NHL Expansion Draft

The NHL Expansion Draft is coming up soon, at the NHL Awards on Wednesday, June 21st. Las Vegas will host the new NHL team at T-Mobile Arena. The team called the Vegas Golden Knights are the new NHL Expansion team and each time there is a new Expansion team, they are allowed to draft one player from each of the 30 other teams. Each team can protect either 7 forwards, 3 defenseman and 1 goalie or 8 skaters and 1 goalie. All 1st and 2nd year players, and unsigned drafted players are exempt from being drafted. The Vegas Golden Knights will also be receiving the 6th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Each team will likely lose an important asset because the Golden Knights will probably only take players under age 31 for safety, as those players are young and should be able to play longer than the veterans. Some of the top players likely to be drafted are Ducks’ RW Jakob Silfverberg, Wild’s D Marco Scandella, Predator’s C Colton Sissons, Penguin’s G Marc-Andre Fluery, and Maple Leafs’ C Leo Komarov. All of these players are either just finding their game or still have some game left in them. Colton Sissons is likely to be protected after having an unbelievable postseason with Nashville. The Vegas Golden Knights have already signed three non-NHLers: Reid Duke, Vadim Shipcahynov, and Tomas Hyka.

The Vegas Golden Knights are likely to not be a playoff team for a few years, but the Wild are well known for making the Western Conference Finals in just their 3rd season of play back in 2003, as an Expansion team. The Golden Knights have been fairly criticized as more of a 100% money, 0% hockey, reasoning as to why Las Vegas is getting a hockey team. I believe it was not a great move by the NHL for the fans morale. A popular and devoted city like Seattle is a town most fans believe deserves a hockey team. Especially after their basketball team left not too long ago. For now, all the fans can do is wait and see how this Expansion plays out.

Stanley Cup playoffs round 3 preview

The second round of the NHL playoffs wrapped up last Wednesday. Two game 7s occurred, while the other two series ended in six games.

The Nashville Predators took down the St. Louis Blues in 6 games. The Predators look to be the real deal this year as they swept the Blackhawks in the first round then went on to defeat the Blues in the second round. Their goaltender, Pekka Rinne, has been outstanding.

The other Western Conference team to advance were the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks defeated the Oilers in 7 games. Their captain, Ryan Getzlaf, has been very dominate for the Ducks, and is playing like a true leader. He’s 3rd in the league with 15 playoff points.

The Ducks and Predators will start their series on Friday, May 12th at 8pm CT. My prediction is that the Predators will win this series in 6 games.

Now on to the East, where the surprising Ottawa Senators are heading to the Eastern Conference final. They haven’t made the conference final since 2007. The Senators defeated the New York Rangers in 6 games; they have been led by captain Erik Karlsson. He’s playing through many injuries, but continues to play excellent.

They will get ready to face the defending champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals for a second straight year, in the second round. This is a recurring thing for the Capitals as they haven’t passed the second round since 1998. Even with the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk this season, they couldn’t break their streak. Many Penguins players played great including Evgeni Malkin who leads the league with 18 playoff points, and 13 assists, and Jake Guentzel who leads with 9 goals.

The Penguins and Senators will begin their series Saturday, May 13th at 6pm CT. My prediction is that the Penguins will win this series in 7 games.

NHL playoffs round 2 preview

The first round of the NHL playoffs came and left with many surprises. Starting with the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers were able to knock out the Montreal Canadiens in six games due to Montreal’s lack of scoring. The Ottawa Senators surprised many by beating the Boston Bruins in six games. Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan helped immensely with Ottawa having many injuries. Ottawa’s goalie Craig Anderson played hard for the Senators. His wife was diagnosed with cancer in February, and he’s been playing his best ever since. The Senators and Rangers will open their series in Ottawa on Thursday night, April 27th, at 6pm CT.

The reigning champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins showed no mercy against their rivals, the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Penguins defeated them in just five games with Penguins center Evgeni Malkin leading the league with 11 points in the playoffs so far. The Washington Capitals barely escaped the Toronto Maple Leafs, who drove the Capitals to six games, until Washington brought them down. Five of the six games went to overtime, which the Capitals won three of. The Capitals and Penguins will once again have a hyped up playoff series. Last year the Penguins beat the Capitals in the second round on their road to winning the cup. The teams will play game 1 in Washington D.C. on Thursday night, April 27th, at 6:30pm CT.

Now onto the Western Conference, which held many surprises. The Nashville Predators shocked the world and swept the best team in the West, the Chicago Blackhawks. No one saw this coming. Nashville has always been a dangerous team in the playoffs, but Chicago has always been the most dangerous. Goalie Pekka Rinne carried the Predators with a 0.70 GAA, 0.976 save percentage, and 2 shutouts in the four wins. He let up a total of just 3 goals, and had more points (2 assists) than any Chicago player.

