Lakeville North in Leading Role
The Lakeville North Panthers seek their first South Suburban crown, and the respect that comes with.
With a little more than a week to go in the regular season, Lakeville North sits atop the South Suburban Conference with a 15-1-0 record; and atop the HS rankings with an impressive 20-3-1 overall record.
Yes, the Lakeville North Panthers boys hockey team is ranked #1.
The Panthers are currently riding an 19-game unbeaten streak that has catapulted them to that elusive #1 slot in Class AA rankings.
Much of the Panthers success is attributed to tireless defensive effort, highly efficient goaltending, along with a productive top line that features: Jack and Nick Poehling, both juniors, and freshman Ryan Poehling.
The trio of brothers have accounted for 45 goals thus far for the Panthers. Three of which were scored in a significant win against the Duluth East on Dec. 6, as the Panthers topped the Greyhounds 3-2, on a Nick Poehling overtime winner.
Their latest win was a one goal, 4-3 victory against the Eagan Wildcats on Dec. 8th. Max Johnson tallied 2 goals in the win. Nick Poehling sniped one, and Matt Arnold netted the winner. The Panthers recorded 46 shots on goal, including 17 in the third period.
To go along with those recent wins, the Panthers also had a key 3-0 shutout victory over a skilled, and at the time #1 Hill Murray Pioneers team in early January. Other notable victories against #7 Eden Prairie, and also against #5 Burnsville twice, and 3 wins over conference rival Bloomington Jefferson.
The Panthers have not been beaten since December 7, losing to the St. Thomas Academy Cadets, 5-2. They have currently won 13 in a row, and are unbeaten in the last 19 games. The lone tie was to #6 Blaine, 3-3 on Dec 27th.
While the true test awaits this young Panther squad, the success they have earned this season can go a long way as sections approach.
The success that Lakeville North has experienced this year gives this team an opportunity to earn the respect they have been seeking, more than just rankings.
They have reached the state tournament 3 of the last 4 years, but much of that has to do with the lack of quality teams in section 1AA.
They reached the state tourney with losing records in each of those seasons and were commonly bounced in the opening round.
Since the South Suburban formed in the 2010-11 season, the Panthers have finish no higher than 6th in the conference. Their best season came 2 years ago as they finished 7-10-1 in the conference, but failed to survive sections.
With a single final regular season game remaining, on the road against Prior Lake, Lakeville North has a chance to reach 16 conference wins for the season. It is notable, just 3 wins shy of the previous three year’s combined total of 19.
The state tournament has been desperate for a formidable team to come out of Section 1. We want only the best to be playing at the Excel Energy Center in March.
This year, we just may get our wish.
Story by Bart Archer and Torey Zehnder