By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
The 2013 Bantam AA and PeeWee AA state tournament concluded this past weekend with the Edina Hornets youth hockey programs following the path of their varsity high school program.
Both Bantam AA and PeeWee AA state titles went to both Edina teams. The Hornets took the PeeWee AA title with a 7-0 win over Wayzata. The Bantam AA squad knocked off Duluth East 4-3.
Ironically, it was Duluth East that spoiled both St. Michael-Albertville youth programs at state. The Knights bantams fell 7-1 in the Third-Place Game to the Greyhounds and the peewees dropped a 4-2 semifinal decision.
It was Duluth East that also ended the boys’ high school season with a 15-0 quarterfinal victory in the Section 7AA playoffs.
“If you look at the high school state tournament, it was Duluth East, Wayzata, Edina and Hill-Murray as the final four teams,” said Bantam AA coach Paul Berning. “All three teams except Hill-Murray made the final four in both Bantam AA and PeeWee AA. The joke of the tournament was that STMA was Hill-Murray for the weekend.”
What isn’t a joke is the respect shown at Braemer Arena in Edina that the STMA youth programs are gaining from other programs across the state of Minnesota.
The Bantam AA team started the state tournament with a 4-3 upset of previously ranked No. 1 Prior Lake. Duluth East knocked off their tournament hopes with a 4-2 semifinal victory. Trailing 2-0 to the Greyhounds, the Knights scored two third-period goals tying the game 2-2. A late goal and an empty netter proved to be the difference.
The Knights also dropped a heartbreaker on Sunday, losing in two overtimes 1-0 in the Third Place matchup with Wayzata. A power-play goal in double overtime sealed the deal for the Trojans. STMA goalie Todd Scott started every game, which included the first ever win for a Bantam AA team at the state tournament.
“The biggest thing is we played as a team the entire weekend,” said Berning, who guided the team to a 34-15-4 overall record and finished with a state ranking of 16. “We rolled three lines and played all six defensemen. We’re one of the few youth programs that have parents coaching the kids. All the other teams had former Division-I players coaching. We got numerous comments from other high school directors about how good the program is.”
The PeeWee AA team also won their quarterfinal game, defeating Minnetonka 4-3. The Knights took a 1-0 first-period lead, but trailed after two 3-1. Two third-period goals tied the game 3-3 and STMA eventually won in sudden death overtime.
The Knights would drop a 3-2 decision to Wayzata and eventually lost 7-1 to Duluth East in the Third-Place game. STMA finished the season ranked No. 5 with an overall record of 37-8-3. They were led by goalie Justin Damon and captains Garrett Sandberg and Eric Sjelin. Jordan Drobinski and Blake Spetz served as rotating captains.
“The season was a great accomplishment,” said PeeWee AA coach Jon Spetz. “For having one rink in the community with limited ice time, it was a great effort. Teams like Edina and Duluth East are not going away. Those teams will be strong for years to come. STMA doesn’t have the individual kids like those teams, but we play real well as a team. The high school hockey future at STMA looks very bright.”