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Hermantown has dangerous mix

By Loren Nelson, Editor, 01/25/10, 3:41PM CST


State rankings: No. 3 (Class A) Hawks showcase skill, grit during Hockey Day

Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith has seen his Eagles square off against some of the state’s most powerful teams this season.

Minnetonka. Edina. Bloomington Jefferson. Eagan.

Hermantown, Smith will assure you, belongs in that group.

“It was just what we expected, a really tough hockey game,” Smith said after his Eagles, ranked No. 2 in Class AA, rallied from a 2-1 deficit to beat the Hawks in a thrilling Hockey Day Minnesota outdoor matchup on Saturday, Jan. 23. “They are a big, physical, strong team.

“You know, we would be good at the beginning of periods and then at the end of the periods their grit and their tenacity on this kind of an ice surface really affected us.”

While it’s much too early to speculate about potential state tournament matchups, we’re going to do so anyway. Hermantown has the combination of skill and, as Smith called it, grit, to give the two dominant Twin Cities private school juggernauts – St. Thomas Academy and Breck – all they can handle.

Right now, though, veteran Hermantown coach Bruce Plante isn’t even sure this is the best  team he’s coached.

“We’ll see,” he said.

Hermantown’s loss to Eden Prairie didn’t affect their No. 3 placement in the Class A rankings, which received some minor reshuffling thanks to Thief Rivers Falls’ upset of Warroad in a matchup of top 10 teams.

In Class AA, last week’s No. 2 team, Edina, dropped four spots after suffering back-to-back losses while Wayzata went the other direction, climbing from No. 6 up to No. 4.

