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Who has the X factor?

03/12/2022, 5:15am CST
By Pete Waggoner

Class AA field is wide open as teams head downtown for battle

Hill-Murray defeated White Bear Lake on their way to another Section 4AA title. The Pioneers were unable to compete in last year's tourney due to exposure to COVID-19, but this year come in as the No. 1 seed in a very competitive field. Photo by Greg Naym

Boys Class AA Preview


The 2022 State hockey tournament is days away and it is fitting that the close of this season appears to be as unpredictable as the open.  Entering the section semi-finals, there were 32 teams that all had reasonable arguments that they could be crowned the Minnesota State High School League Class AA champion this season.  Part of what we do as a group of announcers and reporters we are asked who we think will win a particular game we are working or who is the team to beat.  Usually, we are able to answer those types of questions but this year, we all have had no idea where it will go.  The rankings were mostly useless in terms of who actually was number one and number 10.  Equally, the seedings for the tournament are useless in terms that any of the 8 teams can win the state title this season. This tournament guide will hopefully provide an aggregated data point for the great high school hockey fans to absorb and take in for the upcoming weekend.  


Section 1AA

Lakeville South Cougars (25-3-0)

Coach:  Josh Storm 1st year at Lakeville South 11th overall - (169-103-3)

Conference:  South Suburban

Colors:  Cardinal Red, Vegas Gold, Black 

State Trips: (9) 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021

State Titles: None

Road to State: 

            Win: Dodge County 9-1

            Win: Rochester Mayo 6-0

            Win: Lakeville North 4-1 

Last 10:  10-0

Streak:  16 wins 

Record vs Tournament Teams:  2-2 

            Loss: Maple Grove 3-0

            Loss:  Edina 2-1

            Win:  Prior Lake 4-3

            Win:  Prior Lake 3-1

GPG:  139 (4.96)

GAPG:  36 (1.29)

PP:  31% (27-87)
PK: 88.4% (76-86)

Scoring Leaders

4 Tanner Ludtke (22-36-58)
5 Aidan Willis (14-28-42)

22 Ashston Dahms (25-14-39)
3 Tate Pritchard (18-15-33)
6 Mason Johnson (4-23-27)

Goaltending Leaders

33 Jack Hochsprung 21-3-0, 1.33, .931, 7(so)

The Lakeville South Cougars have combined for a record of 45-4-2 over last season and this year.  What has made this year impressive is their ability to replace scoring from last year’s team that averaged 6 goals per game.  They saw 158 combined points move on to graduation along with their coach stepping aside.  This happened  after they lost in the double overtime of the state final to Eden Prairie last year.  Head coach Josh Storm, a former Lakeville hockey product himself, has enjoyed an impressive homecoming.  His team plays a calm, controlled puck possession game with the ability to pounce on their opponents mistakes.  

Two of their three losses were back-to-back by identical 2-1 scores against Edina and Rosemount.  The other Cougar loss was at the Tradition in the Park against Maple Grove, 3-2.  Lakeville South swept the season series vs Prior Lake in conference play and have been very good defensively allowing just 36 goals against all year long including just 7 allowed in their losses.  It would not be a good idea to overlook this Cougar team that has posted 9 shutouts this season and have quality special teams. 

Scoring depth has been key for Lakeville South with Tanner Ludtke leading the way.  The junior is a highly skilled player that distributes the puck well and his team leading 36 assists will attest to that.  Ludtke has points in 23 games and 22 of them have been multi-point games.  The three losses, he was held pointless.   Ashton Dahms leads the teams in goals with 25. 

Their opening round game with No. 1 seed Hill-Murray will pit two teams with a disciplined approach to the game that relies on puck possession, defensive play, special teams and goaltending.   It will be a great way to open the evening session at 6pm on Thursday..  Both teams are tournament tested and each experienced disappointment surrounding it last season and in different ways. 

