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Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan Tourney Preview

By frederick61, 12/27/12, 2:45PM CST


Grand Forks Seawolves’ Tyler Hoffarth scores against Buffalo AA in the Orono Best of the West tourney won by the Seawolves

The Paul Bunyan tourney, put on by Bemidji, has become one of the most popular tourney’s in Minnesota.  This year, the tourney field of 16 teams was filled in early September.  Part of the reason for it’s popularity is the teams come from North Dakota, Ontario, and Michigan every year to play in this tourney.  The mix of teams from out of state attacts Minnesota teams searching for different teams to play.

Bemidji also puts on a great show.  That helps.  The tourney is the only Minnesota Tourney that has an Olympic style opening ceremony for all teams that participate prior to the opening game.

And their entrance fee is modest with each team being guaranteed a 5 game tourney.

The tourney opens Friday, December 28 and concludes with championship games Sunday.

This year, the top three ranked North Dakota teams (#1 Grand Forks Seawolves, #2 Grand Forks Greyhounds, and #3 Fargo Freeze Blue) have entered.  Two teams from Michigan, the Marquette Sentenials and Keweenaw, will play.  Fort Frances Ontario returns.

Challenging them from Minnesota will be three YHH top ranked AA teams, #6 St. Cloud AA, #9 ranked Brainerd, and #12 ranked Grand Rapids.  Minnesota teams, Andover AA, Bemidji AA, Crookston A, Virginia A, Cloquet AA, Rogers AA, and Eagan AA round out the field.

The Greyhounds are the returning Champions and look to repeat.  The tourney championship could be an all North Dakota final, an indication of how the North Dakota teams have improved in the last few years.

North (Dunn Brothers) Division: Bemidji AA, Marquette 00 AA Tier2, Grand Forks Seawolves A, and Andover AA

The North Division opens play Firday morning with Bemidji AA playing Marquette following the opening ceremonies.  Bemidji AA is on an upswing.  They opened December with a Southern tour and got thumped by St. Cloud AA 3-0, Jefferson AA 7-0, and Edina AA 13-0.  Since then, the Lumberjacks seem to improve, play a good game, and then lose.  They tied Brainerd AA 3-3 last weekend and then lost to Moorhead AA 4-1 the next day.

The Marquette Sentenials are a 2000 Tier AA team from Michigan.   The Sentenials are 27-8-1 overall and ranked 27th nationally.  They played in the Duluth East tourney in early November and lost to Chaska AA 8-0, Duluth East AA 9-1, and beat Little Falls A twice 8-2 and 10-2.  Since then, they have compiled a 12-2-1 record playing teams in the Michigan Upper Peninsula.
In the first of two close games in this division, the edge goes to the host; Bemidji AA wins

Grand Forks Seawolves A are the top ranked peewee A team in North Dakota.  This is the second trip for the Seawolves to Minnesota for a tourney.

The first weekend in December, the Seawolves won the Orono Best of the West tourney.  They beat Buffalo AA 8-1 and tied Orono A 3-3 in pool play.  That was enough to get the Seawolves to the Championship semifinals.  They beat the 14th ranked nationally Omaha Lancers 00 AA Tier 2 in the semifinals 5-2 and host Orono 4-1 A in the championship game.  Their single loss this year is to the Greyhounds 4-1 at Thanksgiving.

Andover AA team has been playing well, they have a 7-2-2 record for December including an impressive wins were over Osseo/Maple Grove AA 2-1 and Blaine AA 6-3 in early December.  Most disappointing was their 7-0 loss to Elk River AA in D10 last week.  Since then they have beaten Champlin Park AA 4-3 and Centennial A  3-0.

In the second close game Dunne Brothers Division, the Seawolves win.
Friday evening North Pool games match Marquette and Andover and Grand Forks Seawolves and Bemidji.  In other tough game, Marquette beats Andover.  The Seawolves beat Bemidji.

In Saturday morning games, the Seawolves beat Marquette to sweep all three pool games and take the North (Dunn Brothers) Pool’s #1 seed to the Championship Bracket.  Andover beats Bemidji creating a three way tie for the remaining seeds.  Marquette takes the tie breaker for the #2 seed to the Lumberjack Bracket; Bemidji takes the #3 seed to the Blue Ox Bracket; and Andover takes the #4 seed to the Headwaters Bracket.

