It's way too early to know if Edina will be a step ahead of Andover next season, but our best guess is yes — by a fraction. Photo by Gary Mukai, SportsEngine
The sweat, saliva and tears haven’t yet dried after a thrilling conclusion to the state tournament. Does that make it too early to make predictions for the coming season?
It’s WAY too early to serve up opinions for the 2020-21 season, but of course this hasn’t stopped us before. So here we go with our latest installment of our way-too-early rankings.
First, though, a word of warning: We think next season will end in eerily similar fashion to this one, which is to say we’re not going to go wild with wacky predictions involving off-the-grid-long-shot teams.
Oh, and we hope you enjoyed Saturday's Class 2A championship showdown between Andover and Edina because that matchup very well might be appointment viewing in late February for years to come.
This is the golden age of girls’ hockey in Edina, where cake is the entree of choice and championship trophies are as abundant as leaves on a maple tree. The Hornets had won three straight state titles before losing to Andover in last Saturday’s title game. Call it a minor interruption of your regularly scheduled programming, as the Hornets appear poised for another title run next season with the return of leading scorers Emma Conner and Hannah Chorske, who will both be seniors, and standout defender Vivian Jungels, who just wrapped her sophomore season. As for the most important position of all, Uma Corniea, arguably the state’s top goaltender, will be a sophomore.
This should serve as juicy bulletin-board (are bulletin boards even a thing anymore?) material for the Huskies, as they can play the no-respect card to start next season: “We’re picked No. 2? Even though we are the defending state champions returning oodles of top-caliber players?” Correct on both counts. Amazingly, after senior leading scorer Jamie Nelson, the Huskies look to return their next nine top scorers. Nine! The Big Three of Peyton Hemp, Madison Kaiser and Gabby Krause lead the parade of returning standouts.
Key losses: McKayla Machlitt, Chloe Corbin, Sam Nordstrom
Who can challenge Edina and Andover at the top? Who knows? We submit the Crimson as the best of the rest, largely because of the return of Lauren Stenslie and Tristana Tatur — a pair of 20-goal scorers capable of shredding opposing defenses as quickly as you can say well-placed-one-timer. Freshman Stella Retrum emerged as a scoring threat this past season, too, giving Maple Grove a potentially lethal top line. Brooke Cassibo’s return in goal — she played almost all the minutes — provides yet another boost.
We begin a run of three straight Lake Conference teams that are usually separated by no more than an eyelash, leading with the Trojans who threw a surprise scare at Edina in a section final before losing by a goal. Gretchen Branton, a junior, and Sloane Matthews, a sophomore, each had more than 20 goals this past season as Wayzata’s top scorers. Both are committed to play at Clarkson. Mallory Coffin, who will be a junior next season, should help anchor the defense in front of either goaltender Annika Lavender or Julia Kimlinger, who shared time with Bergeron in goal as a junior this past season.
Losing Langseth, one of five Ms. Hockey finalists, hurts. A lot. The return of Grace Kuipers, a likely contender for Ms. Hockey next season, helps. A lot. Call it a wash. The Eagles’ secret weapon is goaltender Molly Goergen, who played every minute last season as a junior, posting four shutouts. OK, Goergen’s steady play isn’t much of a secret, but her return — along with Kuipers’ — is enough to keep perennially strong Eden Prairie among the state’s top 10 despite the loss of several top players beyond Langseth.
The losses are plentiful, but then so is the talent in a Minnetonka program that had its dynasty run of three straight titles from 2011-13. Defender Rory Guilday and her 80-mph slapshot is as good a player as any to build a team around, and Grace Sadura appears to be the next great Skipper forward. Defender Hanna Baskin (Minnesota Duluth), goaltender Brynn Dulac (Cornell) and forward Kayley Crawford (Harvard) join Cornell-committed Guilday as players who will be seniors with Division I commitments.
