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Peewee A State Tourney Preview

By frederick61, 03/14/13, 6:45AM CDT


Cottage Grove’s goalie Luke Maul makes a diving attempt to block a Sabres’s shot in the Wolfpack’s semifinal win over Shakopee in the East Regionals at Wakota

Friday the Peewee A State Tourney opens play at the Faribault Ice Arena on the county fairgrounds.  Eight teams from seven different districts are playing in the tourney.  Only D3, with the Minneapolis Storm and Orono, has more than one team in the peewee A state this year.

By YHH count, 76 associations fielded peewee A teams.  Of those 76 teams, eight teams are left standing and have 2 or 3 games left in their season.

The NOW top three ranked peewee A teams made it to the state tourney, #1 Edina, #2 Minneapolis Storm, and #3 Orono.  Sartell, ranked #11 and upset winner in D8, Park Cottage Grove, ranked 13 are the next highest ranked teams at Faribault.

On the surface Friday’s games look like a toss-up in the first quarterfinal game and three David versus Goliath matches in the last three quarterfinal games.  Park Cottage Grove and Luverne open upper bracket play at 2:00; Minneapolis Storm plays East Grand Forks at 4:00 to complete upper bracket play.

Virginia and Orono open lower bracket play at 6:00; Edina and Sartell complete lower bracket play with the last quarterfinal game at 8:00.

One of this year’s quirks is that in three youth state tourneys, Edina plays Sartell in the opening quarterfinal game.  The Edina peewee B team and the Edina bantam A team also play teams from Sartell.  It will be interesting to see how the two diverse association programs, Edina and Sartell, match-up playing each other in three quarterfinal state tourney games.

Friday Games (Upper Bracket Quarterfinals)

Park Cottage Grove ranked #13 by NOW finished the season with a .500 record; and the PCG team finished 10th in 12 team D8 Peewee AA/A league.  After playing mostly AA teams all season, the Wolfpack (also called the Wolfmen by YHH) came alive at district playoff time beating #4 ranked Sibley to win the D8 playoffs.  At the East Regional played at Wakota, Park-Cottage Grove continued their winning ways by sweeping the East regional beating 10th ranked Shakopee 5-4, a tough North St. Paul that was making a strong post season run 4-3, and #1 ranked Edina to win the East championship.

Cottage Grove’s late season run is fueled by their defense, especially their goal tender Luke Maul and solid play of defenseman Andrew Hawn.  Their offense is persistent.  Led by Keegan Oberding and Mason Porter, they are tenuous playing the whole game constantly probing for that opportunity to score.  It lulls the opponent and makes the “Wolfmen” an extremely dangerous team.

Luverne is ranked #24 by NOW.  They have 9 forwards on the team and will be playing teams that skate three lines at Faribault.

The Cardinals will be the closest team to a home team at Faribault this weekend.  The Cardinals have skated in D9 for a number of years until this past season and usually represented D9 well in previous post season play.

Luverne compiled a .670 season record this season.  They finished in second place in D4/5 Silver Peewee A league behind New Ulm-Sleepy Eye.  They lost to NUSE 1-0 in district 5 championship playoff game, beat St. Cloud A 3-0 to take D5 #2 seed to South Regional.  In front of a home crowd in the newly refinished Blue Mound Arena, the Cardinals beat Rochester Black 7-2 for South #2 seed to state.

Luverne has a furious defense led by one of the biggest peewee A player in the state, Trey Roberts.  Roberts is a large version of Toby Sengvongxay.  Toby played the same way for another 9 man Luverne Peewee A team a few years ago and was one of 20 Select 15 players to represent Minnesota at National tryouts last summer.

Both Toby and Trey had to play conservatively.  They had to be aware that they would be on the ice 60%+ of the time during the game.  For all his size, Roberts is an extremely quick and smooth puck handler.  Fatigue, not the opponent, is Roberts’ nemesis on the ice.

