One of the state's hottest Class A teams makes its annual trip to the Icebox of the Nation this week.
Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl, which dispatched of rival Hibbing last week in an Iron Range Conference showdown, hopes to avoid a cooldown when it takes on another familiar IRC foe on Friday in International Falls.
The Blue Devils beat the Broncos twice in three tries last season and won the Dec. 18 meeting in Virginia this season 5-3.
Virginia, ranked No. 6 and coming off Tuesday's 12-0 pounding of Two Harbors, will be the prohibitive favorite, but the Broncos are dangerous with one of the north's best defensemen in Willie Corrin (8 goals, 15 assists) and a slippery, high-scoring center in Jordan Christianson (14 goals, 17 assists).
The Blue Devils (15-5-2) have been holding steady in the middle portion of the Class A poll all season. Their five losses all have come against either top flight teams (Minnetonka, Hermantown, Mahtomedia among others) or at the hands of an incredibly hot goaltender (Mound-Westonka's Aaron Davis).
The rest of the Class A poll, voted on by a statewide panel of coaches and media members, remains mostly the same, with St. Thomas Academy holding its No. 1 position over Breck by virtue of its early season win over the Mustangs.
There wasn't much reshuffling in the Class AA rankings, either. It's still Minnetonka and everyone else, although No. 2 Edina can change that in their big Saturday showdown with the Skippers.
Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub managing editor, can be reached at 612-379-1030 ext. 126 or email@example.com.
|Rank||Team||Record||Prev.||Last Week||This Week|
Good news for the Skippers, bad news for the rest of Class AA: Max Gardiner, Minnetonka's top forward who has been out since Dec. 29 with a broken wrist, is practicing and expected to be back by the end of the month. Whether that means he will be in the lineup for Saturday's huge showdown with Edina ... stay tuned.
|15-0-0||1||Beat Moorhead 5-1||vs. Blake, Tuesday, Jan. 19; at Hopkins, Thursday, Jan. 21; vs. Edina, Saturday, Jan. 23|
The Hornets are not the same team that lost 4-2 to Wayzata on Nov. 28, at least that's the conventional thinking. We'll see just how far Edina -- and the Trojans, for that matter -- have come when they meet on Thursday in Plymouth.
|12-2-1||2||Beat No. 9 Benilde-St. Margaret's 6-3||at No. 6 Wayzata, Thursday, Jan. 21; at No. 1 Minnetonka, Saturday, Jan. 23|
|3|| Eden Prairie
Eagles' offense suddenly on a tear, led by Kyle Rau's amazing goal-scoring binge of 12 in four games. Six-goal rout of No. 10 Eagan was an eye-opener. Game against Jefferson a huge one in determining Lake Conference supremacy.
|10-2-0||3||Beat Apple Valley 4-2; Beat No. 10 Eagan 7-1||vs. No. 7 Bloomington Jefferson, Tuesday, Jan. 19; vs. Bloomington Kennedy, Thursday, Jan. 21; at No. 3 (Class A) Hermantown, Saturday, Jan. 23|
Pioneers are getting big season from goaltender Tim Shaughnessy, who has a 1.68 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. Have defeated St. Thomas Academy and tied Benilde-St. Margaret's and square off with yet another private-school power in Holy Angels on Thursday.
|13-1-1||4||Beat Richfield 11-3; Beat North St. Paul 4-2||vs. Holy Angels, Thursday, Jan. 21; vs. Henry Sibley, Saturday, Jan. 23|
Bengals aren't running hot or cold; they are merely lukewarm. Three of Blaine's last four games -- all against quality opponents -- have ended in ties.
|9-3-3||5||Tied Maple Grove 4-4; Tied Centennial 4-4||at Andover, Thursday, Jan. 21; at Coon Rapids, Saturday, Jan. 23|
Balanced offense features eight players with 10 or more points and four players with seven or more goals. Trojans have outscored their opponents 47-17 over the final two periods, a testament to their depth.
|11-2-1||6||Beat Eastview 8-0; Beat Burnsville 4-3||vs. No. 2 Edina, Thursday, Jan. 21; at Robbinsdale Armstrong, Saturday, Jan. 23|
|7|| Bloomington Jefferson
Jaguars are 2-1-2 in their last five and certainly not the same team that was steamrolling opponents early in the season. Of course, the schedule has gotten tougher. Case in point: Tuesday's matchup against No. 3 Eden Prairie.
|10-2-2||7 (tie)||Tied Burnsville 2-2; Beat Rosemount 12-2||at No. 3 Eden Prairie, Tuesday, Jan. 19; vs. Chaska/Chanhassen, Thursday, Jan. 21; at Bloomington Kennedy, Saturday, Jan. 23|
Rams' 5-2 loss at home against rival Warroad was a bit of surprise, but not nearly as lopsided as it would appear. Two of the Warriors' goals were empty netters in the final minute. Roseau still is without injured star forward Adam Knochenmus, the catalyst of the Rams' top line.
|13-2-1||7 (tie)||Lost to Warroad 5-2; Beat Buffalo 6-1||vs. No. 4 (Class A) Warroad, Thursday, Jan. 14; vs. Buffalo, Saturday, Jan. 16|
|9|| Benilde-St. Margaret's
And a freshman (and sophomore) shall lead them: Red Knights' top scorers are freshman Grant Besse and sophomore Christian Horn, each with 32 points. Offensive firepower not a question, but defense has been loose at times as evidenced in last week's 6-3 loss to Edina.
