Class AA Tournament Preview

by Pete Waggoner

A terrific state tournament field is slated to begin quarterfinal round action this Thursday from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.  Five of the eight teams finished the season ranked in the top ten.  The defending champion Minnetonka Skippers were eliminated, meaning there will be a new winner this year.  There are a number of high end players with five of the ten Mr. Hockey finalists in action at the tournament.  There are no teams that are newcomers to the event and all have been battled tested over the years and in youth hockey.  The coaching is elite and each team will be well prepared to put their best foot forward. 

#1 Edina Hornets (24-2-1)

Section: 6AA

Head Coach: Curry Giles (20th season)  

Record vs Tournament teams:  6-0

State Tournament Appearances:  39

Edina Morningside (1955, 56, 57, 60, 62)

Edina (1967, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 82, 83, 84, 87, 88, 89, 95, 96, 97, 98, 2000, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19)

Edina East (1973, 74, 77, 78, 79)

Edina West (1981)

State Titles:  12 (1969, 71, 74, 78, 79, 82, 84, 88, 97, 2010, 13, 14)

Road to State

Win 7-0 over Hopkins 

Win 4-2 over Blake

Win 5-1 over Benilde-St. Margaret’s 

Leading Scorers

Jett Jungels 27-27-54

Liam Malmquist 23-29-52

Mason Nevers 17-32-49

Kevin Delaney 16-12-28

Brett Chorske 11-16-27

Leading Goaltenders

Louden Hogg 16-2-1, 2.09, .907, 1so

Jack Wolfe 5-0-0, 1.20, .931, 1so

The bottom line

Edina has been playing the best hockey in the state down the stretch beating the top teams. They are on an eleven game winning streak (11-0) and have only lost to Chaska and Hill-Murray.  The Hornets are perfect against the tournament field at 6-0 (3 wins against Eden Prairie).  Edina was a stunning 8-0-1 against teams that finished ranked in the top ten. 

The top line of Jett Jungels (27-27-54), Liam Malmquist (23-29-52), and Mason Nevers (17-32-49) are a buzz saw and just keep coming in waves.  They are the offensive leaders of a team that has 11 seniors.  Kevin Delaney (16-12-28) and Brett Chorske (11-16-27) are a pair of seniors that round out a top six group of veterans that do not panic under pressure.  

Mike Vorlicky (4-21-25) is a three-year veteran blueliner that is among the best in the state.  He defends and manages the power play.  Vorlicky is joined by a group of high end defensemen from 1-6 that are among the best in the state.  Goaltender Louden Hogg (16-2-1) has been the go-to goalie for Edina and has shined in the big games down the stretch in the difficult Lake Conference.  Head coach Curt Giles teams are always prepared and come to the St. Tournament not just happy to be there but expecting to win.  This year, it may very well be Edina’s to lose. 

#2 Blaine Bengals (22-2-2)

Section: 5AA

Head Coach: Chris Carroll 5th year

Record vs Tournament teams:  1-2-1

State Tournament Appearances: 12 (1992, 96, 99, 2000, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 15, 19)

State Titles: 1 (2000)

Road to State

Win 10-1 over Osseo

Win 5-0 over Centennial

Win 2-1 over Maple Grove

Leading Scorers

Bryce Brodzinski 25-49-84

Carsen Richels 39-38-77

Cole Hansen 12-37-49

Nick Hauck 3-31-34

Will Hillman 15-18-33

Leading Goaltenders

Joe Daninger 22-2-2, 1.48, .928, 7so

The bottom line

The Bengals can score.  To date, they have outscored their opponents 123-37 and are averaging 4.73 goals for per game and just 1.42 against.  They are led by Mr. Hockey candidate Bryce Brodzinski who has carried the family name with pride and delivered with big time numbers this year.  He leads the state in points with 84 and could be the third Mr. Hockey winner in Blaine history behind Nick Bjugstad and Riley Tufte. 

Carsen Richels leads the Bengals in playoff scoring (4g-4a-8pts) and has size to go with his game at 6-2 and 200 lbs.  The junior compliments Brodzinski’s game and the two will be as dynamic of a force St. Paul will see this weekend. Since his sophomore year, Will Hillman has hovered around the 20 goal mark and continues to be an offensive presence.  

Goalie Joe Daninger has won 17 straight hockey games coming into the tournament and is on his game.  Defensemen Nick Hauck manages the power play and keeps his talented forwards engaged in scoring opportunities.  

Their special teams a simply devastating.  The power play is just under 40% at 39 and they kill of 92% of their penalties.  They have the ability to make some noise in St. Paul and are on the short list to pick up a state title and their second in school history. 

