Maple Grove senior defenseman Henry Nelson has six goals and 22 assists through 13 games this season. Photo by Loren Nelson, LegacyHockeyPhotography.com
Maple Grove and Lakeville South, two of the state’s four remaining unbeaten teams and prohibitive favorites to reach the state Class 2A tournament, are scheduled to play at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9 at the Maple Grove Community Center, a dream matchup made possible by recent COVID-19-related cancellations on both teams’ schedules.
“I think it will be a good test,” said Lakeville South coach Janne Kivihalme, adding that final details were still being made on Monday and that he had yet to announce the schedule addition to his players. “They are the No. 1 team for a reason. They have absolutely killed everybody they have faced.”
Maple Grove (13-0-0) is ranked No 1 in Class 2A; Lakeville South (11-0-1) is No. 3. Maple Grove is averaging just more than nine goals per game while allowing 1.62. Lakeville South is averaging about six goals per game while allowing just more than 1.
The teams feature multiple Mr. Hockey candidates, starting with state scoring leader Kyle Kukkonen (21 goals, 32 assists), a Maple Grove senior committed to play at Michigan Tech. Lakeville South is led by Cam Boche, a senior forward with 15 goals and 15 assists.
Maple Grove won both meetings between the teams last season. The Crimson beat the Cougars 5-2 on Dec. 28 during a holiday tournament in St. Louis Park and prevailed again 3-0 on March 6 in the consolation semifinals of the state tournament.
Kivihalme said the teams were originally set to play each other again in the regular season in Lakeville, but the game was a casualty of schedules being trimmed from 25 to 18 games because of coronavirus restrictions and both the South Suburban and Northwest Suburban choosing to play conference-only foes, with some exceptions. For Lakeville South, Feb. 13 and Feb. 20 games against Eagan and Shakopee were cancelled because of COVID-19 protocols. Coon Rapids, also dealing with COVID-19 issues, recently was forced to cancel its March 9 meeting with Maple Grove.
“Anytime we get an opportunity to play top-end teams we will try to jump on it,” Kivihalme said.