By: Nick Clark ' MnJHL Director of Media Relations
The Tier III, Junior A national hockey tournament is coming to Rochester, Minn. in April, and preparations are more than underway.
The tournament, which is sanctioned by USA Hockey, will take place April 1-5 and will include teams from five separate Junior A hockey leagues from across the nation.
The Minnesota Junior Hockey League (MnJHL) and Central States Hockey League (CSHL) will each have three teams in Rochester for nationals, while the Atlantic Junior Hockey League (AJHL), Western States Hockey League (WSHL) and Northern Pacific Hockey League (Nor Pac) each will bring two.
The CSHL was granted a third team based on the national championship won last year by the St. Louis Jr. Blues. The MnJHL was awarded a third team for serving as the host league.
The addition of a third team from both the MnJHL and CSHL came after the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL) declined an invitation to participate in this years national tournament.
Despite the EJHLs absence, the tournament is expected to produce the type of action one would expect with so much on the line.
úThe excitement is beginning to build,Ě said MnJHL president and acting commissioner Ken Gaber. úThe Minnesota Junior Hockey League, in partnership with the Rochester Amateur Sports Commission, are anticipating a memorable experience for all the players and fans that attend the tournament.Ě
The Rochester Amateur Sports Commission (RASC) has established a website (rochsports.org/hockey) dedicate solely to the national tournament, with information on ticket packages, hotels, and travel, as well as ways to learn about what to do in Rochester while you are there.
The efforts from the RASC have quickly put to rest any concerns on how their community would deal with the weeklong influx of hockey.
úRochester has a sports commission with a team of full time employees that run tournaments such as this and are well versed on assisting teams and guests with their needs,Ě said RASC executive director Ed Hruska. úWe are thrilled to be hosting this event and will do all we can to assure all visitors they have a great experience while in Rochester.Ě
In addition to the actual tournament, the week will also include USA Hockeys Best of the Rest Tournament. Teams comprised of players from the AJHL, WSHL, Nor Pac, CSHL and MnJHL will be competing in that field.
Should they not qualify through the MnJHLs playoffs, the Rochester Ice Hawks will also play in the Best of the Rest tournament.
Qualifying for the tournament will very depending on the league.
The MnJHL will use its Bush Cup playoffs to determine the three teams it will send to nationals.
Each of the teams that qualify for the playoff finals will go, and the third qualifier will come down to a best-of-three series between the two losers of the playoff semifinals.
More information on the national tournament will be posted at mnjhl.com as it is released.
Around the MnJHL '
Edina Lakers: The Lakers opened up their week by beating the Minnesota Owls 6-2 in a Wednesday matinee. Tyler Robison (Omaha, Neb.) had a pair of goals in the win, Ethan Hyden (Green Bay, Wis.) scored once and assisted on another, Carl Krieger (Oakdale, Minn.) had three assists and Alex Chuhel (Cottage Grove, Minn.) two in the win.
Granite City Lumberjacks: Granite City picked up its most noteworthy victory to date this season with a 3-1 win over Rochester Friday. Bobby Chayka (Hardwick, N.J.) scored twice for the Lumberjacks, which limited the potent Ice Hawks to just 14 shots. Granite City also shutout the Minnesota Wildcats last weekend. Riley Bengtson (Hutchinson, Minn.) had a goal and an assist in the win, and Zac Enstrom (South Windsor, Conn.) finished with 19 saves to record his first shutout of the season in a 4-0 Saturday night victory.
Hudson Crusaders: Hudsons Justin Gortman (Raleigh, N.C.), the reigning MnJHL Goaltender of the Month, turned aside 27 shots in shutting out the Edina Lakers for the second time in the past month. Cody Crouch (Eagan, Minn.) and Brent Finnegan (Woodbury, Minn.) each scored first period goals for Hudson, and Gortman did the rest in what was a 2-0 victory on Friday.
Minnesota Flying Aces: The Flying Aces added four points to their season total last weekend, beating both the Minnesota Wildcats and Hudson Crusaders. Zach Wilkinson (Chanhassen, Minn.) and Dane Shaugabay (Warroad, Minn.) each had multiple point nights in a 6-5 win over the Wildcats on Friday. Two days later, Cole Reisenauer (Dickenson, N.D.) scored twice and Jake Erickson (Bismarck, N.D.) set up two goals in a 3-1 win over Hudson.
Minnesota Owls: A four game week ended with a three game winning streak for the Owls last weekend. Jake Schlegel (St. Louis Park, Minn.) had a pair of goals in a 4-2 win over Twin Cities Friday. Nick Ernst (Blue Island, Ill.) had four assists and Greg Erickson (Elk River, Minn.) two goals in a 5-1 win over Hudson Saturday, and Paul Sorensen (Bismarck, N.D.) finished with three points in a 7-5 win at the Northern Lights Sunday.
Minnesota Wildcats: The Minnesota Wildcats got single goals from five different players, including Luke Bayers (Blaine, Minn.) goal and assist, in a 6-5 loss at the Flying Aces Friday.
Rochester Ice Hawks: Rochester rebounded from just its third loss of the season at Granite City Friday by beating the Minnesota Flying Aces 6-3 Saturday. Shaun Walters (Plymouth, Mich.) netted a pair of goals in the win, Trevor Wight (Portage, Mich.) scored twice and set up another, and Trevor Lloyd (Commerce, Mich.), George Jackson (Sewickley, Pa.) and Cory Volk (Sandstone, Minn.) had each finished with two-point nights.
Twin Cities Northern Lights: The Northern Lights dropped both ends of a home-and-home series with the Minnesota Owls last weekend. Tom Johnson (Center City, Minn.) scored once in a 4-2 loss Friday, then had two goals and two assists in a 7-5 loss on Sunday. Bryan Broders (Eagan, Minn.) added two goals and an assist, and Mike Falvey (St. Paul, Minn.) three assists in that Sunday loss.
Games scheduled for this weekend '
Friday, Jan. 21
Hudson Crusaders at Rochester Ice Hawks, 7:05 p.m.
Granite City Lumberjacks at Minnesota Owls, 7:30 p.m.
Minnesota Flying Aces at Minnesota Wildcats, 7:35 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 22
Hudson Crusaders at Edina Lakers, 7:05 p.m.
Twin Cities Northern Lights at Rochester Ice Hawks, 7:05 p.m.
Minnesota Owls at Minnesota Wildcats, 7:15 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 23
Granite City Lumberjacks at Edina Lakers, 5:05 p.m.
Rochester Ice Hawks at Twin Cities Northern Lights, 5:45 p.m.