Tuesday night, D6 league play got underway again after the Thanksgiving weekend with a game at the Bantam A level that matched Kennedy/Richfield A and the Minnetonka Blue A. The game was played at the Richfield Ice Arena.
Kennedy had won their first two D6 league games beating New Prague A 3-1 and Eden Prairie Red A 4-2. Minnetonka Blue A had only a single tie in their first four D6 games. The Blue tied Waconia A 1-1 and lost to New Prague 5-2, Eden Prairie Red A 4-2, and Edina White A 4-3.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, Kennedy won the Albert Lea Tourney beating Owatonna A 3-1, Kansas City Stars 5-4, Sioux Falls 6-0, and Irondale AA 5-0 in the championship game. The Eagles were off over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Minnetonka Blue played in the Rosemount tourney over the Thanksgiving Holiday. The Blue lost to Forest Lake AA 4-3 and to Hastings AA 3-1 in pool play. The Blue came back on Sunday to win the Consolation Bracket #2 trophy beating Apple Valley A 9-3 and New Ulm A 9-3. Nine of the 17 Minnetonka Blue players are from last year’s peewee A and peewee B1 teams.
In the first period, both teams had opportunities to score in the first minute. Neither could.
Kennedy started to pressure the Blue over the next few minutes. At the 4 minute mark, the Skippers cleared the zone only to have the Eagles counter attack. Kennedy’s Jory McWilliams ended up with the puck in the neutral zone, broke through the Skippers defense at the blue line and buried the puck from the slot beating the goalie on the left upper side. Kennedy led 1-0. Collin Lynch got the assist.
The Eagles kept the pressure on the Skippers’ goal for the remainder of the first period. At the 7 minute mark, the Skippers ‘attack resulted in “a goal denied”. The refs blew the whistle before the puck was in the net.
The period ended with Kennedy leading 1-0. The first period was cleanly skated with few stops and no penalties. It set the tone for the second period play.
The Minnetonka Blue opened the second period pressuring Kennedy in their zone. They tried to move the puck low looking for a soft spot in the Eagle’s defense, but in the end, could not hold the zone. The Blue wings were “out muscled” by the bigger Kennedy defense men in the corners.
It set the pattern for the rest of the game. The Skippers could gain control of the puck after some pressure in their defensive zone, but their forwards lacked the size and strength to beat the Kennedy defense at the Eagles’ blue line. They would dump the puck into Kennedy’s zone, but the Skippers couldn’t hold the zone against the stronger Eagle players.
At the 10 minute, Minnetonka Blue drew a cross checking penalty and fought off a tough Kennedy power play. The Eagles controlled the puck in the Skippers’ zone for most of the two minutes.
With three minutes left in the second period, the Eagles’ Brandon Clay finally scored off a melee in front of the Skippers’ net to give Kennedy a 2-0 lead. Anders Gelecinskyj got the assist.
The second period ended with Kennedy in control and leading 2-0. The ice was cleaned between the second and third periods. But things didn’t change coming out of the locker rooms. The game just slowed.
The third period opened with Kennedy on the attack and in control. At the 11 minute mark, the Eagles drew a tripping penalty. The Blue had the power play opportunity, but it was Kennedy that scored the shorthanded game breaker.
Thirty seconds into the penalty kill, the Eagles’ McWilliams scored on a breakaway, beating the Skipper defense, and putting the puck in the net. Ryan Berg got the assist. Kennedy led 3-0.
The Eagles killed the remainder of the tripping penalty and had a power play advantage shortly after. But the game had slowed and both teams started to struggle moving the puck.
At the two minute mark, theMinnetonka Blue finally scored. The Skippers’ Jake Jenzer ended up with the puck in the slot in the Eagles’ zone and beat the goalie high left. Jack Meredith got the assist. That ended the scoring, Eagles won 3-1.
In the midst of the AA/A split, it is becoming more apparent that the larger associations are placing their first year players on the bantam and peewee A teams.
In Minnetonka’s case they have three first year players on their Bantam AA team.
Next year those players will return and be joined by the nine players from the Blue. All 12 players will have had one year’s experience at the AA/A level playing AA/A competition.
But those large association’s Bantam A teams will struggle against the Kennedy’s, teams from smaller associations with talent, size and strength this year. As a result, Kennedy is a strong candidate to take the D6 Bantam A title and a seed to the East Regional tourney. In USA Hockey terms, it is Bantam A major against Bantam A minor.
Sunday, the Eagles host Edina’s Bantam A in a D6 game at Bloomington. Edina has struggled against the small association Bantam A teams, tying Shakopee 3-3 and Waconia 4-4. The Hornets beat Minnetonka Blue 4-3.
Minnetonka plays two league games this weekend against Shakopee and Prior Lake as the Blue look for their first D6 win. Prior Lake, like Minnetonka, has fielded a bantam AA team as well as a bantam A team. Shakopee has only a single bantam A team.