Minnesota High School Hockey Class AA
State Rankings (1-14-18)
In what ended up being a relatively uneventful start to the week for most of my Top-10, it was completely flipped on its head by Saturday night. This sport is chalk full of parity, but this week lead to upsets rearing their ugly heads during the back half of the week. Those upsets has led to a difficult time re-ranking this list, but I am still a firm believer that the top teams deserve to remain near the top of this list because a loss here and there does not showcase what the majority of these teams are comprised of.
1. Minnetonka (13-1-2)
Last week’s rank: No. 2
Blaine – W 10-1
Hermantown – W 5-3
After a week out of the top spot after losing to Duluth East 4-2 on January 6th, the Skippers jump back to the top spot after winning both of their games. There is not much to take away from the Blaine win as they currently sit at 3-7-3 and are winless in their last seven contests and the game went to running time halfway through the second. There is a takeaway to be had from the Hermantown win. It was tied at three going into the third period and Tonka was unable to put Hermantown away until midway into the third. This has led to my opinion that the Skippers can be caught off guard on any given night, even against a top tier Class A opponent. But their solidity on defense and a clicking team chemistry has allowed them to stay atop the rankings. Only one game this week for Minnetonka as they host rival Eden Prairie who is coming off a monumental win over prior No. 1 Duluth East. I am pegging it as nearly a wash but an edge to Minnetonka with home-ice and the better team play so far this year along with it being a classic let down spot for Eden Prairie.
2. Duluth East (9-1-3)
Last week’s rank: No. 1
Duluth Denfeld – W 13-0
No. 19 Eden Prairie – L 4-3
As I mentioned in my rankings last week, Duluth East needed to start proving itself against the better opponents on its relatively light schedule. They proved that it was possible with their win over Minnetonka that propelled them from No. 4 to No. 1 last week, but another trip down to the Twin Cities this weekend did not end as fruitful as the last. Being the last undefeated team in the entire state, the Greyhounds may have felt the pressure against stumbling Eden Prairie. They bolted out of the gate against the Eagles by scoring 14 seconds into the game, but the Eagles were extremely resilient and ended up winning the game 4-3. It is only Duluth East’s first loss, which is why they only slip to No. 2. They will again need to push the envelope of dominance as they only have three to four more occasions to prove they truly belong, as tiring as that cliché is already getting. The Hounds will play a rescheduled game vs the defending champions Grand Rapids who are the one team everyone is shocked at what went wrong this year. They then host Brainerd on Friday in what will be one of the games of the week as Brainerd has made a name for themselves in the past few seasons.
3. Edina (14-1-0)
Last week’s rank: No. 3
Blaine W 9-0
With only one game this week, and a dominating one over a weak opponent, the Hornets stay at No. 3. It ended up being another game for the team to test depth and defensive pairings with Ben Brinkman (Jr.) being paired with Mason Reiners (Jr.) and Mike Vorlicky (Jr.) with Jake Boltmann (So.). The game also provided plenty of chances for both Sammy Walker (Sr.) and Demetrios Komontzis (Sr.) to add to their Mr. Hockey campaigns as Walker added two goals and an assist and Komontzis put away a goal and two assists in the win. Edina only sees Lakeville South this week (7-6-1) in what may be a competitive matchup as South has played close to many top opponents like Holy Family (3-2 loss) or even wins against Eden Prairie (6-1 win).
4. St. Thomas Academy (11-1-1)
Last week’s rank: No. 4
Eden Prairie – W 3-2
Hastings – W 12-1
Another team staying put due to those around them also winning. St. Thomas had a slight scare when Eden Prairie visited early in the week as I noted. Then went on to completely disgrace Hastings in a game that was never in question. Slight Mr. Hockey candidate Ray Christy did not wow in these games, but did add six assists between the two of them. It would be a shock if he even sniffs the award. It will be another week of cupcakes as the Cadets go to Tartan on Tuesday and host Bloomington Jefferson on Thursday.
