My elite friend Jerry Borough, the brilliant professor of Minnesota high school boys hockey, on this weekend’s Section 7A and 7AA semifinal games at The Oil Can:
“We know going in the 7AA final will be north versus south. If you love hockey, that second 7A game Friday night between Greenway and Virginia-MIB will be a game you won’t want to miss.”
Borough, on tonight’s Hermantown vs. International Falls and Greenway vs. Virginia-MIB 7A semifinal matchups:
“People think Hermantown is down this year, not as deep, but because they played a lot of strong 2A teams they’ll be the team to beat all the way through in 1A. I like their first line featuring (Tyler) Watkins and (Blake) Biondi and their top-two defensemen, (Darian) Gotz and (Trent) Madill. And that (Brandon) Schmidt kid has been coming on strong. Hermantown has traditionally been a little deeper, and they’re probably more of a Class A team than in the last 10 years. But with their tough schedule and good coaching, you have to go with the 218 team. International Falls’ goalie (Jake) Klow was hot in the Denfeld overtime win, but he’ll have to be even sharper against Hermantown. He’ll probably face over 50 shots against Hermantown, when he’ll face a lot of odd-man rushes.
“In the nightcap, (Jake) Seitz from Virginia is one of the best 1A players in the state. He can do it all: score, pass the puck, and he’s the real deal. Greenway is a mystery to me, from game to game. When they’re on their game, they can compete with Hermantown. In other games, they didn’t show up. They better be ready to play against Virginia, because Virginia will show up.”
Borough, on Monday’s Duluth East vs. Duluth Marshall and Andover vs. Elk River 7AA semifinal matchups:
“East-Marshall is a classic matchup between two strong Duluth teams. I know Marshall puts East on its calendar at the beginning of the state, once in the regular season and hopefully again in the 7AA tournament. East is one the best teams in the state five-on-five. If they stay out of the box and play fast, Marshall will have to play its best game of the season just to stay close. If Marshall can keep it close after two periods, anything can happen in the third period or in overtime. East will probably out-shoot Marshall 2-to-1. Quality shots will be the difference in the game.
“East is deep, a great skating team, and coached by the best coach in Minnesota high school hockey, Mike Randolph, who knows how to get his team ready for a playoff game. (Garrett) Worth has been hot. If East’s first line starts fast (Worth between wingers Ian Mageau and Ryder Donovan), Marshall will be tired by the third period. East’s second and third lines also have been scoring a lot of goals lately. Marshall’s (George) Grannis and (Levi) Stauber and their goalie, (Cam) Brandt, will need to be on top of their games — or Marshall could be in for a long night. It’s a good rivalry playoff game, so I expect it might come down right to the end. Marshall is playing good hockey, and I think they can hang in there through at least the second period. If East jumps out fast, goes up by three goals early, then I don’t think Marshall will come back.
“Andover-Elk River will be a good game, too. They play in the same conference. Andover has a very good goalie, (Ben) Fritsinger, who played in the Elite League. (Charlie) Shoen, their top offensive player, has 27 goals in his junior season. (Nick) Dainty (21 goals) is also an outstanding junior forward. Elk River hates coming to Duluth, to Amsoil Arena, and if they lose we’ll never hear the end of it. It’s kind of Andover’s year, it appears. I’m predicted an East-Andover final, with East going all the way. All but Hermantown-International Falls will be hard-fought sectional semifinal games.”
Borough, on the teams to watch in the various 2A and 1A section playdowns across the state:
“In 2A, I like Edina because of its depth. Minnetonka is a very good team, but they’re still young. Every year there will be some big upsets. Any of 20 teams could win the 2A title. If 2A favorites Edina, ‘Tonka, Duluth East and St. Thomas Academy all advance to the state semis, 2018 will go down as one of the most highly anticipated state tournaments in years. Six or seven teams could win it all in 1A. As always, the team with the hot goalie will prevail. I have Edina winning the 2A state title, and Mahtomedi in 1A.”