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Boys Hockey: Brainerd hosts North-South Classic Friday, Dec. 7, Saturday, Dec. 8

Several marquee players will hit the ice at Essential Health Sports Center in Brainerd for the North-South Classic Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8.

Benilde St. Margaret's, the Brainerd Warriors' opponent Friday, features players like defenseman Nate Schweitzer (a Colorado College commit) and forward Blake Mesenburg. Red Knights coach Ken Pauly said Schweitzer and Mesenburg are two of the state's top high school players and both played in the Elite League this fall.

Hermantown's Blake Biondi is a Division I commit to Minnesota-Duluth. He scored 30 goals last year. Seniors Brady Baker, Elliott Peterson, Justin Thomas and sophomore Joey Pierce are among the Hawks' top forwards, according to Hawks coach Patrick Andrews.

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North-South Classic

  • When: Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8
  • Where: Essentia Health Sports Center, Brainerd
  • Who: Brainerd Warriors, Eden Prairie Eagles, Hermantown Hawks, Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights
  • Friday: Eden Prairie vs. Hermantown 6 p.m., Brainerd vs. Benilde St. Margaret's 8 p.m.
  • Saturday: Brainerd vs. Eden Prairie 12:30 p.m., Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. Hermantown 2:30 p.m.

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On defense, the Hawks are led by senior Darian Gotz, another UMD commit. Highly regarded Sam High is Gotz's defensive partner.

In net, Hermantown senior Cole Manahan was the starter last season and helped the Hawks to a third-place finish in the Class 1A state tournament.

Eden Prairie includes four Division I commits, three of whom plan to attend Minnesota. Future Gophers include sophomore defenseman Luke Mittelstadt, junior forward John Mittelstadt and senior forward Jack Jensen. Sophomore forward Carter Batchelder is committed to Colorado College.

Brainerd features four players with six points apiece through three games. Gavin Andres has a goal and five assists. Wyatt Andres, Mason Kruse and Westin Andres each with three and three.

"It would be pretty difficult to match the overall quality of the four teams assembled for the North/South challenge," Pauly said. "Three of the programs have numerous state championships and Brainerd may have been the best team in the field last year—and they just might be this year as well. The Warriors are a program on the move and Hermantown is one of the powerhouse programs on the North Shore.

"Tough to call it a tradition yet because it's only the second year (of the classic), but I think we can build something special with this field of teams."

BSM opened with a 5-4 win over Hopkins, lost to Edina 5-2 and beat Grand Rapids 5-3.

"At 2-1, we like our start from a won and loss perspective," Pauly said, "but we have a lot of work to do. The great news for us is that most of our mistakes are very typical for this early in the season. I imagine we will make a lot more this weekend, but that's the value of playing quality teams. Weaknesses get exposed and you know what you need to address."

Eden Prairie, Hermantown and Benilde-St. Margaret's have combined to win seven state championships and make 29 state tournament appearances.

Hermantown has won two 1A titles and played in 15 state tournaments. Eden Prairie has won two Class 2A titles in 10 trips to state. BSM has won two 2A championships and one in 1A in its four state appearances.

Eden Prairie is ranked sixth in 2A and Hermantown first in 1A. BSM and Brainerd are unranked.