After five years of being held in Moorhead, Minnesota, the Big Pumpkin Peewee Invitational is moving to a new home.
The Graham Arena Complex in Rochester will be the host site of this year’s premier fall Peewee AA/A tournament, while Moorhead’s Cullen Hockey Center will host November’s Battle for the Blue Ox Bantam AA/A tourney.
With four sheets of ice under one roof, the arena on the site of the Olmsted County Fair will house 24 teams, 60 games, and countless memories of the first tournament of the season.
Last year, Chaska-Chanhassen opened the 2018-2019 campaign with a thrilling overtime win in the finals over Hermantown. Tournament Most Valuable Player Javon Moore made a highlight-reel pass across the Hawks’ goal line for the game-winning goal by Adam Kleber to give the Stormhawks the title. 2018 was the second consecutive year Hermantown advanced to the championship, winning it all in 2017 and breaking the cycle of champions from Edina and Osseo-Maple Grove.
With a highly competitive field and the YHH staff both making their way south on Highway 52, continue reading for a tournament preview.
Javon Moore earned Most Valuable Player honors with three goals and seven points for Chaska-Chanhassen.
A successful squad as Squirt A’s, Cottage Grove features several forwards who can break open a game with speed and skill. The Wolfpack Squirt A’s went 22-7-2 last season, with four of the seven losses coming by two goals or less.
Players to Watch: Brady Nadler, Jackson Rudh, Chaz Lentz, Owen Corkish
Led by the venerable Jeff Johnson, Edina is one of the associations that fields two Squirt A teams, giving the Hornet PWAA coaching staff a host of talented players but also the challenge of meshing them into one cohesive unit. There’s no shortage of depth at forward for the Hornets, who blend those options with an offensively-minded defensive core. Perhaps the most significant addition to the Hornets is behind the bench, where Dartmouth graduate Matt Reber joins Johnson and the gang.
Players to Watch: Casey Vandertop, Tucker Johnson, Mason West, Parker Trottier, Quintin Schaefer
Last year’s runner-up again brings a high-powered group to the Big Pumpkin, with speed at forward and size to burn on defense. Second-year players have been through the Peewee AA ringer before and will look to guide several first-year players, many of whom are coming off a Squirt A season in which the Hawks went 25-8-1.
Players to Watch: Ford Skytta, Victor Plante, River Freeman, Henry Peterson, A.J. Francisco
After a two-year hiatus from the Big Pumpkin finals, the Leafbirds are set for a return the Sunday finale, boasting a group that can roll each forward line and defensive pair without much noticeable drop-off. OMG also has the luxury of rotating between two quality goaltenders in Luke Carrithers and Zachary Price.
Players to Watch: Cameron Dean, Dylan Dean, Emmett Reiter, Zachary Price (G)
Emmett Reiter, Osseo-Maple Grove.
The Irish return multiple players from last year’s team that finished 19th according to NOW Rankings, winning 23 games against a tough schedule. To that mix, Rosemount adds Will Dosan, a smooth-handed forward who helped the Twin Cities Selects to the AAA State Tournament Bantam Minor championship in August.
Players to Watch: Will Dosan, Christian Garrity, Benny Rutzick, Cade Sherman
Former University of Minnesota player Bill Kohn takes over for Billy Wagner this season for the Ponies after guiding the Stillwater Peewee A team to 22 wins last year. Kohn and the Pony staff and welcome a strong crop of Squirt A’s that finished second in District 2 in 2019 in addition to a handful of second-year skaters that bring experience to the lineup.
Players to Watch: Cole Braunshausen, Luke Myers, Trey Fredenburg, Carson Kingbay
The additions of Danny Klaers and Holden Pajor give the Skippers two more talented pieces that should mix well with the veteran crew. The Skippers advanced to the Peewee AA State Tournament last season with several first-year players that have had a year to grow both physically and in hockey terms.
Players to Watch: Mikey Berchild, Holden Pajor, Bryce Wiitala, Danny Klaers, Rowan Vaughn
White Bear Lake
The Bears return a handful of players from last year’s quality Peewee AA team and add Conrad Fondrk to the mix this season. Fondrk’s stellar play during this fall’s Western States Invitational earned him Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament.
Players to Watch: Conrad Fondrk, Jack Stanius, Maverick Timmons, Will Distad, Graham Greeder, Carter McLeod (G)
Conrad Fondrk, White Bear Lake.
Prior Lake vs. Blaine, 10:45 A.M.
Centennial vs. Brainerd, 11:15 A.M.
Wayzata vs. Shakopee, 12:15 P.M.
Rochester vs. Andover, 12:15 P.M.
Kruz Sauer, Wayzata.
|Tony Scott||White Bear Lake||Stillwater|
|Todd Hauch||Minnetonka||Cottage Grove|
|Peter Odney||Osseo-Maple Grove||Rosemount|