There are three Class AA schools that have yet to lose or tie a game this season. The first two are pretty obvious: #1 Edina and #2 Minnetonka. It might take a few guesses to come up with the third, however. Tartan High School came into Tuesday night's contest against a plucky Irondale looking to extend their record to a perfect 8-0-0, and they did thanks to a 3-0 victory over the Knights.
Tartan mostly controlled the play, holding a 36-12 advantage in shots on goal, but Irondale did a nice job limiting high quality scoring chances, and holding Tartan to only a single goal in each of the three periods. Irondale wasn't able to put up a lot of offense, but did get a few scoring chances. Tartan deserves credit for persevering against a pesky opponent, and Irondale deserves some credit for making this a much closer game than it had any right to be.
The first thing that stands out about Tartan is what an old team they are. No 10th graders are on varsity roster, and there's very few 11th graders. It's a pretty senior-laden bunch. Two of the juniors that do play regularly, Zach Ledman and Brady O'Sullivan play alongside Michigan Tech recruit Jake Jackson to form their top line, while senior Eric Olheiser anchors a solid second line, giving them a nice 1-2 punch. Defensively, they're led by senior Mike Winberg. Gabe Splichal didn't face many shots, but came up big the few times he had to.
The Titans will face their biggest test of the season on Thursday when they meet their rival Hill-Murray. While Section 7AA has been a bit of a disappointment this year, Section 4AA is starting to look much deeper than most initially thought. Both Mounds View and Tartan have impressed me as teams that could give Hill-Murray a run for their money on the right day. (I'm not sure who is the better team between MV and Tartan, but I know that's a game I'd love to see). Add in White Bear Lake and Stillwater who are pretty good, and it's going to be quite a battle to stay out of those 4th/5th seeds that will have a tough quarterfinal match-up and Hill-Murray in the section semis.
Little was expected out of Irondale this year, but they seem to be exceeding those expectations thanks to a pretty strong defense, and good goal tending from Esko Aukee. Even in their losses, they've kept the opposition to pretty low goal totals. Junior Alex Fredberg is more of a natural defenseman, but plays some forward for the Knights, and is probably their most talented player. Junior captain Barrett Reif is a strong player too.
The Knights were picked to finish last in Section 5AA, which also suddenly looks much deeper thanks to some strong results from Centennial and Maple Grove in the past week. But the Knights have already beaten Coon Rapids, and after seeing Osseo last week, I think Irondale could give them a good game too. It doesn't seem likely they make it out of the quarterfinal round of their section, but if they ended up catching a few bounces, they definitely have the potential to pull off an upset.