Throw the rankings out the door, it’s a new season

The Class A field is set as teams will now start their second season and battle for the coveted section title and trip to the X. Which teams end up crashing the glass in front of their student fans remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure…we have finally come to the best time of the year when it comes to high school hockey in Minnesota.

Hermantown started the season as the No. 1 ranked team in Class A and that’s where they finish after a pair of wins against AA opponents last week. Champs in 2022 (and 2016 and 2017), the Hawks will look to win their 14th section title in the last 15 years (Greenway in 2019). St. Cloud Cathedral remained at No. 2 in our rankings by increasing their win streak to nine games. The Crusaders are in a tough Section 5A with the likes of No. 10 Monticello and No. 16 Little Falls, but they are the clear front runners to make a return trip to state with one of the top lines in all of high school hockey in Andrew Dwinnell, Joey Gillespie and John Hirschfeld.

There are several teams with strong top lines who are putting up great numbers, but not enough can be said about the teams who can roll three lines for much of the game. Teams with depth both up front and on the back end are usually the ones who have a tendency to survive deep into section play.

East Grand Forks maintained the No. 3 spot despite a AA loss to Roseau 5-0. Warroad locks down the no. 4 spot after two wins against Northern Lakes and Bemidji, and Orono maintains the fifth spot after beating Chaska and Bloomington Jefferson.

Last year’s defending champion Mahtomedi moves up to No. 6 and have won their last five games, four against AA squads, and Delano jumps a spot after a 2-1 overtime win over Northfield, who dropped to No. 8. Alexandria is riding a current hot streak into the Top 10 at No. 9 and Monticello falls a spot to 10th after losing to No. 2 St. Cloud Cathedral.

But you might as well throw these rankings out the door because starting today every team is 0-0 and it’s a new season. There will be jaw-dropping, highlight reel plays, questionable calls, epic cellys, and of course some upsets along the way. The best part of the hockey season starts tonight. Let the glass-crashing begin.

Here is a section-by-section breakdown:

Final regular Season Class A Boys Rankings –

Presented by TRADITION COMPANIES

TeamSectionRecordLast Week
1. Hermantown7A15-8-21
2. St. Cloud Cathedral5A20-4-12
3 .East Grand Forks8A16-8-13
4. Warroad8A20-5-04
5. Orono2A17-8-05
6. Mahtomedi4A14-11-07
7. Delano2A16-8-18
8. Northfield1A19-4-26
9. Alexandria6A15-9-112
10. Monticello5A19-5-19
11. Cloquet/Esko/Carlton7A12-13-014
12. Thief River Falls8A14-11-013
13. Hibbing/Chisholm7A17-8-010
14. Proctor7A18-7-011
15. Luverne3A23-2-016
16. Little Falls5A16-9-015
17. Northern Lakes6A16-9-018
18. Dodge County1A17-7-117
19. La Crescent-Hokah1A23-2-019
20. Southwest Christian/Richfield4A15-10-020

 

Section 1A: High-scoring offenses will battle it out

No. 6-seeded Winona faced off against Rochester Mayo earlier this season. The Winhawks will face No. 3 La Crescent-Hokah in the quarterfinals Thursday in Section 1A. LPH PHOTO BY CRAIG JOHNSON

Seeding:

  1. Northfield (19-4-2)
  2. Dodge County (17-7-1)
  3. La Crescent-Hokah (23-2-0)
  4. Albert Lea (13-11-1)
  5. Rochester Lourdes (9-16-0)
  6. Winona (16-7-1)
  7. Waseca (14-11-0)
  8. Faribault (9-15-0)
  9. Red Wing (5-19-1)
  10.  Austin (4-21-0)

2023 Winner: Northfield

Section Outlook: Northfield enters the section playoffs as the clear favorite. They have upheld a top-10 ranking most of the season and have a strong senior top line  in Kam Kaiser (32-21-53), Jake Gieger (22-24-46) and Cayden Monson (19-27-46). Dodge County counters with a solid 1-2 punch in the section with Gryffon Funke and Brett Ludvigsen. Funke is a senior and currently ranks eighth in the state in goals with 39.  Ludvigsen, a junior, leads the state with 45 assists and is sixth in points with 73.

