This coming Thursday at 6 am the varsity boys hockey team will take off from Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport in Montreal and head northwest for the state of hockey, Minnesota. More specifically the team is heading to New Hope, Minnesota to take part in the IIT Invitational tournament.
When we think of high school sport, much of what we think of may be football in Texas and “Friday Night Lights” or basketball in Indiana and Hoosiers, but when people in the hockey world think about high school sports in the United States, they think about Minnesota. The Minnesota State Hockey Championship game is the most viewed high school championship in the country. In 2016, 22,244 fans attended the State Championship at the XCEL Center, home of the Minnesota Wild, which set a record for the largest crowd to ever attend a hockey game in the state. Minnesota is often referred to as the “State of Hockey” within the USA. Working down from the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, the state is also the home to five Division 1 hockey teams, and high schools like Edina, Minnetonka, Grand Rapids and Wayzata are the four last schools to claim state supremacy. All told, about 250 schools and over 6,000 student-athletes play hockey within the Minnesota high school hockey league.
Within Minnesota high school hockey, teams play a regular season of 25 games plus playoffs and state championships. Prior to these seasons the best of the best from Minnesota play in the Elite League, a league set up to extend the season for these players and keep them at home in Minnesota.
This past weekend, the Elite League crowned its champion, and with that season concluded, it is now time for the Elite League IIT. The IIT is an 8-team invitational tournament that will see two all-star teams made up of Elite League players, Shattuck St. Mary’s, Culver Academy, Chicago Mission, Northwood School, Michigan Development Hockey League and finally our Spartans from Stanstead College.
For us as coaches this is an event that we look forward to. The energy from the fans, many of whom are simply there to see good hockey and have little rooting interest, the scouts and finally to the first class hospitality – this is an event with a special feeling. Our preparation began at the beginning of the school year and will continue this week with practices and study sessions so that when we fly we will be prepared for success.
This past week, the Spartans had two games, the first at the University of Vermont against Rice Memorial was a sloppy affair but we skated away with a 7-5 win. At home on Saturday at the Pat Burns Arena, we were able to secure a 9-2 victory over Académie St. Louis. ASL came out strong and held the lead after the first period, but the Spartans made some adjustments and focused on playing a more complete second and third period and were rewarded.