A total of eight boys' hockey programs are vying for different postseason goals this season.
Northfield and Totino-Grace are moving up to play in Class 2A among the largest schools by enrollment. So is Minnehaha Academy, which includes players from DeLaSalle and now North St. Paul. Meanwhile, five are moving from 2A to 1A: Armstrong/Cooper, Cambridge-Isanti, Dodge County, St. Francis and Tartan.
Jon Ammerman, Moorhead coach and president of the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association, said he looks at these moves as "twofold."
"The biggest thing is that it's a high school sport and kids want the opportunity to play," Ammerman said. "And the adults want the best competitive fit to make the experience as positive as they can. Also, this has a thing or two to say about changing demographics."
Ammerman said he believes "high school hockey is as good as it's ever been, and that includes the competitive level of Class 1A. But hopefully, those communities that want to get back to 2A will see a population swing that might allow them to come back."
500 victories in sight
Three current coaches are within reach of 500 career victories: Benilde-St. Margaret's Ken Pauly (492), Woodbury's Wes Bolin (491) and Eden Prairie's Lee Smith (486). Last season Hill-Murray's Bill Lechner became the second active coach (and the 14th overall) to reach that career milestone.
Trent Eigner, who won a Class 2A state title in 2015 with Lakeville North, took the St. Thomas Academy job. Panthers assistant and former Gopher defenseman Jake Taylor was promoted to head coach. Former Wild defenseman Greg Zanon is Stillwater's top man behind the bench. Rob McClanahan, a member of the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" Olympic hockey team, leads Blake. Wade Chiodo takes over in Grand Rapids, having previously coached Bemidji to the Class 2A state tournament in 2015 and 2016. And former Spring Lake Park standout Addison DeBoer comes home to lead the Panthers.
Game of the week
State of Hockey, a subsidiary of the Wild, has expanded its game of the week promotion to include 16 games played throughout the state.
The first one, a girls' game featuring Holy Family at Hill-Murray, was already played. The remaining 15 will be livestreamed at stateofhockey.com.
Many of the games feature highly ranked teams and matchups with postseason implications — often both. On the boys' side, Class 2A, Section 6 powers Benilde-St. Margaret's and Wayzata clash on Dec. 19. And the St. Thomas Academy/Rosemount game Jan. 2 is critical to Section 3 seeding.
75th season celebrated
South St. Paul, an early state tournament fixture, celebrates its 75th season of boys' hockey. Highlights include a mural being installed on the north wall of Doug Woog Arena and an alumni event after the Packers' Jan. 4 home game against Rochester Century.