By Tim Droogsma
Upper Midwest High School Elite League
Team Southeast won the season opener, then added a pair of weekend wins to post a 3-0 record and take the early lead atop the Elite League standings.
In Tuesday’s opening night game, Southeast beat Northeast 5-2 as Blaine goalie Nick Malvin stopped 27 of 29 shots. Trailing 2-1 after two periods, Southeast got goals from Andrew Commers, Nate Flynn and Tyler Sheehy to earn the victory. On Saturday, Southeast launched 60 shots and four players – Cory Chapman, Blake Winiecki, Will Merchant and Jake Guentzel – each scored four goals in a 10-3 win over Great Plains. Southeast completed the sweep on Sunday with a 5-3 victory over Southwest as Winiecki and Justin Kloos each scored twice and goalie Dylan Parker stopped 38 of 41 shots.
Team North opened its season with two wins and a tie, good for second place. North opened with a come-from-behind 7-6 victory over Northwest as five different players scored in a five-goal second period that overcame a 3-1 Northwest lead. Duluth East’s Trevor Olson had a goal and two assists. North went to 2-0 by beating Wisconsin 4-2. Olson, Karson Kuhlman and Connor Valesano each had a goal and an assist, while goalie Aaron Dingmann made 28 saves. The weekend ended for North with a 2-2 tie with Team Northeast as Jake Bischoff and Jordan Heller each scored a goal.
Team Northwest scored 28 goals in three games, but came away with a 2-1 record after losing 7-6 to North in the opener despite a hat trick by Grant Besse of Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Besse then added a goal and three assists in Northwest’s 14-1 romp over Team Manitoba. Michael Brodzinski had a hat trick in that game, while Connor Thie and Grant Opperman each added a pair of goals. The weekend ended for Northwest with an 8-2 victory over Great Plains. Besse and Christian Horn each scored twice and T.J. Roo of Totino-Grace had a five-point game with a goal and four helpers.
Team Wisconsin opened its season by scoring five goals in the third period to take an 8-5 victory over Team Great Plains. Eight different players scored in the win, while Jake Mullendore recorded three assists. In the late game Saturday, Wisconsin lost 4-2 to Team North, but bounced back on Sunday with a 9-0 shutout of Manitoba. Eddie Matsushima of Verona scored three times, while Kyle Lee had a goal and two assists as Wisconsin outshot the Canadians 58-15 to finish a 2-1 weekend.
Team Northeast went through a 1-1-1 opening week, losing 5-2 in Tuesday’s opening game to Team Southeast. They rebounded with a 6-2 victory over Team Southwest as Jay Dickman of St. Paul Johnson and Peter Krieger of St. Thomas each had two goals, while Elk River netminder Anders Franke made 35 saves. The weekend ended with a 2-2 tie with Team North as Dickman scored with less than two minutes remaining to knot things up. Zach LaValle had the other goal for Northeast.
Team Southwest opened its season in style, with a 16-2 blasting of Manitoba. Conor Andrle, Max Coatta and Ben Walker each had a hat trick in the game, while Minnetonka’s Erik Baskin scored twice and added four assists for a six-point game. Southwest then fell 6-2 to Team Northeast despite goals from Andrle and Tanner Holmquist, and dropped a 5-3 decision to Team Southeast on Sunday. Matt Nelson, Zack Hnath and Sam Rothstein scored in the game, in which Southwest actually outshot Southeast 41-35.
Team Great Plains failed to record a point on the opening weekend, losing 8-5 to Team Wisconsin, 10-3 to Team Southeast and 8-2 to Team Northwest. Austin Swingle of St. Cloud Cathedral had a goal and two assists in the loss to Wisconsin, while Roseau’s Zach Yon scored a goal in each of the first two games.
NOTES: Two players from Team Northwest – Grant Besse and T.J. Roo – are 1-2 in the scoring statistics after one week. Besse has six goals and five assists for 11 points, while Roo has two goals and a league-leading eight assists for 10 points. Eddie Matsushima of Team Wisconsin is second in goals with five…The only shutout of the first week of play was a joint effort as goalies Chris Neil and Mike Roznik of Team Wisconsin combined to stop 15 shots in a 9-0 win over Manitoba.
Week Two games will take place Friday through Sunday at the National Sports Center in Blaine as the Elite League takes part in the North American Hockey League’s Showcase weekend. Nearly 2,000 players representing 88 teams will take place during the Showcase, which runs Wednesday through Sunday. There will be two Elite League games Friday night, six on Saturday and four on Sunday.
For a complete schedule of NAHL Showcase games, visit www.nahl.com.