It’s that point in the season when the top teams in southeastern Minnesota begin beating up on one another as they battle for conference championships and positioning for section playoff seeding.
That and more in this week’s High School Boys Hockey Focus:
3 STARS OF THE WEEK
1. Charlie Kielty, Lourdes
The standout defenseman had a big week offensively, scoring three goals and adding four assists in a pair of 9-2 wins by the Eagles. Kielty had two goals and two assists against Fairmont, then scored twice and added an assist against La Crescent-Hokah.
2. Sam King, John Marshall
The Rockets’ talented forward scored twice, including the game-winning goal, and added one assist as JM picked up its first win of the season, 7-1 against Austin last Thursday.
3. Javan Hodge, Mayo
The Spartans’ veteran defenseman proved he can get it done at both ends of the ice. Mayo trailed 3-1 midway through the second period at Dodge County on Saturday. Ethan Dennis pulled the Spartans within 3-2 after two, then Hodge set up the tying goal by Jacob Brown with 6:22 left. Then, with 1:05 to go, Hodge skated the puck into the low slot and snapped a shot past Wildcats goalie Isaac Dale for the game winner.
Honorable Mention (Alphabetical Order)
• Carson Arthur, John Marshall: The Rockets’ veteran goalie backstopped the team to its first win of the year, making 22 saves in a 7-1 win against Austin on Feb. 18.
• Alex Benson, Winona: The Winhawks’ goalie has held his team in nearly every game they’ve played. In the past two games, he's stopped 94 of 99 shots.
• Tate Cothern, Mayo: Cothern was on his game in the Spartans’ 4-3 victory against Dodge County last Saturday. He gave up a pair of short-handed goals, but both came on odd-man rushes where he had little chance. He made 22 saves in the win.
• Conor Cozik, Century: The Panthers’ goalie is settling into the starting job. He made 48 saves on 52 shots in two games over the past week,including recording a shutout with a 24-save win against John Marshall.
• Wyatt Farrell, La Crescent-Hokah: The Lancers’ freshman sensation has four goals and an assist over his past two games.
• Sam Hanson, John Marshall: The senior winger scored two goals and had an assist to help JM top Austin 7-1 last Thursday.
• Jack Kleinschmidt, Lourdes: The senior forward was outstanding in two big wins last week, totalling four goals and four assists.
• Brody Lamb, Dodge County: The standout junior had a hand in all three Wildcats goals in a 4-3 loss to Mayo on Saturday. He scored twice and assisted on one goal.
• Matt Mahoney, Lourdes: The Eagles’ forward had a pair of big games, notching a hat trick and an assist in a 9-2 win against Fairmont, and scoring twice against La Crescent-Hokah.
• Jack Ottman, Century: The sophomore forward had a hand in three of the Panthers’ four goals in a 4-0 win against JM, recording three assists.
(Editor's note: These are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in. Teams in the Big Nine Conference, Section 1A and Section 1AA are considered for these rankings.)
1. Lakeville South (10-0-0)
The Cougars, ranked No. 3 in this week’s Class AA state poll, are outscoring opponents by an average of 6.5-0.8 per game. They have shut out six opponents this season and have allowed more than two goals in a game just one time.
2. Lakeville North (7-5-0)
The Panthers are heating up, having won five of their past seven games, including their past two by a combined score of 11-3.
3. Hastings (9-3-0)
Hastings vaults into this week’s rankings at No. 3. The Raiders should’ve been in the poll a week or two ago, but they’re here now, thanks to a current eight-game winning streak. Their only losses this season are against Class AA state-ranked opponents: Two against No. 10 St. Thomas Academy and one against No. 20 Holy Family Catholic.
4t. Mankato East/Loyola (9-2-0)
The Cougars bounced back from an OT loss to Dodge County on Feb. 13 by beating Winona (5-2) and getting a key Big Nine Conference win against Northfield (6-4) in the past week.
4t. Rochester Mayo (8-3-0)
The Spartans have won five in a row, and they nab the last spot in this week’s Top 5 thanks to rallying from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 at Dodge County last Saturday. Goaltending and balance have been Mayo’s best friends. Tate Cothern and Payton Mancuso have been backbones, and 10 players have a least five points.
4t. Dodge County (7-2-1)
The Wildcats’ seven-game winning streak was snapped on Saturday in a 4-3 loss to Mayo. Spots 4 through 6 in the Power Rankings were a toss-up. Dodge County beat Mankato East by a goal, Mankato East beat Rochester Mayo by a goal, and Mayo beat Dodge County by a goal.
TUC (Teams Under Consideration)
• Mankato West (9-1-2): The Scarlets beat Century 4-1 last week, but then played to a 2-2 tie against a .500 Faribault team.
• Owatonna (6-3-1): The Huskies suffered two losses last week, but both against highly ranked teams, No. 2-A Gentry Academy and No. 11-AA Minnetonka.
• Northfield (7-3-1): The Raiders have lost two of their past three and three of their past six games.
• Rochester Lourdes (6-3-1): The Eagles bounced back from losses to Breck and Mayo by beating Fairmont and La Crescent-Hokah, both by 9-2 finals.
GAMES TO WATCH
• Mayo at Northfield (Saturday, Feb. 27, 7:15 p.m.): A rematch of a Feb. 2 game that Northfield won 5-0. It was the only game so far this season that Mayo felt like it was out of in the third period. The Spartans have improved since then. So has Northfield.
• Lourdes at Dodge County (Tuesday, March 2, 7 p.m.): A big Section 1A showdown for both teams. A win could be a boost for either team’s seeding come section playoff time.
• Mankato East at Mankato West (Thursday, March 4, 7:30 p.m.): The second battle of Mankato teams this season will not only affect the race for the Big Nine title, but it will also have meaning for the Section 1A tournament seeding process. East has already defeated West once this year, 4-0.
STATS THAT STICK OUT
• 4: Section 1 teams in this week’s state rankings: Lakeville South (No. 3-AA), Mankato East (No. 12-A), Mankato West (No. 13-A) and Dodge County (No. 18-A).
• 5: Number of one-goal games Rochester Mayo has played this season. The Spartans are 4-1-0 in those games.
• 13: Points from Lourdes senior forward Jack Kleinschmidt in his past five games, five goals and eight assists.
• 32: Points for Dodge County junior and University of Minnesota commit Brody Lamb this season, the 11th-best total in the state.
• 33: Points for Mankato East senior forward Layten Liffrig, tied for the eighth-best total in the state.