Mason Hargarten, Walleye.
No. 4 Walleye vs. No. 1 Green Giants
The Walleye (12-4-2) isn't your typical No. 4 seed, having been upset by the Polars during the District Playoffs and battle back through the backdoor with wins over the Voyageurs and Lakers. The group hailing from District 3 features a balanced attack, paced in scoring by Jacob Mattson (6 goals, 11 assists, 17 points) and Mason Hargarten (7-8-15). Goaltender Josh Middleton has posted impressive stats so far, with a record of 6-3, a goals-against-average of 1.85, and a save percentage of .920.
The top-seeded Green Giants, representing District 10, fell to the Walleye on Sept. 11, and should be raring to go in search of revenge. The Green Giants won all three games they played during the District Playoffs and have been powered by Dylan Popehn (12-9-21), Benjamin Doll (11-9-20), and Brent Solomon (9-9-18). Every player on the Green Giants roster has recorded at least five points on the season.
No. 3 Shattuck-St. Mary's U14 vs. No. 2 Polars
Shattuck-St. Mary's (13-1) has won four straight games since its first loss of the 2020-2021 campaign against the Minnesota Blades on Sept. 25. The Sabres has racked up 126 goals in 14 games this season, led by co-leading scorers Aidan Park (17-24-41) and Cole Eiserman (28-13-41). Seven skaters have totaled 20 or more points this season for the Sabres.
After starting the Tier I season 1-7-1, the Polars (District 5) rattled off seven wins in their last eight games, pulling off a 5-2 upset of the Walleye in the District Playoffs to earn their No. 2 seed. St. Cloud skater John Hirschfeld leads the Polars in scoring with 11 goals and 20 points, followed by Roman Thompson. Thompson has scored six goals and added 12 assists for 18 points thus far. Blake Schultz (5-7-12) and Bode Laylin (3-9-12) offer supplemental scoring for the Polars, and Laylin has proven effective on the power play, dishing out four assists with the man-advantage.
John Hirschfeld, Polars.
Abe Carlson, Blue Ox.
No. 4 Green Giants vs. No. 1 Blue Ox
The Green Giants (8-5-5) rebounded after a 13-3 loss to the Walleye with wins over the Moose 4-2 and the Loons 2-1 to capture the fourth seed in this weekend's semifinals. Tristen May leads the Green Giants in scoring with 11 goals and 19 points, closely followed by Matthew Lomen and his 11 goals and 16 points. Rounding out the Green Giants' offensive attack are Tyler Geyer (5-10-15) and Brendon Hammer (6-9-15).
There is no shortage of scoring options on the Blue Ox roster, with 10 players topping the 10-point mark. Leading that pack is a quartet of 20-point players in Sam Kartch (10-16-26), Abe Carlson (14-10-24), Aaron Reierson (9-14-23), and Murray Marvin Cordes (12-10-22). On Sept. 26, the Blue Ox thumped the Green Giants 11-2, led by Landon Mackcow's two goals and two assists.
No. 3 Shattuck-St. Mary's U15 vs. No. 2 Walleye
Winners of eight of their last nine games, Shattuck-St. Mary's has been on fire since a heartbreaking 0-3 showing at the Minnesota Blades Showcase, losing to Detroit Honeybaked, Detroit Little Caesars, and Team Wisconsin, all by a single goal. Hunter Anderson (10-16-26) and Cooper Pierson (12-12-24) lead the Sabres in scoring, followed by Noah Powell (10-11-21) and Duncan Shin (4-16-20).
One of the highest-scoring teams in the whole of Minnesota Hockey's Tier I League, the Walleye (14-4) have outscored their opponents 118-55, averaging 6.56 goals per game. Leading the way is Parker Osborne with 16 goals and 43 points, Hagen Burrows (22-16-38), and Caleb Koskie (10-23-33). The Walleye appear to be a team that knows how to close out a game, surrendering just two goals (out of 55 total allowed) in the third period in 18 games.
Hagen Burrowns, Walleye.
Lauren Mack, Lakers.
No. 4 Loons vs. No. 1 Lakers
The Loons (6-10) feature one of the most impressive statistical performers among goaltenders in the league, with Jiahui Zhuan registering a goals-against-average of 1.35 and a sparkling .941 save percentage. While Zhuan takes care of the back end, Samantha Pool and Madelyn Kemplin lead the team in scoring. Pool has six goals and 13 points so far, while Kemplin has six assists and 10 points.
The Lakers outscored their opponents 83-21 through 20 games and have gone 3-0-1 since falling 3-2 to the Green Giants on Sept. 20. There's no lack of firepower throughout the Lakers' lineup, with Ruby Rauk pacing the Lakers (16-3-1) in scoring with 11 goals and 16 points. Addie Bowlby follows with eight goals and 15 points, while Lauren Mack and Whitney Horton are tied with 14 points each.
No. 3 Walleye vs. No. 2 Green Giants
The Walleye have won four of their last five games, with the only loss coming against the Green Giants in the semifinals. Wins over the Voyageurs and the Loons by respective scores of 6-1 and 2-1 placed the Walleye in the semifinals. Kaeli Koopman leads the Walleye (14-3-4) in scoring with 14 goals and 25 points, while Kendall Hassler is next with 13 goals and 23 points, followed by Elizabeth Hamel and her 15 goals and 22 points.
National champions in 2018 and a USA Hockey 14U National Tournament participant in 2019, the Green Giants have long been a very strong candidate for Tier I titles over the past few years. This year is no exception, as the Green Giants (14-4-3) tout a talented goaltending duo in Layla Hemp and Gretchen Paaverud. Hemp has a GAA of 1.09, and a save percentage of .946 this season to go along with two shutouts, while Paverud's GAA of 1.86 also shines. Paaverud also has two blank sheets of her own. Offensively, Maya Engler leads the way with 14 goals and 24 points, and Hannah Christenson is second in scoring with 10 goals and 23 points.
Layla Hemp, Green Giants.