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Individual glory and team success align infrequently

By David La Vaque, 03/11/17, 2:45PM CST


Eden Prairie's Casey Mittelstadt has company in the struggle to win everything

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.

OK, I’m a little LOT biased when it comes to this award, but I believe the Star Tribune Boys’ Hockey Metro Player of the Year is a big deal. We include the entire metro area and selections are not contingent on players being seniors or whether coaches belong to an association.

We started our award in 1985 so that's 33 years and 35 winners because we had co-Metro player of the year twice.

Eden Prairie’s Casey Mittelstadt won the 2017 award and the article saying as much appeared in the paper on state tournament eve. He was the biggest reason the Eagles were the No. 1 seed in Class 2A and favored to win it all.

Grand Rapids derailed that narrative in the semifinals, however, leaving Mittelstadt – who could have bolted to play for the Gophers this season – without a high school championship.

Judging by the postseason success rate of the Strib’s MPOY, Mittelstadt’s title odds weren’t good.

There is no jinx, curse or bad juju cast on the MPOY. But crunching the numbers proved interesting.

Mittelstadt was the 16th MPOY to reach the state tournament in the same season (45%).

Only seven times has our player of the year won the state title in the same season (20%).

Those figures don’t include past MPOYs such as Grant Besse of Benilde-St. Margaret’s, who won a state title as a junior – not the year he was named MPOY.

Since Mittelstadt is a favorite to win Mr. Hockey, check this out. Only five players won Mr. Hockey and the state title in the same season: Kyle Rau, Nick Leddy, Tom Gorowsky, Mike Crowley and Nick Checco. That’s 15 percent.

All of this is just to say how incredibly difficult it is to get all the stars lined up for a star player and his team to create one extra-special season.

Yet Mittelstadt's tweet below shows there are moments to savor from the journey, wherever it leads and however it ends.

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