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Crown Jewel

By Loren Nelson, 12/17/20, 1:00PM CST


St. Paul Johnson's legendary program still producing top-ranked (No. 9 in Class 1A) teams

Senior forward Blayde Pogreba led St. Paul Johnson in goals (25) and points (38) last season. Photo by Loren Nelson,

Our look at Class 1A continues as we count down the top 20 small-school teams for the 2020-21 season.

9. St. Paul Johnson

2019-20 Record: 19-7-1
Playoffs: Lost 5-2 to St. Paul Academy in the Section 4A quarterfinals
Seniors lost: 6
Goals for: 113
Goals lost: 25 | Goals returning: 88
Goals against: 69
Goalie minutes lost: 406:14 | Goalie minutes returning: 922:14
Power-play percentage: 27.2
Penalty-kill percentage: 84.9

Moose Younghans

St. Paul’s East Side is brimming with pride. It’s always been that way when it comes to hockey. Always will be, too, as long as St. Paul Johnson coach Steve “Moose” Younghans is around.

Younghans, with trademark stocking cap always slightly askew and whistle forever dangling from his neck, cuts a towering figure. He’s a big man tasked with a big job — preserving one of the state’s original dynasty programs, a crown jewel of Minnesota high school hockey. 

Evolving industries and changing demographics haven’t done the Johnson program — owner of four state titles and 22 tourney appearances — any favors over the years, but the Governors still pack their home rink, still win more than they lose most seasons and still, from time to time, assemble enough talent to rank among the state’s top teams.

This is one of those times. Younghans, the Governors’ coach/historian since 1993, boasts one of his best lineups in years. Almost all of the key cogs from last season’s 19-7-1 team return, led by 25-goal scorer Blayde Pogreba and sidekick Joey Moberg (15 goals, 20 assists), both seniors.

The 5-11, 170-pound Pogreba was chosen to play in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this fall, and he scored 12 points in 20 games playing against many of the state’s top players.

A star multisport (baseball, football, hockey) athlete, the 6-foot, 200-pound Moberg’s compete level isn't just off the charts, it resides somewhere in the stratosphere. The Governors’ quarterback/halfback/strong safety/kick returner had a five-touchdown game this fall in which he ran for three touchdowns, threw for two more scores and, for good measure, intercepted two passes. 

Pogreba and Moberg are joined at forward by Damian Cunningham, another big (6-foot, 195), bruising senior who brings both grit and a scoring touch (12 goals last season).

The senior trio of A.J. McMahon, Sean Smith and Alex Woolsey gives Johnson a towering, dynamic defensive corps as all three stand at least six feet and bring differing, complimentary skillsets. McMahon (6 goals, 11 assists) possesses a booming shot, Smith (15 points) is a skilled playmaker who will run the power play and the stay-at-home Woolsey is almost impossible to beat 1-on-1. 

Senior goaltender Tobin Florhaug went 8-6-0 last season while playing most of minutes and posting solid statistics (2.91 goals against average, .909 save percentage). Junior Damien VanDanacker offers another talented option — he went 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals against average and .936 save percentage.

The Governors lost just six seniors who saw significant action last season, most notably Drake Teal, an 18-goal scorer. They'll compete in Section 4A against the likes of defending Class 1A champion Mahtomedi, pop-up private school powerhouse Gentry Academy, senior-laden Tartan and several other high-caliber programs.

More than 400 interviews

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Chapter for every year

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