Key losses: Rose Beeman
Incredibly, Beeman, a goaltender who shared time with junior Carly Greene this past season, projects to be the Red Knights’ lone loss as she'll be graduating. That gives Benilde-St. Margaret’s, which suffered just seven regular-season losses and fell to Edina in the semifinals of the section playoffs, instant entry in our way-too-early top 10. Juniors Olivia Haag (Boston University), Abby Hancock (Brown) and Anna Podein (Vermont), and sophomore Sophie Melsness (Merrimack) are among the top returnees, a list headlined by scoring leader Mary Zavoral, who will be a junior next season.
The Bears will lose a whopping 92 regular-season goals to graduation this spring, leaving the scoring cupboard nothing short of ransacked. But Blake is one of those gold-standard programs that replaces elite players with elite players, which is to say we’re not expecting much of a dropoff. Among the Bears’ 13 underclassmen this past season were sophomore goaltender Molly Haag and freshman forward Suzy Higuchi, the team’s top returning goal scorer. Elizabeth Morrison, who will be a sophomore next season, has the most points of any returner and defender Julia Blum, a Brown commit, will be a junior standout.
What to think about the Ponies? Two top veteran scorers will graduate in Einan and Eder-Zdechlik, but two remain in Morgan Wohlers and Alexis Huber, who will be seniors next season. Return eighth-grade scoring phenom Josie St. Martin and freshman defender Kylie Ligday to the mix and Stillwater might just have the scoring punch and defensive wherewithal to get past section nemesis Hill-Murray next season. Junior goaltender Sophie Cronk, who played the majority of minutes, adds another measure of stability.
Here’s another bluebood program that seemingly has taken up permanent residence in both the top 10 and at the state tournament. Junior Ava Stinnett seems perfectly capable of filling the role of scoring wizard held last season by Steigauf, and Olivia Boyer, a forward, and Allie Franco, a defender committed to Minnesota, will also have increased responsibilities in their junior seasons.
12. Apple Valley
13. North Wright County
14. Forest Lake
3. South St. Paul
5. Mound Westonka
6. Chisago Lakes
9. Duluth Marshall
Just missed: Fergus Falls, Hutchinson, Mahtomedi, Mankato West, River Lakes, Rochester Lourdes, East Grand Forks
Listed in alphabetical order
Gretchen Branton, Wayzata
Hannah Chorske, Edina
Emma Conner, Edina
Makenna Deering, South St. Paul
Maren Friday, Duluth Marshall
Rachel Golnitz, Forest Lake
Rory Guilday, Minnetonka
Sophie Helgeson, Roseau
Peyton Hemp, Andover
Geno Hendrickson, Warroad
Gabby Krause, Andover
Grace Kuipers, Eden Prairie
Jenna Lawry, Chisago Lakes
Sadie Lindsay, Breck
Emily Zumwinkle, Breck
Others: Maggie Hanzel (Rochester Lourdes), Bailey Olson (Willmar), Lauren Stenslie (Maple Grove), Tristana Tatur (Maple Grove), Claire Vekich (Grand Rapids/Greenway), Mary Zavoral (Benilde-St. Margaret’s).
Listed in alphabetical order
Brooke Cassibo, Maple Grove
Brynn Dulac, Minnetonka
Molly Goergen, Eden Prairie
Tag(s): Home Big Nine Mankato West Big South Luverne Central Lakes Fergus Falls River Lakes Willmar Greater Minnesota East Grand Forks Roseau Warroad IMAC Blake Breck Grand Rapids/Greenway Rochester Lourdes Lake Eden Prairie Edina Minnetonka Wayzata Lake Superior Cloquet/Esko/Carlton Duluth Marshall Proctor/Hermantown Metro East Hill-Murray Mahtomedi Metro West Benilde-St. Margaret's Mississippi 8 Chisago Lakes North Wright County Northwest Suburban Andover Maple Grove South Suburban Apple Valley Metro-South Suburban East Forest Lake Stillwater Wright County Hutchinson Mound Westonka/SWC Orono