Thursday, December 18, 2014

Duluth Marshall Makes The Leap

This broke Wednesday night from Northland's News Center, but it has now been confirmed by Duluth Marshall. The school sent out a press release affirming its desire to move the boys' hockey program to Class AA.

Here is the press release.
Marshall School is working with the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) to move to AA for its boys hockey program. The move is expected to be approved by the MSHSL and take effect for the 2015-2016 school year.

“The move to AA represents a new chapter in the storied history of Marshall/Cathedral boys hockey,” said Kevin Snyder, Marshall’s Athletic Director. “It will indeed be a challenge, one I believe our coaches and players are ready to meet. Excellence in the classroom and in athletics competition can and should go hand-in-hand. The Toppers have proven that in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.”

Marshall has appeared in seven MSHSL state tournaments at the A level, including three-consecutive second-place finishes from 2006-2008. Before joining the MSHSL, the Hilltoppers won five-straight Minnesota State Catholic titles from 1965-1969 as Cathedral High School.

“We want to create an opportunity for our students to compete at the highest level, whether in the classroom or on the ice,” said Brendan Flaherty, Marshall’s head hockey coach. “This will give our hockey players the chance to display their skills on the largest stage, the same way we want all of our students to pursue great opportunities academically.”

On average, more than 98% of Marshall graduates attend a four-year college. The 66 students who graduated from Marshall in 2014 were offered more than $5 million in merit-based academic scholarships. The Class of 2015 has an average ACT score of 27, three points higher than the Minnesota state average.

“Marshall School has always been a destination for students who want to pair incredible academic opportunities with outstanding extra-curricular opportunities,” said Kevin Breen, Marshall’s Head of School. “This is another opportunity for us to tie excellence and access together for students who want to explore this caliber of experience.”
Obviously, this is a huge development for local hockey. Marshall should be able to attract more elite local players with this move. The Hilltoppers will be competitive in Section 7AA, no question about it, no matter the severe enrollment disparity with Duluth East (1,400-plus students compared to 268 at Marshall).

There are a couple logistical questions (nothing that will stop the move from happening):

1. Who comes out of Section 7AA, or will there be two play-in games? Assuming Marshall goes to Section 7 (and why would the MSHSL do anything else?), you have four local teams -- Marshall, East, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton, and Grand Rapids -- along with Andover, Cambridge-Isanti, Elk River, Forest Lake, St. Francis, and St. Michael-Albertville. Would there be any need to cut teams? Not necessarily, unless teams are falling back to Class A and they want at least eight teams in as many sections as possible. I'd imagine St. Michael-Albertville is the first to go if they're bumping teams out of the section.

2. Will anyone move to Section 7A to replace Marshall? That move leaves nine teams in the section. There's no real need to have ten, but there's a pretty good fit for Section 7 that hasn't been in it in a while.


The Rails haven't been in Section 7 since they won their only section title in 1996. Currently mired in a section where Moose Lake is the closest team to them, Proctor sure makes a lot of sense for a new Section 7A starting next season. In fact, it almost makes too much sense.

Either way, congratulations to Duluth Marshall. And best of luck. We'll see if it has any kind of ripple effect on other schools.

(We're all looking at you, Hermantown. Not saying you have to make the move, but now there's no one else for everyone to stare at.)

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