Sherman column: Lake boys hoops teams are ready for action
Usually at this time of year, boys basketball fans are trying to figure out who will finish second in the Lake Conference standings.
Hopkins has been the dominant team for 10 years, even though Minnetonka tied the Royals for the Lake title in 2008 and went on to win the state Class 4A title.
Coach Kenny Novak Jr. of Hopkins recently won the 700th game of his illustrious career, and he already has six state championships on his resume, but this year could be a lot more challenging than usual.
First of all, everyone else in the Lake has a highly competitive team.
“Eden Prairie might have the best pair of guards in the state with Grant Shaffer and Andre Wallace,” Novak noted. “Edina has Graham Woodward, and he’s the toughest match-up in the Lake Conference. Phil Ward has a nice club at Wayzata. What do they have? Eleven wins in a row?”
Novak paused to collect his thoughts as he perused the pre-conference records of all five teams. Minnetonka is 14-1, followed by Hopkins 12-2, Eden Prairie 12-3, Wayzata 11-4 and Edina 11-5.
“You look at Minnetonka,” said Novak. “They’re the conference favorite.”
At least the Skippers would be if it weren’t for Hopkins.
The Royals are 12-2, even though this is a rebuilding year for Novak & Co.
Some people thought Hopkins would be down this season, but you can never take this team lightly – not with Novak on the sidelines. There’s a reason he has won 700 games.
Before he became head coach of the Hopkins High girls team, Brian Cosgriff assisted Novak in the boys program.
“Most of what I learned about coaching, I learned from Kenny,” said Cosgriff. “He is the best.”
Novak’s preparation is thorough and precise. No one scouts as well as he does and no one develops better game plans.
Pond hockey fun
Pond hockey enthusiasts made their annual trip fo Excelsior for the biggest event of the season, the North American Pond Hockey Championships, last weekend. Some brought their campers, others arrived in Yukons and Tahoes.
Hundreds of gallons of hot chocolate were consumed along with thousands of hot dogs and enough chili to feed an army. Maynard’s, a popular lakeside restaurant, served as headquarters, as it had been the previous four years.
It was cold Saturday, Jan. 26, but at least it wasn’t as cold as the weekend before.
One of the teams I followed at the tournament was called the Ice Dragons. They are a Mite III team from Minnetonka, so naturally I wondered if I’d see any players who might be playing for the Skippers a few years from now.
Right away, I noticed a small guy named Jake Moss. He had a breakaway that he executed like a high school player.
Pond hockey is not as easy as it looks. Instead of shooting at a standard net, pond hockey players shoot for slots on a wooden box at each end of the rink. Most goals are scored from close range.
Roy Page was another Ice Dragon I admired. Roy was distinctive because he wrapped the blade of his stick in green electrical tape. He was able to control the puck, almost as if the green tape was magnetic.
Tyler Winkler is a real hustler for the Ice Dragons. His skills along the boards are top-notch. His teammate, Noah Veum, showed the ability to gather in loose pucks and go on the offensive.
Jack Murtaugh was the biggest of the Ice Dragons. He looked more like a Squirt than a Mite. Jack got out front on a breakaway – a big kid with a bunch of little kids chasing him. I could see Jack playing defense for Tonka High someday.