Elite Division Recap
In the Elite Division, the Dinkytown Dukes sit firmly on top as the league approaches the playoffs. After 10 games, they sit at 9-0-1, with a commanding 7 point lead over the second place Mojo. Dukes’ Manager John Arundel indicated he was very pleased with the way the team has played this year, giving credit to the team’s ability to play together as a unit and support each other on and off the ice. The Dukes are strong down the middle with Arundel and Lucas Whalen doing most of the ball carrying, Jon Keseley up top, Greg Olson anchoring the defense and Eric Kraska slamming the door in net. Former Gopher hockey captain Nate Condon has adapted well in his first year on the big ice sheet and has added even more fire power to the team. Perennial league scoring king Keseley is back on top again with 34 goals, and fresh off an amazing 6 goal game against Duluth on Saturday. The Dukes look like the team to beat and are the clear favorite for the Gunnar Cup at this point in time, but anything is possible as shown by the Bandoliers heroic run to the Cup last year.
The Mississippi Mojo have put together another strong season and it looks like they have locked up second place in the regular season standings. The Mojo are once again led by snipers Mike Hosfield and Mike Carman along with veterans Andy Hogan, Steve Strampe, the Haertzen brothers and keeper Derek Melander. Carman is flying high after another solid performance in the 2017 World Championships with Team USA and is going to be tough to stop as is the always dangerous Hosfield. The Mojo have never won the Gunnar Cup and they look like they are ready to make a move this year.
The third through fifth positions are wide open as the Blades, Bandolier and Golden Dragons are separated by only 2 points. The Minnesota Blades have a veteran team top to bottom and still have numerous scoring threats with Steve Nelson, Andy Sackrison, BJ Bayers and Bobby Scott having good years. Speedy Joe Welch has just returned from playing in his first the world championship and will be tough to stop rushing from the back line.
While back in the pack, the defending champions Minneapolis Bandoliers have five players who are in peak shape after playing 7 games overseas at the VM in Sweden (Andrew Knutson, Peter Knutson, Wyatt Wenzel, Dan Erickson and Brett Stoplestad) and collectively, these players are going to be tough to stop. If Anders Jecha can stay sharp, don’t count out the Bandoliers retaining the Cup.
The new Golden Dragons squad have been breaking in a whole new batch of players this year who have been coming on strong as of late. Manager Chris Halden and coach Mikael Sandberg have put together a team with a defense first philosophy which has paid off as the Dragons have the lowest goals against in the league, but unfortunately, also the lowest goals for. But with Mac Williams, Jake Rossman and Masa Miyakawa back from the VM, the Dragons are hoping they can score more goals heading into the playoffs. Williams had a hat trick on Monday against Duluth, so the signs are there. Gavin Ancheta is also back for the VM where he faced a ton of shots and he says he is ready to go for a playoff run.
The Duluth Dynamo have had an up and down season, but the addition of veterans John Kuzara and Nick Hauer have helped stabilize the team. With a line-up that includes veterans Rick Haney, Dave Plaunt, Brent Palmer, JJ Jensen, Brandon Polich and Evan Richardson in place, any team that underestimates Duluth will pay. Brent “Hermantown Express” Palmer is having a banner year and is third in league scoring with 12 goals and if he can continue to score, could be the key to giving Duluth the chance to make a deep playoff run.
EAST ISLES BANDY CLUB ON TOP IN DIVISION 1
Despite an ever changing line-up, the East Isles BC squad has managed to move to the top of the Division 1 standings for the first time. Rookies Murphy Dwyer, Kirby Horgan and keeper Zach Wynne have really helped the team this year and manager Eric Kyllonen’s commitment to defense has also paid off this year.
The defending champion Saints started slow but have looked solid recently and as always, are expected to be a Cup contender. The Saints have locked up second place in the regular season standings with a late surge. Managers Chris Middlebrook and John Magnuson have put together a nice mix of brand new recruits and veterans and continue developing several new players for the future.
Tsunami Ice is in a battle for third place and are ready for a strong finish with a strong game Monday in the 1-1 tie against East Isles. Tsunmai is led by speedy Andy “Bandy Andy” Schupp and veterans John Doepke, Dave Harmon and Paul Edelstein. Shane Lines’s big shot on corners is always a threat. Tsunami looks like they are peaking at the right time and are expected to have as good a chance to win the Cup as anyone.
The Phoenix BC team has played well this season and have been battling Tsunami for third place. They have relied a lot on the scoring of Japanese National team player Masa Miyakama who is having a solid season and one of the scoring leaders in D-1. Phoenix has a lot of veteran players on defense and if they can get some consistent scoring from other players besides Miyakama, they too have a shot at the Cup.
Everyone who has watched the USA Women’s team this year have come away impressed with how well they play the game and how much they keep improving. Coach Mikael Sandberg and manager Katie Swor have the team looking sharp for the playoffs. They have several scoring threats including Amy Stech (tied for scoring lead), Allie Thurston and Kelly McGinty and with veteran keeper Sarah Alquist Schneider having another big year, the USA Women also could go deep in the playoffs this year.