2008 Hill-Murray Pioneers

The 2008 AA boys hockey champions the Hill-Murray Pioneers, despite their programs string of over 20 state tournament appearances, had not won a state title since 1991. Their play can be summed up with their methodical wins over Roseau in the semis and Edina in the finals. The team was centered on goaltender Ryan Phillippi, who hadn't performed to his ability the previous two state tournaments. All had changed though as Phillippi would stonewall his way through three games, giving up just two goals on 83 shots. (His 97.65 save percentage would be amongst the highest in the history of the tournament.)

As announcer Lou Nanne would comment, the Pioneers game plan was to force Roseau defenseman Aaron Ness and Edina star Joe Gleason to give up the puck in their own zone before they started wheeling. Should Hill lose, atleast it wasn't going to be with their opponents fastest players. With Edina's powerful front line and the skill and speed of Ness & Co., the Pioneers plan was that if pressure mount in their own zone, their forwards would help out on the back checking. Defensive guys like Dan Sova and Bo Dolan were also huge on the boards. They were physical, and the team as a whole wasn't really all that impressed with the favored teams' credentials. The team believed in their coaches system: keep the gaps close between the defensemen and forwards/centers, win some of the battles in the boards, don't get caught in oddman rushes, wear your opponent down by checking, and most importantly, believe in your goalie. However, Hill-Murray did take some penalties. They were down many times on powerplay, but especially during the Roseau game (six short-handed), the teams confidence grew while on the penalty kill. They seemed to play even better in those situations because they were stronger on the boards. They cycled, disrupted skating lanes, and blocked off shooting and passing lanes. In total for the three days their opponent was 0-14 on the powerplay.

Ryan Furne captained the offense with 5 goals. Isaac Kohls and Dan Cecka were instrumental to the teams offensive output. Between the three they had 54 of the teams 89 shots on goal. Maybe the single most important aspect after their goaltending was the teams ability to transition from defense to offense with solid passing. They generated as much, if not more, quality chances on net than their opponent. (They had three breakaways alone on Roseau.) The team would score a respectable 12 goals in total, but on defense it was even better, only allowing two goals to go along with two shutouts for Phillippi. Against the favored Hornets, Hill's defense had such confidence in their goaltending that they would occasionally allow the Edina forwards to have the angle from 10 feet out (presumably to eliminate the center). But Flip stopped them all. He was poised.

Hill-Murray's 2008 championship was about intelligent hockey being engineered by the coaching staff and carried through by teammates being on the same page. It can be argued where this Hill-Murray team stands amongst the great ones, but the Pioneers' methodical approach is what makes them memorable.

2008 MN boys hockey AA tournament stats

Most points:

8 - Ben Goff, Woodbury
7 - Tyler Landman, Roseau
6 - Ryan Furne, Hill-Murray; David Eddy, Woodbury; Matt Berglund, Benilde-St. Margaret
5 - Isaac Kohls, Hill-Murray; Aaron Ness, Roseau; Ben Nelson, Roseau; Ryan Johnson, Blaine; Zach Buddish, Edina
4 - Steffen Hanson, Blaine; Tony Larson, Blaine; Tony Pittman, Woodbury; Steve Zierke, Benilde-St. Margaret; Marshall Everson, Edina; John Holmers, Benilde-St. Margaret

Most goals:

5 - Ryan Furne, Hill-Murray; Ben Goff, Woodbury
4 - Matt Berglund, Benilde-St. Margaret; Tyler Landman, Roseau; Steffen Hanson, Blaine
3 - Joe Gleason, Edina

Most assists:

4 - Ben Nelson, Roseau; David Eddy, Woodbury; Ryan Johnson, Blaine
3 - Zach Buddish, Edina; Steve Zierke, Benilde-St. Margaret; Tyler Landman, Roseau; Aaron Ness, Roseau; Isaac Kohls, Hill-Murray; Nick Oliver, Roseau; Ben Goff, Woodbury; Tony Pittman, Woodbury;

Save percentage:

Joe Phillipi 81/83 = 97.65%
Derrick Cashetta, Edina 74/81 = 92.05%
Brandon Wigen, Woodbury 102/112 = 91.80%
Mike Lee, Roseau 73/82 = 90.11%
Hakan Yumusaklar, Lakeville South 49/56 = 88.89%