The other Central Division series was the Minnesota Wild vs. the St. Louis Blues. The Wild dominated the whole series outshooting the Blues 182 to 134. The Wild couldn’t capitalize on their many chances. They only scored 8 goals, while the Blues scored 11. The goalies in this series were key. Blues’ goalie Jake Allen carried the Blues, while the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk did the best he could against a scary Blues offense. The Blues got out easily in 5 games winning both overtimes the series had. The Blues and Predators will start round 2 against each other on Wednesday, April 26th, in St. Louis at 7pm CT.

The Anaheim Ducks hosted the Calgary Flames for their series, and it was all Anaheim. The Ducks were 1 of 2 teams that swept their opponent. Anaheim won all but game 4 by one goal. In game 4 they won 3-1 to close out the series. Ryan Getzlaf led the Ducks with 3 goals and 2 assists, while Ducks’ goalie John Gibson posted a 9.26 GAA. The Ducks are heavy favorites in the West.

The Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks played to face Anaheim. The Oilers were carried by superstar Connor McDavid who led the league with 100 points at just 20 years old. Leon Draisaitl was quietly good for Edmonton scoring 77 points this season, but Edmonton was led by their goalie this series Cam Talbot. He had 2 shutouts, and besides letting up 5 goals in 1 game, he played amazing for the Oilers. The Oilers and Ducks will play Wednesday, April 26th, in Anaheim, at 9:30pm CT.

Right now the most likely teams that will play in the Stanley Cup are the Pittsburgh Penguins for the East, and the Anaheim Ducks for the West.

Stanley Cup predictions

The NHL’s 100th season only has a little than than 2 months to go before the end of the regular season. The league is starting to show which teams are great, good, decent, bad, and the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche are the worst team in the NHL and soon enough will be officially eliminated from the playoffs. As of February 24th, they have a record of 16-40-3 (35 points). The league’s best, the Washington Capitals, have 87 points.

The Western Conference has been weaker this year, with a few really good teams and then some disappointing teams. The Minnesota Wild have played their best hockey in franchise history and have a nice 3 point lead over Chicago. The San Jose Sharks also have a comfortable 3 point lead over Anaheim and Edmonton thanks to SJ defenseman Brent Burns’ 5 goals in the last 4 games.

As for the Eastern Conference, the worst team is just 12 points (6 games behind) out of a playoff spot, and the Atlantic division is still up for grabs where the Capitals have a good 5 point lead over Pittsburgh. This year, even with the Capitals great 40-12-7 record, they are not big favorites for winning the Stanley Cup. They have not made it past the second round since the 1997-98 season.

The Chicago Blackhawks are always favorites with superstars Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford, but some of their stars aren’t stepping up. Jonathan Toews has just 44 points this year, even though he missed 9 games, it’s still not his standard, but recently he put up 3 goals and 2 assists vs. Minnesota, so Chicago is hoping this might be his turnaround. Brent Seabrook also hasn’t been very productive with a -1/ plus-minus rating and only scoring 3 goals.

Another popular contender is last year’s runner-up, the San Jose Sharks. They’ve been playing good this year, and have been keeping Connor McDavid, and the Oilers, out of the top spot in the division, but they were best known for their play on the road, which was the best in 2015-16, but they already have more road losses this year than all of last year.

My last honorable mention, for possible contender, is the reigning champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins. This year they have 3 guys with 50+ points, which leads the league, but they’re having trouble catching up to Washington for the division lead. They have been deadly at home – winning 24 games, but have won only 13 on the road, which will be a big problem once they enter their opponent’s playoff atmosphere arena.

My main prediction to win it all this year is the Minnesota Wild. I’m trying to not be biased, but after watching this team win and win over and over, they really qualify as contenders. They have 8 players with at least 30 points, and 10 players with up to 10+ goals. This team doesn’t have a ton of superstars, but they mainly just work hard and have a team with great chemistry. A lot of this is thanks to new head coach Bruce Boudreau, who has the best winning record, percentage wise, in the NHL. In the offseason they added Eric Staal who has been a great addition to the team for just $3.5 million per year.

They also made a smart signing in getting Chris Stewart, who is a well-liked guy in the locker room. The younger players have really stepped up too. Nino Niederreiter is tied with Mikael Granlund with 19 goals, and  Granlund also leads the team, and is 12th in the league, with 55 points. Also, 5 of the 10 top plus-minus players in the NHL are Wild players, with Ryan Suter leading the league with a +33 rating. This team is not only contenders now but also for the future too; being the 10th youngest team in the league with an average age of 26.96. 

