Would you look at that! Remember what I wrote in last week’s rankings about quiet weeks often leading to crazier ones? Well, it happened right on schedule. Like clockwork! Although there were not as many upsets as some would have liked, the games mattered and some slip ups did occur.
We have also approached the crunch time portion of the season. Can you believe only three weeks remain? The upcoming slate of games could determine how well a team plays in sections and, hopefully, the State Tournament.
1. Maple Grove (11-0)
Last Week’s Rank: #1
vs. #19 Rogers – W 7-3
@ Anoka – W 11-0
Maple Grove is currently the equivalent of your average Joe working a 9-5. Punching in, putting in a good day’s work, and punching out. Quick, easy, and painless. Although the Crimson get to do it with the comfort of knowing they’re the best team in the state. Putting away their opponents seemingly without breaking a sweat.
Their depth has been prevalent across the board too. With the likes of Kyle Kukkonen (17 G, 30 A, 47 Pts) and Sam Jacobs (21 G, 13 A, 34 Pts) leading the way offensively, the defense has been contributing on both sides of the ice. Henry Nelson leads all defenders in points with 26 (5 G, 21 A). While the defense and goaltender Jack Weineke (10-0-0, 1.45 GAA, .922 SV%) have already registered eight games where they held their opponents to two or fewer goals. Expect more of the same this week.
2. Eden Prairie (10-1)
Last Week’s Rank: #3
vs. #5 Benilde-St. Margaret’s – W 4-1
@ #17 Edina – W 4-1
The Eagles jumping Lakeville South, even with their early season loss to Edina, may come as a surprise to some. Yet the potential for this Eden Prairie jump was prefaced in last week’s You Don’t Know Jack podcast. Although the seemingly effortless wins were the reason this team is back on the rise.
Alongside Maple Grove, the Eagles are arguably the most complete team in the state. With this team finally showing us the consistent play we expected, the sky is the limit. However, the only thing that matters right now is peaking at the right time. It seems Eden Prairie may be on the verge of achieving that.
3. Lakeville South (10-0)
Last Week’s Rank: #2
vs. Eastview – W 7-0
Lakeville South’s one-spot drop is not anything the Cougars should be worried about. Not even in the slightest. This drop is solely due to Eden Prairie’s commanding Top 25 wins while South is stuck sitting at home due to cancellations by other teams. Thanks, COVID.
Production has been fairly consistent across the board. Allowing the Cougars to continue rolling through their schedule. Although it hasn’t been against enough top tier opponents to determine if its sustainable against the likes of an Eden Prairie or Hill-Murray blue line. All we can do is continue watching them demolish their opponents and see what happens on their way to State.
4. Grand Rapids (7-1)
Last Week’s Rank: #5
Although the Thunderhawks did not play this week, a Benilde-St. Margaret’s loss to Eden Prairie opened the door to move up. Eight games is not a great sample size to be basing massive moves off of in the rankings. But with how strange this year has been, Grand Rapids have shown enough to justify the positioning.
Scoring has been coming at a relatively steep premium lately too. Jack Peart (3 G, 11 A) and Hunter Bischoff (7 G, 7 A) lead the team with only 14 each. Two intriguing games against Moorhead and Warroad are on the schedule this week. Grand Rapids may have to get creative to come out unscathed. Whether it is higher offensive production or continuing to play stout defense. Something has to give.
5. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (11-1)
Last Week’s Rank: #4
@ #2 Eden Prairie – L 4-1
vs. Chaska – W 7-5
This was the worry about this Red Knights squad. While they’re more than capable of holding their own…they aren’t boosting anyone’s confidence. Losing handily at home to Eden Prairie isn’t ideal, either. Although that may be the season we are having. One where only two or three teams will truly vie for the championship with a ton of quality, but not over the top teams.
#17 Edina is next on the schedule. The Hornets may be having a down year, but the talent is still there and could give Benilde a run for their money. After that, they face private school foe, Hill-Murray.
6. Hill-Murray (9-2)
Last Week’s Rank: #7
vs. #15 Holy Family – W 6-0
@ #9 Wayzata – W 3-1
Don’t expect blowouts like the one against Holy Family to become a regular occurrence. It must be great knowing your team can put together those types of performances if you’re a Pioneer fan. They would preferably come against better opposition ranking-wise, but there is nothing Hill-Murray can do.
On the other hand, the defensive bout with Wayzata is the norm. Solid and clean defense and overall play. That is all this team apparently needs to win. But how far can that carry them? Saturday could be the perfect gauge to where this Pioneer team stands with a trip to Benilde-St. Margaret’s.
A win against Benilde could begin another push for Hill to be a top team. It becomes even more of a reality if St. Thomas continues their struggles.
7. Prior Lake (10-1-1)
Last Week’s Result: #8
vs. Farmington – W 7-3
vs. #13 Rosemount – W 5-2
Not much in the way of opposition for the Lakers this week. Easily putting away Farmington and avenging their lone loss against Rosemount. While the schedule is still leaves a lot to be desired, Prior Lake is finding a way to do it just impressively enough.
This upcoming week could be one practically a week full of practices for them too. Facing off against Burnsville and Eagan. Burnsville always has a chance to burn you, but Prior Lake should have minimal issues pulling this one out.
