Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Class AA State Tournament Preview

The MNHockeyMag takes a look at the State Class AA Tournament field that kicks off with quarterfinal games on Thursday, March 6th.

Lakeville North Panthers (23-4-1, 15-2-1)
Head Coach:  Trent Eigner (2nd season, 48-36-2)
Section:  1AA
Conference:  South Suburban, 1st place
State Tournament appearances:  (8) 2002, 03, 04, as North:  06, 10, 11, 13, 14
State Titles: None

Road to State:
Dodge County 11-1
Owantonna 7-1
Lakeville North 6-0

Top 5 Scoring Leaders:
Player                       GP    G    A    Pts

Jack Poehling             28    28    23    51
Nick Poehling             28    12    29    41
Tristen Hazlett           28    12    26    38
Ryan Poehling            27    11    22    33
Max Johnson              27    12    19    31
Jack McNeely             28    4    26    30

Goaltending Leaders:
Player                    W    L    T    GAA        Sv%        Sho

Will Dupont             14    1    0      1.87          .904           2
Jake Oettinger          9    2    1      1.62          .937            3

What to expect:  
The Panthers head to the state tournament for the second straight year, but this year as the No. 2 seed — and the Panthers are a legitimate contender for the title.  There is plenty of offensive balance on this team and they keep the puck out of the net as well with one of the best goaltending tandems in the league.  Senior Tristen Hazlett erupted for 9 points (3g-6a-9pts) as they decimated their Section 1AA opponents by a 24-2 margin in three games.  After starting the season 2-3-0, the Panthers are 21-1-1 in the past 23 games and have a solid chance to build on their performance of two losses in last year’s tournament.

Edina Hornets  (22-4-1, 7-0-1)
Head Coach:  Curt Giles (14th season, 301-102-15)
Section:  2AA
Conference:  Lake Conference, 1st place
State Tournament appearances:  (36) as Edina 1955, 56, 57, 60, 62, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, as Edina East 73, 74, 77, 78, 79, as Edina West 81, as Edina 82, 83, 84, 87, 88, 89, 95, 96, 97, 98, 2000, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
State Titles: (11) 1969, 71, 74, 78, 79, 82, 84, 88, 97, 2010, 13

Road to State:
Prior Lake 8-2
Bloomington Jefferson 5-1

Top 5 Scoring Leaders:
Player                       GP    G    A    Pts

Miguel Fidler                27    18    27    45
Dylan Malmquist        25    14    25    39
Cullen Munson           27    18    19    37
Tyler Nanne                27    8    22    30
Kieffer Bellows           25    11    18    29

Goaltending Leaders:
Player                         W    L    T    GAA        Sv%        Sho

Andrew Rohkohl        20    4    1        1.90         .920          3
Kobi Boe                        2    0    0        1.00         .944          0

What to expect:  
This season is the eighth straight trip to the state tournament for the Edina Hornets and 36th overall.  Head coach Curt Giles quietly picked up win No. 300 with Edina’s 8-2 section semifinal win over Prior Lake.  It is the work of the Hornets’ skipper that positions his team for success each year.  The Hornets are 10-0-0 in their last 10 games and have been defensively solid, allowing less than two goals against per game this year.  Goaltender Andrew Rohkohl is seldom talked about yet has put up a stellar season for the Hornets.  His team is the No. 1 overall seed and is the favorite to capture back-to-back championships, which would be the first time a team has done that in Class AA since Bloomington Jefferson’s three-peat from 1992-94.

Eagan Wildcats  (18-9-1, 9-8-0)
Head Coach:  Mike Taylor (11th season, 202-95-11)
Section:  3AA
Conference:  South Suburban Conference, 5th place
State Tournament appearances:  (4) 2006, 11, 12, 14
State Titles: None

Road to State:
East Ridge  5-1
Cretin-Derham Hall 2-1
St. Thomas Academy  4-2

Top 5 Scoring Leaders:
Player                      GP    G    A    Pts

Jack Jenson               28    20    36    56
Kyle Stebbing            26    18    18    36
Tommy Muck            28    9    21    30
Nick Wolff                  26    10    15    25
Max Elsenheimer      28    9    12    21

Goaltending Leaders:
Player                         W    L    T    GAA        Sv%        Sho

Andrew Lindgren        18    9    1       1.73          .934           5

What to expect:
The Wildcats experienced pockets of struggles this year, especially early in the season.  At one point they sported an ordinary 9-7-1 record.  Since then, the Wildcats are 8-2-0 and have won five straight.  Mike Taylor’s Wildcats have been to the tournament three of the last four seasons and looked the part taking out top seeded Cretin-Derham Hall and highly regarded St. Thomas Academy in the Section 3AA tournament.  The Wildcats’ power play is tough and they have the goaltending to shut anyone down in Andrew Lindgren.  Eagan defeated the Edina Hornets earlier in the year and are capable of putting together three more wins to earn a potential first state tournament championship.