The Cougars were on the brink of winning a title last year before an empty Xcel Energy Center building and this year, have plenty to draw on from that experience before a full house.  This marks the 4th straight and 5th in 6 years that the Cougars have been to the State Tournament.  They are in search of their first state title.  

Section 2AA

Prior Lake Lakers (18-10-0)

Coach:  Joe Pankratz 13th Year (196-134-12)

Conference:  South Suburban

Colors:  Navy Blue and Gold

State Trips: (1) 2022

State Titles: None

Road to State: 

            Win: Holy Family Catholic 3-1

            Win: Eden Prairie 4-2

            Win: Chaska 7-4

Last 10:  8-2

Streak:  3 wins 

Record vs Tournament Teams: 0-4 

            Loss: Edina 6-2

            Loss: Moorhead 4-2

            Loss: Lakeville South 4-3

            Loss: Lakeville South 3-1

GPG:  132 (4.71)

GAPG:  74 (2.64)

PP:  21% (15-89)
PK: 83.1% (74-89)


Scoring Leaders

19 Alex Bump (41-34-75)

24 Will Schumacher (23-26-49)
9 Sam Rice (11-27-38)
8 Riley Dueber (12-16-28)
4 Jackson Anderson (6-19-25)

Goaltending Leaders

1 Trevor Boschee 16-7-0, 2.28, .896, 3(so)

The Lakers were considered state tournament favorites at the beginning of the season, provided their roster returned and did not stay in juniors.  That prospect seemed much in doubt as the season approached  and eventually, the Lakers roster wound up consisting of thel key players for the 2021-2022 season.  Mr. Hockey candidate Alex Bump has been massive this year, a 41-goal scorer, and he has caught fire over the last seven games with 15g-9a-24pts while being huge in the section final against Chaska with a 4g-1a-5pt night.  He has had points in 13 straight games (24g-20a-44pts).  Bump is not alone offensively with Will Schumacher and Sam Rice rounding out one of the top lines in the state.  They will garner a lot of attention from other teams in St. Paul and that will lead all eyes to the secondary scoring of the Lakers.  The control and defending that defenseman Jackson Anderson illustrates when on the ice opens the game up for the Lakers. 

Prior Lake  lost twice to Lakeville South and once to Edina and Moorhead among the state tournament teams.  A 1-6 stretch from December 14th through January 6th that included back-to-back losses to Edina, Moorhead at the Hockey for Life Classic, nearly derailed the season for the Lakers.  Since January 6th, Prior Lake is 14-3.  The way the Lakers have played over the last three weeks of the season put them on the short list as a legitimate contender and they were a random draw team for seeding this year in the tournament.   

It has been a steady ascent to the upper echelon in Minnesota High School Hockey for Prior Lake who has put it together at the youth level in recent years and now have broken through at the high school level.  Many teams that make their first appearance in the tournament fall back to the consolation bracket with their first appearance being overwhelming.  With the quarterfinal round  match-up against Cretin-Derham Hall who make their first trip to the state tournament since 2009, it will be interesting to see who settles into their games first on the big-stage. .  Breaking through to the state tournament will not be enough for this group as they committed to each other and the program to get the job done. 

Cretin ended the regular season as the No. 1 team in the Let's Play Hockey Coaches poll, but get the No. 2 seed in the tourney. Not that it matters as it appears anyone can win in the 2022 field. Photo by Greg Nayman

Section 3AA

Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders (24-3)

Coach:  Matt Funk 4th Year at Cretin-Derham Hall, 6th overall (133-53-2)

Conference:  Suburban East 

Colors:  Purple and Gold

State Trips: (4) 1988, 2006, 2009, 2022

State Titles: (1) 2006

Road to State: 

            Win: Burnsville 6-1

            Win: Rosemount 5-2

            Win: Eastview 3-0

Last 10:  10-0

Streak:  18 wins 

Record vs Tournament Teams: 1-1

            Loss: Andover 3-1

            Win: Edina 4-2

GPG:  154 (5.70)

GAPG:  45 (1.67)