On offense, the Cardinals tend to not substitute lines, mixing in a lot of individual substitutions during the game.  The Cardinal forwards play off each other well and can move the puck low in their opponent’s zone, giving themselves chances to score.  They are aggressive and are led by Declan Beers, Coy Gonnerman, and Ben Serie.

In a tough call, Luverne pulls a mild upset.  The Cardinals win.  But whichever team wins this opening game, that team will be the sentimental favorite in the semifinals on Saturday.

The second game on Friday matches the Minneapolis Storm and East Grand Forks.

The Minneapolis Storm is ranked #2 by NOW and have quietly compiled an .800 season record.  The Storm took second place in D3 regular season finishing behind Orono, lost to Orono 5-2 in D3 playoffs, beat Crow River 3-1 for #2 seed to West Regional.  They swept through West Regional beating Spring Lake Park, Crow River, and Orono 4-2 in a wild championship game at St. Louis Park to claim the #1 West seed to the state.

The Storm did not look good in the early season and nobody expected much from them when they played in the Burnsville Thanksgiving Day tourney.  But they swept their pool, gave one of the top ranked AA teams, Eastview AA, a game in the semifinals before losing 4-1.  The Storm went on to beat Hastings AA 2-1 to take third place.

Both Eastview AA and Hastings AA made it to AA regional tourneys this year.  The last team the Storm beat to win the pool at Burnsville was Park Cottage Grove 4-3.

Since the Burnsville tourney, the Storm has been steadily improving, particularly at defense.  If there is one team that has an “axe to grind” at Faribault it is the Storm.  They lost to Edina 9-4 in early December and will be anxious to avenge that loss.  The Storm has good size at forward.  Their forwards were moving the puck well in the D3 playoffs and the West Regional and are led by Jacob Erickson, Jake Hale, and Spencer Sande.  Their defense play has been good and the Storm have solid goal tending in Oliver (Ollie) Evenson.

East Grand Forks is NOW ranked #47 and had an under .500 record for the season.  Still they are D16’s regular season champions and came close to being the D16 playoff champs, but lost to Warroad 5-2 in the playoff championship game.  The Green Wave took D16’s #2 seed to North, beat Greenway 4-3 in overtime, beat Denfeld 5-2 in semifinals, lost to Virginia in North Championship game 7-4.  After all those games, their state tourney ticket came down to beating Warroad.  The Green Wave did, 3-2 in double overtime, for the #2 seed.

EGF plays a dozen or more games with North Dakota teams each year.  As a result, this year they did not have a large number of games reported to YHH (15 games total).  One thing that YHH needs to fix before next year’s rankings, is to find a way to include the North Dakota teams.

The EGF games that have been reported to YHH are blowouts, mostly the Roseau Tourney results, hence the #47 NOW ranking.

That makes it hard to gauge the Green Wave this year.  They could a tsunami or they could be a ripple.  They are skating 11 forwards and will have one of the shortest benches at Faribault.  The real question is how much has EGF improved in the past two months since Roseau?  If they play like past state tourney entries from EGF, they will be tough.

The Storm win, too many Green Wave unknowns.

Friday Games (Lower Bracket Quarterfinals)

Friday’s lower bracket quarterfinals open with Orono playing Virginia.  Orono, ranked #3 in the NOW peewee A poll, played over .700 hockey on the season.  The Spartans have had a running battle with the Minneapolis Storm all season including the playoffs.  They edged the Minneapolis Storm for the D3 title, beat the Storm in the D3 playoffs and lost to the Storm in the West Regional finals.  Orono struggled in their December tourney; they couldn’t get by Grand Forks ND tying them in pool play3-3 and losing to them in the championship game 4-1.

Since then the Spartans have improved.  They really played well together as a team in the D3 playoffs and in the West Regionals.  Orono has a good, physically strong, set of forwards and defensemen.  Their offense is led by Davey Burns, Will Larson, and George Grannis at forwards.

