The high school hockey opened with a bang this past weekend with the Turkey Trot tournament held at the Plymouth Ice Center. The tournament featured our preseason #1 Edina, #2 Wayzata, #8 Holy Family, and honorable mention Maple Grove. Edina ended up taking the title with a 3-1 win over Wayzata on Saturday night, while Maple Grove scored a last second goal to take a 4-3 win in the third place game.
I was on hand for Friday's game to get a look at some of the best high school talent in the state.
Edina vs. Holy Family
This one ended in an ugly 8-0 win for Edina, but the scoreboard doesn't tell the true story of how close this game was. Holy Family kept the game pretty tight for about half the game. They played a scoreless first period, and were only down by a goal or two and had some pretty good pressure through the first half of the second period. But Holy Family was leaning heavily on the same ten skaters all night, while Edina rolled three lines of forwards, with a fourth line mixed in. Add in that the game was played on Olympic-sized ice, and Holy Family eventually ran out of gas, at which point the rout was on. In Holy Family's defense, Edina would do the same to all but about four or five teams in the state. Holy Family looked like a top ten team; Edina is just on another level.
If there were any questions about Edina heading into the season, it was on the blue line and in goal. Any questions about goal tending seemed to be answered on Friday night. Andrew Rohkohl was excellent in goal for the Hornets. Holy Family had some very high quality chances in the second period when the game was still close, especially on the man advantage. Rohkohl looked really strong. It's probably going to take a couple soft goals for anybody to beat Edina this year, and it's looking like those cheapies will be tough to come by.
Defense is a little less settled this early in the season. The Hornets are probably only going to be able to rotate 4, maybe 5 D against tougher opponents, and they don't have necessarily have shutdown-type guys like Parker Reno and Matt Nelson. Of course, that's a minor nitpick, and it's not like anybody else does either.
The forwards were just as impressive as expected. Miguel Fidler centered the top line with Matt Masterman and Dylan Malmquist. Fidler had a couple goals, including a nice one-on-two rush to score the game's first goal.
All the talk after the tournament, however, was about Edina's second line, with senior Cullen Munson centering Edina's two super sophomores Kieffer Bellows and Garrett Wait, who looked excellent in their first varsity games. Wait in particular had a huge game on Saturday night, scoring two goals and an assist in Edina's 3-1 win over Wayzata. The thing that has always impressed me about Wait is that he seems to raise the level of his game when he plays better competition. He's got sky-high upside.
For Holy Family, I really liked how senior defenseman Dylan Woolf played in the Elite League this fall, and he had another strong (half) game here. He's got to do a little bit of everything, including running the top of the point on the power play, which isn't really his strength, but I think he'll make a nice, tough defenseman at the junior level next season.
Wayzata vs. Maple Grove
This was just a fun, fun hockey game. The arena was stuffed beyond capacity with two bordering towns playing, and there was a wild finish. Wayzata led much of the third period 3-2, and had a couple opportunities to put the game away that went off the post. With about a minute left, Maple Grove took a shot from the point that hit off a glove, a stick, and deflected into the net to send the game to overtime. But Wayzata was able to bounce back in overtime to advance to the final.
Despite the loss on Friday, I think Maple Grove opened some eyes on the weekend by playing highly-ranked Wayzata so tough, and then pulling out a last second victory over Holy Family in the third place game.
Maple Grove has a pair of star freshmen in forward Sam Huff and defenseman Jack Kelly, and the Crimson don't hesitate to use them. Kelly plays on the top defensive pairing, and Huff plays on first line and plays the point a bit on the power play. Huff probably didn't have his best game on Friday night, as Maple Grove's entire first line looked just a bit of out of sync, but he's extremely talented. Kelly is a smaller defenseman, but has very light feet and is a pretty good skater. There appears to be a very bright future for both.
Goalie Cal McKenney had by far the best game I've ever seen him play on Friday and really kept Maple Grove in the game. It was a shame that after making so many good saves, Wayzata's third goal was probably one he wants back, but overall, he made this a very close game. If he plays like that in the section tournament, there's every reason to believe that they could give Blaine a serious run for their money in Section 5AA.
Wayzata has a lot of talent up and down their line-up, but it didn't feel like they were firing on all cylinders this early into the season. Wayzata's top forward, Matthew Freytag was back in the line-up after missing much of the fall with a back injury. He buried a nice breakaway for a goal. He's one of the best pure shooters in the state, and fired his heavy shot numerous times, but I felt he got a little too comfortable settling for perimeter shots, which were easily stopped. Once he gets back in the swing of things though, he should be one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the state.
I was also really impressed with senior forward Jack Sorensen, who showed a lot of explosiveness in his skating. He's a kid that didn't play in the Elite League and doesn't draw a lot of hype, but is a very solid player.
For more high school hockey coverage, check out our High School Hockey section.