PP:  21.8% (12-55)
PK: 89.2% (74-83)

Scoring Leaders

22 Drew Fisher (28-31-59)
18 Jake Fisher (23-29-52)

2 Luke McCarthy (10-24-34)
15 Attila Lippai (17-11-28)
8 Simon Hogue (5-21-26)

Goaltending Leaders

30 Marko Belak 22-3-0, 1.64, .936, 2(so)

The Raiders have been impressive over the last three seasons combining for a 40-3-0 record with three Suburban East Titles in the conference while feasting on the SEC field.  In that same time period, the Raiders have posted a 62-11-1 record overall yet had not broken through to the state tournament being placed in Section 6AA which is no easy task.  They were moved to the Section 3AA and captured the title by defeating Eastview 3-0.  

Two of their losses this year came against rival St. Thomas Academy (4-3, 5-4) and State Tournament entry Andover (3-1) at the Tradition in the Park Holiday Tournament.  All of their losses came in December of 2021 and they have not been defeated in 2022.  The Raiders can score and are led by Mr. Hockey candidate Jake Fisher (23-29-52) who makes a great on-two-punch with Drew Fisher (28-31-59) who are one and two on the team  in goals, points, and assists on the Raider team.  There is plenty of goal scoring depth on this team and they welcomed back who missed ten games with an injury and was out when they lost two of their three games.  

Goalie Marko Belak is a Frank Brimsek award finalist for the state’s top goalie and he has the numbers to back it up.  Belak has been a mainstay for the Raiders in goal posting a 59-11-1 record and 7 shutouts over his three seasons at Cretin-Derham Hall. He leads a stout penalty killing unit that is just under 90%.  Special teams matter and the Raiders have been on the penalty kill 83 times this year and the powerplay just 55 times.  Staying out of the box will be key for Cretin-Derham Hall. 

The Raiders have plenty of skill up front and on the blue line and play a fast game.  That could very well put their opponents back on their heels as the energy of the building, the meaning of the games and the one and done pressure of a tournament game can amplify opponents mistakes and create issues quickly. Cretin-Derham Hall has been a favorite much of the year and has lived up to expectations.  With 7 other high end teams, nothing is automatic and they will have to earn it in 2022. 

Section 4AA

Hill-Murray Pioneers (23-4-1)

Coach:  Bill Lechner 24th Year as Hill-Murray HC, 30th Overall (572-246-35)

Conference:  Metro East 

Colors:  Green White and Black

State Trips: (32) 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022

State Titles: (4) 1983, 1991, 2008, 2020

Road to State: 

            Win: Roseville 5-0
            Win: Gentry Academy 7-2
            Win: White Bear Lake 5-0

Last 10:  9-1

Streak:  7  wins 

Record vs Tournament Teams: 3-2

            Loss: Andover 2-1

            Win: Edina 4-3

            Loss: Edina 3-1

            Win: Maple Grove 3-0

            Win:  Moorhead 5-4

GPG:  136 (4.86)

GAPG:  46 (1.84)

PP:  26.1% (18-69)
PK: 85.7% (60-70)


Scoring Leaders

17 Dylan Godbout (29-25-54)
26 Axel Begley (5-27-32)
15 Brady Ingebritson (12-20-32)

11 Leo Gruba (11-20-31)
10 Nate Hardy (8-20-28)

Goaltending Leaders

33 Jack Erickson 16-1-1, 1.39, .930, 6(so)

Where to start on the storyline for the Hill-Murray Pioneers?  The obvious one is the effort of Jack Erickson in goal who waited his turn behind Nick Erickson who ended up leaving Hill-Murray abruptly a third of the way through the season and all Jack Erickson has done is post better numbers in winning percentage, goals against average, and save percentage than his predecessor this year.  Not many teams can go through a sudden turnover at the goaltending position and not miss a beat and arguably, get better.  The Pioneers did and got better.  

