By Jeff Wald

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There’s plenty of high school sports action this week leading up to a brief holiday break before several teams hit the road for holiday tournaments all over the state.

It’s a busy time for high school athletes as many are preparing for final exams, getting ready for Christmas with their families and managing a full school workload all at the same time. For many, sports are a chance to get away from the stresses of everyday life.

It’s also a time coaches often hate. With so much stress and things to do, it’s easy for kids to get sick and miss school. No school means no sports.

There will be plenty of action Friday night, highlighted by a some big games around the Twin Cities. We can only pick four match-ups, so here they are.

Boys Basketball: Hopkins (4-0) at Benilde-St. Margaret’s (2-1)

Benilde hosts Hopkins in one of the more highly-anticipated match-ups early in the season for boys basketball. The Royals, ranked No. 1 in 4A and 4-0 on the season, have yet to be tested. The Red Knights, ranked No. 2 in 3A, have just one loss to No. 2-ranked Eastview in 4A. Benilde is led by Division I recruits Isaiah Zierden and Sanjay Lumpkin. The Red Knights have four players who average double figures in scoring. The Royals, who have five players that average double figures in scoring, are led by Siyani Chambers, Andre McDonald and Demitrius Martin. The Royals have won 34 out of their last 35 games and have the edge in this one.

Boys Basketball: Pelican Rapids (3-0) at Perham (4-0)

The top two teams in Class 2A will square off Friday night as No. 2 Perham hosts No. 1 Pelican Rapids in the Heart O’Lakes Conference opener for each team.  The two teams split conference game last year, with the home team winning each game. Pelican Rapids is led by the trio of Luke Halbakken (20.5 points per game), Casey Bruggeman (15.5 points per game) and Ryan Bruggeman (11 points per game). Perham, coming off a big win over St. Thomas Academy, is led by Jordan Bruhn (17.5 points per game), Jordan Cresap (14 points per game) and Mark Schumacher (12.8 points per game). Perham has the edge playing at home, but it’s a slim one.

Boys Hockey: Elk River (4-1) at Edina (4-1)

It will be a battle of two strong programs Friday night at Braemar Ice Arena as No. 8 ranked Edina (4-1) hosts No. 16-ranked Elk River (4-0) in non-conference action. The Hornets, who reached last year’s state semifinals, have only lost to No. 5-ranked Wayzata so far. The match-up is part of the Edina Invitational. Connor Hurley leads the Hornets with 10 points, and Dylan Malquist leads the team with five goals. Nick McCormack leads Elk River with seven points and Andrew Zerban has four goals to lead the Elks. I’ll give Edina the edge in this one.

Girls Hockey: Mahtomedi (5-3) at Hill-Murray (10-1)

Hill-Murray and Mahtomedi have a big Classic Suburban Conference rivalry in every sport, and the hockey rink is now exception. The Pioneers, ranked No. 2 in Class AA and 10-1 on the season, host the Zephyrs, ranked No. 16 in Class A with a record of 5-3. The Zephyrs are still looking for their first conference win of the season, while Hill-Murray is 3-0 and tied at the top of the league. Hannah Brandt leads the Pioneers with 40 points and 23 goals, and goalie Alexys Woodward is 7-0 as a starter. Madison Bergren leads Mahtomedi with 10 points and six goals. I’ll give the Pioneers the edge.

Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max and Frank Vascellaro will have all the action from around the Twin Cities covered.


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