Due to an outage on the USHSHO forum, weekly rankings are appearing here this week. Apologies for the interruption in regularly scheduled programming.
Well, so much for this getting any easier as the season went along.
1. Eden Prairie (11-2-1)
-First off, let’s acknowledge what the Eagles are not: they are not an elite, surefire #1 on the level of recent state champions like Edina or Minnetonka. We should not be surprised that this team needs to fight to scrape out one-goal wins against teams like Cloquet, whatever the rankings may say. That’s just how tight things are this season, and beyond their star players, it gets thin pretty quickly. What the Eagles are, however, is a team that continues to collect plenty of decent wins while suffering only a few losses, and they’re also the only team that can claim to have a cavalry on its way later this season, when Jackson Blake finally becomes eligible and Carter Batchelder becomes healthy. If they can survive four tough games over the next two weeks, they’ll certainly have earned this spot.
This week: Thurs vs. #10 Minnetonka, Sat vs. St. Michael-Albertville
2. Moorhead (13-3-1)
-I almost found it in me to put the Spuds at #1, but an overtime win over St. Cloud, which continues a run of tough games against section opponents, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. They are often even less controlling of big games than Eden Prairie, so hence my skepticism, but the East Grand Forks win was another in a growing collection of quality wins. They head to Duluth in their only action this week.
This week: Sat at Duluth East
3. Blake (12-3)
-Give this team its due as it heads down the stretch: they’ve now won eight in a row, and while the schedule hasn’t been the hardest, they’ve beaten just about everyone with authority, which is not something any other team is doing right now. They deserve some hype as they head into their Hockey Day appearance.
This week: Tues at Burnsville, Sat vs. #14 Blaine (Hockey Day)
4. Andover (10-3-1)
-The Huskies received the kiss of death last week and both lost and tied in the past week. A narrow defeat at the hands of the defending Class A champs isn’t overly concerning in my book; failing to beat middling Totino-Grace, on the other hand, sounds some alarm bells. The Maple Grove rematch this week will be instructive.
This week: Tues at #6 Maple Grove, Thurs at Armstrong/Cooper, Sat at Anoka
5. Rosemount (13-3)
-The Irish had a chance to claim the top spot when Andover lost, but blew it in a loss to Lakeville North. They rebounded with a convincing win over Eastview, which has value in the section. They haven’t allowed more than two goals in their last six, which is the right formula for this squad to make a deep run; they just have to avoid total outages offensively to continue winning. They continue with conference play this week.
This week: Thurs vs. Burnsville, Sat vs. Shakopee
6. Maple Grove (10-3)
-The actually somewhat consistent Crimson picked up a win over Centennial to restore some order to 5AA seeding, but it wasn’t exactly the sort of effort that will quiet any doubters. They got run over by Andover in the teams’ first meeting, but with the Huskies now looking a little more vulnerable, we’ll see if the Crimson can improve on that result.
This week: Tues vs. #4 Andover, Thurs at Elk River, Sat vs. Rogers
7. White Bear Lake (10-2-1)
-The Bears picked up an important section win over Stillwater, but lost a chance to move up with a loss to Minnetonka. On paper they should roll through their next few weeks of section play, so they need to get it done here if they want to stay in the conversation as a top team.
This week: Thurs at Woodbury, Sat at Park (Cottage Grove)
8. Cretin-Derham Hall (11-3-1)
-The Raiders picked up methodical wins over Stillwater and Forest Lake and then rallied to pick up a quality tie with Hermantown. They’ve lost just once in their past 13, and their next four should probably be wins, too.
This week: Thurs at Mounds View, Sat at Woodbury
9. Prior Lake (9-4-2)
-This is the point where I just start making things up. A tie against Burnsville put a momentary damper on the Lakers’ run, but they turned it around with a quality win over Lakeville South later in the week. Statewide parity might just allow this team to arrive ahead of schedule and make a real run at 2AA. Road tests against Duluth East and Lakeville North could allow them to further cement a quality position.
