In a continuation of the game of musical rinks, the Battle for the Blue Ox has moved north to Moorhead after making its home in Maple Grove for four years.
The change in venue welcomes Moorhead into the fold, as both the Spud Bantam AA and Bantam A teams will compete this weekend. The tournament also helps the Moorhead community christen the new sheet of ice, the hockey hotbed's new third rink, at the Cullen Hockey Center.
With Osseo-Maple Grove, ranked No. 1 in the most recent Youth Hockey Hub Bantam AA ratings, and 2018 champion Prior Lake both absent for the tournament, the Blue Ox will have a new champion this season.
Aaron Reierson tallied six goals and nine points for the North Stars during this summer's Bantam Elite League.
Moorhead certainly doesn't need a subsidy for this crop of Spuds, with an astounding eight players that dotted Bantam Elite League rosters this summer. Almost a dozen critical pieces from last year's Bantam AA State Tournament team return for their second season at this level, always an indicator of a high-quality team. With a rare mix of experience and talent at all three positions, the Spuds are the Blue Ox's top seed.
Players to Watch: Harper Bentz, Abe Carlson, Joe Gramer, Ian Ness, Aaron Reierson, Joe Schiller
The Skippers have one of the best defensive corps in the tournament, anchored by strong skaters who know how to facilitate from the back end. At 4-1-1, the Skippers are off to a strong start this season, with the lone loss coming against No. 1 Osseo-Maple Grove. Minnetonka tied fourth-seeded Lakeville South prior to the loss to the Leafbirds after winning its first four games of the season.
Players to Watch: Jackson Blanks, Beckett Hendrickson, Drew Stewart, John Stout
The group that finished second in the state at the Peewee AA level has reached its second Bantam season. The Hawks gained valuable experience last season with a relatively young Bantam AA squad. With another year, the undersized Hawks of last season are now physically on par with the rest of the state. With a year to grow and some of the best skill players in Minnesota, the Hawks are a threat to leave Moorhead with a title.
Players to Watch: Wyatt Carlson, Ty Hanson, Kade Kohanski, Zam Plante
4. Lakeville South
The aggressive and ambitious Cougars have already played seven games so far this season, going 3-2-2 in that stretch. Both losses have come against quality teams in Rogers and Eden Prairie, while the draws against Mahtomedi and Minnetonka are indicators of a talented team still learning to jell with each other.
Players to Watch: Tyler Lafferty, Eli Miller, John Novak, Aidan Willis
Drew Stewart has become a contributor for the Minnetonka Bantam AA team after leading the Peewee AA squad to the state tournament last season.
A mild surprise to start the season, the program that made the jump to the Bantam AA level from Bantam A for the 2019-2020 campaign is undefeated 8-0. The Royals have scored good wins over Lakeville South, Mahtomedi, and Andover, and have yet to be held under four goals in any game. The Royals may have one of the best defensive pairings in the state in Chase Cheslock and Carson Udee.
Players to Watch: Chase Cheslock, Preston Holmes, Sam Ranallo, Peyton Struck
The Trojans advanced to the Bantam AA State Tournament semifinals last season and still retain a handful of players from that group this year. Losses to Lakeville North, Hermantown, and Edina give the Trojans a record of 7-3 so far, and quality goaltending from Will Ingemann should keep the Plymouth-based program in virtually every game they play.
Players to Watch: Johnny Hendrickson, Will Ingemann, Justin Lesser, Rhys Wallin
7. Grand Forks Aviators (ND)
Featuring several players who suited up for Team North Dakota in the Bantam Elite League, the Aviators are fast, physical, and wield an uber-talented goaltender in Andrew Peterson. With size on defense and speed to burn at the forward spots, the Aviators split a season-opening series with top-seeded Moorhead, losing 3-2 and winning 5-3.
Players to Watch: Dillon Jackson, Andrew Peterson, Mason Ray, Mason Reynolds
Always an interesting team, the Zephyrs tend to fly under the radar until you look up and they're in the tournament semifinals. A loss to Rogers and a tie with Lakeville South opened the season for the Zephyrs, followed by three wins over Lakeville North, Blaine, and Mounds View-Irondale for a record of 3-1-1 entering the Blue Ox.
Players to Watch: Charlie Brandt, Caden Sampair, Sawyer Seidl, Simon Seidl, Jack Sweeney
Chase Cheslock helps anchor the Rogers blue line.
|Tony Scott||Hermantown||Sioux Falls Power|
Mahtomedi's Charlie Brandt holds down the fort for the Zephyrs.