Stillwater Area Ponies  (16-10-2 , 11-5-2)
Head Coach:  Matt Doman (1st season, 16-10-2)
Section:  4AA
Conference:  Suburban East Conference, 4th place
State Tournament appearances:  (1) 2014
State Titles: None

Road to State:
Tartan 6-3
White Bear Lake 2-1
Hill-Murray 2-1

Top 5 Scoring Leaders:
Player                            Gp    G    A    Pts

John Heddle                   26    17    17    34
Devin Cates                    25    9    14    23
Sam Sagissor                 28    12    11    23
Brandon Jungmann     25    9    12    21
Mitch Reinke                 26    5    14    19

Goaltending Leaders:
Player                      W    L    T    GAA        Sv%        Sho

Josh Benson              11    8    1      2.59          .892           1
Scotty Finberg            2    0    0     2.50          .844          0
Daniel Ahrendt          3    2    1       3.79         .809           1

What to expect:  
For the first time since 2004 — and just the second since 1981 — a team other than Hill-Murray and White Bear Lake will be representing their section. The Ponies knocked off White Bear Lake and Hill-Murray with back-to-back 2-1 wins in the Section 4AA semifinals and finals.  They adhered to coach Matt Doman’s plan and shut down a pair of teams that were prolific offensive teams.  The Ponies believe in their game plan, and goalie Josh Benson was lights out in back-to-back efforts.  The Ponies have a tall order in the tournament-tested and top-seeded Edina Hornets in the quarterfinals.  If they execute like they did in the section playoffs and convert on their scoring chances like they can, the Ponies can be a potential bracket buster.

Centennial Cougars (16-10-2 , 8-7-2)
Head Coach:  Ritch Menne (3rd season, 51-26-4)
Section:  5AA
Conference:  Northwest Suburban Conference, 5th place
State Tournament appearances:  (3) 2004, 2013, 2014
State Titles: (1) 2004

Road to State:
Champlin Park 5-1
Maple Grove 4-0
Blaine 2-1

Top 5 Scoring Leaders:
Player                      GP    G    A    Pts

Ryner Gorowsky        27    25    16    41
Connor Lovick           28    18    16    34
Adam Anderson        28    7    21    28
Collin Hughes            28    11    12    23
Colton Berg                27    7    13    20

Goaltending Leaders:
Player                   W    L    T    GAA        Sv%        Sho

Blake Miller            12    10    1    2.49         .897            4
Jon Albers            4    0    1    2.13        .892        1

What to expect:
The Centennial Cougars make their second straight appearance to the tournament this year and third overall.  A spirited section final win over the Blaine Bengals illustrated that the Cougars can beat any team in this field.  They bring a solid blend of skill and grit led by Ryner Gorowsky, the cousin of Tom who led the 2004 team to the title that year.  Last year, the Cougars lost a heart-breaking overtime quarterfinal round game to the Wayzata Trojans and will look to build from that experience as they open with the Eden Prairie Eagles.  The Cougars are 5-0-1 in their last six games.

Eden Prairie Eagles  (17-8-3, 3-4-1)
Head Coach:  Lee Smith  (21st season, 394-143-30)
Section:  6AA
Conference:  Lake Conference, 3rd place
State Tournament appearances:  (7) 1992, 99, 2001, 03, 09, 11, 14
State Titles: (2) 2009, 11

Road to State:
Robbinsdale Armstrong 8-0
Holy Family Catholic 6-2
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 3-2 (ot)

Top 5 Scoring Leaders:
Player                          GP    G    A    Pts

Steven Spinner            28    20    27    47
Luc Snuggerud           28    9    37    46
Michael Graham        28    18    20    38
Colton Schmidt          17    12    11    23
Riley Argetsinger       28    10    10    20

