Notebook: U.S. Under-18 team getting help from Lakeville players

Team USA has had a strong start at the Under-18 world hockey tournament, with help from a couple of Lakeville natives.

The team won its first three preliminary-round games in the tourney in Slovakia, including a 5-2 victory over the Czech Republic on Monday. The U.S. played Sweden on Tuesday, having already clinched a spot in the quarterfinal round Thursday. Semifinal games are Saturday, with the medal-round games scheduled Sunday. The U.S. won the bronze medal in last year’s tourney in Grand Forks, N.D.

Forward Ryan Poehling, who just completed his freshman year at St. Cloud State, scored two goals in Team USA’s 5-4 victory over Russia last Saturday. Poehling scored goals about three minutes apart late in the second period as the U.S. turned a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead.

Poehling, who played for Lakeville North’s 2014-15 state Class AA championship team, also had an assist in Team USA’s 7-0 victory over Belarus in its first game of the tournament. He had 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 35 games in his first season at St. Cloud State.

Nate Knoepke, who played the 2014-15 season at Lakeville South High School, is a defenseman on the U.S. Under-18 national team and has three points (all assists) in the first three preliminary-round games. Knoepke, a University of Minnesota commit, has played the last two seasons in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. He has four goals and 15 assists in 59 games with the 2016-17 Under-18 national team.

Team USA has won the Under-18 world tourney nine times since 2002, including six of the last eight years.

Busy weekend

At some point, Minnesota high school sports teams have to trust that there will be no more snow this spring. That time appears to have arrived, as this weekend looks to be the busiest of the spring sports season thus far.

One of the weekend’s highlights is the annual Lakeville North Mega Meet, which attracts 16 boys and 16 girls track and field teams to Lakeville North High School on Saturday. Competition begins at 10 a.m. Minnetonka’s girls and Elk River’s boys are scheduled to defend their team championships. One of the top individual athletes in the meet is Lakeville North senior Evan El-Halawani, who won the 300-meter hurdles at the 2016 state boys Class AA meet.

The Burnsville, Eagan and Lakeville South softball teams will play at the annual Polar Invitational in North St. Paul on Friday and Saturday. First-round games will be Friday night, with the final two rounds Saturday.

Farmington is in the field at the Mankato East softball tournament, scheduled Saturday at Caswell Park in North Mankato, which also is the state tournament site in June.

Lakeville South, which has ascended to No. 4 in the state Class AA boys tennis rankings, will play host to an eight-team tournament that begins at 8 a.m. Saturday. No. 1-ranked Minnetonka and No. 9 Eastview also are in the tournament, as is Lakeville North. Also playing is Rochester Lourdes, the third-ranked team in Class A.

An early season matchup of top-10 girls lacrosse teams takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday at Kuhlman Stadium in Edina. Apple Valley, ranked sixth by the state coaches association, visits seventh-ranked Edina.

Mat movers

Apple Valley wrestlers continued making news even after the Eagles wrapped up their 12th consecutive state championship last month. Gable Steveson, a junior who has had three consecutive undefeated seasons in high school and is a two-time Cadet World champion, committed to the University of Minnesota during the NCAA championships. At Minnesota, he will join his brother Bobby, a former Apple Valley standout and state champion.

Mark Hall, Minnesota’s only six-time state high school individual champion, won an NCAA individual title at 174 pounds and helped Penn State win the team championship. The 2016 Apple Valley High School graduate originally was going to redshirt this season at Penn State, but the Nittany Lions took off the redshirt in midseason and Hall went on to finish 31-3. He defeated Bo Jordan of Ohio State 5-2 in the championship match.

Hall is one of only two Penn State wrestlers to win national individual championships as freshmen; the other is Vincenzo Joseph, who was NCAA champion at 165 this season.

Boston Marathon

Following are some of the local runners who participated in Monday’s Boston Marathon:

Apple Valley: McKenzie Melander, 3 hours, 14 minutes, 27 seconds; Daniel Murray, 3:56:55; Bruce Berens, 4:30:40; Mark Melander, 4:49:26.

Burnsville: Kelly Mortenson, 3:13:06; Kerry Oliver, 3:45:34.

Eagan: Kim Bishop, 3:14:32; David Holmen, 3:51:29; Paul Vetter, 3:52:18; Jody Nelson, 3:56:13; William Jurney, 4:04:53.

Farmington: Brittany Davidson, 3:26:41; Lisa Kresky-Griffin, 3:54:48.

Lakeville: Karsten Finseth, 3:18:50; Roger Imoto, 3:40:44; Allison Offerman, 3:52:51; Bob Hoaglin, 4:41:51.

Rosemount: Barry Williamson, 3:59:25.

Melander and Bishop finished in the top 400 overall in the female division.