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Boys Class AA

MHM Boys Class 2A Top Ten – 2/15/16

Red Knights ready to ride remarkable run into postseason

It’s been a season-long celebration for No. 1 Benilde-St. Margaret’s which enters the postseason unbeaten. (Photo courtesy of / Steve Bernstein)

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Red Knights ready to ride remarkable run into postseason

The 2015-2016 regular season concluded with some entertaining games this past week.  When assessing this year what is known is that one team stood above the rest and that was the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights.  The Stillwater Ponies earned their way to the second spot in an impressive season.  There was a bit of a stumble for the Blaine Bengals who rose to the top in the end ranking third and performed as expected.  There were 392 goals scored by those three teams and they allowed just 148 against making for a productive quotient in the win column.

After the top three teams there were the clubs that had the task of beating up on each other and it took its toll in the win loss column.  The emergence of Minnetonka at the 4th slot was impressive and they delivered a balanced scoring output with terrific goaltending.  The Wayzata Trojans round out a top five and were a team of peaks and valleys with the peaks outweighing the valleys propelling them up the ladder.

The rest of the field stayed in or lurked in the top ten much of the season and were in some cases, victims of schedules and weaker conferences that may have had more Class 1A games than top ten games like some of the others on a weekly basis.  It has been said here and is appears to be true that the section playoffs will be dramatic this year and the state tournament could have some traditional names absent with fresh faces in the field this year.  That will make for an entertaining three weeks of high school hockey.

Given the State of Hockey’s overall mood right now, the notion of sectional playoffs and a fantastic state tournament is welcomed by all with open arms.


  1. Benilde-St. Margret’s (24-0-1)

Last Week:  W 4-2 Wayzata, W 5-2 St. Louis Park

The Red Knights completed the season with an unbeaten record.  Their one tie to Lakeville North (4-4) was the only blemish.  The Red Knights notched 135 goals on the season which were the most in the Class 2A this year.  Senior leadership and a cohesive locker room have been key to the Red Knights’ season. They had plenty of offensive contributors as eight players notched 20 points or more this season.  Offensive leader, Cade Gleekel, went down with an injury early in the Wayzata game this past week and his return is uncertain at this point.  The Red Knights prevailed in the Wayzata game and also defeated St. Louis Park in a hard fought contest to close out the season.  Goaltender Ryan Bischel posted a 23-0-1 recored with a 2.09 goals against average and a .912 save percentage for veteran coach Ken Pauly’s team.  The Red Knights have the depth and character to overcome the Gleekel injury, yet the Mr. Hockey semifinalist will be missed in their post season run.  Overall, it was a year that not many predicted for the Red Knights. Although they were considered to be a very good hockey team, an unbeaten season was not expected.  They have exceeded all expectations at this stage of the season but perhaps their own.


  1. Stillwater (23-1-1)

Last Week:  W 5-2 White Bear Lake Area, W 3-2 Holy Family Catholic

There is only one team that won more games in Class 2A hockey than the Stillwater Ponies and that was Benilde-St. Margaret’s.  While it can be debated that the Ponies schedule was not loaded with a lot of top ten teams, a total of 5 games, Stillwater, did take care of business with teams they were expected to this year.  Two players captured more than 50 points with junior Noah Cates (20g-34a-54pts) and senior Jackson Cates (20g-33a-53pts) working the impressive one-two punch.  Jackson is slated to play his college hockey for Mel Pearson and the Michigan Tech Huskies.  Wins over White Bear Lake and a tough battle with Holy Family Catholic capped off a offensively productive season for the Ponies who tallied 128 goals and allowed a Class 2A low 42 goals against.  This team was recognized as an offensively talented edition this year but the level of defensive play was what stood out even more for this offensively entertaining team.  Matt Doman’s team has already accomplished their first goal by capturing the Suburban East Conference title making it their first conference hockey title in school history.  They now have their sights set on another section championship and first-ever state title.


  1. Blaine (21-4-0)

Last Week:  W 4-1 Robbinsdale Armstrong, W 5-0 Roseville Area

It was a 21-win regular season for the Bengals who are winners in their last eight games.  Blaine has two Mr. Hockey semifinalists and 78 point players in Luke Notermann (28g-50a-78pts), and Riley Tufte (47g-31a-78pts).  Tufte’s 47 goals is nothing short of impressive and he has scored a major portion of those goals while playing five-on-five.  Notermann is a gifted set-up man and the two have been difficult for other teams to contain this year.  The Bengals spread 4 losses throughout the schedule and are in position to make a second straight State Tournament appearance and 12th in school history.  The Bengals scored 129 goals this season with Notermann and Tufte accounting for 75 of them.  Goaltender Ridge Gerads took the starting goaltender reigns and posted a 15-3-0 record with a 1.94 goals against average and sterling .926 save percentage.  Coach Chris Carroll’s team has the talent with their top guns to be an issue for any team it faces this season.


