That's especially true on days when the temperature is well below zero.
|2017 Twins Winter Caravan.|
Blake v. Edina girls' hockey
Anyway, my hockey weekend started on Friday night covering a premier matchup in high school girls' hockey: Blake v. Edina. For years, Blake was a powerhouse in Class 1A girls' hockey, winning seven state championships, including back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017 before the program opted to move up to Class 2A last season. They're now in the same section as Edina, winners of the past two Class 2A state titles.
Though it's only the second year of a section rivalry between the two teams, they played each other plenty when Blake was a Class 1A squad. Being in the same section as Edina now changes the rivalry a bit, according to Blake coach Shawn Reid.
"Truthfully, I don't think they took us as seriously as they do now," Reid said. "So now I think it is a true rivalry. The games are close."
Tonight: No. 2 Blake v. No. 1 Edina. Heavyweight Class 2A girls' hockey matchup. https://t.co/PfrTJDwdvL #mshsl pic.twitter.com/L3aHXKuFw0— Heather Rule, SMS (@hlrule) January 19, 2019
The teams split their regular-season series 1-1, with the road team winning. Edina defeated Blake in the second game of the season in November, thanks to a hat trick from top scorer CC Bowlby. Friday night, Blake took care of business at Braemar Arena with a 2-1 win thanks to a solid penalty kill, tons of blocked shots and a goal from an eighth grader who only had a couple to her name this season among the roster of offensive weapons for the Bears.
Edina and Blake were last ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in Class 2A in the coaches poll. Another section rival, Wayzata, was ranked No. 4. So it looks to be a three-horse race for a trip to the state tournament.
HDM from the couch
I didn't envy some of my friends and colleagues up covering all the Hockey Day festivities in Bemidji in the below-zero cold. I'm sure it was memorable and fun though. Instead, I watched some of the action at home, starting with the boys' hockey game between No. 2-ranked Andover and No. 1 Minnetonka in a battle of undefeated teams.
Andover scored a shorthanded goal near the end of the first period for a 1-0 lead but the Skippers quickly tied the game 1-1 before the period was over. Andover had to kill a major penalty in the second period and gave up another goal for a 2-1 deficit. The penalty kill was commonplace for the Huskies in that period, and they never fully got back into the game, losing 5-2.
One of my contributions to the HDM program put together by the Minnesota Hockey Magazine staff was a feature about Andover hockey and defenseman Wyatt Kaiser who's grandpa Blane Comstock played for Bemidji State and a 1976 Olympian.
I talked with Andover coach Mark Manney after Andover's game at Elk River in December, a 3-2 win that ended up being a lot closer than it could have been. The Huskies didn't have their A-game that night, according to Manney.
"This is exactly how we've practiced for the last two weeks, just with 80 percent effort," Manney said. "Closer than I wanted, but probably what we deserved."
Shifting gears, I asked Manney about Andover playing on HDM for the first time.
"It's really going to be neat for our guys to play the defending state champs," Manney said. "And they're No. 1 and maybe we'll be No. 2 at the time, which I think would get a lot of other people's interest.
"I'm hoping we can just get out there and have a great experience, create some memories to take. If we win, that'd be great. If we don't, we're still going to make memories."
True to that sentiment, Manney made a goaltender switch to start the third period on Hockey Day down just 2-1. He told FSN during an in-game, audio interview that he wanted to give both goaltenders a chance to play in this game. A few months down the road, no one will remember the score but they'll remember the experience, according to Manney.
Whitecaps back in town
Hockey Day Minnesota features outdoor high school games, college games, the Gophers usually have home games and it all finishes with the Wild at the X. For the first time ever, Minnesota had a professional women's team playing on Hockey Day as the Minnesota Whitecaps hosted the Connecticut Whale.
The Whitecaps finished their regular-season home schedule with the weekend series and sold out all eight games at TRIA Rink (1,200 capacity). In its first year as part of the National Women's Hockey League, the Whitecaps started the season undefeated for six games and have been near the top of the standings. They beat the last-place Whale with back-to-back shutouts 2-0 and then 9-0 on Sunday.
"I think we all take so much pride in hockey in Minnesota, so to have a whole day dedicated to it is pretty cool," said Hannah Brandt, Whitecaps forward, former Gophers player, Olympic gold medalist and Minnesotan. "You obviously want to play on Hockey Day Minnesota, even if it's not a game that's necessarily being featured."
7 players with goals— Heather Rule, SMS (@hlrule) January 20, 2019
13 players with points
6 players with multi-point games https://t.co/gU0EzdUgS9
It's been fun to take in the Whitecaps games this season, and it's been especially fun to see the support from all the Minnesota hockey fans. There were plenty of youth/high school girls' hockey teams there to watch every game. And the Whitecaps line up to sign autographs for fans after every home game, too.
Let's go Wild
To finish things off on Saturday, I took the brisk (very brisk) walk from TRIA Rink over to Xcel Energy Center just in time for most of the second period and third-period action as the Wild played Columbus. I missed both of the Wild goals, coming from Jordan Greenway (who just loves to score the first goal of the game) and Zach Parise in the first period but saw the Blue Jackets get within one on a goal from Panarin 3 minutes, 7 seconds into the second.
The 2-1 score held up, and the Wild defeated an Eastern Conference team with more points and wins. The schedule has been a bit of a role reversal for the Wild, losing to teams they shouldn't and then sometimes finding a way to beat teams better than them according to the standings.
During small group last week, we discussed our weekend plans. When I mentioned all the hockey I was going to take in, this was a response: "Wow, you must like hockey."
Yes. Yes, I do.