While the Schwan Cup Gold Division catches the eye for coming in the largest box wrapped in the shiniest of paper, there is another holiday tournament present for boys' hockey fans this year: The Holiday Hockey Classic in St. Louis Park.
But first the Schwan Cup. Headlining the Gold Division are Class 2A powers No. 1 Edina, No. 2 Hill-Murray, No. 3 Minnetonka, No. 6 Duluth East, No. 7 Burnsville and No. 8 Blaine. In Class 1A, defending state champion and top-ranked St. Thomas Academy is in the mix along with No. 4 Breck.
All four quarterfinals will be played Dec. 26 at Ridder Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. Winners' bracket semifinals are Dec. 27 and the championship is Dec. 28, all at Ridder Arena.
You can check out seven players who have committed to Division I schools: Burnsville's Teemu Kivihalme (Colorado College), Edina's Connor Hurley (Notre Dame), Matt Nelson (Princeton) and Parker Reno (RPI) and Minnetonka's Jimmy Schuldt (St. Cloud State) and future Gophers Jack Ramsey and Tommy Vannelli.
Intriguing matchup possibilities are bountiful. But here's one: St. Thomas Academy, which moves up to Class 2A beginning next season, could make a statement against the big boys.
The Holiday Hockey Classic, with Benilde-St. Margaret's as the host, will be played at the St. Louis Park Recreation Center. It features the defending 2A state champion Red Knights and No. 5 Wayzata, No. 9 Eden Prairie, No. 11 Elk River, No. 13 Moorhead and No. 14 Bloomington Jefferson.
The quarterfinals begin Dec. 27 with winner's bracket semifinals on Dec. 28 and the championship on Dec. 29.
Watch for the Red Knights' Dan Labosky (Colorado College) and Grant Besse (Wisconsin) as well as Eden Prairie's Luc Snuggerud and Steven Spinner (both committed to Nebraska Omaha) and Hunter Warner (Minnesota State Mankato).
DAVID LA VAQUE