This week: Tues at Duluth East, Thurs at Lakeville North, Sat at Farmington
10. Minnetonka (8-7)
-The Skippers knocked off White Bear Lake and have now won seven of their last nine, which keeps them moving up these boards by virtue of their momentum; while they also have more losses, they’re also among the leaders in quality wins in the state right now. If they can keep that going against the top-ranked Eagles, things will suddenly be looking pretty rosy for a team that had fallen off a cliff about a month ago.
This week: Thurs at #1 Eden Prairie, Sat at Bloomington Jefferson
11. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (7-5-2)
-A shutout win over Hill was a step in the right direction for the Red Knights, and their upcoming schedule gives them a chance to build on it, too. If this offense is ever going to get on track in the way we thought it might back in November, now is the time.
This week: Thurs at Bloomington Jefferson, Sat vs. Chaska
12. Hill-Murray (9-4-2)
-Nothing is trending in the right direction for the Pioneers, who got shut out by Benilde and lost to a Mahtomedi team they’d beaten by five in December. This team is getting increasingly paradoxical after its hot start. The coming week which features a similarly inconsistent opponent and a Hastings team that just made a splash against another traditional AA power.
This week: Thurs vs. #13 Wayzata, Sat at Hastings
13. Wayzata (9-5-1)
-Trojans will be Trojans: a loss to St. Michael-Albertville hurts, and a narrow escape against a Buffalo team that the rest of the Lake has been slaughtering doesn’t exactly help the cause, either. This sort of lurch is par for the course with this program; the coming week gives them a chance to make their customary adjustment back in the other direction.
This week: Thurs at 1#12 Hill-Murray, Sat at Edina
14. Blaine (9-5)
-The Bengals took care of business against weaker Northwest Suburban opponents, which is something we really shouldn’t take for granted this season. An interesting Hockey Day test with chart-climbing Blake looms.
This week: Tues vs. Spring Lake Park, Sat at #3 Blake (Hockey Day)
15. Roseau (12-3)
-The Rams boosted their stock some with an impressive comeback win against previously undefeated Warroad. That’s the only game they’ve played against a quality team in either class over the past month, so they’re hard to gauge right now; their lone game this week will give us a bit more to work with.
This week: Tues at East Grand Forks
[u]The Next Ten[/u]
-The Hornets suffered a tie to St. Michael-Albertville but recovered to record a quality win over Lakeville South. After producing little in recent weeks, the offense finally seemed to be on track some. We’ll see if they can keep that rolling against two beatable conference opponents this week.
Grand Rapids (7-5-1)
-The Thunderhawks had themselves a very positive week: they tied a very good Hermantown team, edged Duluth East in a key 7AA fight, and fought past Greenway to reclaim bragging rights in their greatest rivalry. A win over Cloquet on Tuesday can put them in firm control of the race for the 2-seed in 7AA.
Lakeville North (9-4-1)
-The Panthers engaged in the sort of nonsense that has defined this season over the past week, as they upset Rosemount before turning around and losing to Eagan. They can improve their station by doing something against Prior Lake this week.
Lakeville South (9-5)
-A week after looking like world-beaters, the Cougars had a rough week in which they lost to Prior Lake and Edina. Eagan and Eastview this coming week will be telling: is this team a front-liner in the South Suburban, or are they part of one very large, crowded conference?
-While competitive, meetings with higher-ranked teams did not go well for the Ponies, as they fell to Cretin and White Bear; more glaringly, they tied Forest Lake after all of that. On paper they should win both of their conference games this week.
St. Michael-Albertville (6-6-2)
-The Knights had themselves a quality week with a tie against Edina and a win over Wayzata; at the very least, they’re showing they’re not overmatched by their new conference. Eden Prairie looms this coming week.
-A tie with Prior Lake is a notable improvement on the Blaze’s previous meeting with the Lakers. This week is a good moment of truth, as they face Blake, Rosemount, and a lurking Eagan team.
-The Wildcats are starting to build some momentum after quality wins over Eastview and Lakeville North. They really haven’t been tested at all outside of the conference, but are collecting respectable wins and have a chance to make even more noise this coming week against Lakeville South and Burnsville.
