1. Tops in the nation
Minnesotans dominate the USA Today preseason ALL-USA boys’ hockey team. The state’s varsity standouts filled 11 of the 18 spots, led by Eden Prairie’s Casey Mittelstadt, the publication’s player of the year in 2015-16. The other metro-area selections are Grant Anderson (Wayzata), Matt Anderson (Holy Family), Jake Begley (Hill-Murray), Andy Beran (St. Paul Academy), Atticus Kelly (St. Thomas Academy) and Dev McCabe (St. Paul Academy).
2. Hale! Hale! The rare city standout
When sophomore forward Jake Hale announced his college commitment in September, he became the first Minneapolis public school hockey player to skate that lane since his coach, Joe Dziedzic, in 1990. Bound for Minnesota Duluth, Hale plays with great speed and instincts. Dziedzic, who played for the Gophers, called Hale’s accomplishment “good for our program. It’s certainly been long enough.” The seven Minneapolis public schools have dressed one combined hockey team since 2010. Hale, who attends Southwest, had an assist and a shorthanded goal as Minneapolis opened its season with a 3-2 victory over Waconia.
3. Games set for Hockey Day Minnesota
Lowell Park in Stillwater marks the spot for outdoor high school games as part of the 11th annual Hockey Day Minnesota, taking place Jan. 21. On the boys’ side, Thief River Falls plays Mahtomedi and host Stillwater takes on Eden Prairie. The girls’ game features Minnetonka and Still-water, programs with a combined five state championships.
4. Coaching changes
Two Class 2A tournament qualifiers, Anoka and Farmington, are skating under the direction of new coaches. Fans of the former Western Collegiate Hockey Association should recognize the names. Jerrid Reinholz, a 1998 Anoka graduate, played for the Gophers from 2002 to ’05. Farmington welcomes Lee Goren, who scored 34 goals for North Dakota’s 2000 NCAA championship team.
5. Consolidation continues
A shift has come to St. Paul hockey. Central players who used to skate at Como left to join Highland Park. That left the remaining Como players to form a co-op with Johnson. The net result is Como loses its independent status and St. Paul public school hockey now competes under only two flags: Highland and Johnson. A similar scenario exists in St. Cloud, where Apollo — a state tournament qualifier in 2013 and 2015 — joined forces with Tech. There’s also a new program at Chaska-based Southwest Christian, which merged with Richfield. The combined team will play mostly junior varsity games in 2016-17.
DAVID La VAQUE