Stillwater forward Noah Cates (11) scores the game-winner in overtime in the Class 2A, Section 4 finals on Feb. 26 at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood. Special to Star Tribune Matt Blewett firstname.lastname@example.org
Quarterfinal No. 1 at 11 a.m.
Scouting the Tigers: Coach Greg May would not let players forget in a 7-0 loss to Lakeville South. The Tigers had shown state tournament potential earlier in the season by sweeping defending state champion Lakeville North. Laying an egg to South simply would not be tolerated. “I put 7-0 on the scoreboard at practice the next day,” May said. Message received. The Tigers went 6-1 from there to earn their first Class 2A state appearance. John Siebenaler leads the team in goals (18) and points (44). Defensemen Tyler Jette is a Mr. Hockey finalist while fellow blueliner Erik Holmstrom was a All-Metro second team selection. Tireless workers Grady Hauswirth and Wyatt Jensen provide energy. Jensen is tied for second on team with 43 points.
Scouting the Ponies: Stung by a No. 2 tournament seed despite a one-loss record, coach Matt Doman sounded the “No respect” alarm. The Ponies are no underdogs, however. They are deep and talented. Four players have tallied 20 or more goals: Jackson Cates (24), Noah Cates (23), Luke Manning (21) and TJ Sagissor (20). Noah Cates produced the highlight reel goal to clinch the section championship game in overtime. Senior defenseman Andrew Hoy said players expected to beat Hill-Murray and are far from finished. “We’re going to keep doing what we do and try our best to win a state championship,” he said.
Worth knowing: Red is an appropriate color for Stillwater. Coach Matt Doman played at Wisconsin. Fellow Badger alum Tom Sagissor has two sons on the team, Simon and TJ.
Wayzata forward Amar Batra (15) chased the puck to the ice during the third period against Cretin-Derham Hall. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky
Quarterfinal No. 2 at 1 p.m.
Scouting the Blaze: Playoff performances befitting his team’s nickname saw senior forward Cade Borchardt ignite the Blaze with hat tricks in all three section games. A year ago, Borchardt and Burnsville limped off the ice following a 10-1 section final drubbing by Edina. Humiliation became motivation. “Our kids decided that won’t happen again,” Blaze coach Janne Kivihalme said. Inspired summer workouts fed winter glory. Beyond the high-scoring top line of Borchardt, Roman Ahcan and Eric Otto, the second line of Colton Kirschbaum, Brenden Larsen and Gavin Wagner emerged to give the team depth. Successful rematches down the stretch against Eastview, Rosemount and Lakeville South showed the team’s growth.
Scouting the Trojans: Wayzata’s brand of disciplined hockey might not be the most aesthetically pleasing style, but it’s a thing of playoff beauty. Finding a way to close out close games is the Trojans’ strength. “Every game, our coaches say, ‘Win the third period. Try to be the best third period team in the state,’” senior co-captain Billy Duma said. “We know we’re deep and if we have a chance to win it in the third period, we usually do.” Wayzata outscored teams a combined 36 to 22 in the final period this season. Coach Pat O’Leary believes his team’s second St. Paul visit in four seasons will have a different look. “We’re going there for a reason,” O’Leary said. “We have a good enough team to beat anybody.”
Worth knowing: Cade Borchardt’s older brother Cole, who survived a 2014 car crash but endured major brain damage, assists the varsity by keeping statistics and offering players advice.
Eden Prairie forward Casey Mittelstadt (11) celebrated after scoring an unassisted goal in the second period against Prior Lake. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky
Quarterfinal No. 3 at 6 p.m.
Scouting the Tornadoes: Happy New Year it was not for Anoka, which started 2016 with a six-game losing streak. Weathered but not beaten, players picked up the pieces. “We had a quote, ‘Individuals form in small groups and complain about others. Teams get together and find ways to succeed,’” senior forward Michael Talbot said. He would know, having played a key role in Anoka’s past two state champion soccer teams. Both groups were unheralded but found a way. Talbot hopes the formula transfers to the ice. “We were the underdog in sections and nothing changes going into state,” Talbot said. “Just like how we were in soccer. People better watch out for us.”
