West-metro teams hold the balance of boys' hockey power but four North metro teams are capable of big things, too.
Blaine's run of six consecutive Class 2A state tournament appearances ended last year with a thud as Maple Grove repaid years of frustration in a 15-1 Section 5 final victory.
Blaine coach Dave Aus kept his guys salty by ending text messages with "15-1."
Led by a core of talented juniors, the Bengals are poised to resume their March trips to the Xcel Energy Center. All-Northwest Suburban Conference selections Alex Copa (defense) and Tyler Cline (forward) lead the way. Fellow junior defenseman Ian Scheid is a rising star. Forwards Jesse Norling and Joey Lau round out what Aus calls "easily the best skating team in my 13 years."
Blaine's biggest challenge, goaltending, is where conference rival Andover is strongest.
Junior Chase Perry, a Star Tribune All-Metro second team selection, backstopped the Huskies to the Section 7 championship game last season and virtually everyone returns.
Calvin Rak's 28-goal season earned him all-conference honors. Brady Barthold, Nick Manney, Christian Mohs, Jared McComber and Tyler Tomberlin all had double-digit goal totals and at least 34 points.
Andover's scoring depth is reminiscent of last season's Maple Grove squad. But graduation and other departures left the Crimson cupboard nearly bare. The rebirth starts with Sam Valerius, who scored 15 goals as a sophomore. Help arrived from St. Louis Park in sophomore Josh Passolt, who had 23 goals for the Orioles last season.
Passolt left the North Suburban Conference, home to a Totino-Grace team with great expectations. Last year, the Eagles lost 2-1 in overtime of the Section 4 finals to eventual Class 1A champion St. Thomas Academy. Observers believe they are capable of toppling the Cadets in a rematch.
Senior forward T.J. Roo had 23 goals and 48 assists last season while Derek Lodermeier and Carter Roo combined for 37 goals. Three goaltenders who logged time return.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574