Looking Back on Six Years of Hockey Rankings

13 Nov

The Minnesota high school hockey season is upon us, with tryouts under way in earnest. My AA preseason rankings came out yesterday, and can be found here.

Someone asked if I could post previous preseason rankings for the world to see, so I’ve gone and dug them all up. Here are preseason rankings followed by end of regular season rankings (plus state finish) of teams in my rankings dating back to their inception in 2009. I’ve added some comments after each year as well, and later I look back on some of the biggest upsets over this six-year period.

2014

  1. Wayzata             1. Edina (1st)
  2. Hill-Murray          2. Hill-Murray
  3. Benilde                3. Lakeville N. (2nd)
  4. Edina                  4. Wayzata
  5. Blaine                 5. Blaine
  6. Eden Prairie       6. Burnsville
  7. St. Thomas        7. St. Thomas
  8. Elk River            8. Elk River
  9. Burnsville           9. Duluth East (6th)
  10. White Bear         10. Eden Prairie (4th)
  11. Prior Lake          11. Eastview
  12. Maple Grove      12. Andover
  13. Centennial         13. Eagan (3rd)
  14. Eagan                14. Maple Grove
  15. Minnetonka        15. Holy Family

Unranked State teams: Roseau (just missed; finished 5th), Stillwater (upset special), Centennial (20s; upset MG and Blaine)

-Lakeville North is the obvious miss here. Benilde, White Bear, and Prior Lake were overrated; Duluth East and perhaps Eagan underrated.

2013

  1. Benilde               1. Hill-Murray (2nd)
  2. Edina                  2. Benilde
  3. Eden Prairie        3. Duluth East (3rd)
  4. Minnetonka         4. Eagan
  5. Hill-Murray          5. Minnetonka
  6. Andover              6. Edina (1st)
  7. Duluth East         7. Blaine
  8. Grand Rapids      8. Wayzata (4th)
  9. Burnsville            9. Grand Rapids
  10. Cloquet              10. Eden Prairie
  11. Prior Lake          11. Centennial (State)
  12. Elk River            12. Burnsville
  13. Blaine                13. Bloom Jeff.
  14. Eagan                14. Prior Lake
  15. Moorhead           15. Elk River

Unranked State teams: Moorhead (in the 20s; weak section, but finished 5th), Lakeville North (weak section), Eastview (20s; upset Eagan)

-I got waaay too 7AA-happy in the preseason rankings that year, with Andover and Cloquet too high. I also underrated Eagan and Wayzata, and maybe the 5AA teams, though Blaine flopped in sections and Centennial was 2-and-out at State. It’s interesting that Edina was highly rated at the start, dropped some during the regular season, but then put it together to win the title.

2012

  1. Duluth East         1. Duluth East (5th)
  2. Minnetonka         2. Minnetonka
  3. Benilde                3. Maple Grove (State)
  4. Eagan                 4. Edina (State)
  5. Maple Grove       5. Eagan (6th)
  6. Grand Rapids      6. Eden Prairie
  7. Burnsville             7. Benilde (1st)
  8. Edina                   8. Wayzata
  9. Hill-Murray           9. Hill-Murray (2nd)
  10. Blaine                  10. Lakeville S (3rd)
  11. Moorhead            11. Moorhead (4th)
  12. Eden Prairie         12. Burnsville
  13. Bemidji                 13. Elk River
  14. Wayzata               14. Grand Rapids
  15. Lakeville S            15. Blaine

All State teams ranked

-This was looking like an awesome year for me until everything blew up at State. Like Edina in 2013, Benilde struggled a bit in the regular season but put it together in March. The cream rises to the top, apparently.