Another storyline is being collected by Covid days before the start of the 2021 state tournament and not being allowed to play and defend the 2020 state title.  They did not pout coming into this season, rarely addressed it, and have forged ahead with a 24-win season and the top seed in the state tournament.  This team was built to win this year and they have done so with a workman like approach led by captains and Mr. Hockey candidates Dylan Godbout and Leo Gruba.  Godbout, a forward, is a responsible two-way player who can play five-on-five, power play, and penalty kill minutes for head coach Bill Lechner’s team.  In Gruba, the Pioneers have a heavy playing defenseman who is also an offensive threat and has no problem jumping up in the play or cycling low in the offensive zone on the power play.  Eight of his 31 points have come on the power play. 

While the Pioneers did not play in last year’s tournament despite qualifying for it, there are plenty of holdovers from the 2020 championship team that will have the benefit of their experience.  There are 11 players with game winning goals this year and 9 of them have more than one speaking to the depth of Hill-Murray.  

Coach Bill Lechner is tournament tested.  He and his staff of Pat Schafhauser, Mark Tollefsbol, Jake Lechner, Gabe Guentzel, Jeff Zupfer will have the Pioneers on point and disciplined.  They have a stiff test coming up to open the tournament in Lakeville South but equally, challenged themselves for this moment.  Playing and splitting with Edina in their traditional home-and-home series this year and defeating Maple Grove and Moorhead in back-to-back games was an impressive statement, all occurring in the last month.  Last change does make a difference and it may come into play for Lechner and his staff all tournament long.  The last change was earned by a strong 2021-2022 season. 


Leo Gruba is one of the top defensemen in the tourney as he helped lead the Pioneers back to the state tournament. Photo by Greg Nayman

Section 5AA

Maple Grove Crimson (21-6-1)

Coach:  Todd Berglund 6th Year (117-44-5)

Conference:  Northwest Suburban North

Colors:  Crimson and Gold

State Trips: (5) 2012, 2017, 2020, 2021, 2022

State Titles: None

Road to State: 

            Win: Spring Lake Park 6-3

            Win: Centennial 6-0

            Win: Rogers 4-2

Last 10:  9-1

Streak:  3 wins 

Record vs Tournament Teams: 3-3

            Loss: Edina 6-5

            Win: Moorhead 5-2

            Loss: Andover 5-3

            Win: Lakeville South 3-0

            Win: Andover 4-1

            Loss:  Hill-Murray 3-0

GPG:  145 (5.18)

GAPG:  58 (2.07)

PP:  35.5% (22-62)
PK: 80.5% (62-77)


Scoring Leaders

17 Landen Gunderson (19-53-72)

27 Finn Brink (26-25-52)

19 Joshua Giuliani (23-25-48)
20 Daniel Nelson (16-17-33) 
13 Luke Margeneau (7-21-28)

Goaltending Leaders

1 Toby Hopp 15-6-1, 2.34, .911, 4(so)

The Crimson have seen five of the seven other teams in the tournament.  Only Cretin-Derham Hall and Prior Lake have not faced Maple Grove this season.  As would be expected, all teams are hovering around the .500 mark against each other and the 3-3 mark for the Crimson against State Tournament teams is proof of that. This is their third appearance at the big dance and they are no-longer in the happy-to-be-here mode.  Last season marked the first year in three appearances that Maple Grove advanced past the quarterfinal round with a 5-2 win over Andover. They were sent to the mythical third place game which wasn’t played, after losing to Eden Prairie 6-5 in overtime. 

This season features a team that can put the puck in the net led by Finn Brink’s 26 goals.  Landen Gunderson has 53 assists that makes him second in the state in the category behind Northfield’s Spencer Klotz.  His 72 points are third among Class AA point producers.  He trails Roseau’s Max Strand (78) and Prior Lake’s Alex Bump (75) to pace the field in that category.  

