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UMHSEL Weekend 3: Muscle Men Overpower

By frederick61, 10/01/15, 10:00AM CDT


Muscle Milk goalie River Alander makes the stop against Shattuck Preps

The Muscle Milk team (aka Team North) continued their power trip.  After losing their opening game in Week 1 to MAP 5-0, they have strung an eight win streak together to post an 8-1 record and take the top spot in UMHSEL going into Week 4.  Sunday afternoon at the NAHL Showcase at the Super Rink in Blaine MN, the M&Mer’s used a dazzling offense to upend perennial USA U18 Tier 1 National champs Shattuck/St. Mary’s 7-6 to complete their second weekend sweep of all three games played.  Two teams, TCF Bank and Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, were tied for third and had a chance to move up and challenge the two leaders this week playing early Weekend 4 games Tuesday and Wednesday.  Both teams lost.  The Magaziners lost to Starkey/Sonion 5-3 Tuesday night at New Hope; the Bankers lost Wednesday night 5-3 to Shattuck/St. Mary’s at Faribault.  With the USA U17 team coming to town Weekend 5 (Oct 10-11 at New Hope), Muscle Milk and MAP will likely end up playing the Stars and Stripes.   

A pair of 4's (Shattuck defenseman Marcus Chorney/Hastings MN and Mpls/St. Paul Magazine's Nick Austin/Benilde-St. Margaret's battle in the Magaziners 4-2 win at the NAHL Showcase last Saturday.

The UMHSEL is a fall league, playing its regular season schedule in the fall each year with the season ending coinciding with the start of Minnesota High School hockey.  Each regular season lasts seven weekends with a set of three games played each weekend.  The regular season is followed by a league playoff in weekend 8 and the CCM IIT Tournament in weekend 9.  This weekend of play (Weekend 4) marks the halfway mark of the fast moving league. Shattuck/St. Mary's Prep team joins the league in Weekend 3.  The Sabres played their first three league games last weekend at the NAHL Showcase held every September at the Super Rink in Blaine MN.

Weekend 4 games are played in Green Bay WI and Moorhead MN.  Four teams will travel to Moorhead (home of the Luther's Automobile team) and to Green Bay WI (hosted by Team Wisconsin).  In the friendly confines of Moorhead’s South Arena, the Muscle Milk and Luther's teams typically do well.  The league leading M&Mers will be playing Starkey/Sonion and Luther’s Saturday.  Sunday they will play Mpls/St. Paul Magazine.  The Muscle Men are favorites in all three games.    

The Muscle Milk team has won eight of their first nine league games.  The M&Mer’s offense has averaged over six goals a game (scoring 44 goals) in their last seven games.  In pre-season, the Muscle Men figured to struggle in the early season and gain strength in the second  half of the season.  Something they have done over the past four UMHSEL seasons.  This season, they have not struggled.  Since losing their opener 5-0, the M&Mer’s offense has been on fire.

Despite winning eight of their first nine games, the M&Mers lead second place MAP by only one point.  The Mappers have not lost a game in league play, but have tied three times.  Last weekend they beat Team North Dakota 6-2, Luther’s 6-2, and TCF Bank 5-4.  But the MAP team will being playing a tough doubleheader next Saturday when they take on a Shattuck/St. Mary’s Prep team and Team Wisconsin.  The perennial defending USA Hockey Tier 1 champs lost twice at the Showcase and evened their league record to 2-2 with Wednesday's win over the Bankers.  They will be out to win at Green Bay after losing two out of three games at the NAHL Showcase.  MAP's second game Saturday will be against Team Wisconsin played on Badger friendly ice.  Both Shattuck and Team Wisconsin Sunday, MAP plays the TCF Bankers.  With the Packers playing a home game Sunday, Green Bay will be awash with everything Wisconsin.

Both Shattuck/St. Mary's and Team Wisconsin will be playing for the USA U18 Tier 1 title next spring starting with district playoffs.  Last season, the Shattuck Preps won the Minnesota District Tournament (played at Blaine's Super Rink) edging the Minnesota Blades 3-2.  Shattuck lost to the Connecticut Wolf Pack 4-1 in the national semifinals. Team Wisconsin enters as a before team and plays in the Wisconsin Tier 1 U18 playoffs.  If they win, the Badgers play in the Central District playoffs (covers Missouri, Midwest, Wisconsin, and Illinois).  Last season, the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Mission advanced to the nationals.  