Holy Family (7-7)
-Finally, a AA team that won two games with authority this past week! Okay, those wins came against Litchfield and Waconia, but we’ll take what we can get. The Delano game this week could be an interesting one, as the Tigers are coming off a good showing against St. Cloud Cathedral.
Duluth East (7-8)
-The Hounds slid down the table a bit following losses to Grand Rapids and Eden Prairie. The consistency just isn’t there, and they’re still looking for one obvious strength they could ride to more than a distant hope of an upset. The tests keep coming this week as they face sharp-looking Prior Lake and some Spuds.
18 Lakeville North
19 Lakeville South
-This section has me contorting back and forth as I try to figure out where the Lakevilles stand in relation to the rest of the state and where the rest of the section stands in relation to the Lakevilles. North, with its win over South and South’s recent slide, is back on top; Rochester Century may win 20 games (and may get a higher seed because of it), but if we’re using traditional seeding criteria, the loss to Farmington makes it hard to put the Panthers higher than the 5-seed, despite this past week’s win over Owatonna. Next Saturday will be a defining day in this section, as Century and Hastings face off and the Lakevilles have their rematch.
1 Eden Prairie
9 Prior Lake
-How much does that holiday tournament loss to Chaska have to sting for Prior Lake? Without it, they’d be in the clubhouse with an undefeated record against 2AA competition. Even so, if Eden Prairie and Minnetonka split their Lake meetings, they may yet nab the top spot; if one of those teams sweeps, I’d give it the top seed. I think the top three are clear enough here, but the order they’ll fall in is still anyone’s guess. Chaska is hanging on the 4-seed ahead of Holy Family by virtue of that Prior Lake win right now.
-Could St. Thomas be starting the playoffs on the road? With losses to Rosemount and Eastview, it’s now a distinct possibility. Right now, things are making reasonable sense here, as Rosemount and Burnsville are both undefeated in section play and have a meeting looming this week; Eagan has lost to those two but beat Eastview. With plenty of South Suburban games left, though, there’s plenty of time for this section to fall into line and be a mess like all the others.
7 White Bear Lake
-Finally, a section with relative clarity: the Bears remain in control after a win over Stillwater. The only way I see the Bears falling from the top spot is with a Stillwater sweep of its remaining section games, in which case that Irondale loss would be a factor. The loser of the Stillwater-Hill game will likely be stuck with the 3-seed. Mounds View took a step toward the 4-seed with a win over East Ridge on Saturday.
6 Maple Grove
-With its sweep of Centennial, Maple Grove is back atop the heap in this one. The Maple Grove-Blaine rematch is next Thursday; both teams still control their own destiny here, while Centennial can go no higher than 2 with a win over Blaine. Champlin has a strong record but went 0-3 against the top 3 and has a test against Totino looming to decide the 4-seed.
8 Cretin-Derham Hall
11 Benilde-St. Margaret’s
-Nothing has fundamentally changed here since our pained check-in two weeks ago: these teams all remain 1-1 or 1-1-1 against each other, and any shifting is due only to placement in the overall rankings. That should change over the next two weeks, as we have the second of three Edina-Wayzata meetings and a big battle between Benilde and Blake. The winner of the Blake-Benilde game, barring a tailspin in non-section play, will have a good claim to the top seed; the Lake teams’ records may end up holding them back and leaving one, or even both, in the 4-5 game. A little clarity, please?
17 Grand Rapids
25 Duluth East
-A mercifully straightforward section: Andover is the state’s one sure 1-seed, and Grand Rapids has made strides toward the 2-seed. From here, everything really runs through the Jacks, who face Rapids twice and East for a second time in the coming weeks; they also have Forest Lake, which is looming in QRF. East has the Rangers next week also.
21 St. Michael-Albertville
-Can a team contend for #1 in the state and not the top seed in its own section? That might just be the case for Moorhead right now, though they have a chance to flip that if they can hang on to this spot over the next two weeks and beat Roseau in the process. STMA, though probably doomed to no more than a 3-seed, is certainly showing it can be dangerous. St. Cloud, with a win and a tie over Brainerd and a good showing against the Spuds, is now in position for the 4-seed.