Team SOG +/- :

Blaine: 108-56 = +52
Benilde-St. Margaret: 110-69 = +51
Hill-Murray: 89-85 = +4
Cloquet 62-56 = +2 (two games)
Edina: 86-88 = -2
Roseau 82-95 = -13
Lakeville South: 30-63 = -33 (two games)
Woodbury 68-103 = -35

Most individual SOG:

31 - Matt Berglund, Benilde-St. Margaret
21 - Isaac Kohls, Hill-Murray
20 - Steve Zierke, Benilde-St. Margaret; Tyler Landman, Roseau; Justin Jokinen, Cloquet; Ryan Johnson, Blaine; Dan Cecka, Hill-Murray
17 - Zach Buddish, Edina
16 - Marshall Everson, Edina
15 - Ben Goff, Woodbury; Mike Schraber, Blaine
14 - Ryan Furne, Hill-Murray
13 - Anders Lee, Edina; Aaron Ness, Roseau
12 - Steffen Hanson, Blaine
11 - Connor Gaarder, Edina; Joe Gleason, Edina
10 - Blake Appelhoff, Benilde-St. Margaret; Ben Nelson, Roseau; Tony Larson, Blaine

+/- individual (3 games):

+9 - Ryan Furne, Hill-Murray
+8 - Isaac Kohls, Hill-Murray; Dan Cecka, Hill-Murray
+6 - Dan Sova, Hill-Murray
+4 - Bo Dolan, Hill-Murray; Tyler Landman, Roseau; Marshall Everson, Edina; Zach Buddish, Edina; John Holmers, Benilde-St. Margaret
+3 - Alex Kelly, Hill-Murray; Brendan Baker, Edina; Mitch Martinson, Roseau; Tony Pittman, Woodbury
+2 - Chris Casto, Hill-Murray; Tyler Zepeda, Hill-Murray; Matt Berglund, Benilde-St. Margaret; Chris Student, Benilde-St. Margaret; Tom McCarthy, Benilde-St. Margaret; Ben Nelson, Roseau; David Eddy, Woodbury

Individual face-offs (W-L):

54-34 Tyler Landman, Roseau
54-35 Ryan Johnson, Blaine
52-48 David Eddy, Woodbury
40-27 Zach Buddish, Edina
36-34 Ryan Furne, Hill-Murray
29-27 Steve Zierke, Benilde-St. Margaret
29-28 Anders Lee, Edina
25-22 Nick Oliver, Roseau
22-7 Connor Gaarder, Edina


Willard Ikola and Edina: The Early Years Stats

The stats are familiar: From 1958 to 1991, Willard Ikola coached the Edina Hornets to eight state championships in 1969, 1971, 1974, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1984, and 1988. He won 22 Lake Conference titles, 19 section titles, and 19 state tournament appearances. His overall record was 616-149-38. He is considered the most renown coach in the history of MN High School Hockey.

But how did Hornet teams do before their first title in 1969? Well, they were pretty darn competitive, and pretty early on…

As early as 1951 Edina (Morningside) was playing St. Louis Park in the Region VI semifinals, losing 4-2. In 1952, Edina-Morningside won the Lake Conference championship, but they lost again to St. Louis Park in the region semifinals 4-1. In 1953 they lost to old power St. Cloud Tech, 6-3 in the semifinals. In 1954 they were co-champions of the Lake Conference with St. Louis Park while Wayzata took third. The three teams met in a playoff to determine two Region VI berths. Edina lost both of those games, 3-2 (OT) to St. Louis Park, and 5-1 to Wayzata. (Wayzata would eventually go to state.) In 1955, Edina-Morningside won the Lake Conference Championship again. They beat St. Cloud Tech 4-2, and then beat Winona 4-0 in the region final. However, at state they lost both of their games, 4-0 to South St. Paul, and 7-2 to Eveleth. In 1956, Edina-Morningside won the Lake Conference and beat Detroit Lakes by a whopping 16-1 in the region semifinals. They then beat St. Louis Park 3-something (sorry, data missing) to head back to state. Once there, a goaltender by the name of Murray MacPherson had one of the greatest save performances in the history of the tournament. In the quarters his team lost to Thief River Falls 3-2 (3 OT) despite stopping 54/57 shots. In the consolation semis Edina beat White Bear Lake 3-2 (2 OT), stopping 24/26 shots. For 5th place, Edina was outshot 2 to 1, losing 1-0 to Johnson, but Murray stopped 31/32 shots. He ended up making the All-Tournament Team along with teammate Larry Carlson. In 1957 it was another Lake Conference championship. They beat Rochester 3-1 in the semis, and Richfield 3-1 in the region finals. At state they improved from last year. They lost again in the quarters, getting beat by Mpls. South 6-0. In consolation though they beat Hallock 4-0 behind Chuck Steinweg’s 15 saves. For 5th place they beat St. Paul Murray 2-1. Jim Emerson made the All-Tournament team with three goals and an assist. The Hornets finished with a record of 16-7.

