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Eden Valley-Watkins Is Ready To Make A Run
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/20/2019 6:25:02 PM

EDEN VALLEY – The past two seasons have been exceptional for the girls basketball team from Eden Valley-Watkins. Two years ago the Eagles finished with a record of 24-4 and last season they were 26-4. That 50-8 total, however, has one caveat: neither time did they make it to the state tournament.

Eden Valley-Watkins has been to state, including in 2001 when the Eagles lost to Fosston 50-45 in the Class 1A championship game. They also went to state in 2006, as well as three times in the 1980s, with two runner-up finishes.

“It’s been a while,” said Tom Jansen, in his 22nd year as the Eagles head coach, after they defeated visiting Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted 63-28 on Thursday night.

More than halfway through the 2018-19 regular season, the Eagles are making headlines. They are unbeaten in 15 games and ranked third in Class 2A by Minnesota Basketball News. The Eagles' goals, as emblazoned on team shirts, include but are not dominated by making it to the big show in Minneapolis; the shirts say simply “3-13” because the state tournament starts on March 13.

“Our main goals are to try and get better every day in practice, and then conference champs, playing in the now, always playing right now, we don’t think about the future or the past,” said junior Halle Jansen, the coach’s daughter and one of three 1,000-point scorers on the team.

“We’re playing every game one at a time, but we know (state is ) where we want to get to,” she added.

The other 1,000-point scorers are senior Emma Schultz and junior Olivia Kuechle. Schultz is averaging 16.4 points this season, Kuechle 13 and Jansen 10.6. That trio leads a talented squad that presents multiple problems for opponents.

“The challenge with them is they’re just so quick and long,” said Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted coach Rick Baumann. “And Tom does such a great job of getting those girls to play together. They close out, they pressure you, they make you play faster than you want to play. And they all contribute.”

The Eagles have won by an average score of 64-30 this season. Their closest finish was a 46-36 win over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on Dec. 14.

The Eden Valley-Watkins players talk about chemistry as one of the main components in their success.

“Our team chemistry is like no other,” said Kuechle.

Schultz said, “We’ve been playing together since fourth and fifth grade. It just builds our chemistry. We know what each other can do, we know where everyone will be at certain points in time, we just know each other so well.”

Coach Jansen concurs.

“The chemistry is fantastic,” he said. “The kids get along with each other so well, they play for each other. There’s no selfishness. We have three 1,000-point scorers, which is kind of odd, but they’re extremely unselfish. And they’re great to coach. They work so hard, they’re super kids, so it’s been fun.”

Last season ended with a one-point loss to Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in the Section 3 championship game. Two years ago, the Eagles fell to Holy Family Catholic in overtime in the section semifinals.

Being unbeaten and highly ranked can mean the proverbial target on the back, but the if Eagles feel any pressure it’s self-inflicted.

“I wouldn’t call it pressure. I would call it more motivation,” Halle Jansen said. “The last two years we lost in overtime and then lost by one point, so I think we’re motivating ourselves to where we want to go.”

So far, everything is working according to plan.

“In their roles they do a great job playing together as a team and they’re consistent,” Baumann said. “It’s tough to play against them. There’s no one girl you can really take away. It’s one of those things that they have so many different weapons and so many things they can do.”

--See a photo gallery on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, download “Preps Today with John Millea” on your favorite podcast app and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.



For Dodge County Hockey, Even Practice Means A Road Trip
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/17/2019 10:48:48 AM

After Tuesday night’s game at Doug Woog Arena in South St. Paul, the Dodge County boys hockey team boarded a charter bus for the trip back to their home rink in Kasson to stow their gear. After they arrived there, some of the players still had more driving ahead of them before getting home.

The Dodge County Wildcats are not the typical high school squad. It’s a cooperative team, with a roster that includes players from five schools in southern Minnesota: Kasson-Mantorville, Pine Island, Byron, Triton and Zumbrota-Mazeppa. Two other schools (Hayfield and Blooming Prairie) are part of the coop but have no hockey players on the roster this season.

“Dodge County” is as good a moniker as any, despite the fact that Zumbrota, Pine Island and Byron aren’t in Dodge County; Blooming Prairie has one foot in Dodge County and the other in Steele County.

The only community with indoor ice is Kasson, where the Wildcats boys and girls teams play their home games.

“It makes it a unique challenge, just with logistics and getting to the rink,” said first-year head coach Nick Worden. “Pine Island’s about a half hour away, Zumbrota is probably 40 minutes, so that’s a pretty big commitment to make every day.”

A 2-0 loss to South St. Paul (6-9-1) dropped the Wildcats’ record to 1-14-1, but there is reason for optimism. The numbers of hockey players in the coop is climbing, from 38 this season to possibly the mid-50s next season.

“Numbers are not a problem,” Worden said. “We have a great group of kids coming up that we’re excited about, and we’re not very far away from being a decent hockey team.”

Despite the lack of on-ice success this season, the players are excited about the opportunity.

“I feel like we’ve been getting a lot better these last three, four games,” said Charlie Blaisdell, a sophomore at Kasson-Mantorville who leads the team in scoring with six goals and seven assists.

