regarded No. 5 St. Cloud Cathedral 8-3 on the road. All four of Breck's games have come against then-top 10 ranked Class A teams.
|3-1-0||1||Lost to No. 1 St. Thomas Academy 4-3 in OT; Beat No. 5 St. Cloud Cathedral 8-3||vs. Orono, Saturday, Dec. 19|
More Nelsons and Hebels starting to appear on the scoresheet, taking some of the point-production heat off the dynamite combination of seniors Brett Hebel and Brock Nelson, each of whom have nine goals. Loss to Grand Rapids at home was somewhat of a surprise -- Warriors rarely lose on their home ice.
|3-1-0||3||Beat Lake of the Woods 8-0, Beat Hibbing/Chisholm 5-3; Lost to Grand Rapids 5-4||at Bemidji, Tuesday, Dec. 15|
Like Warroad, the Hawks suffered a close loss to a Class AA opponent (Andover), otherwise they might have bumped the Warriors out of the No. 3 spot. Game against Superior not a throw-away, as Spartans are undefeated and ranked No. 2 in Wisconsin.
|3-1-0||4||Beat Two Harbors 8-0; Beat Hopkins 4-1; Lost to Andover 2-1||vs. Superior, Tuesday, Dec. 15|
|5|| St. Cloud Cathedral
Holding steady at No. 5 despite the lopsided loss to Breck, which is as much a show of respect to the Mustangs as it is Cathedral. Jordan Palusky, who shares the team lead with 5 goals, one of the state's most underrated forwards.
|3-1-0||5||Lost to No. 2 Breck 8-3; Beat Duluth Denfeld 5-1||at Rogers, Tuesday, Dec. 15; vs. Little Falls, Saturday, Dec. 19|
Mahtomedi seemingly alternating dominant performances with so-so ones. Can't do that this week and expect to beat goaltending standout Adam Wilcox and South St. Paul or defensively dominant Hill-Murray.
|3-1-0||6||Beat Richfield 11-0, Beat North St. Paul 5-4||at South St. Paul, Thursday, Dec. 17; vs. No. 4 (Class AA) Hill-Murray, Saturday, Dec. 19|
Junior forward Garrett Hendrickson starting to get his offensive game cranked up. He has nine goals and seven assists for a team-high 16 points. Game against International Falls always a big one in sorting out Iron Range Conference supremacy.
|4-2-1||7||Tied Grand Rapids 2-2; Beat St. Francis 4-3; Beat Hopkins 6-3||vs. Duluth Denfeld, Tuesday, Dec. 15; vs. International Falls, Friday, Dec. 18|
Finally got a win against arch rival Little Falls, although it would have been much sweeter had it come a year ago when the Flyers were in their senior-dominated prime. Cardinals get another chance to make a move up the poll when they play highly regarded Sartell-St. Stephen on Saturday.
|2-0-0||9||Beat Brainerd 4-2; Beat Little Falls 4-1||at Willmar, Tuesday, Dec. 15; at St. Cloud Apollo, Thursday, Dec. 17; vs. Sartell-St. Stephen, Saturday, Dec. 19|
|9|| Thief River Falls
Pre-season all-state goaltender Zane Gothberg rounding into form, as he turned in back-to-back solid performances in 4-1 triumphs over Blake and St. Paul Johnson. Rugged three-game stretch starts with home game against Bemidji and continues with road games in International Falls and Warroad.
|4-1-0||8||Beat Blake 4-1; Beat St. Paul Johnson 4-1||vs. Bemidji, Thursday, Dec. 17; at International Falls, Saturday, Dec. 19|
Falcons join St. Thomas Academy and Alexandria as the only unbeaten top 10 teams in Class A. Getting to 8-0 after busy three-game week would be an impressive feat, given the quality of opponents. Falcons' Bo Putrah ranks third in the state with 10 goals; teammate Brandon Parker is second statewide with 14 assists.
|5-0-0||10||Beat Mankato West 5-1, Beat New Ulm 3-1||vs. Tartan, Tuesday, Dec. 15; vs. Owatonna, Thursday, Dec. 17; at Mound-Westonka, Saturday, Dec. 19|
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Sartell-St. Stephen, International Falls, South St. Paul, Red Wing.