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2012-13 Season Preview: Top 10 Things To Watch

09/28/2012, 3:00pm CDT
By Aaron Paitich

Lock up the boats and stow away the sunscreen. Put the tarp over Target Field. Move over, beach dwellers and picnic lovers. Hockey season is back.

10. A/AA: THE NEW FORMAT

Minnesota Hockey’s new 2012-2013 playoff classifications for the Peewee A and Bantam A levels will provide new players, teams and associations the chance to shine under the regional and state tournament spotlights. With larger associations competing against each other in the “AA” playoffs, who will step up in the “A” tournaments?


Eriah Hayes (LaCrescent) scored 13 goals as a junior for the Mavericks last season.

9. WCHA: LAST HURRAH

No, the WCHA is certainly not disappearing after this season, but it will look a lot different. So it’s time to get your final cheers in before Minnesota and Wisconsin head to the new Big Ten Hockey Conference, while Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State, Nebraska-Omaha, Denver, North Dakota and Colorado College will start the new National College Hockey Conference. Minnesota State, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Alaska Anchorage will continue to call the WCHA home.

Two must-sees: The Gophers host Minnesota Duluth on Feb. 22–23. Minnesota State heads to St. Cloud State Oct. 26–27.

8. PEEWEE POINTS

Skilled play was on full display with the removal of full body checking at the Peewee level last season. To emphasize skill development while creating a safe hockey environment, USA Hockey’s new rule was well received across the State of Hockey. Will the offensive outbreaks continue?

7. GOPHER MEN AND WOMEN

The Maroon and Gold’s resurgence reignited the fire surrounding Gopher hockey last season. With a MacNaughton Cup in hand and a Frozen Four appearance under their belt, the returning roster is stacked with talent, mostly developed right here in Minnesota Hockey’s community-based associations. With a glut of high-end defensemen, four 40-point scorers and another bright recruiting class, the Gophers are widely viewed as the team to beat this season.

Next door, the Gopher women look to defend their third NCAA Championship after beating Wisconsin for the title last spring. Get tickets for a weekend series rematch against Bucky on Dec. 1-2 at Ridder Arena.

6. WJC: HOUSLEY AT THE HELM

Arguably one of the greatest Americans to play the game, South St. Paul’s Phil Housley will be Team USA’s head coach at this winter’s World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia. As usual, several Minnesotans will vie to make this team. Tournament play begins December 26 and culminates with the gold-medal game on January 5. You don’t want to miss it.

5. HOCKEY DAY MINNESOTA: GRAND RAPIDS

Can you believe it will be the sixth-annual Hockey Day Minnesota
this year? Soak in the State of Hockey’s culture with this all-day, midwinter classic
on January 19, 2013.

High School Games (Pokegama Lake, Grand Rapids)
Eagan vs. Hibbing (boys)
Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Grand Rapids (boys)
Hibbing vs. Grand Rapids (girls)

College Game
Gophers vs. North Dakota, Mariucci Arena

NHL Game
Minnesota Wild vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, Xcel Energy Center

4. MINNESOTA WARRIORS

Have you heard of the Minnesota Warriors? You should. Their program has been organized for U.S. Military personnel, wounded, injured or disabled veterans of the U.S. Military, so they can reintegrate into civilian life through hockey and camaraderie.

Spend Veterans Day on November 11 at the Vadnais Sports Center, where the Minnesota Warriors will be hosting a special event with the Minnesota Chapter of NHL Alumni. There will be a split-squad game in which members of the Warriors and NHL Alumni are divided into two equal teams to face off with each other. The Warriors will also induct a fallen U.S. Military service member into the “Hall of Honor” during a pre-game ceremony. There will be a silent auction to help raise money for the Warriors’ initiatives.

Visit MNWarriors.com for updated news, event information and ways to get involved.

3. PREP PLAYMAKERS

Want to see the best prep hockey in the country? You won’t have to go far. Drive up Hwy. 35 to see Cloquet take on Duluth East. Take in the storied Warroad-Roseau rivalry. Drop in for the Schwan Cup at Xcel Energy Center during the holidays. Watch suburban powers Minnetonka and Edina square off. This season will certainly be another to remember.

Defending Champs:
Class AA
Boys – Benilde-St. Margaret’s over Hill-Murray
Girls – Minnetonka over Roseville

Class A
Boys – St. Thomas Academy over Hermantown
Girls – Breck over South St. Paul

2. MINNESOTA STATE TOURNAMENTS

Talent has never been better in Minnesota Hockey’s 160 community-based associations. So when the state tournaments roll around, we’re putting the best youth hockey talent in the country on ice. Good luck to all the players, coaches and officials this season. Here are the defending champions, but remember, there is an added “AA” tournament for the Peewee A and Bantam A levels this year. It opens up two new slots for up-and-coming associations to celebrate a state championship.

1. WELCOME HOME: ZACH PARISE

You could hear the cheers from International Falls all the way down to Rochester when it was announced that the Minnesota Wild officially signed Zach Parise on the Fourth of July. It has been a while since the Bloomington youth hockey product came home. Very nice of him to bring along longtime friend Ryan Suter, as well.

Whenever the season starts (fingers crossed), Xcel Energy Center will be putting on its loudest shows ever behind 18,000-plus screaming fans clamoring for a
bona fide winner.

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