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


Rank Team Record Prev. Last Week This Week
1   Minnetonka
Skippers have outscored their opponents 103-23 and the domination has been particularly impressive in the first and second periods, where they own a 69-12 scoring advantage. Five players have scored 12 or more goals. Return of Minnesota recruit Max Gardiner (31 points in 13 games) from wrist injury only boosts firepower.
18-0-0 1 Beat Blake 6-1; Beat Hopkins 5-2; Beat No. 6 Edina 7-1 vs. Robbinsdale Armstrong, Thursday, Jan. 28; at No. 4 Wayzata, Saturday, Jan. 30
2   Eden Prairie
Eagles had another big week, beating Lake Conference rival Bloomington Jefferson and then heading north and slipping past one of the state's top Class A teams in Hermantown on the Hawks' home (outdoor) ice. Junior forward Kyle Rau continued his scoring tear with a six-goal week.
13-2-0 3 Beat No. 7 Bloomington Jefferson 5-3; Beat Bloomington Kennedy 11-0; Beat No. 3 (Class A) Hermanton 4-3 at No. 8 Eagan, Tuesday, Jan. 26; vs. Chaska/Chanhassen, Thursday, Jan. 28; vs. Lakeville North, Saturday, Jan. 30
3   Hill-Murray
Pioneers are on eight-game winning streak and have slowly been working their way up the rankings. Meat grinder stretch of games (against Mahtomedi, St. Thomas Academy and Tartan) still a week away.
15-1-1 4 Beat Holy Angels 3-2; Beat Henry Sibley 12-0 at South St. Paul, Thursday, Jan. 28; vs. Simley, Saturday, Jan. 30
4   Wayzata
Trojans' goaltenders and defensemen aren't household names -- yet -- but they quietly are getting the job done. Holding balanced Edina offense scoreless in second win of the season over the Hornets was an impressive feat. Is this the team that can beat Minnetonka? We'll find out on Saturday.
13-2-1 6 Beat No. 6 Edina 1-0; Beat Robbinsdale Armstrong 7-1 vs. Champlin Park, Tuesday, Jan. 26; vs. No. 1 Minnetonka, Saturday, Jan. 30
5   Blaine
Bengals, slugging it out in the state's deepest conference, have put together eight-game unbeaten streak. Minnesota recruit Nick Bjugstad rounding into top scoring form and has team-best 20 goals and 45 points. Osseo, another talented foe in the rugged Northwest Suburban Conference, awaits on Thursday.
11-3-3 5 Beat Andover 4-2; Beat Coon Rapids 7-2 vs. Osseo, Thursday, Jan. 28; vs. Anoka, Saturday, Jan. 30
6   Edina
It was a rough week for the Hornets, who were shut out for the first time this season against Wayzata and then suffered stunningly lopsided loss to Minnetonka. Johnny Ankeny, who had been a study in consistency all season, allowed six goals in loss to the Skippers before giving way to backup Connor Girard.
12-4-1 2 Lost to No. 4 Wayzta 1-0; Lost to No. 1 Minnetonka 7-1 vs. Cretin-Derham Hall, Tuesday, Jan. 26; vs. Hopkins, Thursday, Jan. 28
7   Bloomington Jefferson
Alternately hot-and-lukewarm Jaguars' offense running hot again, led by the underrated Tyler Dietzler's eight points in Jefferson's last two games. Defenseman Jeffrey Pauluk continues to rank among the state's best setup men and power-play specialists with a whopping 33 assists.
12-3-2 7 Lost to No. 2 Eden Prairie 5-3; Beat Chaska/Chanhassen 7-1; Beat Bloomington Kennedy 14-1 vs. Lakeville South, Thursday, Jan. 30; at Apple Valley, Saturday, Jan. 30
8   Roseau
Rams' only scheduled game last week, at Bemidji, was postponed because of poor weather conditions. Huge home game against Moorhead on Tuesday will either settle or muddle the race for the top seed in Section 8AA (Roseau won the first meeting in Moorhead 4-1).
13-2-1 8 Did not play vs. Moorhead, Tuesday, Jan. 26
9   Eagan
Wildcats play Eden Prairie for the second time in 10 days on Tuesday and will, most likely, either play themselves back into Lake Conference title contention or be knocked out with the outcome. Road games at Lakeville North and Burnsville to close out week aren't gimmes, either.
13-2-1 10 (tie) Beat Lakeville South 3-0; Beat Chaska/Chanhassen 6-4 vs. No. 2 Eden Prairie, Tuesday, Jan. 26; at Lakeville North, Thursday, Jan. 28; at Burnsville, Saturday, Jan. 30
10   Benilde-St. Margaret's
When goaltender Jacob Meyers is on, as he was last Tuesday against then top 10-ranked Osseo, the Red Knights can compete -- and beat -- anyone. Top line is young, quick and creative but not particularly physical.
11-3-2 9 Tied Osseo 3-3; Beat St. Francis 6-2 at Robbinsdale Cooper, Tuesday, Jan. 26; vs. Moorhead, Friday, Jan. 29; at Chisago Lakes, Saturday, Jan. 30

 ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Centennial, Elk River, Duluth East, Osseo, Burnsville


