The biggest high school hockey news this week was that St. Thomas Academy announced that they will finally stop playing in Class A, Minnesota's class for small schools, and opt up to play in Class AA like other private schools like Benilde-St. Margaret's, Hill-Murray, Holy Angels, and Holy Family Catholic. STA co-head coach Greg Vannelli told the Star-Tribune's David LaVaque, "The last couple of times we've won the state tournament, people have wanted to talk about where we play instead of what we accomplished. That gets frustrating." Of course, that frustration was nothing compared to the frustration the rest of us felt when they acted like what they did was an accomplishment.
The Top Ten(last week's ranking in parethesis)
1. Edina (3)
2. Hill-Murray (5)
4. Benilde-St. Margaret's(1)
5. Burnsville (10)
6. Eden Prairie (2)
7. Wayzata (NR)
8. Duluth East (4)
9. Blaine (8)
10. Eagan (7)
Lots of movement this week. The big shocker was Hill-Murray upsetting Benilde-St.Margaret's on Saturday night. For as good as they are, the Red Knights are far from unbeatable. Last year, they started the year as the number one team in the state as well, but some sloppy performances caused them to fall towards the bottom of the top ten, until Jack Jablonski's tragedy galvanized them at the end of the year. The skill is definitely there for the Red Knights, but motivating them to utilize it to their full potential could be a problem.
If we're ranking purely on resume, Hill-Murray has by far the most impressive resume, already knocking off three top ten teams(and their win over Burnsville looks all the more impressive after B-ville upset Eden Prairie this past week), The Pioneers can play with anyone and have definitely proven they belong in the state title picture.
Jumping into the poll this week is Wayzata, who has already played a remarkable 7 games, and now won't play again until the Saturday before Christmas. The Trojans have solid, close wins against some pretty decent teams in Andover, Elk River, and Duluth East. The Trojans look like they'll further muddy the picture in the very tough Section 6AA. What's interesting about Wayzata is that they differ from most other high school teams in that instead of relying on run-and-gun hockey to blow teams out, they're a team that can win with good defense and two of the better goalies in the state. So far, they've only given up nine total goals through their first seven games.
The top high school player in the state this year, Connor Hurley, chose Notre Dame last week. That's quite a huge get for the Irish to steal a top player from the state of Minnesota like that.
Hermantown junior defenseman Neal Pionk will be staying close to home and playing for Minnesota-Duluth. On September 25th of this year, I speculated that Tommy Vannelli, Johnny Austin, Parker Reno, and Pionk all seemed poised to make college commitments. Only Austin remains uncommitted out of that group now, and that seems like it will only be a matter of time.
Games of the Week
Duluth Marshall at Grand Rapids, Friday December 14th, 7pm, Grand Rapids IRA Civic Center
By no means do they have an easy schedule, but it's not very often you get to see Duluth Marshall match up against a top-notch Class AA school. Meanwhile, Grand Rapids got off to a slow start thanks to some injuries, but looks to be back in gear after a couple impressive wins over Roseau and Warroad.
Minnetonka at Roseau, Saturday December 15th, 7:30pm Roseau Memorial Arena
In one respect, these two teams are 344 miles apart. In another respect, they're an entire world apart. Culturally, Minnetonka and Roseau are about as far apart as you can get, but both have great hockey programs, and it should be a fun game when these two get together.
Bloomington Jefferson vs. Eagan, Saturday December 15th, 7:00pm, Dakotah Ice Center
This is a game that should help clear things up a little in the rankings. Jefferson is 3-0, with a win over a decent Cloquet team, but not much else besides that. Eagan is 2-2, but has played a very tough schedule so far, which included an OT loss to Hill-Murray. This game should give a good indication of which of these teams is a legit contender this season.