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Hill-Murray vs. Holy Angels

I went to see Hill-Murray take on Holy Angels last Thursday at Aldrich Arena. It was a pretty good game, that ended with Hill-Murray winning 3-2.

Lots of really good players on both sides in this game. You can read about it after the jump.

Overall, this was a pretty well-played game by both sides. Hill jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the first period, Holy Angels responded with a goal in the second, and the third period was scoreless. Kevin Becker gave Hill-Murray the 3-2 win less than a minute into the overtime with a nice goal.

As a team, Hill-Murray continues to look pretty strong. They should cruise through their section, barring a major upset. I don’t think they’ve got what it takes to match up against the best in the state at the state tournament, but on the right day, they could give anybody a run for their money. Many of the teams ahead of them in the rankings will knock each other out in sectional play, so Hill will likely be a seeded team come tournament time, which I think helps their chances.

Holy Angels has a lot of talent, but it still pretty young, and I just don’t see them having enough to overcome a Edina or Bloomington Jefferson. They lose a couple players next year, but otherwise, they could be a team to watch next year with a little more experience under their belt.

There were a handful of NHL scouts at the game, which leads me to believe that I was right about Chris Casto being more of an NHL draft prospect than the NHL Central Scouting Bureau believes. I don’t think Casto played his best game here. There were definitely moments where he showed how talented he was, but also a few times that he made mistakes or got caught out of position.

Same goes for junior defenseman JD Cotroneo, who might be an NHL draft pick next year. I’ve been impressed with the steps forward he’s taken this year, but I wasn’t overly impressed with how he played against Holy Angels. He’s still got a lot of talent though.

I was most impressed with Hill-Murray’s top line of Ben Bahe, Zach Lavalle and Willie Faust. I never really though a lot about Faust, but he really stood out in this game. He made things happen all over the ice with his speed. I’ve seen Lavalle play quite a few times now, and he had never really blown me away, but the more I watch him, the more I appreciate what he can do. He isn’t very flashy, but he makes smart, solid plays with the puck every time he touches it.

Similar to Faust, Kevin Becker was flying all over the ice for Hill-Murray, and scored the winner when he beat a Holy Angels defenseman wide one-on-one and cut to the net for a pretty goal. Sophomores Charlie Sampair and Jonah Johnson are good players as well.

Gopher recruits Connor and Ryan Reilly are the leaders for Holy Angels, though they didn’t blow me away. They’re still projects and probably need a couple years in the USHL before heading to Minnesota. Their younger brother, sophomore Mike, looked really good. He’s tiny, especially for a defenseman, but he’s got some of the best hands I’ve seen from a player this year. He was going some crazy things with the puck.

Junior Joseph Labate is a tall, skinny forward, that could be a draft prospect next year in weak Minnesota HS class. He’s very raw right now, but shows a lot of potential.

The other story for Holy Angels has been the play of three ninth graders on their varsity squad: defenseman Frankie Mork, and forwards Zach Hartley and Mario Bianchi. Mork is a really skilled defenseman, but is very tiny. He's listed at 5'8" but that's got to be exaggerated by at least 3 inches. Bianchi is tiny too, listed at 5'5", but he's quick and is an excellent stickhandler. Hartley didn't stand out as much, though he did score a nice goal, but he was out there on the ice against a top 10 team in the state and didn't look out of place, which is pretty good for a freshman.