But they don’t even have the best 1-2 punch in the section.  La Crescent-Hokah’s Wyatt Farrell doesn’t just lead the state with 48 goals, he is on the verge of breaking the all-time record held by Ben Hanowski who scored 196 in his career for Little Falls. Farrell has 192 entering section play. He leads the state with 86 points and teammate is fourth with 43 goals and 35 assists for 78 points. Linemate Noah Gillette has 43 goals and 78 points giving the Lancers a dynamic duo to contend with.

And let us not forget the high-scoring Teis Larsen from Winona who is second in state with 42-39-81 as the Winhawks will look to play spoiler.

There no doubt will be some high-scoring games in Section 1A. What is harder to predict is what team has the most depth and better goaltending when it matters. Northfield would appear to be the front runner in that regard having lost just four games on the season. In order to come through the section, they will have shut down the top line of either La Crescent or Dodge County – no easy task. La Crescent, meanwhile, will have their hands full in their opening game against No. 6 Winona

 

All eyes are on La-Crescent-Hokah’s Wyatt Farrell and his quest to become the all-time leading scorer in state history. More importantly he will try and lead the No. 3 Lancers past the likes of Dodge County and Northfield, the odds-on favorites to meet in the section final. LPH PHOTO BY CHRISTINE WISCH

Section 2A: Orono and Delano are front runners

Eight teams will face off to battle for the coveted section crown in Section 2A. Above, Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato’s Carson Drummond gets ready for a draw against Monticello. LPH PHOTO BY BRYAN ZOLLMAN

 

Seeding:

  1. Orono (17-8-0)
  2. Delano (16-8-1)
  3. Minneapolis (10-15-0)
  4. Providence Academy (10-15-0)
  5. Breck (14-10-1)
  6. Mound Westonka/ Watertown Mayer (12-12-1)
  7. Hutchinson (7-16-2)
  8. Litchfield Dassel-Cokato (4-20-1)

2023 Winner: Orono

 Section Outlook:

This section is very open as six teams have had a 10-plus win season, but he frontrunners are Orono and Delano, both who have been top 10 teams most of the season.

The two teams met Jan. 6 with Orono winning 3-2 and outshooting Delano 31-15. Delano, however, has had some big wins including a 5-0 win over No. 2 St. Cloud Cathedral and a recent 2-1 win over No. 8 Northfield. The Tigers rely heavily on defensive play, allowing just 2.63 goals a game this season. They have just four players who have noticed 20-plus points. Orono is a similar squad in that they don’t have a high-octane offense either and rely on keeping pucks out of nets. They are allowing an average of 2.56 goals per game.

The section falls off a bit after the top two seeds in terms of win total, but Minneapolis is coming off a 4-3 loss to No. 10 Monticello and several of their losses have come against Class AA teams. They also lost 5-4 to Delano earlier this season, putting them right int he miss to compete for the section crown.

Providence Academy is led by senior goal-scoring machine Louie Wehmann who has 46 goals in 24 games. The 6’3″ 210-pound power forward is a force to be reckoned with. The question is if there is enough firepower behind him to help lift the Lions to a section title game.

Section 3A: Luverne might be too hot to handle

  1. Luverne (23-2-0)
  2. New Ulm (20-5-0)
  3. Mankato East (12-11-2)
  4. Mankato West (8-15-2)
  5. Marshall (14-11-0)
  6. Minnesota River (14-11-0)
  7. Windom (6-19-0)
  8. Worthington (7-17-0)
  9. Fairmont (2-23-0)
  10. Redwood Valley (1-23-0)

2023 Winner: Luverne

Section Outlook:

Luverne’s impressive 23 wins earned them the top seed in Section 3A as they eye a return trip to state. The Cardinals have not lost a game since falling to Little Falls on Jan. 26. Their main competition is southern stalwart New Ulm who also has had an impressive regular season with 20 wins. But Luverne has had New Ulm’s number this season, defeating them twice by scores of 6-1 and 6-2.

The Cardinals went 14-0 in section play and are led by senior  Owen Sudenga (39-34-73). Luverne has seven players with 30-plus point seasons: Patrick Koski (17-35-52), Maddux Domagala (24-22-46), Landyn Lais (19-26-45), Elliot Domagala (20-21-41), Blaik Bork (15-24-39), and Carter Como (16-14-30).

New Ulm went 12-2 in section play, both losses to Luverne. They are led by senior Austin Uecker who has 35 goals and 30 assists on the season. Teammates Kaden Larson and Bryer Lang both have 46 points on the year.

Neither of the two Mankato schools played against Luverne or New Ulm so it’s tough to see what a head-to-head match up would look like.

