Yeah, it seemed a bit odd to see a four-loss team sitting atop the Class A poll for the last month. Especially with defending state Class A champion Breck, with only two losses, a notch below at No. 2.
To borrow some courtroom terminology, mitigating circumstances are what put the Cadets ahead of the Mustangs – and have kept them there. Foremost among them was St. Thomas Academy’s 4-3 overtime victory over Breck on Dec. 8.
St. Thomas Academy’s blemishes also have been of the highest caliber. All four of the Cadets’ losses have been to teams (Minnetonka twice, Blaine and Hill-Murray) ranked in the top five in Class AA.
“I think what we found when we lost to those teams was that we were close, but we just weren’t playing smart in our own end,” St. Thomas Academy co-head coach Tom Vanelli said.
With the emphasis on tight defensive play and a stifling physical presence from their forwards, the Cadets knocked off Hill-Murray (ranked No. 3 in Class AA) 3-1 on Saturday, Feb. 6 to stay locked in the No. 1 spot.
Another of the story lines in the win over the Pioneers was the play of St. Thomas Academy’s third line. Brady Ranthum not only scored the Cadets’ first goal on an assist from sophomore linemate Andrew Commers, but he threw his body around with abandon, creating havoc in the Pioneers’ defensive zone.
“We were only going to be as good as (our third line) tonight,” Vanelli said. “The last time we played them, that was the difference. I think we proved that we could find three guys that could go with them.”
There was little movement in both the Class A and AA rankings, as voted on by a statewide panel of media members and coaches. Much like St. Thomas Academy and Breck in Class A, Minnetonka and Wayzata remained the unanimous No. 1 and 2 teams, respectively, in Class AA.
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|
Derek Frawley follows Max Gardiner, Max Coatta and Justin Holl as the Skippers' latest scorer du jour. Frawley, a junior forward, has 12 points in Minnetonka's last five games. Scary fact: Three of the Skippers' top five scorers are underclassmen.
|20-0-1||1||Beat Hopkins 11-1||at Edina, Thursday, Feb. 11; vs. Robbinsdale Armstrong, Saturday, Feb. 13|
That's three wins over Edina this season for the Trojans, who haven't lost since falling 2-1 to Bloomington Jefferson on Jan. 7. Scott Holm broke out of a five-game goal-scoring slump against Hopkins and has team-high 16 this season.
|16-2-2||2||Beat Hopkins 5-3; Beat No. 8 Edina 3-2||vs. Lakeville North, Tuesday, Feb. 9; vs. Robbinsdale Armstrong, Thursday, Feb. 11; vs. Buffalo, Saturday, Feb. 13|
Loss of first-line forward to Kevin Becker (concussion) in win over Mahtomedi took its toll in loss to St. Thomas Academy, as Pioneers' offense struggled, especially while going 0-for-5 on the power play. Loss to Cadets wasn't a serious setback in eyes of voters, as Pioneers remain locked in No. 3 spot in poll.
|18-2-1||3||Beat No. 4 (Class A) Mahtomedi 5-3; Lost to No. 1 (Class A) St. Thomas Academy 3-1||at Tartan, Thursday, Feb. 11 ; vs. Richfield, Saturday, Feb. 13|
Bengals' have run unbeaten streak to 12 games, including an impressive 5-3 win (Blaine led 5-1 after two periods) over Northwest Suburban Conference rival Elk River. Best rivalry in the state? Gauge for yourself where Blaine vs. Centennial ranks on Saturday.
|15-3-3||5||Beat Champlin Park 8-0; Beat Elk River 5-3||vs. North Metro, Thursday, Feb. 11; at No. 7 Centennial, Saturday, Feb. 13|
|5|| Eden Prairie
Eagles are 2-2-1 in their last five, a surprisingly lackluster stretch for the defending state Class AA champs. Chemistry on the second and third lines has been fleeting, and most of the scoring burden remains on superb junior center Kyle Rau's shoulders.
|15-4-1||4||Lost to No. 8 Burnsville 3-2; Tied Duluth East 2-2||at No. 6 Bloomington Jefferson, Thursday, Feb. 11; vs. Rosemount, Saturday, Feb. 13|
|6|| Bloomington Jefferson
After hitting a midseason lull, the only team to beat Jefferson in more than a month has been Eden Prairie. The rematch is Thursday, and part of the intrigue will be whether Jefferson sophomore Eric Fabano gets the start in goal.
|13-4-2||7||Beat No. 10 Eagan 3-2; Beat Moorhead 6-3||at Eastview, Tuesday, Feb. 9; vs. Eden Prairie, Thursday, Feb. 11|
Cougars are unbeaten in their last eight games and getting solid goaltending from junior Brett Larsen, who shut out Maple Grove on 31 shots in his last start. Three-game week includes two monster Northwest Suburban Conference foes in Elk River and Blaine.
|13-5-2||8||Beat Anoka 6-0; Beat Maple Grove 3-0||at North Metro, Tuesday, Feb. 9; vs. Elk River, Thursday, Feb. 11; vs. No. 4 Blaine, Saturday, Feb. 13|
|8 (tie)|| Burnsville
Blaze have lost just once in their last 11 games. Upset win over Eden Prairie keeps them in what has become a four-way Lake Conference race. Useless trivia: Standout Blaze goaltender Bohdi Engum's first name is spelled the same as that of Patrick Swayze's character in the vastly underrated 1991 classic "Point Break."