The main reason to the Wild’s success is goalie Devan Dubnyk though. He has by far put up the best numbers in the NHL, leading all goalies with 32 wins, a .933 save percentage, is 2nd place with a 2.01 goals against average (GAA), and is tied 4th with 5 shutouts this season. He’s been lights out and has really proved he is worthy of winning the Vezina Trophy (awarded to the best goalie during that season).

Note: All data presented is as of February 24th.

North Star College Cup results

The North Star College Cup is a college hockey tournament that consists of 5 Division 1 hockey schools from Minnesota. Those teams are: the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Bemidji State Beavers, St. Cloud State Huskies, Minnesota State Mavericks and the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. The tournament started back in 2014.

The University of Minnesota won in the cup 2014, Bemidji State won in 2015, and St.Cloud State won last year in 2016. 2017 marks the 4th annual tournament and most likely the last.

The tournament has been taking place at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, and it has not been drawing a crowd. This year’s tournament took place Friday to Saturday, January 27th and 28th. Last year only 23,584 people combined showed up for both days, which is not a lot considering a Minnesota Wild game usually has 18,000+ in attendance per game.

This year’s teams consisted of just 4 of the original 5 teams, with Minnesota State withdrawing. The Duluth Bulldogs took home the cup this year in a 2-1 overtime win against St. Cloud State. St. Cloud State got to the championship by defeating Bemidji State 2-1, while the Bulldogs defeated the Gophers in an exciting 3-2 win. This all set up for a boring 3rd place game in which Minnesota won 4-0 over Bemidji State.

Late in the 1st period, of the championship game, St. Cloud State defenseman Will Brogen opened the scoring with a wrist shot from the right side of the left circle; off a pass from Forward Robby Jackson. The Bulldogs responded just 42 seconds into the second period, as Alex Lafallo scored by finding a loose puck in front of the net off a pass from behind the net and shooting it past the goaltender.

b143082

image taken from: NCAA.com

Both teams had tremendous chances for the rest of the second period and for the whole 3rd period, but neither team could score another goal which sent the game to overtime. With 6 minutes into overtime Duluth defenseman Neal Pionk shot a puck from the point and it was deflected to the left side of the net where left-handed Duluth forward Kyle Osterberg shot the puck past goaltender Jeff Smith. The Minnesota-Duluth fan section erupted out of their seats as the Bulldogs had won their first North Star College Cup.

This was Duluth’s first championship appearance since they lost in a shootout 5-4 vs. Minnesota in 2014. Again, this is more than likely the last North Star College Cup because of the lack of attendance, but it will always be something the players and local hockey fans enjoyed.

Sports schedule: Feb 13-18

Activities the Week of Feb.13-18

Monday Feb. 13:

  • Co-Ed Nordic Ski @ Como Park Grade Level Costume Meet  3:45pm (Bus 2:30/4:45pm)

Tuesday Feb. 14:

  • Girls Basketball @ Central C-Squad 4pm  JV 5:30pm Varsity @ 7pm (Bus 3:20/8:15pm)
  • Boys Basketball vs. Central @ HP 9th & JV 5:30pm  Varsity @ 7pm

Wednesday Feb. 15:

  • Co-Ed Nordic Ski State Tournament @ Biwabik (Bus7am/ Return 4pm)

Thursday, Feb. 16:

  • Co-Ed Nordic Ski State Tournament @ Biwabik (Bus7am on 2/15/4pm return)
  • Boys Basketball @ Harding 9th & JV 5:30m  Varsity @ 7pm (Bus 4/8:30pm)
  • Boys Varsity Hockey vs. Becker/Big Lake @ Highland Arena 4:20pm

Friday Feb. 17:

  • Girls Basketball vs. Harding @ HP  C-Squad 4pm  JV 5:30pm  Varsity @ 7pm

Saturday Feb. 18:

  • Boys Hockey vs. Johnson  @ Phalen Arena JV  5pm  Varsity @ 7pm

Hannah Zavoral leading in scoring for girls hockey

This year the 2016-2017 Blades hockey team has been getting a lot of positive attention because of one of their players: Hannah Zavoral.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-9-54-18-am

The Blades is a co-op girls hockey team that brings girls from any St. Paul Public School. In the past, the team has had a hard time getting enough girls to sign up for the team. This year, the team has 24 girls and some even play for both junior varsity  and varsity teams. The coaches have rescheduled games in the past so that junior varsity and varsity don’t play on the same night.

Hannah Zavoral is a senior from Highland Park. She has played for the Blades since she was a freshman. Hannah played defense from freshman to junior year. This year she was moved to forward. Now she is leading in scoring for girls hockey in Minnesota, with 38 goals this season since January 15th. Due to her impressive skills, Hannah has been approached by collage hockey scouts.

