I was in and out all week and tried to keep focus on some of the college playoff series over the weekend, so I missed more of the tournament than I would have liked, but from what I saw, and what I heard, it was another fantastic state tournament. This was looking like it would be the year of the upset, but when the dust settled, it was the favorites coming out on top, but only by the very slimmest of margins in great game after great game.
Here's a few bullet points I've jotted down from what I saw:
-Kyle Wow Overtime game-winners in perhaps the two biggest, and best games of the season(Against Wayzata in the section final, and Duluth East for the title). I know there are some statheads out there that will say it's purely a function of talent, and Rau was most likely to score those goals because he was the best player on the ice, but if you watch those performances and all you see are numbers and percentages, man, you're missing out on a pretty fun part of this game. I've seen better, more talented players, but it's extremely rare to see a player do something as special as that.
-Great Games in AAThere was a considerable amount of hype about how good this Class AA could be heading in, and I'd say it even exceeded that. Just about every game was a great one. Ten years from now, this tournament probably won't be remembered for the great players that played in it, but will definitely be remembered for all of the amazing games.
-The Part Where I Swear About St. Thomas I've been debating whether or not to say this, but I'll go ahead: those kids from St. Thomas should have been embarrassed to skate up and take their Class A medals. It's maybe not fair because it's not necessarily their decision to compete against >10,000 population towns, but it's an absolute joke that they do. And even worse that they'll be back playing in Class A next year. Saying your school was really bad at hockey three state titles ago doesn't really cut it as an excuse. I guess the powers-that-be at STA want the publicity for their school, but the only message it sends is that they may teach kids to dress pretty, but have absolutely nothing in the way of honor.
-Having Said That The Class A tournament was actually incredibly enjoyable when I didn't have to watch the St. Paul Suburban All-Stars. Hermantown/Hibbing was a fantastic game. Teams like that, or Thief River Falls epitomize what the Class A tournament is intended to do, and it would have been a lot of fun to see those teams compete against each other for the title.
-Fix the System An ideal system would judge schools on the size of the population they're drawing from. A simpler solution would be to bump every private school up to Class AA. Yes, there are good number of smaller private schools in the Twin Cities that are legitimate Class A teams. Those schools could play the same schedule, and just have to lose one sectional game, similar to what the combined Minneapolis team did this year. Having those schools endure an 8-goal playoff loss in Class AA is better than having them endure a 4-goal loss in the Class A sectionals while a couple other schools completely ruin the Class A state tournament.
-Adam Johnson I keep an ounce of skepticism about players who put up big stats until I can see them play, which was the case with Hibbing's Adam Johnson. Like everyone else, I was extremely impressed with what I saw out of him. I will throw one word of caution out there though since the hype train was moving pretty fast this past Friday. A kid from the Iron Range, big numbers, really skinny, a little older for his grade, great state tournament as a sophomore. That's a perfect description for Johnson, or for Virginia's Garrett Hendrickson, and while Hendrickson is a very good player, I'm not sure many WCHA teams are really cursing the fact that St. Cloud has him lined up. It just goes to show that a lot can happen over the course of a couple years.
-Garrett Skrbich I loved watching this kid play. So tough around the net. He's very unheralded, but extremely good, which is perhaps the perfect way to sum up Hermantown's entire program. Skrbich maybe won't be an impact player at the next level, but I have a feeling he'll be a valuable player.
-Duluth East How good is this team going to be next year? It will be interesting to watch over the summer, but I doubt they'll have too many defections to other leagues, and if they don't lose anybody, they are going to be a scary team next year. If they've got a solid replacement in goal, we'll be comparing them against some of the best teams in recent history, rather than against the rest of the teams in the state.
White Bear Lake- It was nice to see them finally break through against Hill-Murray. Hill had such a long streak that I think people forgot just how razor close a lot of those games have been, especially in the sectional tournament, and when you're on that thin a rope, it's only a matter of time. The Bears weren't able to break through with that first quarterfinal win, though they had some incredible chances, to the point that I'm still not sure how they didn't beat Duluth East in the quarters. It was a nice performance from them though.
-Jonny Brodzinski He played at Mariucci on Friday morning, then drove to Fargo and played for the Fargo Force that night. He lost both games, but that's still pretty badass.