Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In many cases, highly-ranked teams pad their non-conference schedule with beatable opponents so they can juggle lineups and gain confidence heading into the grind of a conference season.
That’s not the case for several of the state’s top hockey and basketball teams, especially this weekend. Saturday marks the start of a tough stretch before teams head into holiday tournaments. There’s an especially big non-conference game in girls basketball as No. 1-ranked Hopkins (6-0) travels to No. 3-ranked Lakeville North (3-0) in a battle of unbeaten teams.
Here are some other teams and big match-ups to keep on your calendar.
Saturday Boys Basketball: Hopkins (2-0) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (0-0)
Cretin-Derham Hall will have quite the task in its season opener on Saturday as it faces No. 1-ranked Hopkins in the Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka High School. It’s an early battle between two top five teams in Class 4A. The Royals cruised to a state championship last year, beating Cretin by 19 in the state semifinals. It won’t get any easier for Hopkins as they will face Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A, next Friday at Benilde.
Saturday Boys Hockey: St. Thomas Academy (1-0) at Hill-Murray (0-2)
Hill-Murray, the No. 10-ranked team in Class 2A, will be hungry for its first win Saturday as the Pioneers host St. Thomas Academy, the No. 1-ranked team in Class A. Hill-Murray has lost to Burnsville and Benilde-St. Margaret’s, both ranked teams, to open the season. The Cadets beat Duluth Marshall in overtime to open their season. St. Thomas Academy won last year’s Class A state title, and Hill-Murray fell short to rival White Bear Lake. It’s always a good game when the Cadets and Pioneers take the ice, so Saturday should be a dandy.
Saturday Boys Hockey: Benilde (2-0) vs. Duluth Marshall (3-2)
Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the No. 2-ranked team in Class 2A, hosts Duluth Marshall, the No. 6-ranked team in Class A, in a battle of perennial state powers Saturday. The Hilltoppers have beaten a ranked Hibbing team and lost a close one to St. Thomas Academy. The Red Knights got off to a strong start with a win over Hill-Murray. If this isn’t enough, Benilde will also face ranked opponents in Holy Angels, Totino-Grace and Maple Grove in the next two weeks.
Friday Girls Basketball: DeLaSalle (3-1) at Providence Academy (3-2)
At battle of top ranked teams will take place Friday night in Plymouth as 2A power Providence Academy hosts 3A contender DeLaSalle in girls basketball. The Islanders won last year’s 3A state championship, and Providence Academy made it to the 2A state semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Braham. It should be a great early season match-up between two well-respected programs that will likely go down to the wire.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.