1 EDINA ALL IN
Last season the Hornets hit the ice with two seniors. There are 11 this season, helping make this one of the physically largest yet fastest-skating Edina teams of recent memory. But the Hornets will get contributions from several classes. Senior defensemen Matt Nelson (Princeton) and Parker Reno (RPI) are Division I recruits. Junior forward Connor Hurley should have his pick of colleges, while sophomore linemate Dylan Malmquist is a rising star. Junior forward Miguel Fidler's father, Mike, played for the North Stars, and senior forward Bo Brauer ranked among the Elite League's top scorers.
2 DEFENDING CHAMPS GO INDEPENDENT
A history of lopsided victories in the North Suburban Conference motivated Class 2A champion Benilde-St. Margaret's to pursue an independent schedule. The Red Knights will face at least 10 teams ranked in the Associated Press preseason top 10 in Class 1A or 2A. That includes No. 10 Grand Rapids, host of Hockey Day Minnesota on Jan. 19. The game is set to be played on Lake Pokegama.
3 FIRST IN GENERATION TO THREE-PEAT?
With proven players and budding stars throughout the lineup, small-school powerhouse St. Thomas Academy is favored to become the first team in either class to win three consecutive state titles since the Bloomington Jefferson dynasty of the early 1990s. The Cadets will be seasoned after leading all high school programs with nine players in the fall Elite League.
4 BIG-NAME COACHING CAROUSEL
Former North Stars defenseman Gordie Roberts replaces Elk River's colorful and controversial coach Tony Sarsland, who stepped down last spring. ... Minneapolis Edison standout Joe Dziedzic returns to his city roots by taking the Minneapolis Novas job. ... Dave Snuggerud is back in Chaska. He coached the Hawks for 10 seasons but left in 2007 to spend time with his young family. ... Pete Aus, 70, took over the Roseville job. Former coach Jeff Pauletti resigned amid allegations of mistreated players. Pete's son, Dave, coaches at Blaine. ... Brad Stepan, whose son Derek plays for the
New York Rangers, is now behind the Rosemount bench.
5 NEW HEAD CONTACT RULE
The Minnesota State High School League took unprecedented steps midway through last season mandating stiffer penalties and zero tolerance for three dangerous hits: checking from behind, boarding and contact to the head. This season, referees have more discretion in contact-to-the-head situations. Direct contact will result in a five-minute major penalty and potential 10-minute disqualification. If referees believe the contact is indirect, they can call a minor penalty. The rule change also applies to girls' hockey.
DAVID LA VAQUE