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Peewee AA South Regional Preview

By frederick61, 02/25/13, 6:00AM CST


St. Cloud’s Brad Amundson cuts to the top of the crease beating MAML’s goalie Josh Cotter for the score. Amundson got the hat trick in Saturday’s D5 playoff game

Note: The South Regional at the peewee AA level attracted a lot of attention this year.  The Regional is comprised of Districts 4, 5, and 9.  With only six AA teams fielded between District 5 and 9 at the peewee AA level, something had to be done.  In October, a Minnesota Hockey committee of unknown names decided on re-allocation of seeds for the South Regional, but they went further.  They tried to fix the AA regionals to make certain that the first AA state tourney would be a super tourney.

At least that is what people in the North Regional claim.  One thing is certain, the unnamed committee did not follow precedent and they did not allow the rules and handbook of past years to play out.

What they did in the South was to load top rated districts into the South Regional.  They did this in October.

If they had made no change, the first AA state tourney opening round would have matched East Regional #1 and #2 seeds versus North seeds #1 and #2; the other two games would have matched West #1 and #2 versus South seeds #1 and #2.
If the Minnesota Hockey had not made changes based on their October interpretation of a “weak” versus “strong” team; there was a possibility that an Edina AA would beat a Bemidji AA team 17-0 and a Centennial AA team would beat River Lakes 17-0.  All four opening games could have been blowouts.

The “unknown committees” at Minnesota Hockey had based their whole premise of the AA tourney on the idea it would have all the strong teams playing each other.  As a result there would be no 17-0 blowouts.  In October, they were faced with the possibility that blowouts would happen.

So they moved their interpretation of a strong team into their interpretation of a weaker region.  For the South that meant instead of all six AA teams in the South Districts would not get a shot at the state tourney automatically (12 other AA teams got an automatic seeds to a regional).  Minnesota Hockey ruled D5 could only send three teams.  That not only violated precedence of what they did in the past, it went against what they were doing in Districts 3, 9, 11, 12, 15, and 16 this year.

The next time someone approaches Minnesota Hockey and says “it will not affect regular season play, we will simply do it at the end of the season and nothing will change”, kick them out.

Peewee AA South Regional Preview

District 5 is sending NOW ranked #5 St. Michael/Albertville, #7 ranked St. Cloud, and #33 ranked River Lakes to the South Regional as result of their playoff that ended this past Sunday.

MAML, ranked #27 and a state tourney entrant last year, was eliminated and will not be part of the 32 team regional tourney.  Their fate was decided by an unknown committee in October that District 5 teams were too weak to play stronger teams.

As a result, there are four strong teams coming in from outside to play in the South Regional.  One is Stillwater winner of the D2 regular season championship.  Jefferson from D6, Hastings from D8, and Rogers from D10 join Stillwater as the four outsiders.  Rochester AA from D9 rounds out the field.

The tourney is an eight team double elimination bracket play.  The same committee in October revised the seedings for the South Tourney.  The essentially took D4’s three seeds and turned D4 #1 seed into D2 #3 seed; D4 #2 seed into D6 #4; and D4 #3 seed into D10#4 and replaced all the D4’s with those seeds.  In the final step, they game D9’s #2 seed into D8’s #4 seed.  As a result, all of the outside seeds were played opening games against all of the South’s entries from the original districts.

They did this to the South in last year’s peewee A tourney played at Burnsville.  All four outside entries won by big scores.  Perhaps they confused with the strength of last year’s teams this year teams.  But it was October and none of the D5 teams had played a game yet.

Peewee AA Upper Bracket

The opening game of the upper bracket is played Friday at the MAC in St. Cloud.  The game matches Rochester AA and Rogers AA.  Rochester AA continues to play an independent schedule, playing games on the weekend.  They have struggled this year.  At the Anoka tourney, the Red played some good hockey despite losing their opener to the Mpls Storm A 5-1, they beat Mahtomedi 2-1 before losing to Anoka in the consolation championship.  They have played only five games in February and that hurts.  In February, the Red have lost to Mankato A 2-1, Hermantown AA 3-1 and tied Northfield A 3-3.  Their defense is tough and tough defenses this time of the year can carry a team far.

That defense will be up against a Rogers team led by Gabby Billing and Justin Grudem.  Billing scored a hat trick in the Royals 3-2 win over Elk River in the opening game of the D10 playoffs two weeks ago.  Grudem got two assists.  Billing scored Rogers only goal in the Royals 2-1 lost to Blaine.  The Rogers team has grown and matured in their play.  They will be tough and should beat Rochester.

