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The Breakdown's all-class Top 20

By Tim Kolehmainen, 12/21/09, 10:53AM CST


Near-perfect Minnetonka jumps into the top spot

Each Monday afternoon during the hockey season, the Breakdown will throw all the teams in the state into the same hat, regardless of class, and come up with a Top-20 ranking. The slotting of Class AA and Class A programs will no doubt bring about a healthy amount of debate.

Minnetonka finally climbs into the top spot in the rankings after another big week and losses from Bloomington Jefferson and Eden Prairie, the other two teams that had given them a run. The Jaguars and Eagles were knocked down but not out of the top five yet.

Hill-Murray keeps chugging right and jumped into the No. 3 spot, while St. Thomas Academy impressed enough in its loss to Minnetonka to get the nod at No. 2. Notice a trend among those three teams? All three have experienced goaltending and a terrific defensive corps that shuts down opponents.

There was plenty of shifting around among the top-20 teams, but largely it was just trading spots. St. Cloud Cathedral dropped out of the rankings with a loss to Rogers, while Eagan’s victory over Jefferson catapulted the Wildcats into the Top 20 for the first time.

The Breakdown's All-Class Top 20 Rankings

Rank Team Record This Week
1   Minnetonka
All right, it’s time to put the Skippers at their rightful spot atop the rankings after the near-perfect start to the season. Minnetonka actually fell behind 2-0 after one period in their big showdown with St. Thomas Academy last week, but roared back to score the final five goals, including a hat trick from freshman Max Coatta. Through six games, the Skippers have outscored the opposition 44-3 and show no signs of slowing down. With Jim Kruger in nets and a defensive corps led by three DI recruits in Justin Holl, Troy Hesketh and Andrew Prochno, Minnetonka can shut down any foe.
6-0-0 Monday at Blaine (7:30 pm, televised on FSN)
2   St. Thomas Academy
The Cadets lost last week – and still moved up to the No. 2 spot in the Top 20 rankings. That’s what happens when you play the top-ranked team in Class AA tough. St. Thomas Academy actually led Minnetonka 2-0 after the first period on goals by Justin Crandall and Matt Kroska before the Skippers rallied to win 5-2. The Cadets will be anxiously awaiting word on the severity of the shoulder injury that knocked Christian Isackson out of the final two periods of the loss to Minnetonka. They get a week off to rest and recover before opening with White Bear Lake in the Schwan Cup.
4-1-0 no games scheduled
3   Hill-Murray
After losses by many of the teams ahead of them, Hill-Murray vaults into the No. 3 spot courtesy of solid victories over White Bear Lake (5-0), Simley (6-1) and Mahtomedi (5-4), a game the Pioneers led 4-0 until letting the Zephyrs tie in the final minutes. Kevin Becker salvaged the win with his second goal of the game with 2:17 remaining. Defense and a balanced scoring attack has been Hill-Murray’s calling card thus far, as they’ve allowed just 10 goals in eight games while the goals have been spread between Willie Faust (six), Jack Walsh (five), Ryan Holler (four) and four more players with three each.
7-0-1 no games scheduled
4   Bloomington Jefferson
The Jaguars had been scoring at an average of more than eight goals a game until running into a surprising Eagan squad last week, falling 4-3 in overtime. Jefferson took out its frustration on Eastview in its next game, however, ripping the Lightning 11-1 behind an Alex Nicholas hat trick. It’s easy to believe the Eagan loss was just a hiccup for the powerful Jaguars. A great test awaits after Christmas with the tough St. Louis Park Holiday Tournament field.
6-1-0 no games scheduled
5   Eden Prairie
The Eagles dropped their first game of the season (5-3 to Edina in the Hornets’ Holiday Classic) to fall from the top spot in the rankings. Eden Prairie is still ranked ahead of the Hornets for now as the game was on Edina’s home rink, but the next eight teams in the rankings are all very close. The Eagles may have to find some additional scoring outside of the top line of Kyle Rau (11-6-17), Mitch Rogge (5-8-13) and Mike Erickson (3-4-7) who have combined for 19 of the team’s 26 goals thus far.