Maple Grove’s power play is legit and it is not a good idea to run the trail to the penalty box when playing them.  They play with good structure and are hard to generate scoring chances against, while their shots for vs shots against (1,039 - 686) support that.  They open with another team that plays a hard game in Edina which is a re-match of each team’s first game of the year, a 6-5 Edina win. Like all teams in this tournament field, the Maple Grove Crimson have the depth and ability to win the tournament.  

Senior netminder Toby Hopp has a .913 save percentage entering the tourney and hopes to help the Crimson keep opponents at bay. Photo by Greg Nayman

Section 6AA

Edina Hornets (20-8-0)

Coach:  Curt Giles 23rd Year (473-152-27)

Conference:  Lake

Colors:  Green White and Gold

State Trips: (40) 1955, 1956, 1957, 1960, 1962, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2022

State Titles: (13) 1969, 1971, 1974, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1997, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2019

Road to State: 

            Win: Robbinsdale Armstrong/Cooper 9-0 

            Wn: Wayzata 1-0 (ot)

            Win: Benlde-St. Margaret's 4-0

Last 10:  7-3

Streak:  8  wins 

Record vs Tournament Teams: 4-3

            Win: Maple Grove 6-5 (ot)
            Loss:  Moorhead 2-1
            Win:  Prior Lake 6-2
            Win:  Lakeville South 2-1
            Loss:  Cretin-Derham Hall 4-2
            Loss:  Hill-Murray 4-2
            Win: Hill-Murray 3-1

GPG:  108 (3.86)

GAPG:  50 (1.79)

PP:  18.7% (14-75)
PK: 83.3% (75-90)

Scoring Leaders

10 Trey Fechko (20-21-41)
17 Jimmy Clark (15-21-36)

8 Willy Johnson (12-14-26)

19 Matt VanderVort (13-11-24)
4 Wyatt Wurst (5-14-19)

Goaltending Leaders

1 Robbie Clarkowski 19-8-0, 1.74, .928, 8(so)

The Edina Hornets have more state titles (13) than all the teams combined in this year's state tournament, and by 8.  That is not a misprint.  Their 40th appearance is this year and it has become commonplace for the green, white and gold to be a part of the discussion.  Coach Curt Giles has guided his team to 13 state tournaments with 12 of those coming in the last 16 years.  It all means that the Edina Hornets have consistently been in the state tournament mix since 1955 and are productive when there. 

A 4-3 record vs tournament teams which represents the most wins and games against the tournament field was not enough to impress the seeding process and Edina settled for being unseeded and a random draw team.  One thing that may have hurt seeding chances is Edina has been streaky this year that saw them open the campaign with six straight wins.  They had back-to-back losses twice and dropped three games in a row once.  The Hornets have been really good in shutting down the neutral zone against opponents down the stretch and more importantly, they have not been scored on over the last 14 periods or four plus games.  That equates to 244:59 of scoreless play dating back to the first period against St. Michael-Albertville on February 17th.  Their ability to defend as a team is a championship quality that makes them a difficult team to beat. 

Trey Fechko, Jimmy Clark, and Willy Johnson lead the team offensively, and have a combined 12 years of varsity experience among them.  The Hornets have found balance on their lines, are limiting scoring chances and when needed goalie Robbie Clarkowski has been dialed in. The Edina coaching staff knows how to manage the tournament experience and have seen great results in the Giles era.  This year, Edina has as good of a chance as ever to hoist their 14th State Championship banner in Braemar Arena.


Section 7AA

Andover Huskies (22-5-1)

Coach:  Mark Manney 13th Year (213-121-16)

Conference: Northwest Suburban 

Colors:  Black, Vegas Gold, and White

State Trips: (3) 2020, 2021, 2022

Road to State: 

            Win: Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 7-3

            Win: Forest Lake 10-2
            Win:  Grand Rapids 3-1

Last 10:  7-3

Streak:  3 wins 

Record vs Tournament Teams: 3-2

            Loss:: Moorhead 6-1

            Win: Maple Grove 5-3

            Win: Cretin-Derham Hall 3-1

            Win:  Hill-Murray 2-1

            Loss: Maple Grove 4-1

GPG:  128 (4.57)

