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Zephyrs better than ever

By Loren Nelson, Editor, 01/05/10, 11:00PM CST


Improved Mahtomedi holding steady in Class A rankings behind play of ironman Marshall

The holiday tournament season, with its blizzard of upsets, created all kinds of movement in the Hockey Hub’s state Class AA rankings.

Edina and Eagan are up. Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Holy Angels are down. The only constant, of course, is Minnetonka at No. 1.

In Class A it would be reasonable to expect a similar amount of shuffling, given the mountain of games played statewide (more than 200) in a three-day span leading up to the new year.

Nah, not so much.

The top seven teams in Class A all remained locked in position, with Mahtomedi holding steady at No. 5 despite a second loss to No. 2-ranked Breck in the finals of the Schwan Cup Silver Division holiday tournament.

“The first game of the season is one thing,” Mahtomedi coach Jeff Poeschl said about the rematch with the Mustangs. “We were glad to be playing them again.”

Mahtomedi had a much better showing in Round Two, losing 4-2 after being belted 7-1 by the Mustangs in their Dec. 1 season opener.

Among the biggest differences in the rematch was the presence of Ben Marshall, a whirlwind of a defenseman who showed he has more than sweet feet in the loss to the Mustangs at the Xcel Energy Center.

Marshall, a junior Minnesota recruit who didn’t play in the season opener, whipped a shot from the point that clanged off the crossbar then bounced straight down into the crease. Mike Rose slammed in the loose puck to score a goal that pulled the Zephyrs to within 2-1 in the second period.
Marshall rarely left the ice against Breck.

“He logs a little ice time, doesn’t he?” Poeschl said. “He’s got a tremendous motor. From our perspective, what we see in his game, he actually plays better when he’s tired because now he picks and chooses his spots to rush a bit more.”

“We don’t hesitate keeping him out there because he’s going to make us better when he’s out there and he makes things happen when he is out there.”

Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub managing editor, can be reached at 612-379-1030 ext. 126 or loren.nelson@tstmedia.com