#3 Eden Prairie Eagles (17-9-2)

Section: 2AA

Head Coach: Lee Smith (26th season)  483-203-37

Record vs Tournament teams:  3-3-2

State Tournament Appearances:  10 - (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019)

State Titles:  2 (2009, 2011)

Road to State

Win 9-0 over Chanhassen

Win 7-3 over Chaska

Win 3-1 over Holy Family Catholic

Leading Scorers

Jack Jensen 34-25-59

John Mittelstadt 14-29-43

Luke Mittelstadt  4-28-32

Sam Wilhite 10-21-31

Spencer Rudrud 14-15-29

Drew Holt 12-17-29

Leading Goaltenders

Axel Rosenlund 11-5-1, 2.72, .892, 1so

Ben Bullis 4-3-1, 3.57, .875 

Jack Engelbrakt 2-1-0, 2.00, .920

The bottom line

The Eagles make their 10th appearance to the State Tournament and are 3-0-2 against teams in the field not named Edina and 0-3 against the Hornets.  They had a run of 4 straight appearances stopped by the Minnetonka Skippers last year but return again this year.  Since their first state title in 2009, the Eagles have made the trek to St. Paul eight times.  

Mr. Hockey finalist Jack Jensen is the 13th player under head coach Lee Smith to be nominated for the prestigious award that goes to the best senior hockey player in the state.  The Eagles have had three winners (Nick Leddy - 2009), (Kyle Rau - 2011), and Casey Mittelstadt (2017).  Jensen could be a fourth and has delivered a prolific three seasons for the Eagles amassing (72g-68a-140pts) in 83 games over three seasons which is good for sixth all time on the Eden Prairie list.  He needs to collect 10 points over the next three games to land in the top five and pass Ryan Hawkins. Jensen could care less about those accolades as he would like to see his team win the title his senior season. 

The Eagles have a solid blend of forwards that play with tempo, creativity and aggressiveness.  They have five players with 29 or more points on the season with depth upfront and leadership on the backend led by Luke Mittelstadt (4-28-32) who is mature beyond his sophomore year on the blue line and turning heads with blend of one-on-one play and compete level.  Brother John Mittelstadt has been explosive in the section playoffs when it counts the most (3-5-8) as has sophomore Drew Holt (3-3-6).  

Senior Spencer Rudrud has been playing every other shift at center down the stretch with Jensen for the Eagles and has taken the responsibility impressively.  Sam Wilhite (10-21-31) has been a physical presence for the Eagles and a consistent contributor.  They are a senior laden team with grit and character in Garrett Smith (4-19-23) and Carson Jones (1-8-9) in 16 games played. The group can play in all situations when needed.  Sophomore Carter Batchelder has seen his game erupt over the past two weeks with 5 goals in the section playoffs picking up 6 of his 17 points in the last three playoff games (5-1-6).

Defenseman Keegan Langefels (8-13-21) is a Reed Larson award finalist who delivers a solid defensive brand with an offensive touch that anchors a well rounded defensive corps. 

Goalie Axel Rosenlund has grabbed the goaltending duties with his play down the stretch and will give his team a chance every time they play.  

#4 St. Thomas Academy Cadets (24-3-1)

Section: 3AA

Co-Head Coaches: Greg Vannelli and Tom Vannelli (16th season 367-90-17)

Record vs Tournament teams:  0-1-1

State Tournament Appearances: 11 overall 4 Class AA (2015, 2017, 2018, 2019) 

State Titles: 5 Class A (2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013)

Road to State

Win 5-1 over East Ridge

Win 5-1 over Eastview

Win 4-1 over Eagan

Leading Scorers

Ryan O’Neill 19-30-49

Luke Herzog 16-25-41

Brendan McFadden 15-24-39

Rob Christy 19-20-39

Nico Vega 14-22-36

Leading Goaltenders

Muzzy Donohue 13-3-1, 1.70, .929, 3so

Wes Gervais 10-0-0, 1.17, .941

The bottom line

Defensive play is what stands out when looking at the Cadets.  They have a senior duo in goal that has been tremendous this year.  Wes Gervais has a sterling .941 save percentage and has not lost a game this year in 10 outings.  Muzzy Donohue has posted 3 shutouts on the season and the two have given their coaching staff plenty of options.  

Co-head coaches Tom and Greg Vannelli announced they would be stepping down as coaches of the program earlier this season.  The brothers have watched over a program that built itself to prominence and then dominance in the Class A field and have made the difficult transition to the Class AA seamless with four section titles in the five seasons they opted up.  Prior to that, the Cadets had made seven trips to the state tournament at the Class A level with a dominating five titles to their credit.  According to the school’s press release that announced their resignation, the Vannelli’s have seen 30 skaters over their time collect over $6 million in scholarship money for hockey. 