|10-3-1||10||Lost 6-3 to No. 2 Edina; Beat Totino-Grace 8-3||vs. Osseo, Tuesday, Jan. 19; vs. St. Francis, Saturday, Jan. 23|
|10 (tie)|| Eagan
Wildcats' big chance to step into the state spotlight ended with a thud in lopsided loss to Eden Prairie. Goaltending and defense that had been so dominant all season had rare off night in that surprisingly one-sided setback.
|11-2-1||9||Beat Rosemount 5-1; Lost to No. 3 Eden Prairie 7-1||vs. Lakeville South, Thursday, Jan. 21; vs. Chaska/Chanhassen, Saturday, Jan. 23|
|10 (tie)|| Osseo
Yet another Northwest Suburban Conference team makes an appearance in the Top 10, and Orioles' debut coincides with what might be their toughest week of the season.
|10-2-2||Not ranked||Tied Elk River 3-3; Beat Maple Grove 6-3||at No. 9 Benilde-St. Margaret's, Tuesday, Jan. 19; at Centennial, Thursday, Jan. 19; vs. Andover, Saturday, Jan. 23|
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Duluth East, Centennial
|Rank||Team||Record||Prev.||Last Week||This Week|
|1|| St. Thomas Academy
Cadets still holding firmly to the top spot in poll despite their four losses and Breck's dominance. Big win over Cretin-Derham Hall, which was ranked among the top 10 in Class AA at one point this season, reaffirms Cadets' status as one of the state's handful of top teams regardless of class.
|10-4-0||1||Beat Cretin-Derham Hall 5-1; Beat Henry Sibley 11-0; Beat No. 9 South St. Paul 6-2||at No. 5 Mahtomedi, Wednesday, Jan. 20|
Mustangs' continued their string of blowout wins, but they'll face one of their toughest opponents of the season on Thursday -- and maybe move into the No. 1 spot with a win -- against Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep.
|11-1-0||2||Beat St. Paul Academy 8-0; Beat St. Paul Johnson 7-1||at St. Paul Saints, Tuesday, Jan. 19; at Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep, Thursday, Jan. 21; vs. St. Paul Como Park, Saturday, Jan. 23|
One of the biggest events to ever hit Hermantown also happens to be one of the most anticipated games in the Hawks' history. Their matchup with defending Class AA champion Eden Prairie on Saturday -- outdoors and on statewide TV, no less -- should be one of the highlights of the season.
|13-1-0||3||Beat Grand Rapids 5-4; Beat St. Cloud Cathedral 8-0||at Superior, Tuesday, Jan. 19; at Ashland, Thursday, Jan. 21; vs. No. 3 (Class AA) Eden Prairie, Saturday, Jan. 23|
Huge road win over Roseau should provide big momentum boost, and the Warriors will need it as they make another scary road trip, this time to main Section 8A rival Thief River Falls on Saturday.
|13-2-0||4||Beat No. 8 (Class AA) Roseau 5-2; Beat Crookston 7-1||at No. 7 Thief River Falls, Thursday, Jan. 21; vs. Moorhead, Saturday, Jan. 23|
Wednesday night hockey? Oh yes, and it's a dandy, as it was the Zephyrs, you'll remember, who knocked St. Thomas Academy out of the playoffs last season in one of the state's biggest upsets. The teams meet again this week in a rare Wednesday matchup.
|12-3-0||5||Beat Tartan 6-2; Beat Simley 7-2||vs. St. Thomas Academy, Wednesday, Jan. 20; vs. Richfield, Saturday, Jan. 23|
Blue Devils dismantled a tough Proctor team and then routed rival Hibbing in a penalty-filled affair. Nice week, but there's no reward as a tough road trip to International Falls looms on Friday.
|11-5-2||6||Beat Proctor 7-2; Beat Hibbing/Chisholm 5-1||at Two Harbors, Tuesday, Jan. 19; at International Falls, Friday, Jan. 22|
|7|| Thief River Falls
Prowlers showed their defensive might in holding high-scoring Park Rapids to a single goal. They take one last regular-season shot at rival Warroad at home on Thursday, with all-important Section 8A seeding position at stake.
|11-4-0||7||Beat Park Rapids 5-1; Beat Crookston 4-1||vs. No. 4 Warroad, Thursday, Jan. 21|
|8|| St. Cloud Cathedral
Rough loss to Hermantown a reality check for the Crusaders, who would most likely have to get past the Hawks to make a return trip to the state tournament. Three tough opponents away this week.
|9-5-0||9||Beat Orono 3-1; Lost to Hermantown 8-0||at Delano-Rockford, Tuesday, Jan. 19; at Mound-Westonka, Thursday, Jan. 21; at Alexandria, Saturday, Jan. 23|
|9 (tie)|| South St. Paul
Packers make return appearance in top 10 despite suffering a pair of losses last week. Sophomore Austyn Young leading the team in scoring with 14 goals and 27 points.
|8-7-0||Not ranked||Beat Rochester Mayo 6-2; Lost to North St. Paul 4-2; Lost to St. Thomas Academy 6-2||at Richfield, Thursday, Jan. 14|
|9 (tie)|| Blake
Bears and goaltender Ryan Hayes face the ultimate test in Minnetonka on Tuesday.
|11-4-0||10||Beat Minnehaha Academy 10-2; Beat St. Paul Johnson 6-0||at No 1 (Class AA) Minnetonka, Tuesday, Jan. 21; vs. Providence Academy, Thursday, Jan. 21|
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Faribault, Duluth Denfeld, Red Wing, Spring Lake Park, Alexandria