by Wes Jirovec, 3/6/23, 8:00pm CDT
Each and every year, the month of March cues anticipation for one of the best and biggest sports weeks in the country. This Wednesday marks the start of the 2023 Minnesota State High School Hockey tournament. And if the many sold-out section playoff games that preceded this week are any indication, then the hype and popularity of The Tourney is alive and well.
Eight teams at each class from across the state go to battle for ultimate glory. And the celebration goes far beyond just the schools represented on the ice. Over the 4 days of the tournament, thousands will pack the Xcel Energy Center to watch the games while many, many more will tune to the television broadcasts. Downtown Saint Paul will be packed with hockey fans of all ages. Many of which don’t actually have a “dog in the race,” they just love the sport and adore the festivities. Our staff fits that mold. With boys on multiple teams each year, it’s impossible for us to root for any one squad. Instead, we feel fortunate to have so many families and communities to support and be proud of. There are 28 MAP South Hockey athletes participating this year (full list below). And here are a few storylines to follow at The Tourney.
There’s a big difference between having a nice point total and being a high impact player for a winning team. Lucky for a few squads, they have players that bring both. For Cretin-Derham Hall, senior Jake Fisher (24 goals, 27 assists, 26 GP) has rightfully been named a finalist for the Mr. Hockey award. He’s been on a tear with 19 points over his last 8 games and had a 3-point performance in the 3AA section championship game against St. Thomas Academy. Besides his deadly shot release, Fish isn’t afraid to play in the dirty areas and is a tough customer in puck battles. Northfield junior Cayden Monson (19 goals, 37 assists, 28 GP) is another strong forward on a heater of his own. He’s recorded multiple points in each of his last 8 games, including a hat trick against New Prague in the 1A section title game. Monson’s two-way presence has taken another step over the past calendar year.
The Zephyys of Mahtomedi benefit from a terrific senior class, most notably forwards Charlie Drage (30 goals, 21 assists, 28 GP) and David Wolsfeld (11 goals, 28 assists, 21 GP). The chemistry between these two is uncanny, so watch for 11 and 4 to put on a show starting with their first matchup against Alexandra on Wednesday. But these two aren’t just offensive skill players. The speedy Drage has turned himself into a forechecking machine, while Wolsfeld’s overall defensive presence has shined bright even against the toughest matchups this season. These boys will do whatever it takes to win.
BLUE LINE CLUB
While it’s fun to have talent and point-producers up front, the strength of your defenders is what generally sets the teams apart that are still playing at this time of the year. Mahtomedi has a deep roster all around, but the emergence of senior Cav Bruner (33 points, 28 GP) as a two-way force has been pivotal for the Zephyrs’ season-long success. CDH might have one of the most talented D cores in the state from top to bottom. Two names in particular are senior Colton Jamieson (28 points, 27 GP) and sophomore Jimmy Dodig (16 points, 27 GP). Jamieson is a University of St. Thomas commit with game-breaking abilities while Dodig is enjoying a breakout campaign in his first season at the varsity level. He’s one of the most promising 2006 prospects in town.
Speaking of stars-in-the-making, Hill-Murray has one of their own in sophomore Graham Greeder (16 points, 28 GP). “Greeds” is a skilled and competitive ’06 that’s been a cornerstone on the Pioneers’ power play all year. His two-way performance in the section title win against Gentry Academy was outstanding. Northfield’s senior Mike Fossum (35 points, 28 GP) leads his team in scoring by defenseman. He’ll be relied on in all situations for the Raiders, including special teams.
For decades, Hill Murray has been a powerhouse program and constantly viewed as a state title contender. This year’s group had a different experience. Facing adversity around every corner, it seemed, the Pioneers finished the regular season with an uncharacteristic 11-13-1 regular season record and #3 seed entering the 4AA section tournament. But once playoff started, their true colors showed and now they’re back where they belong at The Tourney.
No one embodies his team’s season experience more than junior Ben Miller (9 points, 14 GP). The Northeastern University commit missed roughly half the season due to injury, but is back at full health and willing to battle at both ends of the ice to get the job done. 8th grade phenom Riley Zupfer (12 points, 17 GP) has provided an offensive spark for his boys since earning varsity minutes starting in mid January. He may be young, but his vision and situational awareness are beyond his years.