8. Andover (10-1)
Last Week’s Rank: #9
vs. Armstrong/Cooper – W 3-1
@ Osseo – W 12-0
There likely isn’t a team left on Andover’s schedule that will pose a real threat. Although the Armstrong/Cooper scoreline looks tenuous, it was tied at one headed into the first intermission. Osseo, on the other hand, received a lesson in offensive production.
Speaking of teams that could truly shine or falter in the upcoming weeks, Andover is one to keep an eye on. #25 Totino-Grace and #1 Maple Grove loom over the next two weeks. Giving the Huskies a chance to prove they can contend with those in the top tier.
9. Wayzata (7-4)
Last Week’s Rank: #11
vs. #20 Moorhead – W 4-1
vs. #6 Hill-Murray – L 3-1
Wayzata is slowly becoming a second Edina. Keeping it close when it matters but still being a relatively faceless club with no real identity. That is going to have to change if the Trojans wish to get back over the hump and into State.
On the other hand, losing 3-1 on your Olympic-sized home sheet to a defensive team like yourself, for the most part, is a tough pill to swallow. Can the Trojans hang with the rest of the Top 10?
10. Cretin-Derham Hall (10-1)
Last Week’s Rank: #12
@ Roseville – W 4-1
While I still do not believe the Raiders are worthy of the Top 10 at this time, they did put away Roseville with ease. Cretin has a decent opportunity to jump up this week if they can take care of Woodbury and a decent Stillwater squad.
The Next Five:
11. Minnetonka (8-3)
Last Week’s Rank: #13
vs. #24 St. Louis Park – W 6-0
vs. Owatonna – W 5-0
Nothing shocking here. Two easy wins before heading into a relatively tough final three weeks. However, scoring consistently has been a glaring issues for the Skippers. Hunter Newhouse is the current points leader with only 16 (6 G, 10 A). Not the best reassurance a team could have, but they’ve shown they can play with the best throughout head coach Sean Goldsworthy’s tenure.
While not a pressing issue this year, one has to wonder what Tonka is going to do once Goldsworthy only has his players on the team? The Skippers have seen a decline year-over-year since winning their first title in 2018. Is this a product of Goldsworthy’s ability to bring in and evaluate talent? Or is it just one of those low points in a school’s talent cycle?
12. St. Thomas Academy (7-1-3)
Last Week’s Rank: #6
vs. Blake – T 1-1
vs. Mahtomedi – T 2-2
Oof. Last week I was trying to figure out what this St. Thomas squad truly excels at. It turns out they excel at tying three games in a row. Starting with last week’s draw to #15 Holy Family, I thought it must be a blip against a rising team.
Boy, was I wrong. As the Cadets followed that game up with a clunker against a plummeting Blake and a good, but not overpowering Mahtomedi. A lot is going to need to shift prior to sections. If they don’t, I would bet they don’t make it past the semi-finals.
13. Rosemount (7-2-1)
Last Week’s Rank: #10
@ #7 Prior Lake – L 5-2
It isn’t a step forward. Yet it also isn’t a massive step back at this point in the season. It definitely hurts an overachieving Irish team, but did anyone predict a Rosemount victory? Likely few and far between.
That isn’t a knock against Rosemount. But it could be an indictment against a curious youth structure and their player development at the higher levels. Then again, there will always be teams that are perpetually mediocre only to jump up in the rankings once and a while.
14. Centennial (7-2-1)
Last Week’s Rank: #19
vs. Osseo – W 10-2
@ #19 Rogers – W 7-4
This was a questionable pick in my mind. The win over a ranked Rogers helped, but their only meaningful games have been losses to Maple Grove and Andover. While both those teams are clearly ranked above Centennial, there is a chance for this Cougars team to make some noise come sections. Although they’ll need to get through another Maple Grove matchup first.
15. Holy Family (6-3-1)
Last Week’s Rank: #14
@ #6 Hill-Murray – L 6-0
@ Hutchinson – W 8-2
Hear me out on dropping the Fire only a single spot this week. Losing 6-0 to a Pioneer team that easily could contend for a championship isn’t amazing. But this was the first game after their tie against St. Thomas. A let-down-lookahead-sandwich scenario for Holy Family.
Any semblance of a consistent offensive output would be greatly appreciated. Will their leading score, Jacob McPartland (7 G, 5 A, 12 Pts), catch fire? They only need one player to carry this team to unseen heights and it could be possible this year.
Even their current seed for sections has them fourth, a potential State berth could be in the cards. Things just need to bounce their way.
On The Outside Looking In:
16. White Bear Lake (20)
17. Edina (16)
18. Stillwater (15)
19. Rogers (22)
20. Moorhead (18)
21. Roseau (23)
22. Hastings (21)
23. Duluth East (25)
24. St. Louis Park (17)
25. Totino-Grace (NR)
A lot of marginal movement amongst the final ten teams. Primarily due to how close many of these teams are to being comparable this year. Edina continues to showcase they need a stronger player development program. Meanwhile, Stillwater’s head-scratching 2-0 loss to Woodbury dropped them outside the Top 15.
On the other hand, I am still buying Duluth East. Even with the strange schedule and overhaul of talent, there seems to be something cooking on Lake Superior. Each week moving forward could become increasingly chaotic. We’re about to hit the best time of the year!