Last night’s game at the Bloomington Ice Garden (BIG) was played in front of an evenly split crowd. Approximately 500 Prior Lake/Savage fans sat on the visitor’s side of the arena and 500 Bloomington fans sat on the home side. The Prior Lake rooting kids unfortunately sat across from the Jefferson Hockey Band. They lost the vocal battle.
Prior Lake and Bloomington Jefferson tangled in a South Suburban conference game that had more significance then a Suburban “W”. It was one of the few games the two teams had that would be used in determining Section 2AA seeding.
In our modern times, winning a conference title has become secondary; it does not guarantee a #1 seed in the sectionals. Beating a team in the same section that your team is in has become all important.
Prior Lake/Savage joined the South Suburban Conference two years ago. This will be the Laker’s third season. The South Suburban was formed out of the ashes of the old “Lake Conference”.
When MSHL shut down the Classic Lake Conference after the 2009-2010 season when Robbinsdale Armstrong left the Classic Lake. That left Wayzata, Minnetonka, Edina, and Hopkins with no conference and out in the cold.
The MSHL eventually forced the four Classic teams to join the Lake Conference. The first Lake Conference would have been 2010-2011. But that year, 11 of the 12 Lake Conference high schools left. Nine of the schools formed the South Suburban Conference for the 2010-2011 season; Prior Lake/Savage joined to make it a 10 team league.
For the last two years, Prior Lake and Jefferson have lost out in the Section 2AA playoffs to either Edina or Burnsville. Three years ago, Jefferson beat Prior Lake badly in the opening round of the Section 2AA playoffs, 11-0.
With eight teams in Section 2AA coming from three different conferences (Lake, Missota, and South Suburban) this year, seeding is decided by games played against Section 2AA foes.
If one assumes Edina (the only Lake Conference school in Section 2AA) gains the #1 seed again in Section 2AA, then the race for the #2 or #3 seed becomes all important (most teams would rather face Edina in the sectional final game, not the semifinals).
Both Jefferson and Prior Lake have to contend with Burnsville, possibly the #2 seed in Section 2AA. That means who wins the two conference games between Jefferson and Prior Lake, has the proverbial “leg up” on the other come seeding time next February.
Shakopee, Bloomington Kennedy, and Chanhassen (all Section 2AA teams) are all struggling in the early season and are not likely to be seeded as high #2 or #3 seed. Holy Angels is a potential contender for the #2 or #3 seed. But the Stars have to earn it through judgment not victories on ice sectional foes.
Unfortunately for Holy Angels, they play in the Missota Conference and have only one game against a Section 2AA opponent of any significance, Edina. That puts the Stars in tough position to claim a high seed in February.
Jefferson, Prior Lake, and Burnsville all play each other home and home in the South Suburban. They have four seeding games. If two of the three teams prove themselves better, they will likely take the Section’s #2 and #3 seeds.
Going into last night’s game, Jefferson won their first three games this year, beating Cloquet 7-6, Hopkins 3-2, and Chanhassen (Missota Conference Champions last year) 6-1. Chanhassen counts as a seeding game, but will likely have little impact on the final decision.
Prior Lake/Savage had lost their first two games of the season, to Edina 2-1 and to Lakeville South 4-3. The South game was a Suburban Conference game; the Jefferson game will be their first seeding game.
Last night’s game started with a Prior Lake tripping penalty in the first minute. Jefferson’s power play went to work. The Jags put top scorer Colin Hernon on the left point , set up in the Laker’s zone, and swung the puck right drawing the Laker penalty killers to the right half of the ice. Hernon, instead of staying at the center blue line, immediately skated to the weak side near the top of the Laker’s crease.
The Jags’ forwards moved the puck on the right side, trying to make a skip pass through the Laker defenders to Hernon sitting on the weak side. Eventually the puck got there and Hernon rapped the puck into the net to put Jefferson up 1-0. Charlie Straus and Jono Lindquist got the assists.
After that goal, Prior Lake started to dominate the Jags. They beat the Jags time again in the neutral zone and outshot the Jags 18-9. Jefferson’s goalie, Grant Martens, had an outstanding period.
It took the Lakers 7 minutes to score. Prior Lake’s Ben Keckeisen got the goal. He scored on off a rebound in the slot. Blake Busch and Will Reedy got the assists. Keckeisen skated for Apple Valley last year.
Late in the first period, the Jags set up in the Lakers’ zone. They moved the puck around the Prior Lake defense to the left blue line. The Laker defense was out position and Charlie Straus walked in from the left center blue line and scored, beating a screened Prior Lake goalie. The first period ended with Jefferson leading 2-1.
The second period was dominated by Jefferson. The Lakers were losing the battle in the forwards. Prior Lake spent two thirds of the period trapped in their zone. The Jags put 19 shots on Prior Lake’s goal and often shot from the top of the crease. Prior Lake’s goalie, Nick Vidmar, shut the Jags down.
When the Lakers gained the Jag zone in the second period, they put pressure on Jags net getting off 11 shots. With 6 minutes remaining in the second period, the Lakers scored to tie the game 2-2. Joey Kleven scored the goal; Dylan Zins and Gavin Smith got the assists. Both teams were tired as the second period ended. The Lakers top lines had slowed.
Jefferson’s Tyler Johnson set the stage for the third period. Johnson scored unassisted in the first minute of the third period. The two teams battled evenly for the rest of the period until Jefferson scored twice late in the game. Jono Lindquist got the “heartbreaker” to put the Jags up 4-2. Colin Hernon got the assist. Ben Daggett scored 20 seconds later to end the scoring and give the Jags a 5-2 lead. Zac Beek and Tony Roisum got the assists.
Jefferson skated four kids last night that moved to the Jags from Bloomington Kennedy (Colin Hernon, Johnny Panvica, AJ Robbel, and Charlie Bach). Robbel is a ninth grader this year. Larry Jungwirth, a 10th grader playing for Shattuck-St. Mary’s U16 team and a Minnesota Select 15 from last summer, would have played for Jefferson last night if he had stayed.
Tyler Bump, also playing for Shattuck-St. Mary’s U16 team and a Minnesota Select 15 from last summer, would have played for Prior Lake.
Prior Lake’s next game is at Orono this Thursday. The Jags play at Eagan this Saturday (another icy snowstorm is being forecasted to start Saturday afternoon). Prior Lake and Jefferson’s next games that will count towards Section 2AA seeding will be played against Burnsville the first week in January.
Last night’s first round in the seeding goes to Jefferson.