South (Corner Bar) Division: Keweenaw Mi, Eagan AA, Brainerd AA, and Virginia A

If you “google” Keweenaw Mi, you get the peninsula sticking into Lake Superior from the south shore.  If you ask “google” for directions to Keweenaw Mi, you get a red pin on the end of the road in that peninsula.  If you play the Keweenaw hockey team from that area, your team better be prepared to play.  This team is not a newcomer to the Paul Bunyan.  Two years ago they were the Lumberjack Champs, last year they were the Blue Ox Champs.  They lost two early season games to the Marquette Sentenials 7-3 and 7-1.

Keneenaw draws Eagan AA in the first South Division game.  The Wildcats are currently in the middle of the District 8 league.  They are losing tough games to top teams by low scores (#3 ranked Eastview 3-0, #16 ranked Lakeville North AA, and to #5 ranked Sibley A 6-3).  Sibley is the second team to score more than 5 goals on the Wildcats; the Edina AA was the first beating them 8-0.  They are holding their opponents to under three goals a game.
In another tough call, Eagan wins

The second game matches #9 ranked Brainerd AA and Virginia A.  Brainerd takes a 14-4-1 record into the tourney.  Their four losses have been to tough teams (St. Cloud AA twice, Grand Rapids 5-3, and Jefferson 5-3).  The Warriors are 3-0-1 in their last four games.

Virginia beat Greenway to win their Queen City Classic tourney two weeks ago.  The Blue Devils went 7-3 in December and always play in the Paul Bunyan.  They have struggled to win a trophy (last time was in 1993), but always play better after the tourney.  The Blue Devils are one of the favorites in District 12 to make it to the North Regionals this March.  But this weekend in Bemidji, Brainerd wins.

Eagan and Virginia tangle in Friday’s afternoon second game in the South.  Eagan wins.  Brainerd plays Keweenaw in the other North pool game and beats Keweenaw.  That sets up a pool championship game Saturday morning between Brainerd and Eagan.  In a tough game, Brainerd wins to take the South (Corner Bar) Division #1 seed to the Championship Bracket.  Keweenaw beats Virginia in the last pool game Saturday.  Eagan gets the #2 seed and trip to the Lumberjack Bracket; Keweenaw gets the Blue Ox seed and Virginia gets the Headwaters seed.

East (Hampton Inn/Green Mill/Erbert & Gerberts) Division: St. Cloud AA, Fargo, Fort Frances, and Cloquet

St. Cloud plays the Fargo Freeze Blue in the opening East Division game.  The #6 ranked St. Cloud AA comes into this tourney after a tough trip to the Grand Rapids Star of the North tourney.  They won the opening game of the tourney beating Roseville 7-6.  They beat Burnsville AA in the semifinals and lost to Grand Rapids AA 6-5 in the semifinals.  Before Christmas, St. Cloud lost to St. Michael/Albertville 7-3 in a key District 5 game for both teams.

The Fargo Freeze Blue is having a good season.  They are ranked 3rd in North Dakota and beat Moorhead AA 4-3 last week.  They have a 7-4 record on the season.  Two of their losses were to the Grand Forks Seawolves 4-3 and to the Grand Forks Greyhounds 5-4.

In another close game, St. Cloud beats the Blue.

The second game matches Fort Frances (Ontario) and Cloquet.  Fort Frances perennially enters this tourney.  Three years ago, they won the Lumberjack Division.  They can be tough.  This year they have split two games late November games with International Falls (won 3-0 and lost 7-2).

Cloquet AA has been an up and down team.  In an early December swing to the cities, the Lumberjacks lost big to Edina AA, beat Forest Lake AA 8-4 and lost to Centennial AA 7-3.  This tourney will be a test for the Lumberjacks.  They usually play well at Bemidji.  Cloquet wins.

The second round East Division games Friday match Fargo Freeze Blue and Cloquet AA and match Fort Frances and St. Cloud.  The Blue freeze the Lumberjacks and win the game; St Cloud beats Fort Frances.