5-1-0 Tuesday vs. Burnsville (7:30 pm)
6   Breck
Ouch. Breck certainly came out firing against a good Class A team (Orono) last week, routing the Spartans 13-1 behind a hat trick from Mike Morin. The Mustangs are rolling along at a 7.8-goals-per-game clip, led by Chase Nystedt (7-3-10) and three players with five goals each in Tyson Fulton (5-11-16), Riley Borer (5-8-13) and Morin (5-4-9). An interesting note: Breck has scored exactly 13 goals in each period of action (13-2 in the first, 13-3 in the second and 13-6 in the third).
4-1-0 no games scheduled
7   Wayzata
The Trojans remained unbeaten and along with Cretin-Derham Hall, perhaps the most lightly regarded. But all coach Carl Davis’ team does is win. Last week’s 6-2 victory over Apple Valley was the highest-scoring game for the Trojans since an opening night shutout of Buffalo. Sophomore Mario Lucia (4-6-10) has been a great addition to the offense.
5-0-1 Tuesday at Roseville (7:30 pm)
8   Blaine
Gophers’ recruit Nick Bjugstad continued to make his case for Mr. Hockey candidacy, scoring five goals and four assists in two games last week, both easy victories over Champlin Park (6-2) and Anoka (8-2). He leads the team in scoring (9-12-21), ahead of linemate Jonny Brodzinski (8-7-15), who also netted a hat trick last week. Now comes the big test for the unbeaten Bengals, a showdown with No. 1 Minnetonka on Monday, televised on FSN.
5-0-0 Monday vs. Minnetonka (7:30 pm, televised on FSN), Saturday at Edina (7 pm)
9   Holy Angels
Holy Angels has been beating up on Missota Conference foes thus far, including a pair of resounding wins last week over Northfield (8-1) and Prior Lake (7-0). Through three conference games, the Stars have outscored their opponents 27-1. What’s clear is that the Stars are good. What’s not clear is just how good they are. A great test awaits in the next two weeks with a road game at Elk River and the Schwan Cup Gold opener against Minnetonka.
3-0-0 Wednesday at Elk River (7:30 pm)
10   Cretin-Derham Hall
Speaking of underrated teams -- take a look at Cretin-Derham Hall. The Raiders moved to 7-0-0 with a huge victory over Benilde-St. Margaret’s (4-3) and wins over East Ridge (6-2) and Forest Lake (4-1). The line of Bob Kinne, Jesse Perron and Tony Barbato has carried nearly all of the scoring load, but it hasn’t caught up to the Raiders yet. Unheralded goaltender Joe Schneider has been solid, taking over from graduated Ben Walsh, who led Cretin into the state semifinals last year.
7-0-0 no games scheduled
11   Edina
Watch out for the Hornets. They’ve rattled off six straight victories since losing to Wayzata over the Thanksgiving weekend and just swept an impressive field at their Holiday Classic, beating Eden Prairie (5-3), Elk River (6-3) and Grand Rapids (4-0). Edina has had terrific scoring balance, led by Charlie Taft (7-3-10) and Jake Sampson (7-2-9). Steven Fogarty (3-8-11) is the top point-getter, while nine Hornets have at least two goals through eight games. The goaltending tandem of Connor Girard (2-1-0, 1.33) and John Ankeny (5-0-0, 1.60) has been stingy, with a combined save percentage over .930.
7-1-0 Saturday vs. Blaine (7 pm)
12   Duluth East
The Greyhounds took care of business in their annual grudge match with Cloquet (7-0) and also edged visiting Centennial (3-2) last week to win their fifth in a row since an overtime loss to Wayzata. Kenny Mellin (4-7-11) and coach Mike Randolph’s son, Jake Randolph (3-8-11), lead the team in points. East has gotten great scoring balance in the absence of graduated Max Tardy, with a dozen players scoring at least three points. The Greyhounds are also tough in the third period, outscoring the opposition 15-2 this season.
7-1-0 Tuesday vs. Moorhead (5:30 pm)
13   Roseau
Roseau had a busy week, beating Section 8AA rival Moorhead (4-1) and then earning two wins and a tie at the Stadstad Classic in Grand Forks against three North Dakota teams. The Rams are now in the driver’s seat in Section 8AA with the road victory at Moorhead, although the two teams do play in Roseau on Jan. 26. The top line of Shane Omdahl (13-17-30), Adam Knochenmus (13-14-27) and Cole Kostrzewski (7-14-21) just keeps humming along. Omdahl leads the state in scoring.