|12-6-3||10||Beat No. 5 Eden Prairie 3-2; Beat Chaska/Chanhassen 4-1||vs. Eastview, Thursday, Feb. 11; vs. Bloomington Kennedy, Saturday, Feb. 13|
|8 (tie)|| Edina
Hornets already have lost three times to one conference foe (Wayzata), they will be intent on avoiding the same fate when they host arch rival Minnetonka on Thursday. Edina, so good to start the season, is just 3-5-2 in its last 10.
|13-6-2||9||Beat Robbinsdale Armstrong 8-0; Lost to No. 2 Wayzata 3-2||vs. No. 1 Minnetonka, Thursday, Feb. 11; at Hopkins, Saturday, Feb. 13|
Wildcats' loss to Bloomington Jefferson last week hurts their chances to win Lake Conference crown, although they still hold two-point lead with four games left.
|16-4-1||7||Lost to No. 6 Bloomington Jefferson 3-2; Beat Bloomington Kennedy 6-1||at Park (Cottage Grove), Tuesday, Feb. 9; at Eastview, Saturday, Feb. 13|
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Roseau, Elk River, Duluth East, Benilde-St. Margaret's, Cretin-Derham Hall, Holy Angels
|Rank||Team||Record||Prev.||Last Week||This Week|
|1|| St. Thomas Academy
Senior Zach Wynne looked sharp in huge win over Class AA juggernaut Hill-Murray and has played well since becoming part of Cadets' goaltending rotation with fellow senior Kurt Altrichter.
|16-4-0||1||Beat Totino-Grace 8-3; Beat No. 3 (Class AA) Hill-Murray 3-1||vs. No. 8 Rochester Lourdes, Tuesday, Feb. 9; vs. Richfield, Thursday, Feb. 11; at Henry Sibley, Saturday, Feb. 13|
Mustangs, who had made the blowout victory look routine, actually had to sweat out 2-1 win over Rochester Lourdes last week. Senior Tyson Fulton has 18 points in the Mustangs' last six games.
|18-2-0||2||Beat No. 8 Rochester Lourdes 2-1; Beat Providence Academy 8-1||vs. St. Paul Academy, Thursday, Feb. 11; at St. Paul Como Park, Saturday, Feb. 13|
Hawks ran into a hot goalie (John Scheuer) in 3-2 overtime loss to Cloquet last week, and they face another goaltending standout Tuesday in Duluth Denfeld's Zach Thompson. Meanwhile, Hermantown's Tiegen Brickson has worked his way into the state's top 10 in save perecentage (8th, .923).
|18-3-0||3||Lost to Cloquet/Esko/Carlton 3-2 in OT; Beat Monticello 7-0||at Duluth Denfeld, Tuesday, Feb. 9; vs. Red Wing, Saturday, Feb. 13|
Brandon Zurn's goal midway through the third period allowed the Zephyrs to beat Spring Lake Park last Saturday and avoid an 0-2 week. Zurn (22 goals) and Charlie Adams (25 goals) share team lead with 52 points.
|16-5-0||4||Lost to No. 3 (Class AA) Hill-Murray 5-3; Beat Spring Lake Park 3-2||vs. Henry Sibley, Thursday, Feb. 11; vs. Tartan, Saturday, Feb. 13|
What a weird week it was for the Warriors (say that quickly five times). After disheartening 7-3 loss to Roseau, they went wild in 12-4 triumph over East Grand Forks. That's the same EGF team that beat Warroad 1-0 earlier in the season.
|17-4-0||5||Beat East Grand Forks 12-4||vs. Grand Forks Red River, Tuesday, Feb. 9; vs. Moorhead, Thursday, Feb. 11; vs. Bemidji, Friday, Feb. 12|
|6|| Thief River Falls
Prowlers' 1-0 loss to Crookston at home was an eyebrow-raiser, but really just confirmed that Section 8A powerhouses Warroad and Thief River Falls will have to survive rugged semifinal games if they are to meet in the section finals again this season.
|16-6-0||6||Lost to Crookston 1-0; Beat Lake of the Woods 4-0; Beat Red Lake Falls 7-1||at Roseau, Friday, Feb. 12|
Blue Devils have just two games left on schedule, but both of them (against Duluth Marshall and Hibbing) are crucial in terms of Section 7A seeding. Loss last week to Sartell-St. Stephen was a bit of a surprise.
|14-6-3||7||Lost to Sartell-St. Stephen 5-3||vs. Duluth Marshall, Tuesday, Feb. 9|
|8 (tie)|| Blake
Bears have been dispatching of Tri-Metro Conference foes with ease, and final game of regular season (Feb. 20 against Breck) looms as last big test before playoffs.
|15-6-0||8||Beat St. Paul Saints 7-1||at Minnehaha Academy, Tuesday, Feb. 9; vs. St. Paul Johnson, Saturday, Feb. 13|
|8 (tie)|| Rochester Lourdes
How good are these Eagles? Stunningly tight 2-1 loss to Breck suggests they are very good. Tie with New Prague indicates that consistency still is an issue. Game against top-ranked St. Thomas Academy originally scheduled for Tuesday has been pushed back a day to Wednesday.
|12-6-2||9||Lost to No. 2 Breck 2-1; Tied New Prague 1-1||at No. 1 St. Thomas Academy, Wednesday, Feb. 10; vs. New Ulm, Thursday, Feb. 11|
|10|| South St. Paul
Packers keep winning the games they are expected to win, but have yet to pull off a major upset. Next opportunity to do so comes Feb. 16 against St. Thomas Academy.
|11-10-0||10||Beat Henry Sibley 4-0; Lost to Tartan 5-3||vs. Simley, Thursday, Feb. 11|
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Sartell-St. Stephen, Totino-Grace, Alexandria, International Falls