Saturday morning, St. Cloud beats Cloquet and the Fargo Freeze beat Fort Frances.  St. Cloud gets the East Division #1 seed to the Championship Bracket; Fargo gets #2 and a trip to the Lumberjack Bracket; Cloquet gets the #3 seed and a trip to the Blue Ox Bracket; and Fort Frances plays in the Headwaters Bracket.

West (McDonald’s) Division: Grand Forks Greyhounds A, Rogers AA, Grand Rapids AA, and Crookston A

The West Division opening game Friday, matches the #2 ranked North Dakota team, the Grand Forks Greyhounds A and Rogers AA.  The Greyhounds are the defending Paul Bunyan Champions, having won the tourney last year.   The Paul Bunyan this year is the third Minnesota tourney for the Greyhounds.   The Greyhounds won the East Grand Forks Tournament in early December beating Devils Lake ND 4-1 and three Canadian teams (Selkirk Manitoba 4-1, Melville, Saskatchewan 7-4, and Portage la Prairie Manitoba 4-2 in the championship game).

The following weekend, the Greyhounds won the Moorhead tourney.  They tied Moorhead AA 4-4, beat Waconia A 8-2, and beat Thief River Falls 14-0 in pool play.  In the championship game, Grand Forks beat the Minneapolis Storm 5-1.

Rogers AA is struggling in D10’s AA peewee league.  They have a 2-7-2 record, their two wins were over Blaine A 3-1 and Coon Rapids A 4-1.  They had a good Orono Tourney in early December and made the championship round by tying Osseo/Maple Grove A 1-1 and beating Proctor A 2-1.  They lost to Orona A 5-2 in the semifinals; Orono then lost to the Grand Forks Seawolves in the championship game.

The Greyhounds beat Rogers AA.

The second game in the West Division matches Grand Rapids AA and Crookston A.  Grand Rapids AA won their Star of the North Tourney two weeks ago, beating Hopkins AA 7-0, Anoka AA 9-1, and St. Cloud AA 6-5.  After going 3-3 in their first six games of the season, the Thunderhawks won their next 9 games before losing to Edina AA on a Southern swing 8-2.

Crookston A is playing .500 hockey and having a good year.  The Pirates are likely to end up in the North A Regional this year.  They have split their last four games, beating Thief River Falls 7-6 and Moorhead A 7-0.  They lost to East Grand Forks A 5-3 and to Bemidji AA 4-1.

Grand Rapids wins.

The second round West Division games match Rogers AA and Crookston A.  Rogers AA should win in a tight, low scoring game.  The second game will be a battle of the Grands for the West Division #1 seed.  Grand Forks Greyhounds win.  In Saturday morning games, the Greyhounds beat Crookston and Grand Rapids beats Rogers AA.

The Grand Forks Greyhounds take the West Division’s #1 seed to the Championship Bracket, Grand Rapids takes the #2 seed to the Lumberjack Bracket, Rogers takes the #3 seed to the Blue OX Bracket, and Crookston A goes to the Headwaters Bracket.

Bracket Play

In the Championship Bracket semifinal games, the two Grand Forks teams win.  The Seawolves beat Brainerd AA and the Greyhounds beat St. Cloud AA.  The championship game becomes a match between the two top ranked North Dakota teams.  The Seawolves win to avenge the early season loss to the Greyhounds.  St. Cloud AA beats Brainerd AA for third place. In the Lumberjack Bracket, Eagan beats Marquette in the first semifinal game and Grand Rapids beats the Fargo Freeze Blue in the other semifinal.  Grand Rapids beats Eagan for the Lumberjacket title; the Fargo Freeze beat Marquette for third place. In the Blue Ox Bracket, Bemidji beats Keweenaw in one semifinal.  Rogers beats Cloquet in the second semifinal and beats Bemidji to win the Blue Ox title.  Cloquet beats Keweenaw for third place. In the Headwaters Bracket, Andover AA beats Virginia A and Crookston beats Fort Frances.  Andover AA beats Crookston for the Headwaters title, Virginia beats Fort Frances for third place.

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