2011

  1. Edina                     1. Hill-Murray
  2. Hill-Murray             2. Eden Prairie (1st)
  3. Eden Prairie           3. Wayzata
  4. Wayzata                 4. Maple Grove
  5. Duluth East            5. Edina (4th)
  6. Benilde                   6. Benilde
  7. Minnetonka            7. Duluth East (2nd)
  8. Apple Valley           8. Grand Rapids
  9. Maple Grove          9. Minnetonka
  10. Burnsville               10. Apple Valley
  11. Eagan                    11. Eagan (3rd)
  12. Roseau                  12. Burnsville
  13. Bloom Jeff.             13. Bloom Jeff.
  14. White Bear             14. Bemidji
  15. Lakeville S              15. Moorhead (State)

Unranked State teams: White Bear Lake (just missed rankings, upset Hill), Blaine (just missed rankings, upset MG), Lakeville North (weak section, upset LVS)

-Maybe my best year. Roseau at #12 is the only thing that is at all off, really.

2010

  1. Eden Prairie             1. Minnetonka (2nd)
  2. Minnetonka              2. Wayzata
  3. Bloom Jeff.               3. Edina (1st)
  4. Benilde                     4. Burnsville
  5. Blaine                       5. Eden Prairie
  6. Hill-Murray               6. Blaine (State)
  7. Woodbury                 7. Hill-Murray (3rd)
  8. Holy Angels              8. Centennial
  9. Cretin                       9. Bloom Jeff.
  10. Elk River                  10. Eagan
  11. Edina                       11. Duluth East (5th)
  12. Centennial                12. Holy Angels
  13. Moorhead                 13. Elk River
  14. Duluth East              14. Moorhead
  15. Wayzata                   15. Andover

Unranked State teams: Lakeville North (weak section), Apple Valley (not far off; picked up steam through sections and upset Blaine at State), Roseau (somewhere in the 20s; upset Moorhead)

-Ranking Edina out of the top 10 looks quaint now. Misfired on them, Burnsville, and Wayzata; Benilde way overrated. 3AA really didn’t cooperate. One of the earliest lessons I learned was to respect the depth of the deepest programs in the state.

2009

  1. Edina                         1. Edina (5th)
  2. Hill-Murray                 2. Eden Prairie (1st)
  3. Bloom Jeff.                3. Bloom Jeff.
  4. Eden Prairie              4. Blaine (3rd)
  5. Centennial                 5. Duluth East (State)
  6. Duluth East                6. Minnetonka
  7. Blaine                        7. Holy Angels
  8. Holy Angels               8. Benilde
  9. Woodbury                 9. Wayzata
  10. Minnetonka               10. Maple Grove
  11. Moorhead                 11. Centennial
  12. Benilde                     12. Hopkins
  13. White Bear                13. Moorhead (2nd)
  14. Cretin                        14. Woodbury
  15. Elk River                    15. Cretin (4th)

Unranked State teams: Hill-Murray (lost a lot of players due to suspensions and struggled down the stretch, though they were dangerous by Tourney time), Rochester Century (not close—one of the weakest 1AA entrants ever)

-Hill fell off because of player suspensions, so all in all a pretty strong effort. 5 6AA teams in the top 12. Missed Male Grove, Wayzata somewhat.

Top State Tournament Upsets, 2009-2014

There have been 12 upsets in 42 Tourney championship bracket games since 2009, though not all are created equal. Here they are, ranked by me. The numbers are teams’ seeds at State.

  1. Moorhead over (1) Edina, 2009 Quarters

-Edina, the defending runner-up, was loaded with 9 future D-I players, including the senior class dream team of Lee, Everson, and Gaarder. Moorhead had one D-I player, a backup freshman goalie. And yet this game wasn’t close, with the Spuds flattening the star-dependent Hornets 5-2.

  1. Lakeville South over (1) Duluth East, 2012 Quarters

-In the Year of the Upset, Justin Kloos and company fought past another heavily favored defending runner-up. An early goal waved off seemed to tip the momentum, and Mike Randolph was powerless to flip it back, no matter how many strings he pulled.

  1. Apple Valley over (3) Blaine, 2010 Quarters

-The Eagles had young AJ Michaelson and Hudson Fasching, but not much else of note. Somehow, they found a way to slip by the deeper Bjugstad/Brodzinski Bengals that year. 5AA hasn’t won a Tourney game since.