The second matches NOW ranked #7 St. Cloud AA and Stillwater AA.  St. Cloud looks to have peaked at the right time.  They are a strong team and skated three good lines in winning the Center Ice Classic in January.  St. Cloud, in their win over MAML in the D5 playoffs Saturday, changed their lines in the past few weeks.  They created a very good line that went on to score six of their eight goals Saturday in their win over MAML  St. Cloud is loaded with good players and improving players.  They have become one of the toughest peewee AA teams in the state, and with the state tourney time approaching, the timing couldn’t have been better.

Stillwater is the puzzle in this tourney.  All season long they beat up on D2 competition, but struggled outside of D2.  The Ponies have played tough competition and played them close.  But in the past month, they are starting to lose big (10-2 Minnetonka AA, 9-5 to Andover AA).  They have played good defense and have solid play at the forwards.  They should play better at the MAC, but not good enough to beat St. Cloud.  The Huskies win.

Saturday’s first semifinal game should match St. Cloud AA and Rogers AA with the winner going to the Championship game Sunday.  This will be the first meeting between the two teams this year.  St. Cloud AA should win sending Rogers AA to play a Saturday night game.  On the loser bracket side, Stillwater AA plays Rochester AA Saturday morning.  It is hard to believe that these two teams have not played each other this year.  This is a tough game; the nod here goes to Stillwater.  Rochester AA is eliminated from the tourney.

Peewee AA Lower Bracket

NOW ranked #5 STMA plays Hastings in the first game of the lower bracket Friday evening.  STMA has played well early in the season and has played better late in the season.  Like St. Cloud, everything on their team seems to be kicking in and peaking just at state tourney time.  The Knights have a tough defense led by Zach Sjelin, a big, strong, fast skater with smart hockey sense, and tough set of forwards.  The Knights skate a balanced three lines led by Jordan Drobinski, natural goal scorer and playmaker. 

Hasting could not get by Eagan in the D8 playoffs losing twice, but they surprised Lakeville North beating the Panthers 3-0 in a key game to get to the South.  Hastings plays a good defense, led by goalie Katie McKenzie.  When McKenzie is “on”, she is a tough in the nets.  Their forwards, led by Jaden Axelrod, run a slashing type of offense.  Still, this should be STMA game to win.  The Knights move on.

The final game of Friday matches River Lakes and Jefferson.  The Stars have stepped up this season in D5 by playing at the AA level.  Last year River Lakes should signs that their peewee team would be tough.  This year the showed they could play tough losing to STMA 4-1 in the game for the #1 seed.  River Lakes is another improving D5 program and shows the balance D5 has achieved since St. Cloud joined two years ago.

Jefferson has a mature team for peewees.  They have a solid set of forwards that work hard backed by a stiff defense led by Megan Cornell.  Cornell plays her position smartly and will likely be on the ice in critical situations.  Unlike other kids playing defense, Megan does not just blindly throw the puck around the boards on breakout attempts.  She moves quickly and she skates with purpose.

In a tough game, the Jags get the edge.  River Lakes will be prepared; St. Cloud is in their backyard-a 25 minute drive on Highway 23.

The Saturday semifinal game between Jefferson and STMA will be the first meeting between the two teams this season.  STMA forwards will be tough for the Jags defense to handle and will pressure the Jefferson goalie.  Their defense will be tough on the Jefferson forwards.  STMA wins.

In the loser game Saturday between Hastings and River Lakes, the Stars beat Hastings.  Their defense stops the Hastings forwards.  Hastings is out of the tourney.

Saturday Evening Loser Bracket (cross over games)

In the second round of the loser bracket Saturday evening, the semifinal losers cross over brackets and play on the other side.  Jefferson would play Stillwater in the first game and both teams will hit the wall.  The Jags will have a six hour break Saturday from their loss to STMA; Stillwater will have 8 hour break after beating Rochester.  Two even teams at this point in the season, both teams playing well, the nod goes to Stillwater.  Jefferson goes home.

In the second game Saturday evening matches Rogers and River Lakes.  The Royals win.  They play a steady game and have grown (physically) as a team since YHH saw them play at Orono’s Best of the West in early December.

Sunday Games

The top two D5 teams should play in the Championship game.  St. Cloud has the edge in the forward lines but will be matched against a strong defense.  St. Cloud tied MAML 3-3 a week ago last Saturday and Sunday tied STMA 4-4.  St. Cloud shifted their lines and beat MAML easily 8-1 last weekend.  MAML  is not an easy team to beat in a critical game, the nod goes to St. Cloud.  They get the South’s #1 seed to the state.

Stillwater and Rogers will go at each other Sunday morning.  Rogers wins, the Royals have grown.  Unfortunately so has STMA.  STMA beats Rogers in the game for South’s #2 seed to the state.

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