GAPG:  48 (1.71)

PP:  20.5% (17-83)
PK: 77.5% (62-80)

Scoring Leaders

15 Cayden Casey (21-46-67)

12 Gavyn Thoreson (26-40-66)

4 Weston Knox (5-23-28)

22 Logan Gravnik (14-13-27)
8 Cooper Conway (11-13-24)

Goaltending Leaders

1 Austin Brauns 19-5-1, 1.71, .925, 5(so)

The Huskies make their third straight trip to St. Paul, having made early first round exits their first two years. This year, the Huskies are led by Frank Brimsek Award candidate, goalie Austin Brauns.  He has a stingy goals against average and a strong save percentage.  Wins over Moorhead, Maple Grove, Cretin-Derham Hall, and Hill-Murray is an impressive state tournament resume.  While Maple Grove captured the regular season finale, the Crimson have proven they can be among the elite in the tournament. 

The majority of the Andover point production comes from Cayden Casey and Gavyn Thoreson.  Their 47 goals comprise 38% of the goals.  Mark Manney's team plays a game with pace and discipline.  Their focus on the defensive end of the game features the team working as a group of five that transitions to a group of five offensively.  Being able to draw on their experiences will help in their steps moving forward this year.  

With a rematch against a Moorhead team defeated 6-1 the Andover  in Moorhead, the Huskies will have to have short term memories.  Much has changed since that game yet the Spuds will have that resume game to draw on as well. 

Weston Knox is a senior defenseman for the Huskies, who enter with a 22-5-1 record.

Section 8AA

Moorhead Spuds (21-6-1)

Coach:  John Ammerman 9th Year at Moorhead, 11th overall (190-92-11)

Conference: Mariucci

Colors:  Orange and Black

State Trips: (19) 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

State Titles: None

Road to State: 

            Win: Brainerd 7-0

            Win: St. Michael-Albertville 4-1

            Win: Elk River/Zimmerman 8-4

Last 10:  8-1-1

Streak:  3 wins 

Record vs Tournament Teams: 3-2

            Loss:  Maple Grove 5-2

            Win:  Andover 6-1

            Win:  Edina 2-1

            Win:  Prior Lake 4-2

            Loss:  Hill-Murray 5-4

GPG:  131 (4.68)

GAPG:  72  (2.57)

PP:  30.1% (22-73)
PK: 81.6%  (71-87)

Scoring Leaders
19 Harper Bentz (37-28-65)
3 Gavin Lindberg (21-44-65)
16 Carson Triggs (23-30-53)

22 Aaron Reierson (14-11-25)

23 Joe Gramer (3-20-23)


Goaltending Leaders

31 Kai Weigel  19-3-1, 2.37, .898, 4(so)

This is the fourth State Tournament appearance in a row for the Spuds and fifth in six years.  Still in search of a state title, Jon Ammerman's team has risen to the occasion, producing wins from a challenging schedule.  The Spuds have reached the state final 8 times and have yet to capture their first title.  It is a matter of time for them to break through.  

Mr. Hockey candidate Gavin Lindberg is joined by Harper Bentz in leading their team offensively.  Both have 65 points and have combined for 58 of their team's 131 goals. Last year, Bentz led the team with (14-10-24) and Lindberg was fourth in scoring on the team with (4-12-16). Their eruption in productivity is impressive. The Spuds forwards are skilled and can also play the two-way game as expected by their coaching staff.  

Sophomore goalie Kai Weigel stepped in after two seniors graduated last year and backstopped his team to 19 wins.  Moorhead returned 14 players from last year's state tournament roster of which eight are seniors.  Their experience factor will make a difference in their success this year.  They have the 6-1 win from earlier in the season to fall back on with Andover.  Much has changed since that game, yet the Spuds are a quality team with great leadership and skill.  


Tag(s): State Of Hockey