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Moose right where they belong, for now

By Loren Nelson, 03/10/17, 11:45AM CST


The high school league's flexibility in allowing programs to opt down a class is a good thing.

David La Vaque has covered all but one state hockey tournament game since 2009 and has worked as a Star Tribune high school sports reporter since 2004. His favorite tournament experiences include cheering for alma mater St. Paul Johnson in 1991 and staying for most of the Apple Valley/Duluth East marathon semifinal game in 1996. Loren Nelson has covered every state tournament since 2009 as the national media editor for Sport Ngin. He attended many, many other Tourney games as a high schooler from the far northern reaches of Minnesota making the annual pilgrimage south to the old St. Paul Civic Center in the 1980s.

Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake goalie Tyler Klatt is one of several talented Moose juniors. Star Tribune photo

Governing bodies that rule state high school sports typically operate only in black and white. Gray areas are treated as if they are nuclear waste – not to be touched.

It’s a refreshing departure from so much iron-fist policy making and enforcement that the Minnesota State High School League allows programs to petition to play down in classification from where they would normally be slotted based on enrollment.

In boys’ hockey several co-operative programs with combined Class 2A enrollments have played in the Class 1A playoffs for the past several years. Most notable among those programs are Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake, which was allowed to opt down in class two years ago after years of serving as a perennial punching bag in Class 2A’s Section 8. During a 14-year run in that section, the Moose lost 14 straight quarterfinal games by a combined score of 140-7. One of those losses, a 27-0 steamrolling at the hands of Moorhead in 2004, is believed to be the most lopsided score in state history.

Two years ago Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake successfully petitioned to play down in Class 1A, and this year the Moose made their first state tournament appearance after winning the Section 5 title. They drew a huge following of fans to the Xcel Energy Center for both their quarterfinal and semifinal games.

Great for the players, great for the fans, great for the program.

Good job by the MSHSL to allow for flexibility in its playoff slotting.

All of which isn’t to say MAML should be allowed a home in Class 1A for life. The three schools in the co-op have a combined enrollment of 1,909. The Class 1A cutoff is 1,198. Monticello alone has an enrollment of 1,115.

This season the Moose went 18-6-1 in the regular season, playing a mix of Class 1A and 2A programs. Their top forward, Ben Ward, is a junior. So is Tyler Klatt, their star goaltender. Another run to the state tournament seems imminent, assuming the Moose have requested two more years of playing in Class 1A.

The MSHSL reviews its section playoff alignments every two years and is expected to reveal changes for the coming two-year cycle at the end of March. Where the Moose should land for the next two years is the very definition of gray area.

Among some of the other Class 2A-sized co-operative programs playing down in 1A the last years were Minneapolis (a conglomeration of all seven Minneapolis public schools), Becker/Big Lake and Le Sueur-Henderson/St. Peter/Tri-City United.

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