Rank Team Record Prev. Last Week This Week
1   St. Thomas Academy
Big win over nemesis Mahtomedi required a rally and included a goalie change, but Cadets still the class of Class A. Next big test doesn't come until Feb. 6 at Hill-Murray in a game that could, in effect, determine the Classic Suburban champion.
12-4-0 1 Beat No. 4 Mahtomedi 6-3 at Simley, Thursday, Jan. 28; vs. North St. Paul, Saturday, Jan. 30
2   Breck
Mustangs played top Shattuck-St. Mary's team tough for a period before allowing three goals in the second. Home game against Blake on Thursday, spotlighting one of the state's most intense rivalries, is sure to draw a huge crowd.
13-2-0 2 Beat St. Paul Saints 8-0; Lost to Shattuck-St Mary's Prep 4-1; Beat St. Paul Como Park 9-3 vs. No. 8 Blake, Thursday, Jan. 28; at Minnehaha Academy, Saturday, Jan. 30
3   Hermantown
Hawks showed the state they have the horsepower to compete with anyone in their televised Hockey Day Minnesota loss to Eden Prairie. Looking ahead, depth might be the only concern should Hermantown match up with either of the twin Metro powers -- St. Thomas Academy and Breck -- in the playoffs.
15-2-0 3 Beat Superior 7-1; Beat Ashland 10-0; Lost to No. 2 (Class AA) Eden Prairie 4-3 vs. Proctor, Tuesday, Jan. 26; vs. Bemidji, Thursday, Jan. 28
4   Mahtomedi
Zephyrs have played some of the state's best teams (St. Thomas Academy, Hill-Murray) tough and will be a team to fear in the playoffs. Minnesota recruit Ben Marshall's 34 points puts him among the top handful of scorers in the state among defensemen.
13-4-0 5 Lost to No. 1 St. Thomas Academy 6-3; Beat Richfield 8-0 vs. North St. Paul, Thursday, Jan. 28; vs. South St. Paul, Saturday, Jan. 30
5   Thief River Falls
Prowlers played only one game last week, but, oh, what a game. Thief River Falls and superb goaltender Zane Gothberg finally beat arch Section 8A rival Warroad, snapping a seven-game losing skid against the Warriors. As an added bonus, the victory also bumped the Prowlers ahead of Warroad in the rankings.
12-4-0 7 Beat No. 6 Warroad 2-1 vs. East Grand Forks, Tuesday, Jan. 26; at Duluth Denfeld, Friday, Jan. 29; at Duluth Marshall, Saturday, Jan. 30
6   Warroad
Warriors' home game against Moorhead was postponed on Saturday, giving team extra time to digest upset loss to rival Thief River Falls. Three-game week includes road trip to Duluth where Warroad will play Denfeld and Marshall.
13-3-0 4 Lost to No. 5 Thief River Falls 2-1 at Crookston, Tuesday, Jan. 26; at Duluth Marshall, Friday, Jan. 29; at Duluth Denfeld, Saturday, Jan. 30
7   Virginia
Where did the season go? Believe it or not, Blue Devils have just five games left on regular-season schedule. Junior center Garrett Hendrickson's 48 points places him eighth in the state in scoring.
12-5-3 6 Beat Two Harbors 12-0; Tied International Falls 3-3 vs. Eveleth-Gilbert, Friday, Jan. 29; vs. Silver Bay, Saturday, Jan. 30
8 (tie)   South St. Paul
Good thing the Packers have one of the state's top goaltenders in Adam Wilcox, because their schedule this week is brutal. The young Packers have been improving as the season rolls along, and that's a good thing when Hill-Murray and Mahtomedi appear on the schedule.
9-7-0 9 (tie) Beat Richfield 10-2 vs. No. 3 (Class AA) Hill-Murray, Thursday, Jan. 28; at No. 4 Mahtomedi, Saturday, Jan. 30
8 (tie)   Blake
Bears didn't have enough firepower to slow Class AA juggernaut Minnetonka, but a somewhat more realistic chance for an upset awaits Thursday in rivalry showdown with Breck. All five of Blake's losses have come against either top Class A or AA teams.
12-5-0 9 (tie) Lost to No. 1 (Class AA) Minnetonka 6-1; Beat Providence Academy 3-2 at No. 2 Breck, Thursday, Jan. 28; vs. St. Paul Academy, Saturday, Jan. 30
10   Rochester Lourdes
Perennial southern small-school power Eagles make their first appearance in the top 10 by virtue of six-game win streak that includes 4-2 triumph over host Duluth Denfeld on Saturday. Eagles have a couple of tough tests this week in Mound-Westonka and Big 9 Conference power Faribault.
10-4-2 Not ranked Beat Duluth Central 7-0; Beat Duluth Denfeld 4-2 vs. Mankato East, Tuesday, Jan. 26; at Mound-Westonka, Thursday, Jan. 28; vs. Faribault, Saturday, Jan. 30

 ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Spring Lake Park, Hibbing/Chisholm, Alexandria, Duluth Denfeld, Faribault, St. Cloud Cathedral, Sartell-St. Stephen