The Marshall Tigers will also be a team to watch as they have had a 10+ win season. The Tigers are led by Owen Renslow with 51 total points. Minnesota River has also won 14 games.

Section 4A: Section has produced three of last four state champions

The Zephyrs are the reigning Class A state champions and look to win their third straight Section 4A title. Section 4A has produced three of the last four state champions (Gentry Academy in 2021 and Mahtomedi in 2020). LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

Seeding:

  1. Mahtomedi (14-11-0)
  2. Southwest Christian-Richfield (15-10-0)
  3. Chisago Lakes (11-13-1)
  4. St. Paul Highland (12-13-0)
  5. St. Paul Academy (9-16-0)
  6. South St. Paul (8-16-1)
  7. Simley (5-18-2)
  8. Bloomington Kennedy (4-21-0)

2023 Winner: Mahtomedi

Section Outlook: The Zephyrs lost 10 players off last year’s state championship squad, but they are a program that doesn’t rebuild but rather reloads. They finished last season with 23 wins and have just 14 this year playing a predominantly AA schedule where they went 9-7 on the year. They have three wins against section opponents and are the clear front runner to return to the X as representatives of Section 4A.

Jake Hodd-Chlebeck leads the team with 40 points and Jimmy Egan has chipped in 38. The Zephyrs are 5-4 against Class A teams with losses to Warroad, East Grand Forks and Hermantown. In their nine games against Class A opponents they have outscored them 47-28.

Southwest Christian/Richfield may be the lone team to give the Zephyrs a run for their money with an impressive 15-wins against a strong schedule of teams. They are led by Jared Greiner (14-30-44) and Tate Hardacre (14-27-41).

 

Section 5A: Cathedral’s top line a force to be reckoned with

St. Cloud Cathedra’s John Hirschfeld is one third of their top line that has combined to score 175 points this season for the No. 2 Crusaders. Hirschfeld is second in the state with 43 assists. LPH PHOTO BY BRYAN ZOLLMAN

Seeding:

  1. St. Cloud Cathedral (20-4-1)
  2. Monticello (19-5-1)
  3. Little Falls (16-9-0)
  4. River Lakes Stars (14-9-2)
  5. Pine City (12-13-0)
  6. Princeton (11-12-2)
  7. Sauk-Rapids Rice (9-13-3)
  8. Becker/Big Lake (16-9-0)
  9. Mora- Milaca (14-11-1)

 2023 Winner: St. Cloud Cathedral

Section Outlook: St. Cloud Cathedral’s top line of Andrew Dwinell-John Hirschfeld-Joey Gillespie have combined for 175 points on the season, helping lead the Crusaders to the No. 2 overall ranking in Class A as they head into section play. Dwinnell has 23 goals and 37 assists for 60 points, Gillespie 27 goals and 25 assists for 52 points and Hirschfeld is second in the state in assists with 43 to go with 20 goals for 63 points.

Whoever can shut down their top line has a chance, but the Crusaders are also loaded on the blue line with the likes of Griffin Sturm and Vince Gebhardt. Senior goaltender Nick Hansen suffered an injury earlier this season, but has since returned and played extremely well, posting a .932 save percentage.

But the winner of Section 5A hasn’t been signed, sealed and delivered. That’s because there is plenty of competition. Monticello has just one less win than Cathedral and while they may not have the offensive arsenal, they did rattle off 12 wins midseason and are a top-10 Class A team. They are just a week out from meeting up with Cathedral with the Crusaders escaping with a 3-0 win. Cathedral outshot the Moose 58-26.

Little Falls is another team to be reckoned with. The Flyers played Cathedral tough on Feb. 13, losing 3-2.

Section 6A: Alexandria looks for third straight section title

Alexandria goalie Brady Metcalf has been solid in goal leading the Cardinals into the Section 6A playoffs as the top seed. LPH PHOTO BY JACKSON BOLINE

Seeding:

  1. Alexandria Area (15-9-1)
  2. Northern Lakes (16-9-0)
  3. Fergus Falls (8-17-0)
  4. Morris Benson (14-11-0)
  5. Prairie Centre Area (10-14-1)
  6. Willmar (7-17-1)
  7. Wadena-Deer Creek (7-15-0)
  8. Breckenridge (5-19-0)

2023 Winner: Alexandria

Section Outlook:  If the last two weeks of play are any indication of how Section 6A will turn out, it’s Alexandria’s section all the way. The Cardinals are coming off wins against Fergus Falls (6-2), Northern Lakes (5-2) and Monticello (3-0). They have won four straight and eight of their last nine. They also beat Northern Lakes 6-3 earlier in the season. They’re not a high-scoring team, notching just 88 goals on the season, but they have allowed just 56. A big reason is the play of goaltender Brady Metcalf who has a 2.18 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.

