What: The Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake boys hockey team is set to take on the second-seeded Delano Tigers in a Class A State Quarterfinal.
When: 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 8.
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN.
Headed to the X: Tickets cost $17 adults, $11 students for Thursday’s opening round, and any round of games held at Xcel Energy Center; Consolation session tickets cost $12 adults, $8 students. Note — A limited number of standing-room only tickets go on sale one hour prior to each Class AA session.
If you can’t make it: The first round, semifinal round and championship games will all be carried live on 45TV. Webcasts will also be available at Prep45.com with a paid subscription. KRWC1360 out of Buffalo will be on-hand broadcasting radio coverage of the game.
At stake: The Moose and Tigers will square off with a spot in the Class A Semifinals on the line. The winner will take on the winner of No. 3 Mahtomedi/Northfield on Friday at the Xcel Energy Center. The loser of each contest will face off in the consolation bracket at 10 a.m. Thursday at Mariucci Arena.
Getting to this point: The Moose rolled through Section 5A, dominating Moose Lake and Princeton before winning a more closely contested game against Chisago Lakes last Thursday night, 3-1. MAML was tied 1-1 with the Wildcats after one before taking the lead on a shorthanded goal and gaining insurance with a power-play goal less than two minutes later in the second period. MAML outshot the Wildcats 31-20 in the contest.
Delano earned its spot at state via winning one of the state’s toughest sections. The Tigers play in Section 2A, home to Orono, Blake, and Breck. The Tigers knocked off two of those squads, beating Blake 5-2 in the semifinal round before a win against Breck in the section championship. Delano beat Breck, considered one of the state’s best teams, 2-0 with goals coming in the first and second period. Tigers net-minder Jackson Hjelle made 28 saves in a game where Breck outshot Delano 28-20.
Common opponents: MAML did not play Delano this season, but they did play some of the same teams. Delano played Buffalo, Orono and St. Cloud Cathedral this season, going 4-0 against the teams with two wins against Orono. MAML went 2-1 against the same squads, losing to Cathedral 4-2. Delano beat Orono by scores of 3-2 and 6-1, while beating Buffalo 8-2 and Cathedral 8-4. MAML played the Spartans and Bison early in the season, beating Orono 3-0 and Buffalo 3-2.
About the Tigers: Like the Moose, Delano is making its first-ever appearance at the boys state hockey tournament. The Tigers had been to three section titles in the last four years, before finally overcoming Breck to earn the state appearance this year. The Tigers have consistently been ranked as one of the top teams in the state this season, coming in No. 3 in Class A according to Let’s Play Hockey’s most recent ranking.
The Tigers bring a record of 24-3-1 into the state tourney, including a 3-0 record against Breck this season, the aforementioned win against Cathedral, and a win against Wayzata, a Class AA State Tournament team. Delano’s three losses came to Holy Family (twice) and Hermantown (4-3).
Delano outscored opponents 168-60 during the regular season. The Tigers were lethal on the power play this season, scoring 34 times in 66 opportunities according to MN Hockey Hub. The penalty kill was effective to the tune of 78 percent.
Delano is led by one of the state’s best players in Ben Meyers. The senior totaled 99 points this season, including 46 goals. He is a First-Team All Metro member, a Mr. Hockey finalist and is committed to playing hockey at the University of Maine. Brian Halonen presents a major scoring threat as well, recording 81 points this season. That total registers as the second best in the state according to MN Hockey Hub, behind only Meyers. Halonen, who is committed to Michigan Tech scored 37 goals and added 44 assists. John Keranen scored 27 goals and assisted on 41 more to round out Delano’s scorers with more than 50 points in the regular season. Jackson Hjelle got the majority of the work between the pipes for the Tigers this season, totaling a record of 14-2-1 during the regular season. The goaltender stopped 90.7 percent of the shots that came his way this season for a goals against average of 2.52. Hjelle’s shutout against Breck was his fifth of the season.
About the Moose: MAML enters its first-ever state tournament with a record of 21-6-1, the best mark in program history. The Moose finished tied for third in the Mississippi 8 this season with marquee wins against Buffalo and Rogers in the conference and against Orono out of conference. MAML finished the season as the 14th-ranked team in Class A, their highest showing of the season.
The Moose outscored opponents by a wide margin this season, totaling 112 goals for to just 64 goals against. The second period was MAML’s strongest, as they outscored opponents 48-28. The Moose scored 15 power play goals, connecting on 25 percent of opportunities this season. They allowed the exact same percentage to opponents. In postseason play, MAML has outscored opponents by a 19-2 margin.
MAML has been paced all season by the top line, and the story remained the same through section play. During the regular season, junior centerman Ben Ward led the Moose with 57 points, leading MAML in both goals (23) and assists (34). His senior winger Nick Zwack finished second with 46 points and 20 goals, while sophomore winger Troy Dahlheimer was third on the team with 35 points. Second line winger Casey Chiodo was third on the team with 18 goals during the regular season, leading the team in power play goals. Zwack, Chiodo, and Dahlheimer have all recorded hat tricks already this postseason, while Ward leads the team with 14 postseason points, including 11 assists. Tyler Klatt has been MAML’s primary goaltender all season. The junior had a very solid season in net, allowing just 2.72 goals per game to go with a save percentage of .880. Klatt has backed that up with a save percentage of .960 in the postseason, stopping 48 of 50 shots. The Moose, who put a focus on the forecheck and limiting opponents opportunities, outshot opponents by an impressive 760-548 margin this season.
The rest of the field: MAML and Delano are joined by Northfield as first time entries in the state tournament this year. Northfield is unseeded and draws No. 3 Mahtomedi in the first round. The Zephyrs were most recently in the tournament two years ago. Hermantown is the defending Class A State Champions and the top seed in the bracket once again. They’ll take on an unseeded Luverne team that allowed just 32 goals this season, but hasn’t played any other teams from the state tournament field. At the bottom of the bracket is a contest between No. 4 Cathedral and No. 5 East Grand Forks. Cathedral won the consolation championship last year, while EGF is two years removed from being Class A State Champions.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]