Monday, March 03, 2008

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.