For Josh Passolt, playing high school hockey in Minnesota was something he couldn't pass up, more powerful than an opportunity to play junior hockey instead. The Maple Grove boys hockey team's leading scorer (15 goals, 18 assists in 16 games) has one thing at the top of his list: Play in The Tourney.

"It's really unique in a sense because you've got the state tournament where you're filling the Xcel Energy Center with 18,000-plus," Passolt said. "I think there's a real sense of pride that you don't have in junior hockey. It just wasn't worth leaving when you have the opportunity to play in such a special type of environment."

He played for St. Louis Park his freshman year before transferring to Maple Grove, calling it "strictly a hockey decision." Passolt also joined some of the best players in the state last fall in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League.

Passolt talked with reporter Heather Rule about his game and being a leader for his teammates.

Q What did you think about scoring five goals in the 14-1 win over Champlin Park, becoming the first player to do that in your school's history?

A It was pretty cool. It was just kind one of those nights where the puck was finding my stick. I haven't had a game like that since Peewees. My linemates did a good job of setting me up.

Q How do you seem to connect so well for goals and assists on the ice?

A I'm at my best when I'm playing a physical type of game. I like to make plays. Communication on the ice is definitely a huge thing for me. It's just about finding that chemistry in practice.

Q You obviously have a good grasp of the game, as a scoring leader. But what else does it take to be a leader among your teammates?

A I really like being a leader, because I feel like I've always been a vocal guy in the locker room. But you can't let the captain role get in the way too much of being a hockey player. You can't let off-ice distractions get in the way.

Q What has been your biggest challenge on the ice in your high school hockey career?

A When I started off as a freshman, we were going up against guys maybe two, three years older than me. I was just a little guy [5-9, 140 pounds]. Just trying to battle in the corners and get used to the size of high school hockey is a lot different. The speed difference from Class 1A to Class 2A is big.

Q What strides have you, your teammates and the program made since the coaching transition from Gary Stefano to Tom Starkey?

A Changing coaches is always difficult, but Tom came in and did a great job that first summer he was hired. We switched our mentality around. I think that's worked out a lot better for us. Now we're having more close games. We're just grinding it out. You just have to be gritty and outwork them.

Q What do you hope to accomplish on the ice as you finish you senior season, individually or as a team?

A We want to get to the state tournament, no doubt. Maple Grove's only been there once in their history.

Q Goals for yourself?

A Being the scoring leader would be great. I don't like to focus on my individual goals as much because I know those will come if I play the team's style.

Q What are you thinking in regard to your plans for next year?

A I'm planning on playing junior hockey. I'm not exactly sure where yet.

Q What are your interests or activities outside of hockey?

A I golf in the summer a lot. I actually really like to play basketball a lot. Pingpong, pickup basketball and golf. That's pretty much me.