While the state girls hockey tournament takes place Wednesday through Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, it's the boys turned to begin their road to the X. Here's a preview of the eight Class AA sections.
Once again, the toughest Class AA section is Section 6, with four teams that are ranked in Let's Play Hockey's Top 20 and have a good shot at heading to St. Paul. A pair of Lake Conference teams comprise the top two seeds, the defending champion Wayzata Trojans and the Eden Prairie Eagles. The Trojans shut out the Eagles during the regular season. Could they meet for the third time in the section finals? But wait, there's the third seeded Holy Family Catholic Fire, in their third season in Section 6. They're on a five game winning streak and could face a possible match up with their Highway 5 rivals from Eden Prairie. Add the fourth seeded Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights, and once again picking a winner in this section is a toughie.
Another super section is Section 3. The addition of St. Thomas Academy since they moved up from Class A has made the section even stronger. However, the defending Class A champions are seeded third behind the top seeded Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders and the second seeded Eastview Lightning. Also in the hunt is the fourth seeded Eagan Wildcats. Who will come out of this section? Take your pick.
The top seeded Duluth East Greyhounds have been to St. Paul five straight years and have a great shot at making it number six. Getting there may difficult with second seeded Elk River/Zimmerman, the third seeded Andover Huskies and the fourth seeded Grand Rapids Thunderhawks. Fifth seeded Forest Lake faces Grand Rapids in the quarterfinals. Head up I-35 to Duluth to catch the section final at Amsoil Arena. It could be an outstanding game featuring any of these teams.
THE REST OF THE FIELD
In Section 1, the top seeded Lakeville North Panthers were the state's number one Class AA team until they got shut out by Prior Lake. But look out for the second seeded Farmington Tigers. They have won 16 games in a row and could end the city of Lakeville's five year section reign.
Looking at Section 2, the top seeded and defending Class AA champion Edina Hornets are on a roll with eight straight wins. They have a great shot at defending their title but will have to get by the second seeded Burnsville Blaze.
It's been a outstanding hockey season at Hill-Murray. The girls are in the state tournament and the boys are the top seed in Section 4. They have finished second two straight years in the state tournament and they could be another top contender. first, they will have to survive the second seeded White Bear Lake Bears and the third seeded Stillwater Ponies.
Going to Section 5, the top seeded Blaine Bengals are 11-0 against section opponents and could make it 14 straight if they can get by the second seeded Maple Grove Crimson, the third seeded Centennial Cougars and the fourth seeded Anoka Tornadoes. The section final on February 28 is the start of the final high school section doubleheader in the State Fair Coliseum. If you haven't seen a game there, it may be you last chance to do so. It precedes the 4AA final.
And finally, in Section 8, the top seeded Roseau Rams are en route to a possible 34th trip to state. But look out for the second seeded Moorhead Spuds and the third seeded Brainerd Warriors. Could Brainerd head to St. Paul for the first time? It should be an interesting section.