  1. Minnetonka (18-6-1)

Last Week:  W 6-1 Edina, W 6-1 Duluth East

The Skippers closed out the season with a 4-0-1 record and outscored their opponents 31-8 in those games.  There is no doubt the Lake Conference still is the best high school hockey conference in Minnesota.  It may not be the largest, but it certainly presents 8 games a year that are challenging.  Minnetonka captured the conference title with a 6-1-1 record which is speaks for itself.  Coach Brian Urick challenges his team with a tough non-conference schedule as well.  Minnetonka had 16 games among teams in the MNHockeyMag Top-10 this year, including high-end Class 1A Hermantown, finishing 9-6-1 in those games.  A tough Section 2AA with Eden Prairie, Holy Family, and Prior Lake stands in the way of the Skippers and the State Tournament.  They are looking to make their sixth appearance in school history and first since 2010.  This year has seen a bit of a resurgence for the Skippers and Urick has maintained his patient approach to sticking with his plan and putting players in position to succeed.  Senior Brendan Skarda (17g-19a-36pts) led the Skippers in points and more impressively has posted (6g-6a-12pts) in his last five games.  Goaltender Thomas Hanson is 15-6-1 on the season with a 2.24gaa and .919 save percentage.  He could hold the keys to the Skippers potential trip to St. Paul this year.


  1. Wayzata (16-8-1)

Last Week:  L 4-2 B-SM, W 7-0 Hopkins

The Trojans finished second in the Lake Conference this season with a 6-2 record.  Wayzata posted a 7-2 record in their last nine games and those losses were to Minnetonka and B-SM, both rated ahead of them.  Coach Pat O’Leary’s team maintains their structure and is able to strike when needed.  When playing the Trojans, most teams know they have to earn their scoring chances. Their 10-7-1 record against teams that have been ranked at some point in the MNHockeyMag Top-10 this year, including Class 1A powers Hermantown and Beck, is impressive and the volume of high end games has teed up the Trojans as a legitimate state tournament contender.  They share a section with Benilde-St. Margaret’s which could set up some interesting drama and a potential date at Mariucci Arena in the section final.  The Trojans also have Edina in their section who they have turned aside three times.  Can they do the unthinkable and beat Edina four times in one year?  It is hard to imagine a team that has ever accomplished the feat of defeating Edina four times in one year, if ever.  North Dakota recruit Mark Senden (7g-26a-33pts) leads his team with Colin Schmidt (12g-12a-24pts) standing second.


  1. Grand Rapids (18-6-1)

Last Week:  W 4-1 Duluth Denfeld

A late season surge by the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks propelled them to the sixth position in the final rankings this year.  They are 10-1 since Dec. 7 and have won five straight since losing to Wayzata by a score of 3-2 on Jan. 22.  Coach Trent Klatt’s Thunderhawks have gotten better throughout the year and finished the season with a power play that connects at a 28.6 percent clip.  The power play illustrates the high end talent this team has.  North Dakota recruit Mitchell Mattson (17a-29a-46pts), Alex Adams (16g-19a-35pts), and Jonah Bischoff (14g-18a-32pts) lead a team that has five players with 30 points or more this year and a sixth that has 29 points.  They wild card to earning their first State Tournament berth since 2007 may lie in goaltender Gable Holum (13-1-0).  It has been a successful first season for Klatt behind the bench and the drive down 169 to St. Paul is certainly a solid possibility for the Thunderhawks who have put together a terrific regular season.


  1. Holy Family Catholic (19-5-0)

Last Week:  W 5-2 STMA, W 5-4 St. Cloud Cathedral, L 3-2 Stillwater

The Fire had a breakout year and their path to the upper echelon to the Class 2A was a welcome addition.  The Fire were ranked second for a few weeks with the and tumbled to seven after losing to Grand Rapids and Stillwater in the last seven days of the season.  The Wright County Conference games that are peppered with Class A opponents represented 11 of their 24 games against such opponents, the second most of any team in the top ten only to Bemidji’s 13 games.  The Fire posted a 9-4 record against Class 2A opponents and were 4-5 against teams that have been ranked in the MNHockeyMag top 10 at some point this season including Class A power Breck.  Head coach Noel Rahn’s team was stingy defensively allowing just 45 goals against his season which is a winning formula for playoff hockey.  Goalies Jaxson Stauber (9-1-0, 1.24gaa) and Jared Moe (10-4-0, 2.12gaa) are an impressive duo that can be relied upon.  Offensively Will Garin (24g-23a-47pts) and Matt Anderson (9g-26a-35pts) are playing like the DI recruits that they are.  With Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, and Prior Lake in the hunt for the Section 2AA title, the Fire have every reason to believe they could make their first trip to the State Tournament.


