There were several reasons to check out the fifth annual Hockey Day in Minnesota festivities on Saturday during which the state-wide celebration of playing on the frozen floor was taken to a whole new level.
One of the most intriguing events occurred earlier in the afternoon, however, when Wayzata High School battled the Roseau Rams in the first of two scholastic games on the outdoor surface at the Moorhead Youth Arena before 4,000-plus fans in sun-drenched 32-degree weather.
Wayzata, which is the No. 4-ranked scholastic team in the state, competes in the formidable Lake Conference with fellow Class 2A powerhouses Eden Prairie, Edina and Minnetonka. The team possesses Mr. Hockey candidate Tony Cameranesi, who is headed to Minnesota-Duluth next fall. Meanwhile left wing Mario Lucio, the son of Minnesota University head coach Don Lucia, and brother of former Gopher and current San Jose Sharks farmhand, Tony Lucia, is projected as the top high school player off the board at the 2011 Entry Draft.
Lucia is not eligible for the Mr. Hockey Award since he's a junior -- only those top seniors are considered.
Still, according to NHL Central Scouting's mid-term ranking, Lucia is rated 30th overall among North American skaters. The 6-foot-2, 183-pound left-handed sniper is the top-rated high school player on the board with Coate-Rosemary Hall forward Philippe Hudon a close second at No. 31 overall. Cameranesi (5-9, 162) is rated No. 160 overall.
Lucia connected for his 23rd goal of the season just 50 seconds into the second period and Wayzata (16-5-2) would ultimately defeat Roseau (10-12) when defenseman Marc Richards controlled the puck off a faceoff and scored in overtime for a 2-1 victory.
In 22 games this season, Lucia has 42 points, including 2 shorthanded goals, and plus-23 rating while scoring in five of the team's last seven games. Cameranesi, who assisted Lucia's goal, has a team-leading 48 points, including 14 goals and 6 power-play goals.
Now, Lucia and his Wayzata teammates have their sights set on a Section 6AA championship. He is also looking forward to the Entry Draft, where he and fellow Minnesota native Seth Ambroz (Omaha Lancers, USHL) will be in high demand among the local hockey prospects. This year's draft will be held June 24-25 in St. Paul, Minn.
"Having the draft in Minnesota is probably the best thing that could of happened to me," Lucia told the Minnesota Wild web site. "My family and friends will be there to watch me walk on that stage. Ever since I started to play hockey it has been my dream to play in the NHL."
In the later game, Mr. Hockey candidate and Hill-Murray (20-3) forward Ben Bahe scored the game-winner with seven minutes remaining to give the No. 1 Pioneers a 3-2 win over the host team and No. 15-ranked Moorhead (14-7-2) Spuds. Bahe has 24 goals and 46 points this season. Hill-Murray, incidentally, has now won 12 straight.