“We’ve been playing 10 times better than we did in the first couple games this season. I think the turnaround has been pretty good.”

Nick Retzer, a senior from Byron, said, “I definitely agree. The season is fun, it’s a lot of fun, especially playing hockey with these guys. We’re getting better throughout the season.”

Retzer said having players from different schools can be a plus on the ice.

“I honestly think it brings us closer together. There’s more of a team culture, that when we’re there, we’re there for hockey and to play as a team, more than even schools that are all together.”

The Wildcats have been outscored 89-32 in their 16 games, an average of 5.5 goals to 2. In Tuesday’s game at South St. Paul, the Wildcats had 20 shots on goal to 50 for the Packers, but Dodge County had numerous scoring opportunities and enthusiasm never wavered. Senior goaltender Cole Kundert had a .960 save percentage in only his fourth game of the season.

“Getting the kids to jell together and the friendships is one thing we try to focus on a lot,” said Worden, 36, who played hockey at Rochester Century High School as well as junior hockey with the Rochester Ice Hawks.

“They played hockey growing up together but it’s different when you’re not in school together every day. The relationships, that’s a big piece.”

Ten games remain on the regular-season schedule, starting with Friday’s date with Southwest Christian/Richfield at Dodge County Ice Arena in Kasson. The postseason is a real challenge for the Wildcats because while the schools in the coop are relatively small, the total enrollment puts them in Class 2A Section 1 with much larger schools from Lakeville, Rochester, Farmington, Owatonna and Hastings.

“That makes it hard for us to compete,” said Worden (pictured), who was a Wildcats assistant coach a year ago. “There’s an opportunity to appeal, and I think we might pursue that. I think it would give our kids an opportunity to compete more.”

In February the MSHSL will begin the reclassification process, which takes place every two years. During that process, Dodge County could appeal to be placed in Class 1A for the next two years.

In the meantime, the Wildcats will continue to hit the road … just to get to practice.

“Sometimes we practice at 3:30, sometimes at 5 o’clock, sometimes at 6 in the morning,” Worden said. “All the schools are just phenomenal to help out and make it possible. We appreciate that.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, download “Preps Today with John Millea” on your favorite podcast app and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.



Class 1A Boys Hockey Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/17/2019 10:43:50 AM

Provided by Let's Play Hockey.

CLASS 1A
1. Hermantown 11-3-1 1
2. St. Cloud Cathedral 15-1-0 2
3. Mahtomedi 12-2-1 3
4. East Grand Forks 13-4-0 4
5. Thief River Falls 11-4-2 5
6. Alexandria 11-4-0 8
7. Totino-Grace 11-4-0 10
8. Orono 9-6-0 6
9. Sartell-St. Stephen 11-4-0 7
10. Warroad 9-6-0 9
11. Monticello 10-5-1 11
12. Greenway 6-12-0 12
13. Duluth Denfeld 8-5-1 13
14. North Branch 12-3-2 14
15. Marshall 15-2-0 16
16. Mankato East 9-6-1 17
17. Northfield 11-4-0 18
18. Minnesota River 13-3-0
19. Mound Westonka 13-4-0 19
20. Detroit Lakes 9-3-2 15




Class 2A Boys Hockey Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/17/2019 10:43:26 AM

Provided by Let's Play Hockey.

CLASS 2A
1. Minnetonka 15-0-1 1
2. Andover 15-0-1 2
3. Edina 12-1-1 3
4. Maple Grove 11-2-1 4
5. Duluth East 10-3-2 5
6. White Bear Lake 12-2-1 6
7. Blaine 8-2-2 7
8. Eden Prairie 8-4-3 8
9. St. Thomas Academy 12-3-1 9
10. Chaska 10-5-0 10
11. Rosemount 13-3-0 13
12. Wayzata 9-4-2 14
13. Hill-Murray 9-3-2 12
14. Benilde-St. Margaret's 10-5-0 11
15. Roseau 12-2-1 17
16. Moorhead 9-6-1 15
17. Blake 9-5-0 16
18. Cretin-Derham Hall 9-5-1 18
19. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 7-9-0
20. Eagan 10-5-0



Class 1A Girls Hockey Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/17/2019 10:42:56 AM

Provided by Let's Play Hockey.

CLASS 1A
1. Warroad 18-0-0 1
2. Breck 14-6-0 2
3. Mound Westonka 16-0-3 3
4. South St. Paul 12-5-2 5
5. Proctor/Hermantown 12-7-2 4
6. Thief River Falls 13-5-0 6
7. Rochester Lourdes 11-7-1 7
8. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 14-5-0 8
9. East Grand Forks 11-6-2 9
10. Duluth Marshall 12-6-0 10
11. Fergus Falls 15-5-0 11
12. Alexandria 10-11-0 13
13. Delano/Rockford 11-8-1 15
14. St. Paul United 7-10-2 12
15. Mahtomedi 9-8-2 14
16. Hibbing/Chisholm 8-11-0 16
17. Minneapolis 13-6-1 17
18. Simley 10-9-1 18
19. Hutchinson 9-7-3 19
20. Chisago Lakes 8-11-1 20




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