  1. Lakeville North (19-5-1)

Last Week:  W 4-1 St. Thomas Academy, W 8-2 Eastview, W 7-6 Prior Lake

The Panthers are among the hottest teams in the Class 2A with 8 straight wins and a 14-1 mark in their last 15 games including the thrilling 3-2 win at Bayfront Park in Duluth on Hockey Day Minnesota.  Since then it was 4-1 wins over St. Thomas Academy, 8-2 over Eastview, and 7-6 over Prior Lake.  Coach Trent Eigner’s team is one win away from the 20-win club.  With 133 goals scored and just 54 goals allowed this year, the Panthers continue their formula of success which is stifling defensive zone play and creative offensive production that starts in transition.  St. Cloud State recruit Ryan Poehling (20g-34a-54pts) leads the team offensively and Bowling Green bound Max Johnson leads in goals with (27g-19a-46pts).  Buzz Eigner has notched 3 shutouts and owns a record of (13-3-1) and will be called upon in the playoffs.  With the perfect season of 2015 firmly behind them, this year’s edition has been able to forge their own identity and appear comfortable with it heading to the post season.  A Section 1AA title would mark the 3rd straight state tournament appearance and 10th overall.  They will have a tough run in their section with Farmington among other teams ready to take a run at the Panthers.


  1. Bemidji (21-2-2)

Last Week:  W 4-1 Thief River Falls

Much like he team one slot ahead of them, the Bemidji Lumberjacks have put together a solid close to the season by winning 10 straight and 14 of their last 15 games.  They are known as a defensive team and are in allowing just 47 against his year.  With 119 goals for the Lumberjacks  have a knack to score and in bunches.  Coach Wade Chiodo’s team is 2-0-1 against teams that have been ranked in the top ten of the including a win over Class 1A big dog Hermantown.  Still, they are 12-0-1 against Class 1A teams and while the 21 wins are impressive indeed, there were not as many grinding top ten games as the teams ranked ahead of them to justify being slotted higher.  Bemidji, is the defending Class 8AA champions and a top ten team that can do some damage if they qualify for the tournament a second straight time.  Alex Pollock (15g-25a-40pts) and Brady Tatro (14g-24a-38pts) lead their team offensively and goalie Matt Fitzgerald (17-2-2, 2.05gaa) has been solid in goal for the Lumberjacks who will have a challenge waiting in the section playoffs this year.


  1. Centennial (18-6-1)

Last Week:  W 7-3 Totino-Grace, W 7-2 Spring Lake Park, W 7-1 Irondale

Five wins in a row and a 12-1 record in their last 13 has been impressive for the Centennial Cougars to complete a successful regular season.  They found their goal scoring groove by beating tier last five teams by a combined 39-8.  Ritch Menne’s Cougars have tallied 114 goals this season and have allowed just 63 against.  They finished one point shy of the Northwest Suburban North Conference title behind Blaine.  The Cougars defeated Blaine and tied Elk River/Zimmerman in conference action this year while posting a 2-5-1 record against teams that were ranked in the top ten this year.  Tyler Nyman lit it up this year with (18g-30a-48pts) and Lucas McGregor (13g-21a-34pts) finished second in points and assists for the Cougars this season.  Nathan Fellows (12-5-1, 2.43gaa) took the majority of the minutes in the crease but Travis Allen (6-1-0, 2.68) was equally effective when called upon.  Centennial is in search of their 4th state tournament appearance and 3rd in 4 years out of the Section 5AA.  Some quality teams will be standing in their way yet if they continue to light the lamp, the Cougars will be in the final mix with their rival Blaine.

Others Receiving Consideration:   Prior Lake,  Edina, Eden Prairie, Hill-Murray,  Duluth East, Elk River, Farmington, Moorhead, St. Michael Albertville, Rochester John Marsall, Rogers

Pete Waggoner has covered hockey since 1989 and his work includes play-by-play and studio hosting. Currently, he hosts This Week in High School Sport on 1500 ESPN and hosts the Overtime Hockey Podcast at that posts every Monday. His past work has appeared on Sports Radio 105 The Ticket, KFAN Radio,, Fox Sports North Prep Zone, MNHockeyCenter, and to that, Waggoner developed along with Fox9 Twin Cities and was one of the original architects of the from concept to delivery.

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