Virginia is ranked #34 by NOW.  The Blue Devils had a .500 record on the season, won the D12 regular season title, won the D12 playoffs beating Eveleth-Mesabi East 10-0 and swept the North Regional title beating Duluth East A, Proctor, and East Grand Forks.

One knew that the Blue Devils were going to be a better team this year when they won their Queen City tourney in mid-December and then followed that with a good showing at the Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan tourney.

The Blue Devils did as expected in the pool at the Paul Bunyan, but in the Blue Ox playoffs, they surprised people by beating Marquette, Michigan 10-7 in a wild game and then losing a tough game to Cloquet 4-3 in the Blue Ox championship.  To put a perspective on Virginia’s play at Bemidji, Rogers AA was the fourth team in the Blue Ox and they lost to Marquette to finish fourth.  Seven weeks later, Rogers AA knocked highly ranked Elk River AA out of the top D10 seeds and ended up playing in the South AA regional at St. Cloud.
Still, Orono wins, the Spartans are really playing well.

The final game Friday matches #1 ranked Edina against #11 ranked Sartell.  Sartell had a .600 record this season and finished third in D5 gold league behind STMA AA and St. Cloud AA, both AA state tourney entrants playing at Edina.

The Sabres were only A team playing in the D5 gold and had AA 3-4-1 against AA teams.  Sartell won D5 peewee A playoffs beating Sauk Rapids and Hutchinson and picked the D5 #1 seed to the South Regional.  At the South Regional at Luverne, Sartell beat St. Cloud A, Owatonna, and Luverne to win the #1 seed.  The Sabres gave up three goals in those five games.

Sartell has a balanced scoring attack led by Nathan Warner and Jack Hennenmann, but in the end the Sabres rely on defense with Cole Bright in the nets to keep the game close.

Edina in NOW’s #1 ranked peewee A team in the state.  The Hornets posted a 44-3-4, the best record of all 76 peewee A teams.  Part of the Hornet’s record is a 9-1-2 record against AA teams.  Their sole AA loss was to Roseville AA 5-4.  They tied Jefferson AA 1-1 (but lost the overtime/shotout to the Jags in the Woodbury Rumble Championship game) and tied Superior Wisconsin AA 1-1.  The Hornets have held their opponents to 18 goals in their last 18 games, but they don’t lack offense.  They scored 101 goals in those same 18 games.

Edina’s offense is led by Andy Kromer.  Kromer is a big rangy forward that has been the consistent “go to” player for the Hornets.  He has a great supporting cast led by Demetrios Koumontzis, Peter Engleking and Quinn Marple.  Their goal tending is solid.  Goalie Garrett Mackay came through for the Hornets in the East Regional quarterfinal game against Sibley for the #2 seed by shutting Sibley down in the third period to allow the Hornets to get back in the game leading them to a 5-4 victory.

Edina beats Sartell; the Hornets have all the cards.  But still this is kids playing a game.

Saturday/Sunday Games

At the Edina Invitational, Mound/Westonka and Edina went at each other in the championship game of the peewee A tourney.  Edina won 3-2 in an exciting game and a fun one to watch.  Orono lost 7-1 to Mound/Westonka a month later.  These Edina kids are up to win this tourney and all things point to a Hornet win.  But Orono’s play in a tough D3 playoff was exceptional.  They showed poise and understanding of the game.  The nod hear goes to the Spartans, but enthusiasm shown by the Edina kids after their 5-4 win over Sibley to go to state is what peewee hockey is all about.

Minneapolis Storm has too many “guns” for the short benched Cardinals.  In the second semifinal game played Saturday, the Storm win.

Sunday’s championship game would match the Storm and Orono.  It will be the fifth time this year that the two teams have played each other.  They split the first four games.  In those four games each team scored 13 goals.  If you flipped a coin to pick a winner, the coin would probably end up standing on an edge.  That is how close these teams are, but the nod goes to the Spartans.  Edina beats Luverne for third place and Cottage Grove wins the consolation title.

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