5. Holy Family (13-2-1)
Last week’s rank: No. 5
Lakeville South – W 3-2
No movement again, but I may start to feel somewhat uneasy if I was a Fire supporter as they were only able to get by pesky Lakeville South 3-2 at home. Included in that win is that my second Mr. Hockey candidate, Ben Almquist, did not record a point for only the third time this season. With those three games also being against Edina, Moorhead, and Lakeville South, I would start to question when he will explode against the best of the best in the state. Time is running out. It will be a light week for the Fire too with the team headed to Mound Westonka and should be 14-2-1 at the end of next week.
6. Cretin-Derham Hall (10-2-1)
Last week’s rank: #8
Stillwater – W 4-2
Park of Cottage Grove – W 5-3
Two more wins and the streak is at eight for the Raiders who added a marquee win with their victory over Stillwater. Cretin will get what is essentially a warmup game in Woodbury before hosting familiar foe and fellow Top-10 team White Bear Lake Saturday night in the game of the week.
7. White Bear Lake (11-2-2)
Last week’s rank: No. 9
Stillwater – W 3-0
Park of Cottage Grove – W 9-1
at Woodbury – W 13-0
The last four teams within the Top-10 took a long time to fit in. I could see these four, and many more just outside looking in, vie for these spots as they are all either beating up on each other or losing a game or two that are head scratchers. For White Bear Lake, they get the two-spot jump as they took care of business in commanding fashion and were led by Chase Hamsted (Sr.) who added four goals and eight assists to his total putting him at 31 points on the year. The Bears will have a highlighted matchup against Cretin Derham-Hall this week in a chance to possibly vault into the top five if things fall their way.
8. Andover (11-3)
Last week’s rank: Not Ranked (NR)
Maple Grove – W 4-0
Another newcomer to the Top-10, I will be the first to admit I was ignorant not to put Andover in my next five in last week after dominating wins over Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 7-2 and Centennial 6-1. With an offense that has rolled, 6.36 goals per game in wins, they face their biggest week of the season to date. First travelling to northern power Moorhead before hosting an Anoka team that tied Centennial and finishing with a showdown against former Top-10 team, Elk River. This team could be getting hot at just the right time and will be gunning for their first ever state appearance come March.
9. Cloquet-Esko-Carlson (11-5-1)
Last week’s rank: NR
Duluth Marshall – W 4-2
at Eden Prairie – W 4-3
Fresh face number two comes from the northern reaches of the state outside of Duluth in Cloquet. Coming off two wins this week that saw one go against a Top-10 team and another that just beat the top team in state, the Lumberjacks could play spoiler for Duluth East in sections. Keep an eye on junior Landon Langenbrunner too now has 18 goals, 13 assists, and 31 points. The schedule plays nice with Cloquet this week with games against Grand Rapids and Roseau, but when the calendar turns, we will see what they are truly made of.
10. Centennial (9-3-3)
Last week’s rank: No. 10
Anoka – T 4-4
Elk River – W 5-3
Squeaking in with the last spot for the second week in a row, the Cougars of Centennial. This spot is somewhat a throwaway this week as four or five teams could occupy with how things shook out this week. But a strange tie and a good win will hold them here until someone makes a great impression. The next week could go either 1-1 or 2-0 depending on which Moorhead team they face on Saturday shows up, but throw a win their way over a Blaine team that is demoralized.
Next Five Teams In (Record):
Elk River (11-5), Duluth Marshall (10-5-1), Brainerd (10-4), Wayzata (8-6-1), Moorhead (11-6)
Dropping out of the Top-10 (Last week’s rank): Duluth Marshall (7), Elk River (8)
Written by Jack Kewitsch / @JackKewitsch
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Cloquet-Esko-Carlton defender, Bryan Boten (12), and Eden Prairie’s Ryan Lesko (19) collide mid-air in Cloquet’s 4-3 win. (Photo courtesy of @WestMetroHockey)
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