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BHS: 2024 Class AA State Tourney Preview

By Karl Schuettler, 03/03/24, 2:45PM CST


Quarterfinal previews for this year's Class AA State Tournament from Karl (East) Schuettler.

Rochester Century/John Marshall vs. #2 Chanhassen

Rochester Century/John Marshall (22-4-2, Unranked, 2-seed in 1AA)
State appearances: 5 for Century (first since 2009); 6 for John Marshall (first since 1989)
Championships: 1 (John Marshall, 1977)
Key section win: 4-1 over 22 Lakeville South

Rochester hockey has broken through the glass (quite literally) after 15 years as a Lakeville punching bag, but things will not come easily for them in this game. #7 Aiden Emerich (22-26-48) is their offensive star, with support from #10 Ole Fevold (19-16-35) and #4 Jonathan Burmester (11-22-33), and they have a solid second line that was also reasonably productive. #2 Brody Josselyn (9-17-26) commands a defense that has put up some points this season. #50 Kyle Lappi (18-3-2, 2.16, .903) will undoubtedly see plenty of rubber against Chanhassen.

The scope of their challenge is considerable: the Lakeville South win is eye-opening, but this was not exactly a Cougar offensive juggernaut, and the Panthers have not played a single top 6 seed in a AA section outside of 1AA this season, with losses to 3AA 7-seed Eagan and a 5-0 January loss to Class A Tourney entrant New Prague. What can they muster against Chanhassen?

Chanhassen (23-5, #5, 2-seed in 2AA)
First State appearance
Key section wins: 4-2 over #6 Shakopee, 2-1 over #1 Minnetonka

The senior-heavy Storm have been hot on Minnetonka’s tail the past two seasons, and thanks to the heroics of Frank Brimsek Award frontrunner #1 Kam Hendrickson (21-5, 1.00, .952) in goal, they finally broke through with a momentous upset. As one of only two top-ten teams in the field, they are immediately among the favorites, and drawing Century/John Marshall gives them some cushion against any first-time nerves.

#14 Gavin Uhlenkamp (22-32-54), their Mr. Hockey Finalist, guides the offense, but #9 Jack Crist (22-33-55) and #24 Caden Lee (24-22-46) support him on a lethal top line, and scoring depth through the likes of #7 Andy Earl (19-17-36) and #16 Tyler Smith (11-8-19) separates them from anyone else not named Edina.

#3 Owen Buesgens (5-36-41) is one of the most productive defensemen in the state, and #26 Coltin Wassengeso (2-19-21) rounds out a strong back end. The pieces are here to win it all if they can pull it together.

Caden Lee, Chanhassen

Cretin-Derham Hall vs. #3 Centennial

Chuck Owens, Cretin-Derham Hall

Cretin-Derham Hall (17-10-1, #25, 5-seed in 3AA)
State appearances: 6 (3 in a row)
Championships: 1 (2006)
Key section wins: 3-2 (OT) over #10 Eastview, 3-1 over #14 St. Thomas Academy

The Raiders are one of just two returning Tourney teams, but they bear little resemblance to the star-studded group that got upset by the Alex Bump show two years ago or even the team that shocked Maple Grove last year. While they labored to log good results during the regular season, they found their stride to roll through a parity-laden 3AA.

Up front, Air Force commit Chuck Owens (12-22-34) has one senior sidekick, #9 Easton Swift (11-17-28), but the really exciting forward talent here comes in two emerging sophomores, #4 Nate Chorlton (13-17-30) and #19 Max Anderson (12-12-24) and freshman #20 Marcus Matyas (9-15-24). Junior defenseman #24 Jimmy Dodig (5-16-21) made the midseason NHL draft scouting report and leads a physical corps capable of disrupting things. #30 Owen Nelson (9-2-1, 1.59, .920) emerged down the stretch to seize the goalie job. This is a young group, but it has some real talent to go on a potential run here.

Centennial (19-7-2, #15, 2-seed in 5AA)
State appearances: 5 (last in 2018)
Championships: 1 (2004)
Key section wins: 5-1 over #8 Rogers, 5-2 over #7 Maple Grove

The Cougars may have had the most convincing run through sections of anyone as they beat a couple of top 10 teams with some style and rode that wave to an improbable but deserved 3-seed.

#17 Harper Searles (24-41-65) is the straw that stirs the drink and could easily have been a Mr. Hockey finalist, and #5 Heath Nelson (36-28-63) is right there with him production-wise, creating a dynamic duo to lead the way. This is not an overly deep team, but #22 Alex Clampitt (15-19-34) and #6 Gavin Cunningham (6-17-23) provide some valuable support, and #12 Austin Petersen (11-26-37) is the blueline star, working in tandem with the star forwards to create offense and lead a potent power play.

After splitting time for much of the season, #33 Easton Cody (10-4-2, 2.47, .922) was a star in sections. As a veteran-led team on a mission, the opportunity has fallen right in front of this group to do some damage in this Tourney.

