The CCM High Performance Tier 1 Leagues returned to the ice for their second full weekend of competition around the state. In addition, the Girls 15 Tier 1 League kicked off their schedule with a series of games in Eden Prairie, MN.
After two weeks of action, there are a number of themes emerging across the different Leagues, but a common theme across all of the age levels is the depth of talent in Minnesota as each of the leaders in the Leagues’ standings represents different regions of the state.
On top of that, it looks like the battle for the league titles should be a wide open race. The Youth 14 Green Giants had a strong showing in Bemidji as they knocked of the home team and only other unbeaten Youth 14 team, the Blue Ox. The Blue Ox have been the only team to beat the second place Lakers. The Moose, who currently sit fifth in the standings, showed they can compete with anyone as they’ve tied the Green Giants and held leads over the Blue Ox and Lakers before losing by one goal against each.
Much the same can be said about the Youth 15 League. The Walleye appear to have a strong hold in the standings with an early five-point lead, but after them, there are four teams within two points of second place.
Timely goal scoring may be the key that separates the Girls 14 teams as the league has proven to be filled with strong goaltending and defense. Five of the seven teams have given up 15 goals or less through six games. The Moose have allowed only five goals so far, as goalies Amelia Julian (Eastview) and Amanda Lackmann (Lakeville North) are sporting a combined .955 save percentage.
Another highlight of this past weekend was interactions with local NCAA Division I hockey programs. University of Minnesota Duluth Women's Hockey head coach Maura Crowell spoke with the Girls 14 players and parents at AMSOIL Arena. Meanwhile, the Youth 14 participants received a special tour of the Sanford Center, the Bemidji State University locker rooms and workout facilities guided by assistant men's hockey coach Justin Hale.
Game of the Week: Youth 14 – Moose v. Blue Ox
The Moose and Blue Ox rewarded the parents and fans who made it to the early Saturday game at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. The teams put on quite a show, trading momentum swings and scoring goals in bunches along the way.
The Moose proved to be the better early risers as they controlled the first period. Ben Konik got the Moose on the board, scoring off passes from Bjorn Kilen and Owen Quast. On his next shift, Konik assisted defenseman Andrew Boemer to give the Moose a 2-0 lead as they headed to the first intermission.
The break in action may have been just what the Blue Ox needed as they came out of the gates flying in the second period. After getting outshot 10-5 in the first, the Blue Ox reversed that trend and poured on pressure, tallying 19 shots in the second period. It didn’t take long for their attack to impact the scoreboard either. Michael Overbo, Tate Hammitt and Landon Parker scored in succession to turn a two goal deficit into a 3-2 lead for the Blue Ox.
Kilen responded for the Moose though, picking up his second point of the game and tying the score at 3-3 just a minute after the Blue Ox took the lead. Then, Henry Eischen scored with a minute left in the second to give the Moose a one goal cushion heading into the third period.
The final period of action was the most even of the game as the teams battled hard for the win, keeping each other at bay for most of the period. With 4:01 remaining, Joey Pierce connected on a feed from Christian Galatz and the Blue Ox took control of the momentum. Finn Hoops and John Bonner added two more goals shortly thereafter, giving the Blue Ox three goals in less than three minutes and a 6-4 lead. Konik pulled the Moose within one with his second goal and fourth point of the game, but the Blue Ox held on for a 6-5 win.
The CCM Minnesota Hockey High Performance Tier 1 Leagues are a prestigious series of tryouts, skill development sessions and competition weekends that provide the top players from each district or section a chance to play with and against the best players in the state. The Leagues are conducted in accordance with USA Hockey rules and all teams are eligible for USA Hockey’s Tier 1 National Championships.