Hannah has also had a good impact on her teammates. Helping them gain confidence in their own skills as a team will give the team a winning mindset going into next year’s season without her.

Even though The Blades had a good season, it’s unlikely they will make it to the state tournament this year, but hopefully next year the team will make an appearance.

Hockey merge

On the night of Wednesday, October 26, Saint Paul Public Schools merged the Central and Highland hockey teams. For the past 5 years, Highland Park Hockey has been it’s own team, with Como and Central being merged together. There are mixed feelings about the merge, on one hand it brings in new, good players. However, on the other hand Central/Como were Highland’s biggest rivals.

In an interview with Charlie Dombrow, a Junior at HPHS, and #14 on the hockey team, he says “I don’t think it was necessary because they [SPPS] admitted they had enough players, just not the amount of quality players. This is the exact situation that we were in 2 years ago.” His viewpoint is interesting, and valid as well. Scots hockey has struggled for the past couple of years but showed promise last year, and looked like a good team even before the merge this year.

Gabe Nelson, a Junior at HPHS and #12 for Scots hockey, is divided on the issue. “I think it’s good for the future of the team because it’ll encourage more players to join and play. We’ll have a JV team that will develop varsity players,” he says. “But it sucks for the community this year because the Highland families worked really hard to get us where we are.” Highland just got a brand new locker room at the Schultz Arena, designed specifically for them. The locker room was made with help from the parents and community around the team, and it makes sense why they would be hesitant to share it with their ex rival.

Overall, Scots hockey could benefit from this merge. With the increase of players having the opportunity to join, and having new talent on the team, the Scots could improve. However, it just doesn’t feel right for some of the players. The rivalry with Central has been fueled for years in all sports with intense games and heartbreaking losses. Either way, I will still support Scots hockey this year.

Highland winter sports

The fall sports season is almost up which means it’s time for our winter sports to begin. Here is an over view of all of Highland’s winter sports.

The Boys Hockey season will begin on November 14th, 2016. If you have experience with ice skating or play outside of school, you should consider joining the team.

The Boys Swim and Dive team, the Trojans, start their season on November 28th. Last year the team broke a relay record that had been  standing since 1983. The swim team will have a sign up meeting in early to mid November if you are interested in joining the team.

The Girls Basketball team’s season starts November 14th. Go and sign up even if you aren’t the best player, give it all your effort and you will do good. It’s also a good way to meet girls who have the same interest as you.

The Boys Basketball team’s season starts on November 21st. There is open gym time for players wanting to get extra practice in after school before the season starts. All interested players are invited to attend. The dates are October 24th & 26th and November 2nd & 7th, from 5:30-7:00pm.

The Girls Hockey team, also known as The Blades, starts their season on October 31st, 2016. There are captain’s practices, which are open to all interested players on October 24th – 28th, from 4:10 – 5:10 pm at the West Side Arena.

The Nordic Ski team’s official season starts on November 14th, but their practice starts early, on November 8th. The Nordic ski team is one of the co-ed teams at Highland. For information on necessary equipment visit the team’s wiki page: Team Wiki Webpage  which can also be found on the Highland Nordic Ski page.

Highland’s Wrestling team starts their season on November 21st. Listen to the daily announcements for further information.

The Highland Gymnastics team’s season starts on November 14th. They have been conference champions every year since 2009. They had an informational and sign up meeting on October 24th, but there is still time to sign up.

Other winter sports this year include Adapted Floor Hockey, Cheerleading, Alpine Ski and Danceline. For more information on those sports, visit their page on Highland’s website: http://spps.schoolwires.net/domain/1192

If you are interested in joining any winter sport, make sure you have all forms signed and turned in, you turned in your sports fee, and you have an up to date physical on file before the first practice.

Everyone can join Highland’s winter sports teams, regardless of experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boys hockey update

The Highland Park boys hockey team lost their first game of the season, Saturday, November 21st, against Simley 1 to 4. With the devastating loss still fresh in their minds, I decided to go interview some of the players on the team.

The first player I interviewed was Lee Froelich. I asked Lee what he thought about the unfortunate defeat out in the ice. He replied, “I felt bad about me and my team losing but I feel like our loss was a great learning experience.”  

One other player I interviewed was Jacob Boje. I asked him what could he have done better, and he said, “There could have been better communication between the team and we need to work on it at our practice more often.”

Upcoming opponents include:

~b196704Minnetonka

Grand Rapids

Park of Cottage Grove

Apple Valley

Benilde-St. Margaret’s

Duluth Marshall

 

Please come out and support the team!