Once Ikola arrived on the scene as the new head coach in 1958, the Hornets competed but didn’t make it to state. They beat Richfield 3-1 and Rochester 3-2 (OT), but they lost to their old nemesis St. Louis Park, 1-0 in the region final. In 1959 times were even tougher. They tied with Wayzata for 5th in the Lake Conference and lost right away to them in regions 2-0. In 1960 the Hornets (15-4-3) came back strong as Lake Conference champions. They beat Richfield 4-0 and Minnetonka 4-1 to advance to state. Once there, goaltender Bill Bieber did a McPherson-like number and made the most of his chances by making the All-Tournament Team. He stopped 37/41 shots in an eventual loss to St. Paul Washington 4-3 (OT). In what must be one of the schools most unusual games in history, the Hornets were outshot by Eveleth 32-9, but won the game 2-1 in consolation semis. They lost 5th place to Mpls. Washburn 3-1, though Bieber stopped 32/35 shots. In 1961, the Hornets left early with a 2-1 (OT) semifinal loss to Richfield. In 1962, Edina-Morningside (16-3-2) beat Hopkins 5-0, St. Louis Park 3-2, and avenged their loss last year to Richfield with a 2-1 win in the region finals. At state they lost to Doug Wood and the Packers 4-2 in the quarters. In consolation they beat St. Paul Monroe 4-0. Then they beat Mpls. Washburn 3-1 for 5th place. Mike McRoberts made the All-Tournament Team with two goals and two assists. In 1963 the Hornets beat Minnetonka 3-0, Hopkins 3-1, but lost again to Richfield 6-4 in region finals. In 1964 the Hornets beat Detroit Lakes 6-1 but then lost to up-and-comers Bloomington 1-0 in region semis. In 1965 the Hornets beat Wayzata 6-0, Minnetonka 5-3, but had their hearts dashed with a 4-3 (2 OT) loss to Bloomington Lincoln in the region final. In 1966 it was a 4-1 victory over Wayzata before bowing again to Bloomington (Kennedy) 4-3 in region semis. (Bloomington eventually made their third straight state tournament.) In 1967 the Hornets (now called “Edina”) beat St. Louis Park 5-0, Hopkins 5-4, and Richfield 1-0 in the region final. At state they actually went into the tournament undefeated (19-0-1). However, they bowed out early with a 3-1 loss to Johnson and a 4-1 loss to Roseau respectively. In 1968 Edina (15-5-2) had one of their most explosive region stretches to date. They beat Orono 8-1, St. Louis Park 7-0, and Richfield 7-1 in the final. At state the woes continued with a 6-2 loss to South St. Paul and a 6-2 loss to Roseau. However, Bob Krieger was named to the All-Tournament Team with two goals.

Everything after that would change for the Edina program. Ikola’s teams would win eight state titles over the next 23 years to go along with 15 section titles. But before that period, from 1958-68, Ikola’s teams would make it to the state tournament four times (1960, 1962, 1967, 1968) while making it to the region finals seven times. Their biggest test during those times was the Bloomington school, which went to state four times (1961, 1964-66). Edina would finish no higher than 5th place at state, but the Hornets were buzzing long before Ikola brought them championships – and even before Ikola was a fixture at the school.

Small school bias and private school hate

With every year the Roseau Rams advance to the state tournament and new record is broken: tournament appearances (31). The Rams are loved throughout the state because they fit the David (vs. Goliath) to a tee. Roseau is a population of 2700 roughly, and whomever their opponent is they almost always are out-populated.

