St. Paul Johnson boys' hockey coach Steve "Moose" Younghans called next year's projection of only 15 players in the program "as concerning as it's ever been."
The Governors, winners of state championships in 1947, 1953, 1955 and 1963, are one of high school hockey's most storied programs. While Younghans maintains, "We're not going to let anything kill the program," he acknowledged. "We're going to have to do something" to ensure survival.
Johnson activities director Jeff Plaschko said a "month of discussions" with the St. Paul City Conference activities director council has yielded "nothing" in terms of plans.
"We're on our own," Plaschko said. "Como says they're fine and Highland is bad in terms of proximity."
The Governors lose 13 seniors from the current team. It's tough to gauge the number of incoming players, Plaschko said, given the merger with Como's youth hockey association. Como also gets players from Langford Park.
"My gut is that if it's just us, we're varsity only next year," Plaschko said.
Plaschko also is pursuing is forming a co-op with a "smaller school on this side of town."
Neither Johnson nor Como desires a merger at the high school ranks. Como already has players from Central on its high school teams. Highland resurrected its program last season.
"The only one in decline is Johnson," Como activities director Mike Searles said. "We're doing great as far as our numbers. Why would we change? Johnson kids are welcome to play at Como."
LAX LOOKING UP IN LAKEVILLE
There are encouraging signs for boys' and girls' lacrosse in the Lakeville school district.
Faced with a $15 million budget shortfall in 2011, the school board proposed cutting the sport as part of a larger cost-reduction recommendation.
Lacrosse was spared, but there was no money in the budget for freshman or sophomore teams.
"We're going to have a 9th- and 10th-grade team this year," said Lakeville North coach Jeff Wright. "We've got a large number of freshman, something like 20 to 25 kids."
Money is still an issue, Wright said. The Lakeville Lacrosse Association is picking up all costs related to the ninth- and tenth-grade teams.
"We have a lot of kids who want to play all the time," said Wright, who also coaches summer traveling lacrosse in Lakeville. "We're just trying to keep the sport alive."
BESSE SETS RECORD
Benilde-St. Margaret's junior forward Grant Besse has already cemented his name in the school's hockey record books.
Besse scored five times in Tuesday's 7-1 victory over Bloomington Jefferson. His first goal, the 88th of his career, set the new school record. He now has 92 career goals.
Besse has committed to play at Wisconsin after his senior season.
Fans of elite-level basketball will be forced to choose between two gotta-see-'em boys' matchups Friday night.
• In Class 4A, No. 2-ranked Hopkins, the three-time defending state champions, plays at No. 4 Wayzata, which is a perfect 16-0 after routing Coon Rapids on Tuesday.
• Over in Class 3A, it's a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2 when top-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret's plays at Spring Lake Park.