At the forefront of the Pioneers’ success is one heck of a goaltender in senior Jack Erickson. Jack has stood tall in the biggest moments for his boys (.924 SV% and 2.25 GAA), allowing only 2 goals total in the 3 section playoff games. The Pioneers have a tall order on Thursday, matched up against top-seeded Minnetonka. But with arguably one of the top netminders in the tournament in Erickson, a major upset isn’t out of the question. Perhaps, overcoming all of the struggles they’ve faced this year has prepared these Hill boys accordingly for the biggest challenge of the year.
ANOTHER CHANCE AT THE DANCE
It’s a dream come true for any player to win a section championship and earn a chance to play at the state tournament. But some are fortunate enough to make it this far multiple times in their high school career. And considering the gravity of these games and the hectic schedule of the week as a whole, there can be a definite advantage for those with prior Tourney experience. Let’s a take a look at some of the players who have played under the bright lights at the X before…
The Mahtomedi Zephyrs are a team that’s been no stranger to section titles over the years. Besides the aforementioned Wolsfeld, Drage and Bruner, junior Jake Hodd-Chlebeck, sophomore Sam Harris and junior Cole Swanson all were part of last year’s squad that finished 3rd at state in Class A. There’s no doubt that this seasoned locker room is ready to take it a step further. Lakeville South sophomore Jackson Ernst (17 points, 28 GP) may be a relatively young piece of the Cougars’ roster, but he was on the team last year that made it this far. Along with Fisher and Jamieson, CDH’s junior forward Chuck Owens (26 points, 26 GP) earned minutes last season. He’s in a bigger role this time around and will look to add depth scoring to the Raiders’ attack. You already heard about Hill-Murray’s Erickson and Miller. Both of those boys’ veteran presence and 2022 Tourney reps should provide some additional value in the Pioneers locker room.
|Cretin-Derham Hall||20||BENNETT, MAX||Forward||Sophomore|
|Cretin-Derham Hall||24||DODIG, JIMMY||Defense||Sophomore|
|Cretin-Derham Hall||18||FISHER, JAKE||Forward||Senior|
|Cretin-Derham Hall||2||GNETZ, TREY||Defense||Senior|
|Cretin-Derham Hall||21||JAMIESON, COLTON||Defense||Senior|
|Cretin-Derham Hall||35||MILLER, LEO||Goaltender||Junior|
|Cretin-Derham Hall||11||OWENS, CHUCK||Forward||Junior|
|Cretin-Derham Hall||6||SIEGFRIED, AIDAN||Defense||Junior|
|Cretin-Derham Hall||9||SWIFT, EASTON||Forward||Junior|
|Lakeville South||14||ERNST, JACKSON||Forward||Sophomore|
|Lakeville South||8||HOFMANN, EIJI||Forward||Junior|
|Lakeville South||28||KUNKEL, COLTON||Defense||Junior|
CRETIN-DERHAM HALL: Lucas Cernohous, Simon Houge, Attila Lippai, Szilveszter Lippai, Colin Scanlan
EDINA: Robbie Clarkowski, Caden Morgan, Charlie Sandven, Quinton Schaefer, Matt Vander Vort, Mason West
HILL-MURRAY: Brayden Houge, Brady Ingebritson, Andrew Lane, Joseph Luger, Matthew Whisler
LAKEVILLE SOUTH: Thomas Boisjolie, Ashton Dahms, Tyler Lafferty, Jack Ohlund, Will Weidemann, Aidan Willis
MINNETONKA: Liam Hupka, Alex Lunski, Javon Moore, Sam Scheetz
MAHTOMEDI: Jonny Grove
NORTHFIELD: Ty Frank
We will be posting updates throughout the week via Instagram & Twitter, so be sure to stay in the loop @mapsouthhockey.
For State Tournament brackets and scores updates, visit www.mnhockeyhub.com.
For a trip down memory lane, check out our Tourney articles from previous years...