Team Wisconsin goalie Tommy Mohs/Madison Edgewood beats Starkey/Sonion's Kevin Fellows/Prior Lake in this race to the puck.

Mpls/St. Paul Magazine's Noah Cates/Stillwater looks at the ref's raising his arm before starting to celebrate a Magaziner score in their 4-2 win over Shattuck last Saturday.

Muscle Milk (16 points) and MAP (15 points) lead the TCF Bankers and Mpls/St. Paul Magazine teams by four points going into Weekend 4.  The Magaziners lost the first game of the weekend Tuesday at New Hope to Starkey’s 5-3.  It was a game they should have won.  Saturday, at Moorhead, the Mpls/St. Paul team plays Great Plains another team they should beat.  Sunday they play Muscle Milk, a team that the Magaziners will have difficulty beating.  The MAP team should struggle at Green Bay, but should hang on to second place and to play the U17’s in Weekend 5 at New Hope.  The USA U17's are 1-3 in the USHL this season going into this weekend's game against the Muskegon Lumberjacks.  The U17s may have a losing record in the early season, but playing the USA U17's will be no fun; last season the top two UMHSEL teams lost 8-2 and 11-1 to the 17’s.

The TCF Bankers having lost to Shattuck this week will have their hands full in their two games at Green Bay.  Weekend 4 is definitely the Muscle Milk team's time to make a move.  Three wins would give the M&Mers 22 points.  MAP will be hard pressed to match the three wins creating separation between the top two teams.  Both TCF Bank and Mpls/St. Paul Magazine could find themselves trailing the top team by nine points going into the last nine regular season games.  If that happens, both will be hard put to contend for the regular season title.  It looks to be the year for Northern Minnesota in high school hockey.

Featured game: Muscle Milk-7 Shattuck/St. Mary’s-6

Period 1: M&Mer’s offense explodes

This is the fifth year YHH has covered the UMHSEL and it is the first year that a any UMHSEL team’s offense has executed plays with precision and efficiency.  Normally that precision is the kind of offense one expects out of the Shattuck/St. Mary’s team.  Basically the Muscle Men used an aggressive breakout often hitting a forward in the neutral zone just as he would cross into the Sabres’ zone to trigger their offense.  Once inside the Sabres' zone, the Muscle Men forwards would aggressive attack the net with multiple passes to open up a shot.  Some of the passing plays crossing the Sabres' blue line would appear to be headed to a near M&Mer only to fly though to a far forward breaking along the boards.  It was great hockey (and unexpected hockey) to watch.  It led to three quick Muscle Milk goals scored in three minutes in first period.

The first goal was off a breakout that resulted in the M&M line centered by Lucas Dow/Duluth East with wings Ash Altmann/Duluth East and Alex Adams/Grand Rapids scoring.  Adams broke down the left boards and made a neat pass to Dow in the slot.  Dow drew the Sabres’ defense attention for just a moment and hit Altmann breaking right for a quick one timer.  The score put Muscle Milk up 1-0.

The second score came as a Shattuck power play was ending.  On the penalty kill, Tanner Tweten/East Grand Forks was playing the left point on the defensive box.  Tweten blocked a shot on goal knocking the puck into the neutral zone and then beat the defense for a solo rush on the Sabres’ goal.  He buried the shot coming down the slot in the upper left corner scoring unassisted.  The M&Mer’s led 2-0.  The third score came off a strong rush by Scott Perunovich/Hibbing.  The speedy defenseman beat the Shattuck defense skating the puck through neutral ice.  He turned the lower right corner and hit Ryan Sandelin/Hermantown on a cross ice pass to put Muscle Milk up 3-0.  Then Shattuck called a timeout.

