Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Boys’ Class 2A Preseason Rankings

Lakeville North’s Max Johnson (center) waits for his teammates to arrive to celebrate his third period goal which turned out to be the difference in the Panther’s 6-2 Class 2A semifinal win over Eden Prairie on March 5, 2015 at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

Lakeville North still the team to beat

Class 2A rankings for Nov. 18, 2015

The Lakeville North Panthers top the week one Class 2A boys hockey rankings fresh off a 31-0-0 season and their first state title.  Lurking in the background are a number of teams that will work their way in and out of the top ten this year.  One thing is certain, no top ten will look the same this year from week-to-week as parity will be the theme for high school hockey at the Class 2A level.

1. Lakeville North (31-0-0 last season)

Last Week:  None

This Week:  None

The Panthers ran the table and delivered the first perfect season since Red Wing in 1997 and Bloomington Jefferson in 1993.  Their 31 wins set a state record (Jefferson had 28) and they will but to test early with a game against the defensively-solid Stillwater Ponies.  Despite losing three Mr. Hockey Finalists, two other DI athletes and their starting goaltender, the Panthers return four players who notched at least 15 goals last year.  Max Johnson (Bowling Green), Ryan Poehling (St. Cloud State), Taylor Johnson, and Henry Enabak combined for 74 goals last year.  Until the Panthers lose, it will be difficult to run this team from the number one ranking.

2. Duluth East (16-11-1 last season)

Last Week:  None

This Week:  None

For each of the past seven seasons, the Duluth East Greyhounds have represented the Section 7AA at the state tournament.  This year, 15 players return from last year’s state final team that shocked the world in their semifinal upset win over heavily favored Edina.  The Hounds may take some losses early in the season as Mike Randolph works to get his team playing the game his way.  Leading scorer Ash Altmann returns with Luke Dow and Ryan Peterson pacing the way offensively.  Highly regarded junior goalie Kirk Meierhoff is expected to take over in goal this year.  They have the elements in place to make a run at their fourth state championship.

3. Eden Prairie (19-11-0 last season)

Last Week:  None

This Week:  None

Two of the state’s top forwards skate for the Eden Prairie Eagles featuring Michael Graham (Minnesota Duluth) and Casey Mittelsdtadt (Minnesota).  Each scored 26 goals last season and lead a team that has been to the state tournament the past two seasons. Goaltender Shaun Durocher returns from a 15 win season to help position the Eagles for a run at their third trip in a row to the Xcel Energy Center.

4. Blaine (23-7-1 last season)

Last Week:  None

This Week:  None

The Bengals Riley Tufte (29g-34a-63pts) is on the short list of preseason Mr. Hockey finalists and he has help to the tune of 16 returning players to this year’s team. Luke Notermann had a 60-point season last year and compliments Tufte’s game with a tenacious compete level.   Blaine has one-two punch in goal with Ridge Gerads (11-4-0) and Jon Kallestad (12-3-1) providing the Bengals with plenty of reason to be optimistic for another state tournament run.

5. Grand Rapids (14-11-2 last season)

Last Week:  None

This Week:  None

The Grand Rapids Thunderhawks are deep with a mix of returning and incoming players under new head coach Trent Klatt.  The key to their depth is at forward that features Jonah Bischoff, Mitchell Mattson (North Dakota) and Alex Adams who combined for 99 goals over the past two seasons.  A trio of sophomores led by goaltender Zach Stejskal, forwards Gavin Hain and Blake McGlaughlin (Minnesota) all played in the Elite League this past fall. They will be key contributors this year who open the season with No. 9 Bemidji next Tuesday.

6. Edina (26-2-2 last season)

Last Week:  None

This Week:  Holy Family Catholic (11/20), TBD (11/1)

As usual, the Edina Hornets are in the upper echelon of high school hockey.  The Hornets have plenty of talent to be considered state title contenders led by three DI recruits.  Casey Dornbach (Nebraska Omaha), Clayton Phillips (Minnesota), and Sammy Waker (Minnesota) will be relied upon to bring together a Hornet team that lost 12 players to graduation or early departures.  They will have the usual expectations on them and, under coach Curt Giles, will be in the mix again this year.

7. Hill-Murray (21-9-0 last season)

Last Week:  None

This Week:  at Burnsville (11/21)

The Pioneers return key components at every position which gives them front runner status for another Section 4AA title.  They have one five of the last seven and seven of the last ten section 4AA championships.   Goaltender Jake Begley won 11 games in 14 starts as sophomore last year and gives his team a chance to win every night. Junior Marko Reifenberger had a prolific offensive season notching (19g-22a-41pts) last year and will be joined by a large number of underclassmen will be expected to contribute offensively.  Juniors Brock Bremer and Kyler Yeo along with sophomore Dylan Mils will be key to the Pioneer success.  Senior Casey Staum will anchor the blue line.

8. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (15-10-2 last season)

Last Week:  None

This Week:  None

The Red Knights finished five games over .500 last season and it was considered and off year for them.  There are plenty key players that return for the Red Knights.  Among the 14 returning letter winners is goaltender Ryan Bischel who is entering his third season at the varsity level and is just a junior.  Junior forward Zach Ristau (22g-11a-33pts) will lead the way with his speed and skill offensively and the major strength of the Red Knights is on the blue line led by seniors Nick Austin, Peter Heimbold, and junior Connor Mayer (Connecticut).  The Red Knights always play an exciting game and are expected to be defensively sound this year which makes them dangerous.

9. Bemidji (23-5-2 last season)

Last Week:  None

This Week:  vs St. Cloud Apollo (11/20)

The Lumberjacks begin play Friday night when they host St. Cloud Apollo.  A game on Tuesday in Grand Rapids will be a test for both the top ten teams and is a great early season gauge for where those two teams are at.  The Lumberjacks made their first trip to the state tournament last year since 1986.  While they lost their leading scorer and goaltender to graduation, the Lumberjacks bring back a team loaded with experience making them the favorite for the Section 8AA title this season.

10. Wayzata (13-12-3 last season)

Last Week:  None

This Week:  vs Maple Grove (11/20), vs TBD (11/21)

The Wayata Trojans will improve on their effort from last year.  Alex Schilling is a pre-season Frank Brimsek Award finalist and is expected to have an outstanding season in goal this year.  North Dakota bound senior center Mark Senden (6g-16a-22pts) and senior defenseman Billy Duma (7g-23a-30pts) will be poised to lead a team that is defensively sound and difficult to play in all three zones.  They open with the Maple Grove Crimson at the Cable 12 Turkey Trot which will be solid test for both teams to open the season.

Others Receiving Consideration:  Holy Family Catholic, Stillwater, Prior Lake, St. Thomas Academy, Elk River, White Bear Lake