You can expect during tournament tv coverage to see a figure like the one that says Roseau’s quarterfinal opponent, Blaine, has a school population of or beyond Roseau’s entire town population. David’s make sports interesting because it builds up the drama on the odds against the Goliath’s. However, what’s left out is hard, objective data. In today’s athletic geography, small towns can have an advantage. In Roseau’s case, they of course are bred hockey, which is all to their credit. But this means Roseau isn’t going to be real competitive in too many other sports. For them to be a leading hockey town it requires that the town as a whole live and breathe hockey. It is somewhat different than other metro teams. Those schools, while still holding hockey as a big sport, have other athletic interests. It means the hockey numbers are going to be down since there are other areas of interest. Another issue, during the transfer era, was the cluster effect in the metro. If a student could leave Johnson for Cretin’s hockey program, it’s a short commute away. Small towns don’t quite offer that same luxury since a short drive could be 20 or more miles away. Also, because travel time is usually longer in rural Minnesota, and because populations are lower, competition for the best talent may have been reduced to just a few of the best programs. Metro schools had the disadvantage of losing some of the best talent to several competing metro schools. In other words, to get a better idea would have been to count participation numbers amongst all schools and/or communities.

Another bias is private schools, particularly metro’s, were heavily scrutinized for their transferring in the past. Small towns were really never given the same treatment. To play even requires objective data without bias to anyone. It’s sort of assumed that because small towns are “small,” they are somehow exempt from any underhandedness. It tends to be that if you’re “northern” and “small” – you’re in. If you’re “metro” and “private” – you’re out.

During Cretin Derham Hall’s 2006 state final victory over Grand Rapids, I was dismayed by the lack of credit for the programs first ever state title. Cretin beat Rapids 7-0, out-shooting them 32-8. But to the anti-privates, Cretin didn’t win for they cheated by transferring. That may well have relevancy, but in fairness every team needs to be scrutinized. No anti-private would take the time to consider the point that a Cretin coach was loyal to his school for 30-some years. They were a hockey program that hadn’t done much of anything since their last state tournament appearance back in 1988. He paid his dues by going through many hardships before finally seeing his kids play like champions in the state tournament. But to them that’s nonsense. Not too many biases would say the reason Grand Rapids lost or hadn’t made it to the state tournament since 1991 is because the responsibility rests on their own shoulders. The northern “town” has the parameters of a city (!) to compete on a large scale.

St. Thomas Academy’s run to the 2006 “A” title is another case in point. They won in OT in the quarters, double OT in the semi’s, and after trailing Duluth Marshall 3-1 in the third, they came back to win 4-3. Yeah, it’s true the Marshall goalie gave up three soft goals, but STA simply wanted it more in that third period. They out-worked the Hilltoppers for the title. But two years later we have fans claiming STA needs to be “forced” out of class “A” because of success. Although STA hockey had never amounted to much before, they are riding on their fourth straight appearance in state, winning their second state title in 2008. What qualifies them for the axing has never quite been identified, but you can bet private hate is a precursor. You wouldn’t hear an anti-private complain that Warroad, a team who has four “A” titles of their own and numerous appearances, needs to move up to “AA” competition.

There is no real cure for hate. One of the reasons why privates are loathed is due to upper classism. Private students generally do better in nearly all areas. They are more likely to stay away from drugs. They tend to have less problems in the home, etc. And their parents are higher income earners. They pay for their kids tuition on top of the public school taxes (!). It would seem they should be loved, but the economic distinction is at the core of their hate. Some hockey fans view the state tournament under the constraints of a make-or-break philosophy, dependent upon should a private win the state title. You may not like the fact in the past that privates transferred, but that is secondary to the problem of the level of hate.

You could say today isn’t a whole lot different. Privates are still hated despite the fact that MNSHSL is now under the non-transfer rule (!). And it really shouldn’t come down to that for these are kids after all.


Mounds View Mustangs: Reflecting On Better Times

Out of nowhere it seems the Mustangs came, atleast in part, to turn out to be the best hockey team coming out of Region 2 for the better part of 10 years. According to my resources (which are limited), the Mustangs never even won a quarterfinal sectional game until 1968. Then they sort of hit their nicknames stride and started racing. It's true once the Mustangs reached the state tournament they didn't do a whole lot of winning. But what matters most is from the late '60s to late '70s, the Mustangs were probably at their peak in competitiveness. And though nobody hears nor cares for them since then, the Mustangs did have their one shining moment, which should matter to somebody, even if in the long run it means mattering to nobody.

