Prep playoff hockey capsules
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune
Elk River (16-8-2) vs. Duluth East (25-1)
What: Section 7AA semifinal
When: 10 a.m.
Where: Amsoil Arena
Outlook: The fourth-seeded Elks edged Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 4-3 in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, getting goals from four players and 26 saves by goaltender Anders Franke. Mitchell Kierstad broke a 3-3 tie in the third period as Elk River improved to 4-0 since coach Tony Sarsland resigned in the middle of his 27th season amid a school district investigation into complaints against him. Sarsland has since rescinded his resignation and resumed teaching, but assistant Ben Gustafson has taken Sarsland’s place behind the bench. Andrew Zerban (23 goals, 7 assists, 30 points) is the leading scorer, followed by Jake Jaremko (9-16–25). Franke (16-8-2, 2.09 goals-against average, .924 save percentage), a four-year varsity player, is unquestionably the key for the Elks. … The Greyhounds, who have held down the top spot in Class AA most of the season, defeated St. Francis 7-0 on Tuesday for their eighth consecutive win. Senior linemates Jake Randolph (33-34–67) and Dom Toninato (28-35–63) are both Mr. Hockey candidates and headed to Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota Duluth, respectively. Ryan Lundgren (14-35–49) was the third member of that line for much of the season while Trevor Olson was out injured. Second-liners Conner Valesano (12-22–34) and Alex Toscano (17-14–31) are on a tear lately, while Meirs Moore (11-32–43) anchors a defense that has allowed just 490 shots on goal this season and has shut out its last three opponents. Goalies Dylan Parker (14-0, 1.23, .930) and Paige Skoog (11-1, 2.21, .894) have been stellar. The three-time defending section champions have beaten the Elks in each of those playoff runs, including the 2009 and 2010 finals. Coach Mike Randolph is four victories from 500 for his career.
Radio: KQDS-AM 1490
Proctor (11-15) At Hermantown (26-0)
What: Section 5A semifinal
When: 7 p.m.
Outlook: The fifth-seeded Rails survived a Sauk Rapids-Rice comeback to win 6-5 in overtime in the quarterfinals Thursday. Leading scorer Jeremy Lopez (22-25–47) netted the game-winner unassisted in a short-handed situation to prevent Proctor from blowing a 5-2 second-period lead. Ian Ecklund (24-22–46) and Jesse Scanlon (15-17–32) each have six power-play goals, but face a Hermantown squad that has nearly as many short-handed goals (7) as power-play goals allowed (9) all season, killing off 91 percent of opponents’ power plays. Goalie Ryan McCarthy (3.93) won only two games during the regular season but stopped 32 shots in the previous round. ... The top-ranked Hawks crushed Moose Lake Area 11-1 on Thursday, scoring nine times before allowing their first goal in five full games. Three players scored two goals apiece and Hermantown owned a 71-13 shots-on-goal advantage. Mr. Hockey finalist Jared Thomas (24-48–72) is seeking a third straight trip to the Class A finals as are veteran defensemen Jared Kolquist (10-25–35) and Brian LeBlanc 17-17–34). Andrew Mattson (14-23–37) and Chris Benson (18-16–34) give plenty of scoring options to a team that is averaging a goal at nearly a 40-percent rate on power plays. Goalie Matt Mensinger (20-0, 1.47, .934) has four shutouts this season. Coach Bruce Plante surpassed 400 career wins earlier this season.
Radio: WKLK-FM 96.5, KQDS-AM 1490
Duluth Denfeld (11-13-2) vs. Duluth Marshall (19-7)
What: Section 7A semifinal
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Hibbing Memorial Arena
Outlook: The fourth-seeded Hunters skated past Virginia-Mountain Iron-Buhl 5-1 in the quarterfinal round as leading scorer Levi Talarico (21-23–41) had a natural hat trick. Nick Forbort (14-13–27) is the second-leading scorer. Denfeld has rebounded from a six-game winless streak near the end of the regular season, during which it scored just nine goals. That skein included a 6-0 loss to Marshall that extended the Hunters’ winless run to 10 in a row (0-9-1) vs. the Hilltoppers. Goalie Zach Thompson (7-11-1, 3.74), who made 30 saves Thursday, is a three-year starter. … The top-seeded Hilltoppers blitzed Silver Bay 7-0 in the quarterfinals, putting a team-record 73 shots on goal. Anthony Miller (9-19–28) had two of the team’s goals. Mr. Hockey finalist Judd Peterson (42-35–77), who has committed to Division I St. Cloud State, tied Jack Connolly’s single-season team scoring record with three points. He has 13 power-play goals and four short-handed. Kris McKinzie (22-20–42) and Jake Bushey (7-25–32) are the next highest scorers. Goalie Christian Coffman (9-5, 2.13, .921 save percentage, four shutouts) is still sidelined with mononucleosis so Caden Flaherty (10-2, 2.85, two shutouts) gets the call.
Radio: KQDS-AM 1490
International Falls (16-10) vs. Hibbing-Chisholm (14-11)
What: Section 7A semifinal
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: IRA Civic Center, Grand Rapids
Outlook: The third-seeded Broncos cruised past Greenway 6-1 in the quarterfinals, getting three goals from Mason Meyer (24-13–34), two from Brett Musich (15-22–37) and three points from leading scorer Lucas Debenedet (27-32–59) during a 50-shot barrage. Debenedet has two hat tricks, a pair of six-point games and seven short-handed goals this season. Goalie Wes Gunnerson (14-10, 3.15) has started all but two games. … The No. 2-seeded Bluejackets routed Two Harbors 12-1 on Thursday, led by a hat trick from UMD recruit Adam Johnson (27-29–56) and two goals apiece from Billy Wherland and Derek Abrahamson. Joe Anderson (14-28–42) had one goal and five assists and is second on the team in scoring, while Josh Bestul (18-13–31) has nine power-play goals. Tyler Carlson has two shutouts in net this season. Hibbing won both regular-season meetings, 4-2 and 4-3, to stretch its winning streak over the Falls to five.
New Richmond (16-9) vs. Superior (14-9-1)
What: Wisconsin Sectional 1 championship
When: 2 p.m.
Where: Amery Ice Arena
Outlook: The Tigers defeated Hudson 6-3 in the semifinals to set up a rematch of last season’s section final, which New Richmond won 4-3 to snap Superior’s nine-year hold on the section and snap its own eight-year drought without a state tournament appearance. Senior forwards Nate Jones (19-22–41) and Parker Olson (13-14–27) and junior defenseman Austin Zywiec (16-8–24) lead the team in scoring, while senior Jacob Hilby (9-5, .885 save percentage) has the majority of starts in goal. … The Spartans downed the Siren Co-op 7-3 in the semifinals as junior Daniel Litchke (25-22–47) and sophomore Aaron Wakefield-Zubiate each scored two goals. Forward Nolan Holcombe (17-30–47) has seven assists in two playoff games to tie Litchke for team scoring leader. Six others have at least 20 points. Scott Crawford (5-5, 3.08) and Paxton Paine (7-4-1, 2.36) split goaltending duties throughout the regular season but Crawford has tended goal in each of the playoff games. Superior, which beat New Richmond 5-4 in December, holds the record for state tournament appearances with 33.
Radio: WNXR-FM 107.3