Heath Nelson, Centennial

Elk River/Zimmerman vs. #1 Edina

Kole Mears, Elk River

Elk River/Zimmerman (18-9-1, #20, 4-seed in 8AA)
State appearances: 7 (last in 2005)
Championships: 1 (2001)
Key section wins: 4-2 over #17 Moorhead

The Elks busted through after a 19-year absence, atoning for years of playoff struggles with a dramatic upset of Moorhead after an improbable second-half run that also included wins over Andover and Centennial and a tie with Rogers.

The depth isn’t overwhelming, but they have proven dangerous thanks to the talents of #11 Kole Mears (20-17-37), #10 Braden Hansberger (9-26-35), #18 Gavin Sperling (9-16-25), and #13 Daniel Babcock (11-12-23). #7 Cooper Anderson (9-18-27) is their blueline stud, and he will have to play a vital role for them to stick around with Edina. They have a rock in goal, #35 Gavin Greniuk (16-9-1, 2.24, .927), who will need to be on top of his game to keep this quarterfinal interesting: he made 46 saves in these teams’ December meeting, and even that wasn’t enough. They’ll have to keep the score low, frustrate the Hornets, and ride a partisan crowd.

Edina (23-4-1, #3, 2-seed in 6AA)
State appearances: 42 (6 as Edina East/West in the 70s and 80s; three in a row) 
Championships: 13 (1969, 1971, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1997, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2019 as Edina; 1974, 1978, and 1979 as Edina East) 
Key section wins: 2-1 over #4 Benilde-St. Margaret’s, 4-2 over #2 Wayzata

In a year of chaos, the one constant is Edina, who is back again and a clear favorite to win a field depleted of many of their most likely rivals.

Their top line of Mr. Hockey finalist and two-way beast #18 Jackson Nevers (17-33-50), clutch scorer #21 Bobby Cowan (21-19-40), and multi-sport star sophomore #9 Mason West (14-21-35) is the best on offer. The tenacious #11 Ryan Flaherty (14-14-28) and #23 Michael Risteau (10-14-24), along with emerging sophomore #19 Casey Vandertop (9-18-27), give them scoring depth, but it goes well beyond that through four lines that can grind down anyone in the state.

#4 Barrett Dexheimer (3-24-27) might be the best defenseman in the field, and his young partner #7 Sam Peckham (1-20-21) is another piece of a team that has managed to seamlessly integrate some serious underclassman talent with a senior core. #30 Joey Bertram (21-4-1, 1.60, .938) is rock solid in goal, creating a team that has no obvious weaknesses.

Class AA is the Hornets' to lose, and with no Minnetonka or private schools beyond unseeded Cretin, they are back to claim their traditional villain role.

Barrett Dexheimer, Edina

#5 Grand Rapids vs. #4 White Bear Lake

Will Shermoen, Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids (17-11, #18, 1-seed in 7AA)
State appearances: 17 (last in 2017)
Championships: 4 (1975, 1976, 1980, 2017)
Key section win: 3-2 (2 OT) over #11 Andover

The Thunderhawks are back in St. Paul for the first time since their thrilling 2017 title run, and while this group does not have that team’s stunning firepower, they are deep and balanced.

Offensively, the Garski brothers, sophomore #19 Nathan (17-19-36) and senior Jacob (10-25-35), lead the attack, and linemate #22 Seth Carlson (11-10-21) was the section final hero. The strength of this team is its defense, where #14 Bauer Murphy (12-16-28) is a game-changer, #7 Luka Rohloff (2-9-11) can make things look easy, and #5 Will Shermoen (5-13-18) is next in the queue of solid Rapids D.

Sophomore #1 Carter Casey (9-6, 2.35, .915) emerged from their embarrassment of goalie riches to claim the job. They outshot White Bear heavily in the January loss and will certainly bring the pressure; the question is whether they can score enough to fight through and advance in this Tourney.

White Bear Lake (20-7-1, #19, 2-seed in 4AA)
State appearances: 20 (last in 2019)
Key section wins: 5-1 over #23 Stillwater, 3-0 over #9 Hill-Murray

It’s not always pretty, but between a rigid defense and a goal-scorer who can beat anyone, the Bears are perhaps in the best position to end their first-round Tourney hex since 2005.

Their undisputed superstar is Mr. Hockey Finalist #9 Nolan Roed (33-24-57), who carries the load, though his job has gotten easier with the return of #8 Jack Stanius (7-14-21), who missed over half the season with an injury. There isn’t a ton of scoring depth beyond that, but they do have a lot of respectable role players who can help them hold up against deeper attacks, including #11 Dylan Buetow (9-12-21) and double-digit sophomore goal-scorer #40 Tyler Lalonde (11-8-19). #6 Will Distad (7-21-28) is a force on the blue line.

#30 Leo Gabriel (18-7-1, 1.87, .924) has 8 shutouts on the season and has been a vital piece of the Bears’ puzzle. Like Rapids, they will look to grind this out and get themselves into uncharted territory. This first game will likely be a war of attrition.

Tyler Lalonde, White Bear Lake

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