Monday, March 03, 2008

Thursday HS Preview

Game 1: Cloquet-Esko-Carleton vs. #2 Edina

How C-E-C wins:

It's going to be extremely tough for Cloquet to pull off this upset, but they are on a serious roll right now, beating two excellent teams during sectional play. David Brown played amazing hockey for the Lumberjacks during sectionals and will need to continue to score goals. They also have to stay out of the penalty box to avoid Edina's great powerplay.

How Edina wins:

Edina has such an advantage in terms of strength and physicality that they sometimes look like men amongst boys. I think they'll use that size to create a few turnovers in the Cloquet zone, and any time Edina gets the puck deep in the other team's end, they always seemed poised to make a great pass for an easy goal.

Bottom line: Cloquet is good enough to avoid being blown out, but Edina is just too strong of a team and should win easily.

Game 2: Woodbury vs. #3 Benilde-St. Margaret's

How Woodbury wins:

I think Woodbury has a chance to play with BSM 5-on-5, but if they take too many penalties, BSM's powerplay will kill them. Woodbury put up 8 goals in the sectional final, and they'll need that offense to continue in St. Paul to have a chance.

How Benilde wins:

Benilde has a talented goalie in sophomore Jacob Meyers, who has already played in some important games, but he's still young, and there's always a chance he could be rattled. Defenseman Chris Student will be the best player on the ice, and should be able to control the game.

Bottom line: I don't see Meyers struggling, and I think BSM's senior forwards will find a way to score, be it at even-strength or on the powerplay. Woodbury should keep it close for a while, but I think the Red Knights will pull away.

Game 3: Blaine vs. #1 Roseau

How Blaine wins:

Blaine did a great job of keeping the game close against Roseau earlier this year. They play strong defense and they might be able to keep Roseau to the outside of the rink and help goalie Danny Harper look good. This time around, they'll need senior forwards Mike Schaber and Ryan Johnson to step up and score a couple goals to give Blaine a chance to win.

How Roseau wins:

Roseau just needs to play the type of hockey that they have all year, and not get caught looking ahead to Hill-Murray or Edina. They've been the best, most talented team all year, and have more than enough ability at forward, defense, and goal to win this game.

Bottom line: This should be the best game of Thursday. I'm expecting another game like the outdoor game that ended in a 1-0 Roseau win. Blaine will give Roseau a serious run for their money, but come up just short.

Game 4: Lakeville South vs. #4 Hill-Murray

How Lakeville South wins:

Lakeville will need an amazing game from goalie Hakan Yumusaklar to have a chance in this game, and I think he might be capable of pulling it off. If Lakeville can keep this game low-scoring, and then get a few lucky bounces, they might really surprise some people.

How Hill-Murray wins:

The more wide-open and high-scoring this game is, the better for Hill-Murray. If they do get a lead, they need to keep up their intensity and not let the lead slip away like they did last year against Rochester Century.

Bottom line: I don't think Hill-Murray will get upset two years in a row, but I do think this game will be closer than most people expect. I like Hill-Murray to win a low-scoring game.

Wednesday's HS Preview

Game 1: Mankato West vs. #2 Duluth Marshall

How Duluth Marshall wins:

Mankato West has never played in the state tournament, or in a venue as large as the XCel Center, while most of the Marshall kids are making their second or third trip. If Marshall can score a few goals early, they might be able to knock Mankato West out of contention before the Scarlets can get their feet under them. The longer West stays in the game, they better chance they have of pulling off an upset. Marshall also has much more depth than West, and will have to exploit some of the mismatches that creates.

How Mankato West wins:

Mankato West got great goaltending in the section final against Rochester Lourdes and that has to continue. West has been a bit penalty-prone this year, and if they spend too much short-handed, Marshall will make them pay with their powerplay. Mankato West probably won't get too many chances, so they will need to capitalize on them when they come.

Bottom line: The southern part of the state still has a long ways to go in terms of earning the respect of the rest of the state. A win or two at the XCel would go a long ways in helping that, but Duluth Marshall is a tough first-round match-up. I think West will keep this game closer than people think, but the Hilltoppers will have too much deep and experience for Mankato West to handle.

Game 2: Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato vs. #3 Warroad

How Warroad wins:

Warroad has a number of high-end players that LDC will have a tough time matching up against. Warroad needs their star players like Bryce Ravndalen to step up and score a few goals to put LDC away.

How Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato wins:

LDC is probably the weakest team in the tournament, but they're also a bit of an unknown, and have played some good hockey recently to make the state tournament. In order to pull off the big upset, they need to play strong defensive hockey to keep Warroad off the board and then hope a bounce of two goes their way.

Bottom line: I'd really like to see LDC make this a close game and earn some respect, but their Cinderella story probably stops here. Warroad should win big.

Game 3: Little Falls at #1 St. Thomas Academy

How St. Thomas Academy wins:

The Cadets need to find a way to neutralize Little Falls top line, led by the Hanowski brothers. The Cadets should have an advantage in terms of depth that they should be able to exploit as the game goes on.

How Little Falls wins:

Little Falls likes to play a wide-open style of hockey, but I don't know that it would benefit them against St. Thomas, because St. Thomas just has more goal scorers. I think they'll need a great game from their top line, and need their top defenseman to really step up and log a lot of ice time.

Bottom line: This is the second straight year Little Falls has drawn the top seed in the state. I think this game could go in much the same way as last year's did, with Little Falls jumping out to an early lead, but St. Thomas having a little too much depth and taking the lead later in the game and winning.

Game 4: Blake at #4 St. Cloud Cathedral

How Cathedral wins:

Blake is a tough team to play because they're always a very deep, well-coached team. I think Cathedral will need a great game from defenseman Nate Schmidt to shutdown Blake's scoring lines. I'm not sure where Schmidt's conditioning is at since he's missed so much time this year due to illness and injury, but two years ago, Cathedral wasn't afraid to play defenseman Matt Crandell 75% of the game, and I could see them doing the same with Schmidt.

How Blake wins:

Blake is an experienced tournament team, making their third straight trip. They lost to Duluth Marshall in each of their last two trips, so seeing Cathedral should be a breath of fresh air. Blake has some excellent seniors that they will need to carry them to victory.

Bottom line: This should be the best, closest game of the first day. I could definitely see this game heading to overtime, but I think Blake will prevail and finally make it into the second round of the tournament.