Goaltending Leaders:
Player                   W    L    T    GAA        Sv%        Sho

Jake Gerdes            11    7    2       2.75        .897            1
Erik Evers                3    1    1        2.35        .898           0

What to expect:  
Lee Smith’s team has two Mr. Hockey finalists on the roster in Steven Spinner and Luc Snuggerud.  They rank No. 1 and 2, respectively, in scoring on the team and lead the Eagles in more than just points with veteran leadership and a thirst to win.   After stumbling through the difficult Lake Conference (3-4-1), the Eagles turned up their game in the section playoffs and defeated the highly regarded Holy Family Catholic Fire by a score of 6-2.  The Eagles followed that up with a well played defensive tussle, a 3-2 overtime win over Benilde-St. Margaret’s, to advance to the state tournament.  Smith is just six wins shy of 400 in his 21-year coaching career and his teams have been productive in recent years.  When in St. Paul, the Eagles earned state titles in each of their last two appearances.  Eden Prairie opens the tournament against Centennial in what should prove to be a defensive chess match from the opening face-off.

Duluth East Greyhounds  (21-6-1)
Head Coach:  Mike Randolph  (26th season, 544-149-20)
Section:  7AA
Conference:  Independent
State Tournament appearances:  (21) 1958, 60, 61, 64, 75, 91, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 2000, 03, 04, 05, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
State Titles: (3) 1960, 95, 98

Road to State:
St. Francis 6-0
Grand Rapids 5-2
Elk River 3-2 (ot)

Top 5 Scoring Leaders:
Player                       GP    G    A    Pts

Nick Altmann            28    20    26    46
Phil Beaulieu             28    18    24    42
Alex Trapp                 28    7    26    33
Jack Kolar                 26    19    9    28
Brian Bunten            28    8    17    25

Goaltending Leaders:
Player                       W    L    T    GAA        Sv%        Sho

Gunnar Howg            16    5    1       1.85        .912             4
Lucas Hedin                2    1    0       2.29        .879            0

What to expect:  
The ‘Hounds have become regulars at the state tournament as they make their sixth straight appearance this season.  A state title has been elusive in that span, though, as East has suffered its share of heartbreak over the years with the last championship coming in 1998.  Since that time, the ‘Hounds have come up empty nine times in the new millennium.  They own a Mr. Hockey finalist in Phil Beaulieu who has the ability to control a game and will play significant minutes.  The key to the ‘Hounds over the years has been a puck possession flowing style that is fun to watch with a devastating power play — this year at 43 percent.  The ‘Hounds are on a seven game winning streak and have outscored their opponents 36-10 in those games.

Roseau Rams  (20-7-1, 5-5-1)
Head Coach:  Andy Lundbohm (5th season, 88-47-3)
Section:  8AA
Conference:  Mariucci Conference, 3rd place
State Tournament appearances:  (34) 1946, 47, 53, 55, 57, 58, 59, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 71, 75, 77, 78, 79, 81, 83, 84, 90, 91, 98, 99, 2000, 06, 07, 08, 10, 14
State Titles: (7) 1946, 58, 59, 61, 90, 99, 07

Road to State:
River Lakes 4-3
Bemidji 4-1
Moorhead 7-4

Top 5 Scoring Leaders:
Player                    GP    G    A    Pts

Zach Yon                  28    39    41    80
Alex Strand              28    29    48    77
Cole Bjugson            22    9    36    45
Alex Halstengard     28    19    23    42
Brady Castle            28    11    10    21

Goaltending Leaders:
Player                      W    L    T    GAA        Sv%        Sho

Ryan Anderson         20    7    1    2.25            .901           8

What to expect:  
The No. 1 seed in Section 8AA, the Roseau Rams mustered a .500 record and third place finish in the Mariucci Conference behind Class A clubs East Grand Forks and Warroad.  That is nothing to be ashamed of as all three teams could have made a claim for a Class AA title.  There is some major high end talent on the Rams led by Mr. Hockey finalist Zach Yon.  Alex Strand is not far behind for consideration and Cole Bjugson is a Reed Larson award finalist for the top senior defenseman this year.  Roseau averages about five goals scored per game and will bring its high flying offensive game to the tournament and have to ability to go deep in the field with its talent.  The Rams have a difficult task in the Lakeville North Panthers, but as usual, the Rams effort will be unquestioned and they always have a chance to win.