skip navigation

Minnesota Made Super Squirts Have Epic Tilt in Mid-Season Championship

By Guest, 01/29/13, 10:45AM CST


The Minnesota Made Super Squirt checking league has been a fascinating study in the continued debate about checking in youth hockey. The league could not have provided a better showcase to the merits of kids learning this essential skill at a younger age than the Mid-Season Championship game between the Saints and Wild, during the January 18-21 weekend. The Wild won the game 3-1, in a tight contest that featured the great speed and competitiveness of the athletes, proper checking within the flow of the game and great goaltending by the Wild’s Ethan Haider and Tyler Steffens of the Saints.

After a season of scores like 9-7, 14-5, and a general trend of high-scoring games that tend to occur with the 90 minute game times, the league consisting of the Wild, Saints, North Stars and Moose saw a lot of lower scoring games throughout the tournament. To observers of the league, the lower scores indicated a progression from the athletes, of playing more disciplined and mature hockey.

The Saints, led by Coach Darren Blauert and John Devoe had come into the Championship game as the favorite, after winning the first four games of the tournament with great passing and a willingness to get into the dirty areas to score goals and make plays. The flu bug, association tournaments and a few injuries left the Saints short-handed throughout the weekend. Winning four in a row coming into the Championship was a valiant effort by the Saints, as stringing any numbers of victories in a row is tough when every team is competitive and can beat any other team on any given day.

The Wild led by Coach John Boche had come into the semi-finals with a 1-2 record in pool play, but after losing to the Moose in pool play, 7-6, they proceeded to blow out the Moose in the semi-final. Playing fast, disciplined and creative, the Wild constantly pinch their defense in an effort to maintain offensive zone possession, whereas the Saints play a more straight-up style with emphasis on the transition game and getting all five players into the rush. The game promised to be a good one, as both teams traded wins all year.

The Saints immediately started peppering the Wild goalie Haider, with shot-after-shot in the first period. The Wild were able to get some nice counterattacks, but the Saints defenseman, including Andrew Boemer, Brett Oberle, Brian Brown and Stevan Blauert were able to control possession, beat people on the rush and make strong first passes which led to a lot of odd-man chances, but they still couldn’t seem to solve Haider. The line of Bjorn Kilen, Jackson Hallum and Johnny Devoe had been one of the best lines in the tournament and they were having numerous quality scoring chances in the first, but Haider was literally standing on his head and making great saves, stymying the opportunistic Saints. At the end of the first, the Wild were able to take a 1-0 lead on a nice low shot by Jack Kimlinger, stealing momentum from the surging Saints.

The game in the second period was hard-skating, physical and entertaining to watch as the kids battled for every inch and opportunity on the ice. Despite more breakaways, partial breakaways and odd man rushes, Haider and the Wild defense kept the Saints off the scoreboard. Wild defenseman, Dylan Zitzloff, Kyle Mortenson, Gabby Huson, and Dante Hajiani did a great job of keeping the Saints forwards to the outside and taking good angles on their cutback lanes. Blake Mesenburg, who had just come back from a nasty bout of the flu, was able to finally crack Haider late in the second, capitalizing on a Wild turnover deep in their zone and bury the puck with a great individual effort.

The game stayed 1-1 past the ten-minute mark into the third period, until a Wild face-off win in the Saints zone got back to the point to Hajiani, who unleashed a sizzling wrister that got through traffic and beat Steffens to give the Wild a 2-1 lead. The Saints kept on coming as Grant Ellings, Jalen Henkel and Nathan Zawoyski created scoring chances, but could not solve Haider, who was the best player on the ice. Johnny Meiers of the Wild, scored from the left hash mark with about a minute left to put the game out of reach, 3-1. That would be the final as the Saints top line of Hallum, Kilen and Devoe tried valiantly to beat Haider on their last shift, but couldn’t put the puck past him.

There were many standouts and great players from each team that contributed to their successes throughout the tournament, but probably none more than Wild goaltender Ethan Haider who was the MVP of the Championship team. The Wild’s line of Nate Schweitzer, Will Traegar and Cam Boche scored many key goals throughout the tournament and had great chemistry as a line. Stevan Blauert of the Saints was one of the top point producers on the Saints and showed off his great vision and hard, accurate shot. Ethan Safi and Jalen Henkel from the Saints were valuable contributors all weekend. Coach Darren Blauert of the Saints liked what he saw from his team and the league as a whole.

“The speed of play and overall team play in this tournament has drastically increased since the first tournament we had. The players are learning to play the body more effectively and taking time and space away from puck-carriers,” Blauert said.

The league has been a great success, as the athletes have clinics at the beginning of every month learning the proper techniques for checking, pinning and absorbing contact the right way. The gradual progression of introducing checking, from going through the hands, shoulder contact, same direction contact to full-on contact in December has helped the athletes be a lot more comfortable in playing a game with checking. The league has many top-end 2001 and 2002 kids from around the metro, and the competition and development has helped each athlete improve.  The Saints, Moose and North Stars are looking forward to the season-ending tournament in March to topple the Wild.

Recent MN YHH News