First off, I want to apologize for my absence over the last couple weeks. I just got finished with final exams last week, and lately all I’ve wanted to do lately is sleep. Although, I recently got promoted to Minnesota Wild Community Leader (cheap plug), so you’ll be seeing a lot more of me.
Enough being humble, let's talk some high school hockey.
These six games I saw over the weekend were the first high school games I’ve been to where I haven’t been standing in the student section. I mean to tell you, you see a lot more of the game when you’re standing at the top of the arena looking down rather than hanging over the boards shouting obscenities.
The perspective was a lot different, and I think it helped a lot not having that much of a vested interest in any of the games. I can’t stress how different it was—I mean, last year when I was a senior at Edina, I tended to believe we were the end all and be all of hockey.
It was nice to look at our boys (being Edina) with an objective eye and being able to pick out flaws in Edina’s game.
Enough talk—to the first opening round game. The first game on Thursday pitched Elk River against No. 9 Eden Prairie. I got to Breamar Arena during the second intermission because I had to drive back from St. Thomas, but stay with me.
Ben Jaremko got the scoring started for Elk River with a short-handed goal with an assist to his brother Ryan Jaremko. Eden Prairie evened the score with a Taylor Wolfe goal, his third of the season.
Wolfe opened the scoring in the second as well, but Chad Hennum answered for Eden Prairie midway through the period with his seventh point in four games.
The game stayed tied at two into the third period when Kyle Rau tallied for EP to give them the lead not even five minutes in, and they would not give it back. Kyle’s brother Curt Rau tallied an empty net goal at 15:51 (yes, you read that right) to put the icing on the proverbial cake.
Interesting note coming out of this game—actually all three games Eden Prairie played. Kyle Rau’s tallied at least a point in all of the five games he’s played this season: he’s recorded two points against Lakeville North, Elk River, and Grand Rapids, and a point apiece against Chaska and Edina. And here’s the kicker—He’s only a Sophomore—but then, its early.
The second game Thursday saw No. 2 Edina take on Grand Rapids. Before I start, I should mention that Grand Rapids may have the ugliest away jerseys ever.
They’re those tight fitting Nike jerseys that Team USA wore in the Olympics, except they are all orange. They have an orange stripe on their breezers and orange socks. I mean to tell, you they are some of the ugliest jerseys I have ever seen.
That is not to say the Edina jerseys were pretty either—because they weren’t. White jerseys, with about 500 million green stripes on them, green breezers, and “hornets” written very crudely in cursive on the front of their jerseys. Thank god they’re only wearing those twice this season: that Thursday and Saturday.
Now that we’re done with the fashion show, let's talk hockey.
Edina dominated the first period, outshooting the Thunderhawks 13-5, but were stymied for the most part. The only goal of the period came on a Connor Gaarder goal on a nifty move swinging around the net.
The second period was a very uneventful one. I had the “this is the No. 2 team in the state?” thought cross my head more than once during the period. The Hornets outshot the opposition again, 9-8, but it was almost like the Hornets thought they would get the victory for just showing up.
The only goal of the period came from Grand Rapids’ Austin Anderson tucked a lose puck past Edina Goaltender Johnny Ankeny one minute in.
What I would like to call the “holy s***, we might lose this game factor” kicked in hardcore for Edina in the third.
Edina’s John Eppel tucked a puck past Grand Rapids goalie A.J. Underwood one minute into the third to give Edina the lead for good, and it was all Hornets after that.
Edina then put their 49th-ranked power play (23.5%, they were one–for even on the night) to work for them. Edina’s Brendan Baker then put away a pass from Marshall Everson to put Edina up by two.
The Hornets had one more goal in them though, as Charlie Taft put away a loose puck while getting absolutely creamed at the top of the crease to round out the scoring.
I will credit Grand Rapids with a very solid penalty kill unit. Their PK unit was at 75 percent, but they played incredibly solid against Edina. They fell back into an incredibly solid passive box system, and held the majority of Edina attacks to the blueline and side boards.
The first game on Friday saw Eden Prairie play Grand Rapids. In short, Grand Rapids just got destroyed. Grand Rapids never got more than ten shots in any period, and the final shots were 46- 25.
