The Hornets Peewee A team are the defending state champions and have captured three of the past four State Championships, including back-to-back titles the past two seasons. This brings the perennial power’s total to nine Peewee A titles dating back to 1968, the most of any hockey association in the state.
It’s been 45 years since Eveleth has won a Bantam A State Championship, which made it a story of the past and present when Eden Prairie captured a 4-3, double-overtime victory over the defending state champions from Woodbury last season. The title gave the Eagles their third Bantam A state title in five seasons. Eden Prairie is now tied with Eveleth with five state titles, second to Edina, who has seven. The Eden Prairie championships have come in 1998, 2000, ’07, ’08, and ’11, while Eveleth started their run in 1952 when they won three consecutive, and then went on to win again in ’56 and ’66.
The UMD Bulldogs are the defending Men’s National Champions. The new title, along with their new arena, gives the Bulldogs plenty of momentum among Minnesota’s five Division-I programs. Last season in the WCHA, Mankato finished 11th, Bemidji 10th, St. Cloud ninth and Minnesota fifth.
In its 11-year history, the Women’s NCAA Ice Hockey Championship has been passed around between only three teams – Minnesota (2), Minnesota Duluth (5) and Wisconsin (4). Under Minneapolis-born head coach Mark Johnson, the Badgers have won four of the last six, including last season’s title. Will this trio continue the trend? Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota finished second and third, respectively, behind Wisconsin in the WCHA last year. Can Bemidji St., St. Cloud St. and Minnesota St. creep up the standings?
The Golden Gophers rehired alumnus Mike Guentzel this summer as an Associate Head Coach, primarily in charge of the team’s defensive unit. The Marble, Minn. native and former Minnesota defenseman served as a Gophers assistant for 14 years, including the two National Championship seasons with Don Lucia. After finishing fifth, seventh and fifth in the WCHA the past three seasons, can Guentzel’s return bring the Gophers back to the top and refill Mariucci Arena?
Eden Prairie has won two of the last three Class 2A Minnesota State High School Hockey Championships, including 2011’s triple-overtime instant classic over Duluth East. Head coach Lee Smith’s team lost some very talented seniors, including 2011 NHL Draft picks Nick Seeler (Minnesota Wild, 5th round) and Mr. Hockey winner Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers, 3rd round). Can the Eagles continue their recent success or will a new power step up? In Class 1A, can St. Thomas Academy add to its three state titles in the past five years? Will Minnetonka and Warroad successfully defend
the girls’ crowns?
The USA Hockey progressive checking skill development program begins this season. There is plenty of data supporting the move, and it will be interesting to follow the play on the ice this season and monitor the improvement in safety and skills.