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High School Hockey Game Report

This past Thursday, I got the opportunity to watch St. Cloud Cathedral play against Mankato East High School. Not only was it a good game, but there were a couple players in the game that I wanted to get a look at. Obviously the first priority was 2007 Recruiting Board prospect Matt Crandell, a defenseman for Cathedral. I was also interested in seeing Cathedral's 8th grader Nate Schmidt, and East's goalie Jimmy Olson.

As for the game itself, Cathedral ended up winning 2-1 in overtime after scoring the game-tying goal with about 5 minutes left. Cathedral was the much stronger team, but East was a fun team to watch, as they were way outsized, but laid everything on the line and almost stole a victory.

Here are my thoughts on the guys I was watching for:

Matt Crandell- This was my second time getting to watch Crandell play after seeing him in the HS Elite League this past fall. I got a little better look at him this, as he logged some serious ice time all night. He played every other shift all night, and in the third period, played the entire penalty kill and powerplay. I think I once clocked him at a 4 minute shift.

To match what I said him about the Elite League, he is extremely reliable with the puck. He made good decisions all night and never looked rushed. He was playing against a little smaller competition this time too, and was much more of a physical force on the ice. I came away really impressed with the way he threw his weight around.

As for some of the drawbacks to his game, there were a couple instances where he got caught too far up the ice in the neutral zone and a forward was able to get behind him. He had the speed to make up for that at this level, but a speedy forward in the USHL or college would probably make him pay for that.

Also, he's probably never going to be confused for an offensive defenseman. He fired one nice blast with some open space to set up, but he never really got any good shots off from the point, and most of the shots he did get off missed the net. He probably would have had a goal if he had put his shots on net.

Overall I came away pretty impressed with him again. He definitely has a future in college hockey. He won't a top 2 defenseman, but he'll be a very trustworthy 4th or 5th defenseman. I've gotten the impression that if it were up to him, he'd probably end up as a Minnesota Golden Gopher. It will all depend on how much scholarship money Don Lucia is able to offer him. If not Minnesota, Crandell would probably play for his hometown St. Cloud Huskies.

I had heard a lot of good things about Cathedral's 8th grader Nate Schmidt going into this game. Schmidt is a little different than most 8th graders playing high school hockey, like St. Thomas Academy's Jordan Schroeder last year, in that he doesn't look like an 8th grader at all. He's already 5'11" 165 lbs., and you'd never guess he was an 8th grader by looking at him.

Schmidt played on the top line but started the game out very slowly. Cathedral got bottled up in their own end and Schmidt really struggled controlling breakout passes with his backhand along the boards. He wasn't afraid to throw his weight around a little bit, but that's not really his style of play. The word about him must have gotten out because it seemed like he was skating around with a target on his chest. He took three or four huge hits in the first period that seemed to slow him down some. He did get control of the puck along the wing a couple times, but never got the space to really get moving.

The second half of the game was a complete 180 for him though. It started when Cathedral got their first powerplay of the game. Schmidt looked great playing the wing on the powerplay. He was confident with the puck on his stick, and did a great job moving without the puck. He actually scored on the powerplay in the second period when he snuck to the side of the net and jammed home a rebound, but the goal was called back by a controversial man-in-the-crease call.

By the third period, he was unquestionably the most dangerous player on the ice. When he got a little space to really get moving along the wing, he was very tough to stop. He missed one goal when he fired a one timer that just missed the net on the powerplay. He finally tied the game with about 5 minutes to go when he took a drop pass and fired a huge slap shot. He was also on the ice for the overtime winner. He played every other shift late in the game and was the guy Cathedral was really looking for to make something happen.

I think he's got a great future in hockey. He had a tremendous shot and great offensive instincts. I think he'll be ready for the USHL by the time he's a sophomore in high school. While the Huskies have gotten a lot of local talent in recent years, they've lost some of the bigger prospects to Minnesota like Howe and Harrington. Schmidt will probably be another challenge for St. Cloud to see if they can keep one of their top prospects in the local area.

The player for Mankato East that I was most interested in seeing was goalie Jimmy Olson. Olson is a senior and by far the most talented player on East's team. He definitely earned my respect with his performance Thursday night. Olson may not be a great athlete, but he's a big goalie that is very sound fundamentally. There was no wasted movement. He just sort of let the puck hit him. He could improve a bit on controlling rebounds and his puckhandling could be a little bit better, but he was pretty much the only reason East had a chance to win that game.

Hopefully he gets a chance at a USHL tryout next year. I'd love to see this kid get a chance at playing after high school, and I think he definitely has the ability to do so.

So that's my recap from the East/Cathedral game. I taped the Grand Rapids/Moorhead game, so hopefully I'll have a report up on Pat White and Jordy Christian sometime later today.