Scouting the Eagles: Junior forward Casey Mittelstadt stood outside the Mariucci Arena locker rooms looking much different than he did a year before. An ice pack adorned his right elbow. His red face glistened with sweat. As a sophomore, he enjoyed a charmed hockey life. He committed to the Gophers before the season then helped the Eagles to state. Getting back took more effort, something the team wasn’t giving on a nightly basis. “We played really well and then we thought we should just beat teams,” Mittelstadt said. “It was a reality check. But the lull kind of helped us. Against Prior Lake you saw guys diving to block shots. I don’t think anyone would have done that a month ago.”
Worth knowing: An otherwise fresh tournament field features Eden Prairie forward Michael Graham, who has more than 150 career points and played in three state tournaments.
Grand Rapids forward Alex Adams (9) circles behind Duluth East's net in the Thunderhawks' 6-5 victory in the Class 2A, Section 7 championship at Amsoil Arena in Duluth on Feb. 25. Photo by Matt Moses
Quarterfinal No. 4 at 8 p.m.
Scouting the Lumberjacks: Experience is the key for Bemidji. A whopping 16 players return from the ‘Jacks 2015 state tournament team. And coach Wade Chiodo learned a little something, too. The team arrived in St. Paul on Tuesday and will practice at a local rinkWednesday. “We wanted to make sure the kids got to settle in,” Chiodo said. Bemidji found its groove in a victory against Class 1A Hermantown in mid-January. A few top ‘Jacks players were out but teammates picked up the slack. “That game showed us we had depth,” Chiodo said. “It created more competition at practice and that brings out the best in guys.” Senior Tyler McNamara saved his best for the section final. His over time goal guaranteed another tournament appearance.
Scouting the Thunderhawks: First-year coach and NHL veteran Trent Klatt knew this Grand Rapids team had the stuff state tournament trips are made of. His patient approach helped make the dream real. All 21 varsity players saw ice time through the season’s first half. A shutout loss to Hermantown on Jan. 5 triggered tough decisions for Klatt and a shorter bench. “We said, ‘That’s enough,’ and we’ve lost once since,” Klatt said. Senior forward Alex Adams has been hot, tallying 11 goals in the past eight games — including the game-winner with six seconds remaining in regulation to end Duluth East’s seven-year reign as Section 7 champions.
Worth knowing: These teams played to a 1-1 tie on Nov. 24. How much does that matter now? “Not at all,” Klatt said. “It doesn’t,” Chiodo said. All right then.
• Tournament qualifiers Burnsville and Farmington are surprise entrants with coaching ties. Farmington coach Greg May served as a Burnsville assistant coach from 2010-14 under Blaze head coach Janne Kivihalme. A Burnsville native and graduate who teaches at the school and coached at the youth level, May spent many hours with several current Blaze players. “I think they got up for playing us because of that,” May said. The Tigers tied Burnsville once this season and lost the rematch in overtime.
• Three of the 10 finalists for Mr. Hockey will showcases their skills: Michael Graham (Eden Prairie), Tyler Jette (Farmington) and Mitchell Mattson (Grand Rapids). Graham and Mattson are high-scoring forwards while Jette is a stay-at-home defenseman. The award, presented by the Minnesota Minute Men, will be bestowed at Sunday’sbanquet at the RiverCentre. Get tickets at minnesotaminutemen.com.
• Follow the action: Adult tickets are $17 for championship and $12 for consolation sessions. Student tickets are $11 for championship, $8 for consolation. All championship-round games will be televised on Ch. 45 and streamed live at Prep45.com for a charge of $6.97 per day. The Class 2A quarterfinals, all semifinals and both championship games can be heard on 107.5-FM and on 106.1-FM.