Immediately coming out of the timeout, the Sabres offense attacked with Oliver Wahlstrom/Quincy MA scoring to cut the lead to 3-1.  Shattuck continued to pressure in the remaining 12 minutes of the opening period, but their defense was constantly counter attacked by the Muscle Men on breakout plays.  The Sabres could develop pressure low, the Shattuck defense at the M&Mer blue line gave some room to protect against the long pass.  The Muscle Milk forwards along the boards on the breakouts would take advantage moving the puck across the M&Mers' blue line to break pressure.  The opening period ended 3-1, Muscle Milk leading.  Shattuck led in shots on goal 16-7.

Period 2: Shattuck ties, then M&Mers open up

The second period opened with two quick Shattuck goals.  Niko Karamanis/Courtenay BC ended up with the puck off an errant defensive pass in the left slot to score unassisted cutting the lead to 3-2.  A minute later, Brendan Sheehan/St. Croix Falls WI put a big rebound off the Muscle Men’s goalie River Alander/Denfield’s leg pad.  The puck ended up in the slot.  Karamanis rapped the puck by Alander towards the open left side of the net for the score.  In less than two minutes into the second period, Shattuck had tied the game 3-3 and appeared to be ready to roll to a win.  The M&Mers could have become defensive slowing their offense down, but that did not happen.

Three minutes after giving up the tying goal, Muscle Milk pinned the Shattuck defense and created an opening for Altmann.  Altmann took it and scored to put the Muscle Men up 4-3.  Five minutes later, on another breakout, Altmann, Perunovich, and Dow combined to score again with Dow getting the goal to give the M&Mers a 5-3 lead.  Three minutes later, Tweten scored from the left point to make a 6-3 with defenseman Lane Krenzen/Duluth Marshall and Cole Koepke/Hermantown getting the assists.  The Muscle Milk offense kept skating and using the deep threat.  It paid off.  The second period ended with the M&Mers leading 6-3 and out shooting Shattuck 13-11.

Brenan Sheehan/St. Croix Falls WI (left behind M&Mer #7 Luke Perunovich) scores on this backhanded to tie the game 3-3.

This Muscle Milk shot carom's of Sabre goalie David Tomeo's glove in the M&Mers 7-6 win Sunday

Period 3: A second Sabre Rally followed by a fluke

Halfway through the game, in the second period, the Muscle Milk team switched goalies.  Zach Stejskal/Grand Rapids took the nets for his third high school game of his career.  The YHH Bantam goalie of the year in 2013-2014, would be playing his third game at the high school level.  He has yet to start a game for Grand Rapids.  The sophomore had won his first two UMHSEL starts and would be facing fierce Sabre pressure at the start of the third period.  He did.  The third period opened with Shattuck/St. Mary’s scoring in first 30 seconds.  A defensive error resulted in Sabre center Robert Blueger/Jurmala LAT picking up a loose puck off a defensive error and scoring unassisted to cut the lead to 6-4.  Five minutes later, Blueger scored his second goal of the game to cut the lead to 6-5.  Ninety seconds later, the Sabres’ Niko Karamais scored to tie the game 6-6.

Shattuck/St. Mary’s was back in the game and ready to roll, but on the face-off at center ice following their sixth goal, the puck went deep into the Sabres’ zone and ended up ringing the boards right to left to Tyler Watkins/Hermantown on the left boards.  Watkins fired a one-timer towards the net that a Sabre defender tried to stop with his skate in the center left face off area.  The puck caromed off the skate into the right corner for the winning score.  Watkins' unassisted goal was the game winner and it turned the Muscle Milk defense around.

Shattuck came back strong after that goal and pressured the M&Mers net, but still could not score.  Stejskal played stronger in the nets and the defense kept their poise moving the puck to the boards on the breakout.  The Muscle Men just never gave up on their long counter attack offense and were successful just enough to break pressure on their net and their goalie Stejskal.  The Sabres outshot Muscle Milk 11-6 in the third period and 38-26 overall, but it was not a game that Shattuck or Muscle Milk dominated.  It was just a good, fast paced game, nicely played with some tension that was controlled by the refs.  In the end, there were only three penalties called in the game, all in the first period.  The M&Mers played well in the third period and sets up a potentially close game with USA U17 team.

Shattuck goalie David Tomeo/Caldwell NJ crosses sticks away from the crease with Mpls/St. Paul's Luke Ranallo/Hill-Murray in the Magaziners 4-2 win Saturday at the Super Rink.