This Cadet team is no different than the editions we have become accustomed to.  They skate well, have good size, deliver high end goaltending and mix things in with skill and disciplined play.  Ryan O’Neill (19-30-49) has led the way for the team offensively with Rob Christy (19-20-39) providing the Cadets with a pair of sure fire 20-goal scorers.  

With 11 seniors on the roster, the Cadets balance the scoring between a deep group of forwards and defensemen.  They have three players, Brendan McFadden, Luke Herzog, and Tanner Brouwer, that played in the state football tournament that will help guide the team on the big stage and pressure of the Xcel Energy Center. 

#5 Duluth East Greyhounds (18-6-2)

Section: 7AA

Head Coach: Mike Randolph

Record vs Tournament teams: 1-1-2

State Tournament Appearances: 24 (1958, 60, 61, 64, 75, 91, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 2000, 03, 04, 05, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19)

State Titles: 3 (1960, 1995, 1998)

Road to State

Win 7-0 over Duluth Marshall

Win 5-2 over Cloquet-Esko-Carlton

Win 4-3 (OT) Andover

Leading Scorers

Ryder Donovan 15-27-42

Ricky Lyle 20-18-38

Logan Anderson 8-27-35

Hunter Paine 5-18-23

Jack Fitzgerald 10-13-23

Brendan Baker 8-15-23

Leading Goaltenders

Brody Rabold 10-4-2, .913

Lukan Hanson 6-0-0, .914

The bottom line

Dating back to 1953, this season marks the 66th consecutive year the program has had a winning season. The Hounds are led by Mr. Hockey candidate Ryder Donovan who scored the game winning goal in overtime against the Andover Huskies to capture the 7AA title.  The Hounds are in the midst of a 7-game winning streak and once again are playing at a championship level when it matters the most. 

Duluth East will play their game but will adjust to what they need to do to defeat other teams and no team has executed that better than the Duluth East Greyhounds in state tournament play.  They always have a lethal power play and it is great again this year connecting 26% of the time.  They kill penalties off at an 86% rate and are a team that would be one many would not want to face in the tournament.  

Ricky Lyle has a knack for scoring big goals and doesn’t shy away from the big stage.  He has erupted for (8-5-13) in the section playoffs and he will be looked to in St. Paul and leads all postseason scorers.  Ryder Donovan (15-27-42) has height 6’4” and weight 190 lbs to go along with deft playmaking skills.  He is a Mr. Hockey finalist and has the ability to change a game with his high end skating ability. Hunter Paine (5-18-23) has been a mainstay on the blue line and he gives the Hounds needed grit and skill when moving the puck.  Mike Radolph’s system requires well rounded D-men and Paine fits that bill perfectly.  Goaltender Brody Rabold (10-4-2, 1.85, .913, 2 so) has been the go-to for the Hounds in the playoffs.  

Never bet against the Hounds in the postseason and certainly, never judge the book by its cover.  Duluth East will be prepared and ready to play this weekend. 

Lakeville South Cougars (14-12-1)

Section: 1AA 

Head Coach:  Janne Kivihalme (13th season, 1st at Lakeville South) 218-121-19

Record vs Tournament teams:  0-3

State Tournament Appearances: 7 - 3 as Lakeville (2002 Lakeville, 2003 Lakeville, 2004 Lakeville, 2008, 2012, 2017, 2019

Road to State

Win 4-1 over Rochester Mayo

Win 8-1 over Hastings

Win 4-0 over Lakeville North

Leading Scorers

Cade Ahrenholz  15-14-29

Adam Harvey  13-16-29

Nico Aguilera  10-15-25

Riley Portner  7-15-22

Jack Novak  8-13-21

Leading Goaltenders

Henry Welsch  13-11-1, 2.08, .930, 4so

Cody Ticen  1-1-0, 3.55, .848,

The bottom line

The Cougars played three games against tournament opponents this past season with a fourth scheduled against the Duluth East Greyhounds that was canceled.  Lakeville South lost games to tournament entries Maple Grove 4-2 at the Tradition in the Park Holiday Tournament, 4-1 to Edina, and 7-4 to Eden Prairie.  

Goaltender Henry Welsch is key to the Cougars success and has allowed just two goals against in three playoff games.  Lakeville South snapped an 0-5-1 string to close out the season with a hard fought 1-0 win over Lakeville North in the season finale.  It proved to be the appropriate remedy for the Cougars as they righted the ship with a terrific run in the Section 1AA playoffs that included the trouncing of the top seeded Hastings Raiders (8-1) and a 4-0 shutout against their rival Lakeville North.  

