Benilde-St. Margaret's traveled north to face a pretty good Mounds View team on Tuesday evening, and after an ugly start, the Red Knights pulled away late for a convincing 8-2 victory.
This game was probably a little closer than the final score indicated. Benilde only led 1-0 after the first period, and I really though Mounds View controlled the play for much of the period. Mounds View tied the game up at one apiece early in the second period, and it was a tie game for much of the second period, before Mounds View started to run out of gas, and Benilde pulled away with three quick goals at the end of the second period. Benilde had too much skill, and Mounds View didn't have the depth to keep up the pace they played the first half of the game at, and Benilde was able to run their lead out in the third period.
Benilde has already lost four games this year, which is about three more than many people expected them to lose this season. Despite the convincing win on Tuesday, they showed a lot of the flaws that helped explain why. First off, I felt like their effort was incredibly flat. Like I said, they were lucky to escape the first up a goal, and if they were playing a top ten team, rather than a top 20 team, they probably would have been down a couple of goals. Outside of Spencer Naas, who I thought was strong from the start, I wouldn't say any of Benilde's players had what I'd call good performances. Benilde had the same problem last season where they started the year ranked number one, but sleepwalked through much of the season, before turning it on at the end of the year to win the title.
The other problem is that the losses of Jack Glover and Ryan Collins to the NTDP seem to be hurting Benilde more than expected, because the Red Knights was not all that impressive. They're essentially rotating two pairs of D--Johnny Austin and Ben Newhouse and then Patrick Graham and one of two freshman--and you can certainly do worse than playing Johnny Austin half the game, but they really struggled breaking the puck out of their zone when heavily pressured on the forecheck by Mounds View in the first period. They must have taken three or four icings just out of desperation because they couldn't break it out. It should be noted they also don't get a lot of defensive support from their forwards, which may play into it. Either way, they looked pretty vulnerable to a physical team that can attack them on the forecheck.
Of course, they still have the most explosive offense in the state. They scored eight goals and made most of them look pretty easy. It's maybe the most impressive collection of forwards I've seen on a high school team.
Grant Besse made NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings yesterday, after going undrafted last year. To me, the question you have to ask is: What is he doing this year that he didn't do last year when he wasn't picked? He's added some zip to his shot(Although, I didn't keep track, but it felt like he attempted 20 shots, and only about 10 actually hit the net. Probably chalk that up to the less than inspired effort), but otherwise, I'm not seeing much of a difference. With Benilde's struggles, I thought somebody like Tommy Vannelli might jump up and challenge him for Mr. Hockey, but with the way Besse continues to score, and Vannelli coming it at likely a mid-round pick in the NHL Draft, I still think it is Besse's award to lose.
Uncommitted forward Spencer Naas has garnered a lot of college attention. He's a great skater, with a really wide skating base and strong legs. He created two goals with nice passes that led to tap-in goals. I'm not sure I see him as much of a scorer going forward though. His skating should make him effective enough at the next level though.