Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – High school sports have been in the spotlight this week all across Minnesota and the nation after Benilde-St. Margaret’s hockey player Jack Jablonski’s paralyzing hit last week.
Jablonski had surgery this week, and doctors said after that it’s unlikely he’ll ever walk again. The news was devastating for a kid who, as just a sophomore, had a bright future ahead of him on the hockey rink. It’s a true reminder that athletes need to play smart, and especially in hockey, if you see the back of a jersey in front of you, don’t touch the player.
It’s now early January, which means conference seasons are in full swing and there’s great games and touch match-ups every night. This week is no exception. There are plenty of big games Friday night, but we can only hand-pick the best, so here they are:
Girls Hockey: Benilde-St. Margaret’s (11-2-1) at Chaska/Chanhassen (11-3-1)
The Red Knights, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, travel to Chaska/Chanhassen (11-3-1) Friday night in the featured game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally. Benilde is playing its first game in a week after playing to a 2-2 tie with Breck last Friday. Chaska/Chanhassen is coming off a 5-3 victory over Red Wing, the No. 8-ranked team in Class A. Benilde is led by sophomore forward Kelly Pannek, who leads the team in points (32) and goals (19). Sophomore forward Caitlin Reilly is second on the team with 16 goals.
Chaska/Chanhassen, which is atop the Missota Conference at 5-0, is led by a trio of players. Kaitlin Storo leads the team with 21 goals and 11 assists. Megan O’Brien and Emma Silkey also have a combined 23 goals.
It should be a good contest, but I’ll give Benilde the edge.
Boys Basketball: Park Center (4-4) at Osseo (10-0)
Park Center and Osseo square off in a battle of Northwest Suburban Conference rivals Friday night. Osseo, currently ranked No. 3 in Class 4A, is one of the hottest teams in the metro. They’re 5-0 in conference play and have had two close games all season. Just like in football, they’re led by D.J. Herbert and Bridgeport Tusler. The Pirates have had an up-and-down season and have recently lost three of their last four. The Orioles will be tough to beat at home, so I’ll give them the advantage.
Boys Hockey: Minnetonka (11-1) at Moorhead (9-1)
There’s a big hockey game in northwestern Minnesota Friday night as No. 9-ranked Moorhead hosts No. 3-ranked Minnetonka in non-conference action. The Skippers bounced back from losing to No. 1-ranked Duluth East by beating No. 4-ranked Eagan on Tuesday. The Spuds started 7-0 before falling to Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the St. Louis Park Tournament and have won two straight since. Moorhead is awfully tough to beat at home, but I think Minnetonka wins a close one.
Girls Basketball: Bloomington Kennedy (8-2) at Lakeville North (7-4)
The South Suburban Conference features great match-ups seemingly every night in girls basketball, and Friday is no different as No. 7-ranked Lakeville North hosts No. 4-ranked Bloomington Kennedy. The Panthers have had a hard time with ranked opponents this season as all four of their losses are against ranked teams. Kennedy, meanwhile, knocked off top-10 opponents in three straight games in early December, including No. 2-ranked Eden Prairie. I think the Eagles continue that trend and pull out a close one in Lakeville.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.