by MATTHEW DAVIS
Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks coach Steve Burton knows well how much his team and Champlin Park have at stake in their holiday tournament tilt.
“Champlin Park is ranked tenth overall in the metro and it will be a game that counts toward our section for seeding and strength of schedule,” Burton said.
The Hawks and Rebels will meet at Hopkins High School for the Hopkins Thanksgiving Invitational on Friday, Nov. 29, at 3 p.m. Then, each team will play either St. Cloud Tech or Hopkins, both strong teams.
“That could be one of two times we play them,” Burton said about Tech. “St. Cloud Tech is always an outstanding team that is well-coached.”
Both the Hawks and Rebels come into the season with high expectations. The Rebels went 19-8 last season and tied for third in the Northwest Suburban Conference. Their four seniors Ian Smith, Alex Hilley, Alec Leabo, and Brennan Witt provide strong leadership for the Rebels.
“Not only do they lead on and off of the court, but leadership has been contagious and our younger guys are also highly motivated to do great things this year and we all try to keep each other in check to compete every day the right way,” Rebels coach Mark Tucsherer said.
The Hawks expect to keep winning after the departure of Rasah Vaughn and their 16-0 North Suburban Conference title run last season.
“We are not running from anyone,” Burton said. “These two games will give our young team an opportunity to find out what is needed to compete at this high-intensity level.”
This tournament comes as part of a challenging non-conference schedule for them. That schedule includes Wayzata, Minneapolis Roosevelt, Eden Prairie, Minneapolis Washburn and Bloomington Kennedy. It will help the Hawks get ready for NSC play and sections.
“The goal is to be competing at a higher level and peeking at the right time,” Burton said. “Even though we are picked to finish sixth in an eight-team conference, nobody is going to feel sorry for us with the personnel from a year ago.”
The Rebels-Hawks contest will tip-off the season for both teams. They will play their respective opponents in the tournament’s next round on Saturday, Nov. 30.
“I know our guys are excited to get to that first game after putting in all of our stuff, conditioning and preparing for the season that past couple of weeks,” Tuchscherer said.
Other holiday contests
The Robbinsdale Cooper wrestling squad will start their season at an invitational tournament on Saturday, Nov. 30, at Mound-Westonka. The Hawks will compete with Anoka, Hibbing, Mahtomedi and Mound-Westonka there.
Champlin Park’s girls basketball team will compete at the Hopkins Thanksgiving Invitational. The Rebels will take on Prior Lake at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29. Either Tartan or Hopkins will play the Rebels the following day. Last season, the Rebels went 17-10 overall and reached the Section 4A semifinals.
Champlin Park girls hockey also has a busy slate with the Irondale Thanksgiving Tournament at the National Sports Center in Blaine. They will take on East Ridge to start the tourney on Friday, Nov. 29. The Rebels hope to get back to winning ways with losses to Anoka and Armstrong-Cooper in the past two weeks.
Robbinsdale Cooper boys hockey will host Dodge County on Saturday, Nov. 30 at 3 p.m. in the New Hope Arena. The Hawks opened their season on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at home against Saint Michael-Albertville.
Robbinsdale Armstrong boys hockey also will see Saint Michael-Albertville the same week. The Falcons and Knights will play 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 30 in the New Hope Arena. The Falcons won their season opener 5-4 of Cambridge-Isanti.
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