Class AA Rankings

Rank Team Record Prev. Last Week This Week
1   Minnetonka
Skippers keep sailing along, beating a litany of top teams despite losing top scorer Max Gardiner to a broken wrist. Smooth-skating senior defenseman Justin Holl's emergence as a game-breaking offensive threat has come at a most opportune time.
11-0-0 1 Beat Holy Angels 6-3; Beat No. 1 (Class A) St. Thomas Academy 5-2; Beat No. 2 Edina 3-2; Beat Stillwater 5-1 vs. No. 5 Eden Prairie, Tuesday, Jan. 5; at Holy Angels, Thursday, Jan. 7; vs. Duluth East, Saturday, Jan. 9
2   Edina
There's no "I" in Hornets. Yeah, that's a corny saying but it's oh so appropriate for an Edina team that features eight players with four or more goals and eight or more points and a deep group of seemingly interchangeable -- and nasty -- defensemen. Did we mention that goaltender Johnny Ankeny's .942 save percentage ranks third in the state?
10-2-0 7 Beat No. 4 Blaine 1-0; Beat Duluth East 3-0; Beat No. 4 Blaine 3-2; Lost to No. 1 Minnetonka 3-2 at Chaska/Chanhassen, Tuesday, Jan. 5; vs. Holy Angels, Saturday, Jan. 9
3   Bloomington Jefferson
Jaguars' offense has cooled from torrid early-season pace but Jefferson still is averaging 6.5 goals per game, fourth-best in the state. Dynamic defenseman Joe Faust, a Princeton recruit, has seven goals and 21 assists and fellow defenseman Jeffrey Pauluk has an amazing 22 assists and team-best plus/minus of plus-22.
8-1-1 2 Beat Moorhead 4-1; Beat Maple Grove 3-1; Tied Centennial 2-2 (lost in shootout) vs. Wayzata, Thursday, Jan. 7; vs. Lakeville North, Saturday, Jan. 9
4   Blaine
Bengals have lost three of their last five and still holding steady in top 5 in the poll. That's because losses were more than respectable -- by one goal to Edina twice and by a goal to Minnetonka. The two wins in that stretch -- over Hill-Murray and St. Thomas Academy -- were high caliber.
7-3-0 3 Lost to No. 2 Edina 1-0; Beat No. 6 Hill-Murray 6-4; Lost to No. 2 Edina 3-2; Beat No. 1 (Class A) St. Thomas Academy 4-1 at North Metro, Tuesday, Jan. 5; at Duluth East, Thursday, Jan. 7; vs. Elk River, Saturday, Jan. 9
5   Eden Prairie
Eagles feature solid group of defenseman led by Dan Molenaar and also boast one of the state's best goaltenders in Andrew Ford. Only flaw, and it's a minor quibble, is relatively modest 3.62 goals-per-game average. Eden Prairie still getting consistent scoring from only its top line.
6-1-0 5 Beat Burnsville 3-2 in OT at No. 1 Minnetonka, Tuesday, Jan. 5; at Rosemount, Thursday, Jan. 7; Lakeville South, Saturday, Jan. 9
6   Hill-Murray
Pioneers rebounded nicely from loss to Blaine at Schwan Cup holiday tournament by beating Duluth East and White Bear Lake to win consolation title. Tough week ahead with games against Class A powerhouse St. Thomas Academy and dangerous Tartan.
9-1-1 4 Lost to No. 2 Blaine 6-4; Beat Duluth East 5-1; Beat White Bear Lake 4-3 at No. 1 (Class A) St. Thomas Academy, Thursday, Jan. 7; vs. Tartan, Saturday, Jan. 9
7   Wayzata
Voters in the poll haven't been quite sure where to put the Trojans, but that confusion should be diminished after huge Thursday night showdown with Bloomington Jefferson. Goaltenders Alex Clayton and Andrew McIntyre have been splitting time and whoever gets the start against the high-powered Jaguars will undoubtedly have a busy night.
8-1-1 6 Beat Roseville 5-0; Lost to Benilde-St. Margaret's 4-3; Beat Woodbury 7-5; Beat Moorhead 6-0 at No. 3 Bloomington Jefferson, Thursday, Jan. 7; at Moorhead, Saturday, Jan. 9
8   Roseau
Rams are another team that has has consistently lit up the scoreboard and opposing goaltenders. Roseau ranks eighth in the state with a 6.15 goals-per-game average. Senior forward Shane Omdahl ranks second in the state with 40 points and has not been held pointless yet this season.
10-1-0 Not ranked Beat Lake of the Woods 6-2; Beat Faribault 8-3; Beat No. 8 (Class A) Alexandria 3-1 vs. Crookston, Tuesday, Jan. 5; at East Grand Forks, Saturday, Jan. 9
9   Eagan
Wildcats make their Top 10 debut thanks to upset win over Bloomington Jefferson followed by dominating 7-1 triumph over Hopkins to win eight-team South St. Paul holiday tournament. If there's one thing you need to know about Eagan it's that junior goaltender Tommy Bodeker has allowed just 11 goals in eight starts.
8-1-1 Not ranked Beat Robbinsdale Armstrong 8-1; Beat South St. Paul 4-1; Beat Hopkins 7-1 vs. Eastview, Thursday, Jan. 7; vs. Apple Valley, Saturday, Jan. 9
10   Benilde-St. Margaret's
Red Knights stick in the Top 10 despite 7-2 holiday tournament stunner to Centennial. That surprising loss was offset somewhat by nice wins over quality Rochester Century and Wayzata teams. Intriguing North Suburban Conference matchup against undefeated Spring Lake Park set for Saturday.
7-2-1 8 Beat Rochester Century 4-2; Beat No. 7 Wayzata 4-3; Lost to Centennial 7-2; Beat Maple Grove 5-1 at St. Louis Park, Thursday, Jan. 7; at Spring Lake Park, Saturday, Jan. 9

 ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Centennial, Elk River, Cretin-Derham Hall, Duluth East, Elk River, Osseo, Moorhead.


