Up North puck stars lead Team Minnesota to Chicago tournament
When the high school hockey season ends, there are all sorts of tournament gatherings for all-star selections from all across the state of Minnesota. But the neatest one of all might be the team put together every spring by Ted Brill of Grand Rap...
When the high school hockey season ends, there are all sorts of tournament gatherings for all-star selections from all across the state of Minnesota. But the neatest one of all might be the team put together every spring by Ted Brill of Grand Rapids for a trip to Chicago to play in the 24-team Chicago Showcase.
Being selected to any all-star or all-state team is an honor, but following the statewide "Great Eight" tournament for selected seniors from all over the state, Brill and his staff annually put together one 20-player team to take to Chicago.
What makes this team special is that the players are all among those so far overlooked by college recruiters or undecided about their choices for the future.
The other 23 teams from all other hockey-playing states are made up of their best high school senior players, while the Minnesota team is the top seniors with the recruited seniors skimmed off, leaving only those who might benefit by getting exposed one more time to college recruiters.
Obviously, eliminating the high school stars who have committed to college scholarships hasn't bothered Team Minnesota in recent years.
This year's team, which opens play in Chicago on Wednesday and hopes to be in the championship game Sunday afternoon, will be shooting for Minnesota's fifth consecutive championship in the Chicago Showcase.
Brill and Dave Hendrickson, former Virginia High School coach, co-coach the team, which is comprised of players who competed in the recent Great Eight state all-star competition. This year's team carries a top-heavy assortment of players from the Duluth area and the Iron Range.
Goaltender Dan Hoehne, and forward Andy LeTourneau will represent Duluth East on the team. Section 7AA champion Greenway of Coleraine has eight teams will then be grouped for quardefenseman Mike Dagel and forward Mike Forconi on the club. Section 7AA runner-up Cloquet has defenseman Clay Wilson selected. Section 2A champion Hermantown has defenseman Dan Knapp on the team, and Duluth Central forward Ken Kolquist and Grand Rapids defenseman Grant Clafton are also on the club.
With eight of the 20 players from the Up North regions, other northern Minnesota players named to the club include Roseau forwards Luke Erickson and Erik Fabian, Shawn Kleven, a forward from Crookston, plus Kirk Eilertson, a forward from Detroit Lakes.
Rounding out the team are goaltender Eric Aarnio of White Bear Lake, defensemen Adam Setten of Armstrong and Chris Nathe of state tournament champion Elk River, and forwards Aaron Johnson of Armstrong, Matt Duncan of Bloomington Jefferson, Jim Martin of Buffalo, and Cole Koidahl from Minneapolis South.
That means one of the two goaltenders, five of the seven defensemen and seven of the 11 forwards are Up North players, and nine of the 13 northern players are from the Iron Range-Duluth area.
The team assembled for practice sessions in the Twin Cities last weekend, and it played an exhibition game Monday afternoon, beating the North Dakota representative 4-0, as Hoehne and Aarnio split the goaltending for the shutout.
After traveling to Chicago Tuesday, the tournament begins with round-robin play within pools at the Seven Bridges Arena in suburban Chicago on Wednesday. Minnesota's team opens by facing Missouri on Wednesday and will then play Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, and Wisconsin on Friday. The top terfinals on Saturday, with semifinals Sunday and the championship game on Sunday afternoon.