Tom Hammann scored the only goal for Grand Rapids at the 9:22 mark of the first period, and then the onslaught was on. Power-play goals by Kyle Rau and Mike Erickson, both assisted by Nick Leddy.
Second period goals by David Rath and Kyle Rau put the game away, and Eden Prairie packed the tent in the third period.
This just in (actually, not just in, everybody always new this)—Mike Erickson is really good. He has a point in every game, except one, including three against Lakeville North. He also has a goal in every game except one.
The senior captain is really getting himself noticed by NHL scouts; he has amazing speed, the only downside is he’s a little undersized, he’s 5’9’’.
The second game on Friday saw Edina play Elk river. It was more of the same for Edina—ugly, sloppy, play and then the “holy s***, we might lose this game factor” kicked in again in the third.
We were only playing a 20 minute game, which had me worried. I and everyone else knew we would get run out of the rink if we played Eden Prairie like we played Grand Rapids and Elk River.
Nick Filipovich scored for the Elks at the 9:22 mark of the first period, and even though Edina thoroughly dominated the shot chart through two periods (they were up 21-13 after two, and ended up leading in shots by a wide margin; 33-17), they were stymied by Elk goaltender Anders Franke.
Its safe to say Edina woke up in the third. The scoring opened with Senior Anders Lee deflecting home a shot from David Jarrett to tie the score.
Marshall Everson then tapped home a shot at the far post to put the Hornets up for good, and then Connor Gaarder added the insurance marker, working the two-on-one perfectly. Gaarder faked the pass to Everson, then ripped a wrist shot past the Elk goalie for the short-handed tally.
The player that impressed me the most on Elk River was their Freshman goaltender Anders Franke. He got the short end of the stick in the tournament going 2-1, and he’s a little undersized—his height isn’t listed, but I’d guess he’s no taller than 6’1’’ or 6’2’’.
Through seven games (he’s started all Elk River’s games as a freshman), he’s posted a 90 percent save percentage and a very good 2.14 GAA. He’s 4-3 on the season, with one shutout, a 3-0 blanking of Andover where he made 20 saves.
But then, it's still early. The main concern about young goaltenders is their consistency, and being able to play night in and night out. Still, he’s a solid butterfly style goaltender who’s only going to get better with age.
The first game Saturday, the Elk River-Grand Rapids game, was a mismatch. Elk River ended up winning 6-3, but it wasn’t even that close. Grand Rapids never got more than ten shots in any one period, and Elk River put up at least a goal in every period, and four in the second.
Grand Rapids scored two quick goals in the first, Duston Schulte at 2:45, and Patrick Moore at 10:37. CJ Pullar opened the scoring for Elk River, his first of two points in the game, and his eighth and ninth points in as many games.
The second period was all Elks, with three very quick goals to chase goaltender A.J. Underwood from the game. Ryan Jaremko notched his second goal and tenth point in nine games at the 1:08 mark, then Nick Filipovich scored, followed by Levi Lutz 23 seconds later.
Ryan Larson then came on to play goal for Grand Rapids, and he didn’t do much better than Underwood. He didn’t even flinch when Nick Filipovich scored his second goal of the evening to round out the second period scoring.
With the game more of less in the bag, Elk River packed up the tent in the third. Chad Hennum scored for Elk River followed by Grand Rapids’ Sam Rendle with his 13th point in nine games, but this game was decided a long time ago.
The last game of the tournament featured the marquee match up of Edina Vs. Eden Prairie, a very heated rivalry at that. Heading in to the game, I thought Eden Prairie had the game in the bag, considering how Badly Edina played in the first two games of the tournament.
The action was back and forth all game, although Eden Prairie got off to a slow start in the first. Eden Prairie got outshot 15-6 in the first, but only ended up down by one goal, with Brett Stolpestad tallying an early marker for Edina.
Eden Prairie came out with guns blazing in the second, as the Eagles scored twice on the powerplay, once by Mike Erickson at 6:50, and again by Kyle Rau at 8:43. Edina had their own special teams scoring fest going on though, led by defenseman Brendan Baker, who had a whale of a game.
Baker tallied his first of the game at 13:12 of the second period on the power play to tie the game, then again at 6:21 of the third period, also on the power play, for the game winner. Final shots in the game were 33-39 Edina.