7-1-1 no games scheduled
14   Warroad
The showdown for Section 8A bragging rights gets underway again this week for Warroad, which hosts Thief River Falls Tuesday night. The Warriors looked strong in beating Bemidji 6-3 last week as Brock Nelson (11-9-20) and Carson Gray each scored two goals. Nelson has been on fire recently, scoring nine goals in his last four games. The North Dakota recruit is a nearly unstoppable combination of size, skill and speed and combines with junior Nick Stoskopf (4-5-9) and senior Brett Hebel (9-9-18) to form one of the best lines in the state.
5-1-0 Tuesday vs. Thief River Falls (7:30 pm)
15   Benilde-St. Margaret's
The loss of defenseman Patrick Daly for the season may prove difficult to overcome for the Red Knights, who lost to Cretin (4-3) before rebounding against Chisago Lakes (13-4) last week. Now a trap game awaits Tuesday as the Red Knights travel south to face Rochester Century, the favorite in Section 1AA. Daly was a stalwart on the blue line, both offensively (1-9-10) and defensively for the otherwise very young Red Knights. If it’s possible, even more pressure falls on the younger players to step up now.
4-1-1 Tuesday at Rochester Century (7:30 pm)
16   Moorhead
The Spuds suffered a blip last week, losing at home to Roseau in a game that was much closer than the final score (4-1). Coach Dave Morinville’s team came back hungry and shut down Brainerd (6-0) to recover their place in the rankings. Now comes the traditionally difficult holiday schedule for the Spuds, who start with a Tuesday night game at Duluth East before traveling to the St. Louis Park tournament to lead off with Bloomington Jefferson. This was the stretch last season that Moorhead went winless over eight games, although the Spuds certainly recovered, reaching the Class AA state finals.
4-1-0 Tuesday at Duluth East (5:30 pm)
17   Osseo
Plenty will be decided this Tuesday when the Orioles travel to Andover to face the Huskies. Both teams were not picked among the best in the state, but both have proven to be nosing their way up the rankings with fast starts. The winner might make a big jump heading into the holidays. Osseo took care of business last week, beating Coon Rapids (9-0) and Champlin Park (7-1). Tom Windle (11-7-18), Tim Bonner (7-7-14) and Patrick Bonner (5-9-14) continue to excel as the Orioles’ top line.
4-1-1 Tuesday at Andover (7:30 pm)
18   Elk River
The Elks acquitted themselves well at the Edina Holiday Classic, despite winning just one of three games. Elk River lost close games to Eden Prairie (3-0) and Edina (6-3) before beating Grand Rapids (3-2) on Saturday. Ben Jaremko (10-4-14) has continued his high-scoring ways, as he had 21 goals last winter. Sophomore netminder Anders Franke is among the state’s best and will make the Elks a tough out in section play.
4-2-0 Wednesday at Holy Angels (7:30 pm)
19   Andover
Led by Cal Decowski (10-14-24) and the underrated Taylor Portner (10-10-20), the Huskies had two big scoring outbursts and swept all three games last week, rolling past North Metro (12-2) and Coon Rapids (10-1) and edging Duluth Denfeld (3-2). Both Decowski and Pornter each scored a hat trick against Coon Rapids, while Pornter also added four goals in the win over North Metro. The pair has combined to score 20 of the Huskies’ 30 goals this winter.
5-1-0 Tuesday vs. Osseo (7:30 pm)
20   Eagan
Welcome to the top 20. Beating previously unbeaten and highly-regarded Bloomington Jefferson in overtime will get a team plenty of notice. Of course, so will a tough defense that has limited five high school opponents (the Wildcats also lost 5-3 to the US Women’s Olympic team) to just six goals. Eagan hasn’t been a high-scoring team, though, with only 15 goals in six games. Perhaps the most representative stretch of the Wildcats’ season was a 1-0 win over Lakeville North and a 0-0 tie with Burnsville in a three-day span.
4-1-1 Tuesday vs. Hastings (7:30 pm)