Area boys hockey teams off and running

All three Review-area high school boys hockey teams have gotten the 2016-17 season started off on the right foot. They have combined for 17 victories through Dec. 20 and should be worth watching throughout the season.

Here’s a rundown of what each team has accomplished and has waiting in the upcoming week.

 

Hill-Murray

Entering their showdown with White Bear Lake last week, the Pioneers (5-0-1) were one of only two teams in Class AA without a loss. Hill-Murray opened the season with four consecutive victories before tying Tartan in game five. 

The Class AA state rankings that were released on Dec. 15 had Hill-Murray ranked 12th in the state, but since then three previously unbeaten teams suffered their first losses.

Hill-Murray opened the season with a home victory over Burnsville and followed that by beating Eastview, Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Mahtomedi. Tartan provided the Pioneers their only non-victory in their first six games by playing to a 3-3 draw on Dec. 15.

The Pioneers followed up the tie by drilling North 10-2. A dozen Pioneers recorded points in the victory over the Polars and Brock Bremer led Hill-Murray with four points on two goals and two assists. Mike Fleischhakcer added three points on two goals and an assist, and also posting multi-point games were Derick Breezee, Kyler Yeo, Ben Helgeson, Brett Oberle and Weston Neubauer.

Bremer and Helgeson sat atop the Hill-Murray points list through six games. Bremer led the team with 12 points on seven goals and five assists while Helgeson was second with 10 points on four goals and six assists. 

The goaltending duties have been split almost evenly with Jake Begley playing 153 minutes and posting a record of 3-0. John Eger had played 161 minutes thanks to the extra eight minutes in the overtime against Tartan. Eger is 2-0-1.

Hill-Murray faces possibly the toughest stretch of the regular season starting this week. The Pioneers, playing the Gold Division of the Schwan Cup at Ridder Arena, take on previously No. 1-ranked Eden Prairie in the quarterfinals on Dec. 29. Their second-round contest will be against either Edina or Burnsville while game three could be against St. Thomas Academy, Wayzata, Centennial or Minnetonka.

Coming out of the holiday break, Hill-Murray hosts St. Thomas Academy on Jan. 5 and visits Mahtomedi on Jan. 7.

Hill-Murray closed out its pre-Christmas schedule by visiting White Bear Lake on Dec. 22, past the early holiday deadline for this edition of the Review.

 

North

Despite a lopsided loss to Hill-Murray, the Polars couldn’t have asked for much better of a start to the season. Through nine games, North was 6-3 and had already eclipsed last year’s win total of five.

North kicked off the season with a matinee game on the day before Thanksgiving and came away with a 10-6 victory over Mounds View. While double-digit goal totals are rare, the Polars have been scoring at a pretty prolific clip. North has been held to three or fewer goals only twice. 

The Polars had six players in double figures for points through nine games; three of those players had already passed the 20-point mark. The line of Kory Pilarski, Joe Reubish and Nathan Conroy has been downright ridiculous in the number of points they’ve amassed.

Pilarski and Reubish are battling for the team lead in goals with Pilarski leading 14-13. Both had 15 assists to give them points totals of 29 and 28 respectively.

Conroy leads the team in assists with 19 and is the third 20-plus point scorer with 24.

North headed into the Christmas break with a home game on Dec. 22 against Tartan. Results of that contest were not available for this edition of the Review.

The Polars’ lone game this week is a noon tilt on New Year’s Eve at Owatonna.

 

Tartan

The Titans, at 6-2-1, were two games better than at the same point last season. Tartan opened the season with three straight wins and, after dropping two in a row, went unbeaten in the next four.

Included in the four-game unbeaten string were a tie against Hill-Murray and an overtime victory against Mahtomedi. 

The tie with Hill-Murray snapped Tartan’s 15-game losing streak against the Pioneers. Tartan’s most recent non-losses against Hill-Murray were in the 2008-09 season when the Titans tied and beat the Pioneers in their two regular-season meetings.

In the Hill-Murray game, Tartan fell behind 2-0 but twice tied the game. Charlie Tabaka and Nick Bowlin combined to erase the deficit and tie the game at 2-2. The Pioneers led 3-2 going to the third, but Bobby Vietch tallied an unassisted goal at 10:44 to knot the score again.

Vietch came up clutch again against Mahtomedi. With Tartan trailing by one late in the third, Vietch scored a power-play goal with 43 seconds left in the period to force overtime.

In the extra session, Brad Herzog bagged the game-winner at 2:46.

Tartan made it four straight games without a loss by downing Rochester John Marshall 6-2 on Dec. 20.

The Titans visited North on Dec. 22, past the deadline for this edition of the Review. Tartan is off until Jan. 5 when it hosts Simley.

 

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.

 

Metro East Conference boys hockey standings through Dec. 20

Conf. Overall Points

St. Thomas Academy 3-0 6-1 6

Mahtomedi 3-2 3-3 6

Hill-Murray 2-0-1 5-0-1 5

Tartan 2-1-1 6-2-1 5

North 2-2 6-3 4

South St. Paul 2-2 4-4 4

Henry Sibley 1-2 2-7 2

Hastings 1-3 2-6 2

Simley 0-4 2-6 0

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