The Cougars were led by the goal scoring of Cade Ahrenholz (7g-1a-8pts) and the play of defenseman Griffin Ludtke (0g-6a-6pts).  The special teams were impressive for the Cougars in the postseason as they enter the state tournament with a power play zinging along at 37.5% and they have killed off all of their penalties so far.  

They will open the tournament against the third seeded Eden Prairie Eagles.  The chatter around the State of Hockey is what a big break the Eagles received in the seeding and random draw.  It can be argued that the Cougars are the lucky ones as they do not have to see the top seeded and heavily favored Hornets until possibly Saturday in the championship round.  The way this tournament field is configured, anything can happen. 


White Bear Lake Bears (21-4-1)

Section: 4AA

Head Coach: Tim Sager 34th Year - 17th at White Bear Lake 

Record vs Tournament teams:  0-2-0

State Tournament Appearances: 19 (1945, 46, 49, 51, 56, 66, 67, 70, 89, 90, 94, 95, 96, 98, 2001, 03, 05, 11, 19) 1 as White Bear Mariner (1982)

State Titles: None

Road to State

Win 7-2 over Roseville

Win 6-0 over Woodbury

Win 3-2 over Hill-Murray

Leading Scorers

Blake Meister 11-26-37

Bill Chase 12-22-34

Lleyton Roed 15-18-33

Billy Rose 8-23-31

Grant Hofeld 14-14-28

Leading Goaltenders

Evan Foss 12-4-1, 1.90, .909, 4so

Tyler Steffens 9-0-0, 1.44, .902, 2so

The bottom line

The Bears captured the Suburban East Conference title with a 15-0-1 record and are making their first appearance to the state tournament since 2011.  The core of the team won the 2017 Bantam AA state tournament title and are no strangers to success in the postseason.  

Led by great goaltending, the Bears also look to their top line of Blake Meister centering Billy Rose and Chase Bill.  Together, the three have notched 38 for their teams goals which is good for 37% of the team’s output.  Don’t sleep on the second line of Lleyton Roed and Grant Hofeld and Sam Newpower who have been a formidable force all year as well.  

The Bears have been a top ten team much of the season and bring a penalty kill that delivers at an 86% rate and a power play that is just under 20% at 19.  The key components are in place with goaltending, special teams, and balanced scoring for the Bears to dig their heels in and make a run for a state title, hoping to mirror their success at the Bantam AA level. 

Moorhead Spuds (21-6-1)

Section: 8AA

Head Coach:  Jon Ammerman (6th Season)

Record vs Tournament teams: 1-2

State Tournament Appearances: 15 (1992, 93, 94, 95, 97, 2001, 02, 03, 04, 05, 09, 11,12, 13, 17)

State Titles: None

Road to State

Win 7-0 over Rogers

Win 3-0 over Buffalo

Win 3-2 over Brainerd

Leading Scorers

Kyler Kleven 14-26-40

Nolan Westra 21-17-38

Isaac Henkenmeyer-Howe 11-26-37

Luke Gramer 5-24-29

Carter Johnson 7-16-23

Leading Goaltenders

Hudson Hodges 15-2-0, 1.79, .929, 3so

Ethan Miller 6-4-0, 2.97, .889, 2so

The bottom line 

The Spuds enter the tournament white hot, on a 13-0-1 streak and haven’t lost since January 5th to the Wayzata Trojans.  Blended with skill and grit, the Spuds have a playoff brand that could serve them well.  The top line of Kyler Kleven (14-26-40), Nolan Westra (21-17-38), and Isaac Henkenmeyer-Howe (11-26-37) are a dynamic trio of forwards. Defenseman Luke Gramer (5-24-29) spearheads the offensive flow from the blue line and goalie Hudson Hodges (15-2-0) has been impressive this year.  The Spuds always deliver high end goaltending.  

Back-to-back losses to Edina (6-5) and Eden Prairie (6-1) happened over two months ago and is a distant memory.  They shutout Duluth East 4-0 on January 19th that marked their lone victory against tournament teams.  They outscored their sectional opponents 13-2 and are looking to bring that blend of explosive goal scoring and defensive play to the table this weekend.  

Four players, Luke Gramer (father Rob), Maccoy Gregoire (father Jeremy), and Grant Frisch (father Dan), and Nick Searls (father Jay), fathers all played in the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament in the 1990’s.  As a group, they put the Moorhead hockey program on the map along with coach Terry Cullen.  Their kids now have an opportunity to grab the torch and carry it themselves.  The Edina Hornets have a less than ideal first round opponent in the Spuds who will make the Hornets work for every piece of ice they earn to open the evening session of the quarterfinal round on Thursday. 

MNHockey.TV will have live audio available for every game of the tournament.