As usual, the Eden Prairie Hockey Association has attracted another great field of teams for one of it’s tournaments. In this case the Squirt Prairie Shootout – a 12 team, pool play tournament with pool winners and one wild card advancing to the Championship bracket on Sunday. This year’s pools are not as evenly balanced as in year’s past (Editor’s Note: EP had the toughest pool in last year’s field – Rosemount, Sibley and Stillwater). The Red and White pools host 5 top ten teams, meanwhile the Black pool is without a top ten team. The unlucky teams are not the top 10 teams who got loaded up on in the early rounds. Those teams want to play good teams, no matter the situation. The unlucky teams are the ones who have to play all three and then likely go home (insert Eagan here). For those new to this year’s Squirt A’s…watch out for Rosemount (1), Osseo Maple Grove (2), Andover (4), Edina White (6), and White Bear Lake (7). Yes that is five of the top seven teams in the state in one tournament.
Albeit a bit weaker pool, still no slouches. Eden Prairie has already had a few ups and downs, losing to Edina Green in the Hopkins tournament final and losing to YHH rising star Chaska-Chan…but a big recent win over Edina White suggests they are the favorite to win this pool. Centennial hails from the toughest league in the state (D10) and has been competitive as has Eastview down in District 8. The mystery team is Rochester. They will arrive on Valley View Road with a couple quality wins and one piece of tournament hardware (winners of the Pirate Classic in Brooklyn Park).
YHH Says: Winner of the Rochester v. Eden Prairie game will likely advance. Don’t count out Centennial. We say EP.
The Red Pool could be better named the Dead Pool. Three top 5 programs in one pool??? In all likelihood only one survives out of this pool. One could make a case why each of the three teams (Andover, OMG, or Edina White) should advance. Edina White has a high powered attack and a great goaltender (pretty good formula for SQA hockey success). Andover has probably the most high end talent, but has very few signature wins. OMG has both talent and coaching…they will be right there come Saturday night. Eagan will get some much needed experience against high end teams which will pay off for them in the second half of the season.
YHH Says: Flip a coin here. Andover will have it’s coming out party this weekend and beat both OMG and Andover and advance to the Final Four. Unfortunately neither Edina or OMG will have a large enough goal differential to surpass either WBL or Rochester from the other pools (which is kinda weak because they are both final four caliber, assuming the Runner Up of this pool doesn’t advance this team walks in the Consolation Bracket). Andover will be 3-0.
The White pool is the perfect pool: The #1 team in Minnesota, a great team in White Bear Lake with a lot to prove, a District 6 superprogram (Minnetonka) and Elk River from the best league in the state – District 10 – with one of the state’s best players leading the way. Rosemount will be too much for it’s three competitors. The Irish have had this tournament on their calendar for some time, they will be ready and they will advance. This pool won’t be decided until late Saturday night, WBL and Rosemount play at 8:30 (likely to decide who is moving on and who is eating Consolation Brunch the next day.
YHH Says: Our staff rankings say Rosemount is #1. We can’t go against ourselves or them until someone proves us wrong. Irish advance.
(1 Seed) Eden Prairie > (4 Seed) Rochester…hopefully the hockey Gods fix this oversight (two teams from the same pool shouldn’t play twice in a 12 team tournament)
(2 Seed) Rosemount > (3 Seed) Andover…this will be an exciting game to watch. Anything can happen when two high powered attacks like this face off.
Rosemount > Eden Prairie (YHH would rather see this as a semifinal than a championship)
Good luck to all teams this weekend.