Mounds View was coached by a guy by the name of Tom Wegleitner. I'm assuming he had a kid by the name of Ted Wegleitner who played on the '76 and '77 state tournament teams. A Mike Funk coached the '78 state tournament team. Or so the story goes...

As I said before, in 1968 Mounds View (19-3-1) seemed to skyrocket into prominence. The Mustangs beat Coon Rapids 6-1, Brookly Center 3-1, and destroyed White Bear Lake in the regional final 7-0. The Mustangs first tournament appearance was no fluke. They lost in the quarters to eventual champ Greenway Colleraine, 4-3 in OT. They came back in the consolation semis against old powerhouse International Falls with four goals in the third period to win, 5-4. They lost to Roseau for 5th place, 3-2. Guys by the name of Tim Tyson and Bart Buetow made the All Tournament Team. Brad Buetow was also a teammate.

In 1969, the Mustangs (10-10-2) path to the tournament was more difficult. They beat Anoka 4-1 in the quarters. Then they had a semi final victory over Kellogg, 4-3 in 2 OT's. They beat Alexander Ramsey 3-1 in regional finals. The latter two
teams would wind up giving them difficulties in regionals in the future. At state quarterfinals they lost to eventual champ Edina 5-0. However, goalie Terry Moores played very well, stopping 35/40 shots. In consolation semis they'd lose again to Greenway 4-1. And so the season was over. But an especially triumphant one for a .500 club.

From 1970-75 it appeared the Mustangs would hed back down the road to where they came: a team nobody knows anything about. In 1970 they lost a heartbreaker to White Bear Lake in the regional final, 3-2 in OT. In 1971, those pesky Bears got 'em again with a 4-1 victory in the region semis. Another heartbreaker in the '72 quarters to Irondale, 4-3 in 2 OT's. In '73, Alexander Ramsey won the quarter matchup, 3-2 in OT. (Ramsey would go on to win their third straight regional.) In '74, another crusher in the regional final, this time to Kellogg, 3-2 in OT. In the '75 semifinals, an embarrassing 7-3 to Cloquet.

Well, suprisingly to this author, the best was yet to come. In '76 Mounds View rolled over Blaine 5-1 and Duluth Cathedral 10-2. They beat Duluth East 3-1 in the region final. After a seven year absence, it felt good to be back. The Mustangs
lost to second-placers Richfield in the quarters, 4-3. They beat up on Henry Sibley in the consolation semis, 5-1. But they lost to Kennedy for 5th, 4-3 in OT. A guy by the name of Rob McClanahan was really good. He had four goals and three assists for the tourney.

In '77 the Mustangs kept their nose in every regional game. A 3-2 victory over Irondale and a 5-4 win over Duluth Cathedral. In the region finals they beat Duluth East 4-2. The Mustangs entered the tournament with a record of 23-1. You'd thought a record like that would win them the state tournament. But it wasn't meant to be... a 5-1 loss to Grand Rapids followed by 5-3 loss to former undefeated Roseau in the consolation semis.

In '78 the Mustangs (18-9) took their time scoring goals. They beat Coon Rapids 2-0 and Alexander Ramsey 2-1. Then the flood gates opened as they doubled up on Duluth East in the region final, 8-4. This would be the Mustangs swan song, so it was important to end it with some hardware. They beat SSP in the quarters, 5-4 in OT, thanks to Pete Eastman. They lost to Grand Rapids 4-2 in the semis. And then another loss to Roseau for 3rd place, 5-3, due in large part to those dang Broten's! Goalie Gifford Duffy played extremely well in that one, stopping 34/39 shots.

And so that would be the end of the glory years for the Mounds View Mustangs. They lost 3-1 to Irondale in the '79 region semis. Irondale would take over as the new kings of Region 2, winning three straight from '79-81. In fact Mounds View would not win another regional quarter until '87. Their only other key victory after that is the trivia-worthy one in the '92 quarters, upsetting Brian Bonin's Bears 3-2 behind a guy by the name of Kavelevog or something. Like much of the rest of Mustang hockey history--nobody seems to know, and no one seems to care. But from 1968-78, they did seem to matter.