Northern Lakes has won 16 games, but will have to find a way to beat the Cardinals after dropping a pair of games this year. The Lightning were state participants in 2021 but have since moved over to Section 6A. Fergus Falls has had somewhat of a down year in the win column but has 13 seniors who will play their hearts out to compete for a section title and look to upset the apple cart.

Section 7A: Hawks continue to fly above the rest

Hermantown has played a predominantly Class AA schedule against the likes of Hill-Murray (above), which bodes well come playoff time as they look to get back to state for the 14th time in 15 years. LPH PHOTO BY JEFF ANDERSON

Seeding:

  1. Hermantown (15-8-2)
  2. Cloquet (12-13-0)
  3. Hibbing-Chisholm (17-8-0)
  4. Proctor (18-7-0)
  5. North Shore Storm (12-10-3)
  6. Greenway (5-17-3)
  7. Ely/Tower- Soudan (14-11-0)
  8. International Falls (6-18-2)
  9. Moose Lake (6-19-0)

2023 Winner: Hermantown

Section Outlook: This section is very much a “David and Goliath” situation with Hermantown being crowned the section championship for 13 of the last 14 years. It is one of the deeper sections, and the Hawks are perhaps a little bit more on the young side than in recent years. But it is Hermantown’s section to lose. There is no doubt about that.

Hibbing/Chisholm has turned in a fine season with 17 wins, but took one on the chin from the top-seeded Hawks 8-1 on Jan. 16. Proctor has also had a strong campaign with 18 wins. They lost to Hibbing/Chisholm 4-1 and took Hermantown into overtime before losing 4-1. They have an outstanding goaltender in A.J. Reyelts who boasts a .942 save percentage.

Cloquet finished a game below .500 but did so while mainly maintaining their AA schedule. This season, Cloquet Esko-Carlton has made the step down to the single A hockey bracket. For years the Lumberjacks were a storied program in the blue blood section of the north that included Duluth East, Grand Rapids, and Duluth Marshall. Back in Class A, they will look to play the role of spoiler to Hermantown’s decade-plus of dominance.

Section 8A: Green Wave looks to knock off Warriors

The Green Wave roll into section play as the top seed. LPH PHOTO BY BRYAN ZOLLMAN

 Seeding:

  1. East Grand Forks (16-8-1)
  2. Warroad (20-5-0)
  3. Thief River Falls (14-10-1)
  4. Detroit Lakes (11-13-1)
  5. Crookston (15-10-0)
  6. Red Lake Falls (19-5-1)
  7. Park Rapids (14-8-3)
  8. Lake of the Woods (15-9-0)
  9. Bagley/Fosston (7-16-0)

2023 Winner: Warroad

Section Outlook: There might not be another section with as much anticipation for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle than Section 8. Both East Grand Forks and Warroad have spent time as the top-ranked team in the state. Booth have also fallen out of the top five. If there is a section where wagers were being placed, one could argue the polls would come in at 50/50.

Both teams have strong senior leadership and talented scorers. Warroad’s Carson Pilgrim had a 92-point campaign last season skating with Mr. Hockey Jason Shaugubay, and has followed up nicely with a 52-point season and has the ability to get the big goal when needed. Taven James (18-30-48) and Murray Marvin-Cordes (19-19-38) help lead a potent Warrior offense. Ryan Lund is one of the top senior defensemen in the state and has a whopping 18 goals to go with 20 assists.

East Grand Forks is led by senior Brock Schultz (21-27-48) and Landon Jamieson (15-23-38).

The two teams have met twice with Warroad winning the first battle 4-3 in overtime on a Pilgrim goal, and East Grand taking the second game 6-3 in east Grand Forks. Combined shots in the two games 61-57 in favor of the Green Wave, giving indication of just how close these teams are to each other.

It will make for a great section final if both teams can get there. It won’t be a walk in the park as teams seeded three through eight have a combined record of 88-55-6.

UND commit Carson Pilgrim will look to lead the Warriors back to the X for the third straight year. LET’S PLAY HOCKEY PHOTO BY JACKSON BOLINE.