  1. Cretin-Derham Hall over (4) Duluth East, 2009 Quarters

-Overshadowed by the Moorhead-Edina game just before, but this one was nearly as big. Sloppy play in back cost East a serious state title shot despite a 3-1 edge in shots and sustained periods of total domination.

  1. Moorhead over (3) Eagan, 2012 Quarters

-The Michael Bitzer show, in which the Spuds’ goalie shut down a deep and experienced Eagan squad.

  1. (2) Edina over (1) Minnetonka, 2010 Final

-Not a huge upset from a ranking standpoint, but the Hornets do get some style points for jumping on the Skippers—the #1 team all season—early, and never giving them a chance.

  1. (3) Duluth East over (2) Edina, 2011 Semis

-2011 Edina was the first team since 1996 to have 10+ D-I players on its roster, though they weren’t really peaking at State that year, and East was plenty good in its own right.

  1. Hill-Murray over (2) Maple Grove, 2012 Quarters

-Maybe a bigger ranking gap than the previous two, but fairly predictable, what with Hill’s experience and the Crimson making their first Tournament appearance.

  1. (3) Edina over (1) Hill-Murray, 2013 Final

-Hill had been #1 for a while, but this one wasn’t hard to predict given the way the teams had been playing.

10. (5) Eagan over (4) Duluth East, 2014 Quarters

-By this point, these are just upsets in name only. These two were pretty much even, perhaps with a slight edge in talent to Eagan, and East was doing a lot of shuffling due to an injury.

11. Benilde-St. Margaret’s over (4) Edina, 2012 Quarters

-Benilde was really the favorite here, despite the seeds; even so, they had to withstand a strong Edina push in the 3rd period before grabbing the winning goal.

12. (3) Edina over (2) Duluth East, 2013 Semis

-East was the higher seed after an overachieving regular season, but everyone knew Edina had far more talent, and they pulled it out in the 3rd period. The only real scare Edina has had at State in their 3 recent championship Tourneys.

Biggest Section Upsets, 2009-2014

There’s not much in 2009 and 2010 here, but I think that’s just how things shook out those years, rather than me failing to remember the magnitude of certain wins. Remembering all of these is a good reminder of how entertaining sections can be; it was hard to  create this list.

  1. Stillwater over (2) Hill-Murray, 2014

-The Ponies came out of nowhere, and also beat a decent White Bear team en route to State.

  1. Eastview over (4) Eagan, 2013

-Zach Driscoll steals the show and puts the Lightning on the map.

  1. White Bear Lake over (1) Hill-Murray, 2011

-The rivalry factor made sure this wasn’t a total shock, but that Hill team is the only #1 heading into sections that didn’t make State.

  1. Robbinsdale Armstrong over (6) Eden Prairie, 2012

-About as stunning as it gets.

  1. Champlin Park over (7) Blaine, 2013

-Another shocker.

  1. St. Paul Johnson over White Bear Lake, 2012

-Not a great White Bear team, but one huge upset for a historic program.

  1. Centennial over (14) Maple Grove and (5) Blaine, 2014

-The Cougars were the defending section champs, but they sure surprised in winning this one, especially by knocking off a powerful Blaine team.

  1. (8) Wayzata over (5) Minnetonka and (2) Benilde, 2013

-Pat O’Leary’s Trojans arrive on the scene by taking down two big-time powers and preseason favorites in convincing fashion.

  1. Lakeville North over Lakeville South, 2010 and 2011

-The Panthers had little business beating the Kloos-led Cougars, yet they did so for two straight years.

10. Benilde over (4) Wayzata, 2014

-Not a huge upset considering Benilde’s talent, but Wayzata had been playing very well down the stretch, while the Red Knights struggled at times.

Honorable mentions: Eagan over St. Thomas, 2014; Rochester Century sneaking to State as a 4-seed in a weak 1AA in 2009; Benilde over Minnetonka in 2012; Jefferson over Burnsville in 2014; Blaine over Maple Grove in 2011; Roseau over Moorhead in 2010.

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