Well the great Minnesota productivity killer is upon us as hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans secretly (or not so secretly) turn on the TV’s at their home and office to take in what may be the state’s greatest tradition. A lot of buzz was generated for an eventful season, and I’m here, as the voice of Warrrior Hockey, to break down my predictions and some teams to watch over the course of the coming days.
Warroad – Warroad comes into the Class A Tournament as quite possibly the best team in the state. An undefeated (with one tie) squad averaging 5.50 goals per game and a paltry 1.25 goals against per game, it’s easy to see why. The team has statement wins against some of the best teams in the state, Class A or AA. Decisive wins over Mahtomedi, St. Cloud Cathedral, Orono, and Moorhead headline their resume, all of whom are tournament teams. Powered by the incredible talent of Carson Pilgrim (45G 39A 85P) and Jayson Shaugabay (31G 57A 88P), Warraoad is the team to beat. I expect them not just to win the tournament, but for their games to be nowhere near close all the way through the tournament.
Alexandria – The Central Lakes Conference competitor comes in to the tournament after a rollercoaster of a season. Starting the season off 0-7 and coming into a matchup on Jan. 10th against Brainerd at 1-9, the Cardinals needed a massive run to have any hope of getting here. Alexandria is a good squad, but maybe not the cream of the crop this year despite their pre-season projections. I can’t see Alexandria advancing past the first round, unfortunately. It’s a privilege and an honor to even make it to the tournament though, and the Cardinals can keep their heads high about making it after a brutal start to the season.
Hermantown – Hair-man-town comes into the Class A tournament as the #2 seed, which is noteworthy because it’s not like a 25-2-1 squad usually gets anything other than the 1 seed. A formidable squad averaging 5.25 Goals for per Game and letting by just 1.43 Goals against, Hermantown is a formidable squad with excellent defense, averaging just 19 shots against per game. The only problem? One of those two losses came in a 3-1 loss to Warroad. Expect the rivals to meet in the finals of Class A, but ultimately I’m of the opinion Hermantown finishes as a runner up.
Mahtomedi – The Zephyrs come into the tournament with a somewhat deceiving record. 5 of their 8 total losses came in the six games between Jan 18th and Feb 2nd It’s that streak that stands out, with losses to Hill Murray, Eden Prarie, Hermantown, and St. Thomas. Expect Mahtomedi to grab a win.
Minnetonka – The Skippers come into a wide open Class AA bracket as a well-deserved #1 seed. It’s no secret that the lakes is among the best in the state, and iron sharpens iron. It take a hell of a team to go 26-2-0 overall in a conference including Wayzata, Edina, Eden Prarie, and others. Minnetonka is the team to beat, as they’ve been playing playoff quality schools all through the year. Anchored by their defense allowing fewer than 16 shots per game on Kaizer Nelson, and with wins over tournament teams in Andover, Moorhead, Hill-Murray, and Edina, it’s hard to imagine Minnetonka not making a run.
Edina – It’s the time of the year where outstate hates the cities, the cities hate the private schools, and everyone hates Edina. The Cake Eaters come into this one as the #3 seed facing a matchup in Moorhead, and as the second bid from the lakes conference (albeit 3rd in their standings, poor Wayzata got left out). Edina doesn’t seem to have the offensive firepower that other teams have this year, and will be relying heavily on Jackson Nevers (19G) and Bobby Cowan (12G) to hold down the attacking side of the puck while Robbie Clarkowski works magic between the pipes (.942SV%)
Moorhead – As the lone outstate school, Moorhead finds themselves the hopes of those “up north.” With a 19-9-0 record, Moorhead marched through Brainerd in the first round of the Section 8AA Playoffs on their way to take the whole thing. Aaron Reierson is the man they plan on funneling their scoring through, as they have done to the tune of 32G this season. Look for Edina and Moorhead to be a healthy matchup between two teams with great goaltending, as Moorhead’s Kai Weigel (.939SV%) looks to keep the spuds alive.
Maple Grove – It’s no secret that the Class AA Tournament is up for grabs, and Maple Grove, as the #2 seed, feels like they have as good of a shot as anyone. With a healthy 22-5-1 record and two wins over #4 seed Andover, it’s an impressive resume that Maple Grove have put together. When you look at the stat sheet, the numbers back that resume up as well. to the tune of 5.29 Goals per Game and Jack Roach allowing 2.19GAA. But one stat really highlights the Crimson’s strength. A crazy 43.9% conversion rate on the power play means that Maple Grove excels at making opponents pay mightily for lapses on the ice. Look for Maple Grove to go far, exploiting opposing team’s discipline along the way.
Class A – Warroad
Class AA – Maple Grove