The #1 ranked bantam A team, Wayzata Gold, tied Crow River A in D3 last night to set up a key D3 battle with #25 ranked bantam AA, Osseo/Maple Grove, Saturday afternoon at the Osseo Arena. The OMG game is only critical for the Wayzata A team. It matters to the Gold.
The Osseo/Maple Grove AA team will be playing for pride. The Crimson and the Wayzata Blue, as D3 ‘s only AA teams, play six less games then D3’s A teams and can’t win the regular season title.
Instead, the Wayzata Blue and OMG AA are guaranteed a slot in the West AA Regional and can almost name their first round regional opponents. Most likely the Crimson will play either Elk River AA or Centennial AA, the two teams leading in the race to get D10’s #1 seed. OMG is the odds on favorite to get D3’s #2 AA seed. D3’s #2 seed to the West Regional will play D10′s #1 seed.
Wayzata AA Blue has a lock on D3’s #1 seed unless District 3 decides to have a two team playoff. The Blue will play D15’s #2 seed (Moorhead AA or Brainerd AA) in their first regional game.
The simple truth is that the D3 regular season competition has no special meaning for either the Wayzata Blue AA or the OMG AA teams.
However it has meaning for the Wayzata Gold. They are in the hunt for D3’s regular season title and the #1 seed in the upcoming D3 playoffs to begin the third week of February. The Gold is in a competitive battle with Armstrong A and Hopkins A for first place. A win over Mound/Westonka on Friday and a win over OMG AA on Saturday would put the Gold in the driver’s seat for the D3 crown and a #1 seed to D3’s 9 team Bantam A District playoffs.
Their brothers, the Wayzata Blue AA can help them tonight. If the Wayzata Blue team beats Armstrong in a D3 game at New Hope, the Gold chances to win the title improve tremendously.
Crow River has struggled in District 3 play this year. The Tigers are 2-5-3 in league play before last night’s game. Crow River played well in Hastings’ Big Chill tourney last week. They played #2 ranked Mahtomedi tough before losing 5-3 (YHH game story is posted), beat Tartan, and lost to current D3 leader Armstrong 2-1 in the consolation championship game.
The first period of last night’s game was a line matching affair. Both coaches seemed bent on matching Crow River’s line led by Ben Meyers and the Trojan line led by Tyler Stevens and Jaedin Ness. When playing each other, both lines were effective trapping the other in their opponent’s zone; but both lines could not get shots on the net.
The result of the line matching was a scoreless first period.
The Gold would hit the ice with a combination of players from the Stevens/Ness line and the play would end up in the Crow River zone. The Trojan forwards were excellent at trapping the Tiger’s defense in both corners and taking away the breakout play. But all that resulted from that effort was time spent in the Crow River zone. The Trojans got few shots on the net.
When the Meyers led line hit the ice, the play would shift to the Wayzata zone. The Tigers did less trapping in the corners and maintained the puck movement around the perimeter looking for a breaking wing. Meyers was the threat and when he got the puck he would attack. But the Gold gave him special attention and constantly slowed Meyer’s attacks. Meyer’s linemates didn’t recognize opportunity and as result, few of them shot. Meyer’s would try to set his teammates up, but they just wouldn’t make the most of their opportunities. Meyer’s ended up with most of the shots on goal, usually forced.
The first period ended in a 0-0 tie.
Play in the second period transitioned to the “old up and down” game. Lines were still being matched, but it was no longer the focus of the play. The teams skated and passed and moved the puck, but had few shots on goal. They were playing without purpose, moving the puck first and then trying to decide on the attack.
That type of play resulted in more individual effort. Meyers literally willed himself into scoring positions but was always getting slowed by the Gold’s defense. His teammates never put themselves in a position to cover the rebounds or to take a pass. Often, they would start ot back pedal in anticipation of a Gold breakout play.
The Gold’s Jared Bennett and Jackson Nauss emerged a strong force in the Gold’s attack especially when on the ice with Stevens and Ness. Stevens and Ness were effective in “clogging” the area around the Crow River net and getting quick movement on the puck. That left Bennett and Nauss to be the offensive aggressor and they filled that role well getting some good shots on the Crow River goal as the second period progressed.
With 3 minutes left in the second period, Wayzata developed tremendous pressure and held it on the Crow River defense for most of the remainder of the period. With under 30 seconds left in the period, Crow River took a faceoff in their zone, moved the puck into the Gold’s zone and tried to bury the puck. Wayzata’s goalie Dan Nispel came up with the big save.
But as in the first period, there were few shots on the goal and both teams goalies (Crow River’s Erik Peterson and Wayzata’s Nispel) took care of any pucks that cleared by their defense. The second period ended with the score 0-0.
The game pace picked up in the third period. Wayzata had some earlier pressure, but the game resorted to the same transitional play of the second period. There was no real line matching. Both teams just moved the puck. Wayzata started to play a little more physical, but there were few hard physical checks.
And there were few shots on goal by both teams.
For Crow River, Meyers made an intense play halfway through the third period. He picked up a loose puck at the Wayzata blue line and with a burst of speed got the angle on the Wayzata defense down low. Fending off a defender with his right arm, Meyers shot the puck at the Wayzata goal knowing when he did he would end up in the end boards.
After hitting the boards, he was “shaken” and started to leave the ice. His back was to the Wayzata net and he sensed that the Gold defenders were playing loose with the puck on the breakout. That “stirred” Meyers and he turned back into the play. He knocked the breakout attempt puck loose. It slid to the same crease area Meyers had just shot from. Meyers dove to get a shot on the goal knowing he would be hitting the same end boards again.
His shot was stopped by Nispel.
It was a James Bond thing, only Meyers was shaken and stirred and shaken again.
The third period was scoreless. Wayzata Gold had pressure on the Crow River late in the period, but neither team scored. The game ended in a 0-0 tie. The Gold ended up with 2 points, not the three they wanted. But it was enough to put the Gold in a position to wind up the D3 race this weekend.
Next week the Wayzata Gold play in Rochester’s 12 team bantam A tourney and the following week the Gold play in the Woodbury Rumble. Crow River plays OMG’s bantam A team and the Mpls Storm A team in two D3 games next week. Ben Meyer’s was a YHH top 50 pick as a peewee last year.