Minnetonka’s Gavin Garry and Wayzata’s Hawke Huff battle.

Teams skated to a 1-1 tie on Dec. 29

by Bryan Zollman, Let’s Play Hockey

The biggest game of the year so far this high school hockey season was Dec. 29 at the Plymouth Ice Center when No. 1 Minnetonka faced off against No. 2 Wayzata.

At the time both teams were undefeated, Minnetonka dubbed the Goliath in the Class AA world, and every other team considered an also-ran who couldn’t compete with their plethora of Division I talent. .

But the Trojans, albeit not necessarily considered a David if we’re using biblical storylines, proved the Skippers did not stand alone as an elite powerhouse of a team. Not only did they skate to a 1-1 tie with the Skippers, they outshot them 29-24.

Both teams had ample chances to win that game – point blank opportunities they just couldn’t execute. Both goaltenders, Hunter Bauer for Minnetonka, and Evan Turek for Wayzata came up with huge saves as the momentum teetered on whoever was going to score the next goal. Bauer and Turek proved their value as uncommitted players on teams loaded with college hockey talent. They proved as big of difference makers as Javon Moore and Rhys Wallin, probably even moreso.

Evan Turek has posted a 1.74 goals against average and a save percentage of .901 in 17 games (14-1-2). LPH PHOTO BY BRYAN ZOLLMAN

Since that game Minnetonka has remained unbeaten, going 7-0-1 and outscoring opponents 55-6. They have outshot opponents in that span 383-138. In their last two games they have outscored opponents 28-0 and outshot them 132-14. Typical Minnetonka stats we saw from the start of the season.

The Skippers’ tie came against Edina, who has slipped past Wayzata in the rankings (they also beat Wayzata). That also was a 1-1 battle with both teams having ample opportunity to win the game, although Minnetonka seemed to have more of an edge in this game than they did against Wayzata, but that’s a subjective observation.

Junior Ashton Schultz leads the Skippers with 42 points.

Minnetonka’s Top Scorers:

PlayerGradeGamesGoalsAssistsPointsCollege
Ashton Schultz1119152742North Dakota
Hagen Burrows1219132740Denver
Javon Moore1219161935Minnesota
Gavin Garry1219132134St. Thomas
Luke Garry1219141933St. Thomas
Sam Scheetz1218101929Uncommitted
John Stout121951621Minnsota-Duluth
Alex Lunski12127815St. Thomas
Danny Klaers121941014Notre Dame

Since Dec. 29, Wayzata has gone 7-1-0, their lone hiccup to Edina on Jan. 23 in a 4-1 loss. It should be noted the Trojans outshot the Hornets 32-17, but the rules are the same as they’ve always been and the only number that matters is the final number of goals scored. Translation: Edina is really good too.

In that 8-game span Wayzata has outscored opponents 44-14 and outshot them 316-125. They are coming off an 8-2 win over St. Michael-Albertville. Minnetonka recently beat St. Michael-Albertville 18-0. However, if we’re using common opponents as a measuring stick, Minnetonka beat Buffalo 4-0, Wayzata beat Buffalo 7-0.

Rhys Wallin is one of several Wayzata players who can put the puck in the back of the net. LPH PHOTO BY BRYAN ZOLLMAN

Wayzata’s Top Scorers:

PlayerGradeGamesGoalsAssistsPointsCollege
Jake Mattson1220152035Uncommitted
Cade De St. Hubert1220122234Uncommitted
Rhys Wallin1220141933Uncommitted
Brittan Alstead122092332Uncommitted
Luke Miller1220151530Uncommitted
Brooks Gengler1220121426Uncommitted
Carson Clark112021719Uncommitted
Finn De St. Hubert112021618Yale
Hawke Huff122031316NAHL/Mn Wilderness

What does it all mean?

Not much.

Once the puck drops two of the best teams we have seen in recent years will battle for every loose puck, every rebound, and every angle they can get. The deciding factor could come down to questionable call, a lucky bounce, a hot goalie, or all of the above.

Or, one of the teams could score early, gain the momentum and never let it go. As much as everyone believes and wants it to be a one-goal game, in all likelihood both teams are capable of winning 5-1.

The last match up between the two teams was both fast-paced and physical. LPH PHOTO BY BRYAN ZOLLMAN

Minnetonka’s talent is undeniable, and playing every game as a heavy favorite is not an easy task. However, great teams usually have an extra gear that other teams do not. We have not seen that from the Skippers against the likes of Edina and Wayzata, perhaps a testament to the unbelievable skill level of the Lake Conference. Perhaps Wayzata and Edina (maybe Chanhassen) are all operating at a gear higher than the rest and can simply skate with the Skippers, which has proven to be an arduous task for any team.

Speaking of skill, tonight’s game could be the last time these two teams meet. Both teams have to go through an assembly line of quality teams to get through sections. In this week’s LPH Rankings, three of the top 10 teams are in Section 6AA: No. 2 Edina, No. 3 Wayzata, No. 6 Benilde-St. Margaret’s and four of the top 10 teams are in Section 2AA: No. 1 Minnetonka, No. 4 Chanhassen, No. 8 Shakopee and No. 9 Eden Prairie. Any of those teams can represent their section at the state tournament.

www.letsplayhockey.com/rankings

One bounce here, a penalty there, a hot goalie…sometimes the best team doesn’t always win.

That’s why we watch.

Pagel Arena will be packed to capacity tonight, not just with fans from Minnetonka and Wayzata, but high school hockey fans from all over the metro. Chances are there will be a few scouts and college coaches in attendance (ya think!?). Thankfully,  the game is also available on MnHockey.TV so anyone can watch from anywhere.

Will Minnetonka continue to reign supreme amongst their Lake Conference counterparts? Or will Wayzata prove their prowess as a top contender for a class AA state title?

While March is home to the state tournament, February is the greatest month of high school hockey because it is home to the section playoffs. In Minnesota, getting to state is a life-changing venture. It’s like getting a talking part in a Scorsese movie.

By 10 p.m. tonight we will know a lot more about both teams and it will only add to our continued adoration of high school hockey at its best with an understanding and anticipation that the best is still yet to come.