Class A Rankings

Rank Team Record Prev. Last Week This Week
1   St. Thomas Academy
The Cadets are, without a doubt, the best three-loss team in the state in Class A. Two of the losses have come against Minnetonka and the third against Blaine, the No. 1 and 4 ranked teams, respectively, in Class AA. Another matchup against a top Class AA team in Hill-Murray looms on Thursday.
6-3-0 1 Beat White Bear Lake 7-0; Lost to No. 1 (Class AA) Minnetonka 5-2; Lost to No. 3 (Class AA) Blaine 4-1; Beat No. 9 (tie) Duluth Marshall 5-1 vs. No. 6 (Class AA) Hill-Murray, Thursday, Jan. 7; at Richfield, Saturday, Jan. 9
2   Breck
Mustangs are state's highest scoring team, averaging more than seven goals a game. Breck features two high-octane forward lines, one of which includes the underrated Chase Nystedt, the team's goal-scoring leader with 13.
7-1-0 2 Beat Stillwater 4-2; Beat Lakeville South 6-0; Beat Mahtomedi 4-2 vs. Minnehaha Academy, Tuesday, Jan. 5; at Providence Academy, Saturday, Jan. 9
3   Warroad
Nice win over Osseo, a highly regarded Class AA team, keeps the Warriors locked in the No. 3 spot. Production from dynamite senior scoring tandem of Brock Nelson and Brett Hebel has slowed in recent weeks.
9-1-0 3 Beat Thief River Falls 2-1; Beat Grafton-Park River, N.D., 2-0; Beat Osseo 4-3; Beat Fargo North, N.D., 7-1 at East Grand Forks, Tuesday, Jan. 5; vs. St. Cloud Cathedral, Friday, Jan. 8; vs. St. Cloud Tech, Saturday, Jan. 9
4   Hermantown
Hawks proved they will be team to fear come playoff time with 7-0 rout of Thief River Falls and superb goaltender Zane Gothberg. What has been only a moderately difficult schedule gets considerably tougher with road trips to hockey hotbeds International Falls and Grand Rapids.
8-1-0 4 Beat No. 6 Virginia 4-2; Beat Crookston 3-0; Beat No. 7 Thief River Falls 7-0; Beat East Grand Forks 9-3 at No. 9 (tie) Duluth Marshall, Tuesday, Jan. 5; at International Falls, Saturday, Jan. 9
5   Mahtomedi
Don't be fooled by the Zephyrs' record. They play one of the toughest schedules of any Class A team in the state, and two of their losses have come to Breck. High-scoring top line of Brandon Zurn, Charlie Adams and Mike Rose is tough to shut down, and defenseman Ben Marshall, a Minnesota recruit and two-way standout, rarely leaves the ice.
7-3-0 5 Beat Burnsville 5-4; Beat Blake 3-2; Lost to No. 2 Breck 4-2; Beat No. 6 Virginia 5-2 at Totino-Grace, Tuesday, Jan. 5; vs. Bloomington Kennedy, Thursday, Jan. 7; at Henry Sibley, Saturday, Jan. 9
6   Virginia
Blue Devils already are more than halfway through their schedule, and what a schedule it has been. Rugged mix of top Class AA and A foes has included the likes of Minnetonka, Hermantown and Mahtomedi. Junior forward Garrett Hendrickson, a St. Cloud State recruit, ranks fifth in the state with 34 points.
7-5-2 6 Lost to No. 4 Hermantown 4-2; Beat Eveleth-Gilbert 9-1; Tied Lakeville North 4-4; Lost to Grand Rapids 5-4; Lost to No. 5 Mahtomedi 5-2 vs. Albert Lea, Friday, Jan. 8; vs. Rochester Mayo, Saturday, Jan. 9
7   Thief River Falls
Prowlers hadn't allowed more than two goals in a stretch of seven games before suffering 7-0 blowout loss to Hermantown. Micah Ranum and Matthew Lindquist have done the bulk of the goal scoring with 10 and nine, respectively. Game at traditional Class AA power Moorhead on Thursday will be interesting test.
8-3-0 7 Lost to Warroad 2-1; Beat St. Louis Park 6-1; Lost to No. 4 Hermantown 7-0; Beat Hutchinson 6-1 at Kittson Central, Tuesday Jan. 5; at Moorhead, Thursday, Jan. 7
8   Alexandria
Cardinals' convincing win over Faribault, a team that has yo-yoed in and out of the Class A rankings most of the season, was impressive. Still looking to establish undisputed No. 1 goaltender, and sophomore Dominic Wysoski has been the latest of three netminders to take a shot at earning the starting position.
6-2-1 9 Beat Faribault 6-2; Beat Lake of the Woods 2-0; Lost to Roseau 3-1; Beat Coon Rapids 5-0 vs. St. Cloud Tech, Tuesday, Jan. 5; at Fergus Falls, Thursday, Jan. 7
9 (tie)   St. Cloud Cathedral
Nick Maiers has posted nice numbers in goal (2.22 goals-against average, .923 save percentage) but Crusaders are averaging fewer than four goals per game. Only three Cathedral players (Jordan Palusky, T.J. Bruce and Jordan Revier) have scored five or more goals.
6-2-0 8 Beat Sauk-Rapids Rice 4-0; Beat Rochester Lourdes 5-3 vs. Holy Family Catholic, Tuesday, Jan. 5; at No. 3 Warroad, Friday, Jan. 8; at Bemidji, Saturday, Jan. 9
9 (tie)   Duluth Marshall
Seven-game winning streak was snapped with 5-1 loss No. 1 St. Thomas Academy, yet another tough opponent on a schedule loaded with them. Balanced scoring has been a signature for team that has nine players in double digits in points.
7-4-0 10 Beat Madison, Edgewood (WI) 8-5; Beat New Ulm 6-3; Beat Superior, WI 6-2; Lost to No. 1 St. Thomas Academy 5-1 vs. No. 4 Hermantown, Tuesday, Jan. 5; vs. Grand Rapids, Saturday, Jan. 9

 ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Blake, Rogers, South St. Paul, Faribault, Spring Lake Park, Red Wing, Duluth Denfeld, International Falls.