Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s a big time in high school sports, and it usually works out that when we get into the chill of winter that things heat up on the playing field.
Races for conference championships are taking shape, and with that come seedings for the playoffs. Some of the section brackets will come together in less than a month. It’s already been a big winter with the wrestling landscape changing in Minnesota and records falling on the basketball court.
Here’s a quick look at a potentially big week across the state.
Novak Goes For 700 Wins This Week
Ken Novak Jr. has been coaching basketball at Hopkins for more than 30 years. He’s won multiple conference titles and several state championships. The guy is a winner, and he’s close to another milestone on the hardwood. He could become just the fourth coach in state history with at least 700 career coaching wins this week.
The Royals are 7-2 and play at St. Cloud Tech on Tuesday and Novak is currently sitting at 698 wins. A victory over the Tigers and a win over St. Paul Central on Saturday would put him at 700, putting him among the ranks of Bob McDonald in Chisholm, Bob Brink of Rocori and Ziggy Kauls, the legendary coach at Mounds View. McDonald, who is in his 57th season at Chisholm, has 987 career wins.
Novak Jr.’s program has also faced some scrutiny over the years for having plenty of talent in his program that didn’t grow up in the Hopkins community. One of his best team’s ever was Royce White’s senior year, where the entire starting five that won a state championship all signed Division I basketball scholarships and at least four of the starters, including White, didn’t grow up in Hopkins. Regardless, Novak Jr. has earned his spot as a coaching legend in Minnesota.
New Prague’s Gunderson Goes For 600 Wins
Ron Gunderson has a lot of great memories coaching girls high school basketball in New Prague. He can add another to that list if his Trojans can beat Farmington in Missota Conference action on Tuesday.
A win over the Tigers (0-4, 2-13) would give Gunderson 600 career wins. Gunderson’s squad has already had two chances at the milestone, but lost to No. 3-ranked Red Wing 61-51 and Chanhassen 68-59. New Prague is 9-4 on the season, including a 1-2 mark in the Missota Conference. The Trojans are ranked No. 6 in Class 3A.
Star Hockey Programs Clash Saturday
If you’re looking for something to do Saturday, I would strongly encourage you to head to the St. Thomas Ice Arena for one of the best boys hockey match-ups of the season. No. 1-ranked St. Thomas Academy (12-1-1) hosts Breck (10-2-1), the No. 3-ranked team in Class A.
The two teams met last year in the Class A state semifinals, with the Cadets winning a nail-biter 1-0 on the way to a state championship. And they met in the Schwan Cup Tournament earlier this year, with St. Thomas winning 2-1.
Both teams are loaded with talent that will play hockey in college. It’s also St. Thomas Academy’s final season in Class A as they will opt up next year.
2 Big Girls Hockey Games This Week
A conference championship may very well be at stake Tuesday night as Red Wing (18-1, 5-0) hosts New Prague (15-4, 4-1) in Missota Conference action. The Wingers feature two of the state’s top scorers as Nicole Schammel has 46 goals and 78 points, while Regan Haley has 51 points on the season. The Wingers are ranked NO. 2 in Class A, while the Trojans are ranked No. 6. Red Wing beat New Prague earlier this season 8-2.
Also on the docket is a match-up of two top-five teams in Class AA as No. 5-ranked Edina (11-5-3) travels to No. 4-ranked Eden Prairie on Friday. The two teams met on Jan. 4, with Edina winning 2-1.