By Tim Droogsma
A highly competitive and balanced league has led to a logjam at the top of the standings following Week 4 of the Upper Midwest High School Elite League.
Team North, the early season leader, reclaimed the top spot by sweeping three games at the Grand Rapids Civic Center and improving their record to 8-3-1. Their 17 points leave them one ahead of second-place Team Northwest, and three ahead of Team Southeast.
North opened the weekend with an exciting 4-3 win over Team Southeast. Ben Walker scored at 5:47 of the third period to break a 3-3 tie, and goalie Alex Lyons made 39 saves to earn the win. Cloquet’s Jack McFarlane had a goal and an assist for North. In the evening game, Hibbing’s Nick DeCenzo recorded a hat trick in a 7-4 win over Team Northeast, with Matt Pohlkamp of Brainerd adding two assists. North completed the sweep on Sunday with a 5-1 defeat of Team Great Plains behind three-point efforts from Josh Archibald (2G, 1A) and Garrett Hendrickson (1G, 2A). Lyon and Grand Rapids’ Dom DeGuiseppi combined to make 46 saves.
Team Northwest lost two of three to fall out of first place. After losing the league’s feature game on Tuesday night, 4-3 to Southwest, Team Northwest traveled to Stevens Point, Wisconsin and got into a shootout with Team Wisconsin, losing 10-7. Northwest actually took a 7-6 lead in the third period on Tony Cameranesi’s third goal of the game, but Wisconsin scored four times in the final eight minutes to earn the win. Cameranesi added an assist to go with his hat trick, and Jonny Brodzinski had three assists. Northwest salvaged the weekend on Sunday with a 3-2 win over Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Trailing 2-1 in the third period, Benilde’s Christian Horn scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game, then set up Cameranesi for the game-winner with 1:17 to play. Elk River goalie Anders Franke rebounded from Saturday’s game by stopping 39 Shattuck shots.
Team Southeast won two of three to maintain third place. After the Tuesday loss to North, Southeast traveled to Grand Rapids to face Team Great Plains, and trailed 2-0 entering the third period. But a Zach Schroeder power-play goal got Southeast on the board, Hudson Fasching’s goal tied it at 2-2, and Fasching then assisted on Michael Dockry’s game-winner with just 44 seconds left. Cullen Hurley had a pair of assists in the 3-2 win. On Sunday, Southeast again scored three in the third period to beat Northeast 4-2. Eric Schurhamer, Kevin Becker, Justin Kloos and Will Merchant all scored, while A.J. Reid had two assists.
Team Wisconsin enjoyed playing in front of Badger fans in Stevens Point and won two out of three, including a 6-4 win Saturday morning over Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Shattuck led 3-0 midway through the game, but Wisconsin erupted for six goals over the final 28 minutes. Kyle Lee of Wausau led the way with a goal and two assists while Paul Byrne and Simon Leahy each had a goal and an assist. In the Saturday night game, Wisconsin again closed strong, scoring four goals in a 5-1/2 minute span of the third period to defeat Northwest 10-7. Leahy had two goals and an assist, while defenseman Cliff Watson of Appleton had four assists. Wisconsin had a chance at a weekend sweep, entering the third period on Sunday tied 3-3 with Team Southwest, but gave up a goal with 16 seconds remaining to fall 4-3.
Team Southwest picked up a pair of wins in Week 4. On Tuesday night, Kyle Rau had a goal and an assist, while goalie Connor Girard made 40 saves to lead a 4-3 win over Team Northwest. On Sunday they earned another 4-3 win, this time against Team Wisconsin. Max Coatta of Minnetonka scored his second goal of the game with 16 seconds remaining to break a 3-3 tie. Tyler Heinonen picked up a par of assists in the game.
Team Great Plains continued to struggle in close games, losing three contests over the weekend in Grand Rapids. Coach Scott Oliver’s squad has been involved in five one-goal games and another tie game among their 12 contests. Despite struggling for wins, the team has played strong defense and received excellent goaltending. Moorhead’s Michael Bitzer leads the league in goals-against average (2.54) and save percentage (.934) among goalies who have played in at least five games.
Shattuck-St. Mary’s fell to 3-2 on the season with a pair of losses. Shattuck fell 6-4 to Team Wisconsin despite Kenny Gillespie’s pair of assists, then lost 3-2 to Team Northwest, with Mike Reilly and Nicholas Weberg scoring for the losers.
Team Northeast exploded for four first-period goals Saturday and went on to beat Team Great Plains 5-3. Stillwater’s Neal Goff scored just 53 seconds into the game, and Bloomington Jefferson’s Eric Freschi added two goals and an assist. Goalie Blake Cates for 45 saves for the win. Jake Sampson of Edina had a goal and an assist in a Saturday night 7-4 loss to Team North, and the team launched 57 shots on Sunday in a 4-2 loss to Southeast.
NOTES: The Shattuck-St. Mary’s game with Team Southwest was postponed, and will be played on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at Shattuck. Wayzata’s Tony Cameranesi had four goals and an assist in Week 4 and now leads the league in scoring with 22 points (9G, 13A). Four players are tied for the lead in goals with 10: Patrick Steinhauser and Jonny Brodzinski of Team Northwest, Kyle Rau of Team Southwest and Brad Navin of Team Wisconsin. Team Great Plains goalie Michael Bitzer of Moorhead stopped 49 of 52 shots against Team Southeast, and now leads the league in goals-against average (2.54) and save percentage (.934)…Week 5 play will be back at New Hope Arena, and North and Northwest – currently 1-2 in the standings – facing off at 10 a.m. Saturday. Week 6 games will be played in New Hope, Faribault and Brainerd.