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2014 Class AA state girls hockey tournament preview

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CLASS AA STATE GIRLS HOCKEY TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINALS

Games played Thursday, February 20 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul

11:00: Burnsville vas. Hill-Murray (Seed 2)

1:00: Andover vs. Eden Prairie (Seed 3)

6:00: Roseau vs. Benilde-St. Margaret's (Seed 1)

8:00: Mounds View (Seed 5) vs. Lakeville North (Seed 4)

Examining the field: After a day of Class A quarterfinal play, It's Class AA's turn to take the Xcel Energy Center spotlight. First up, it's the Burnsville Blaze and the second seeded Hill-Murray Pioneers. The Blaze has been hot since the calendar changed to 2014, going 10-2. It will be tough to cool off the Pioneers, who lost to Minnetonka in last year's Class AA championship game. All but two players returned from last year's team and they haven't lost a game since January 11, when they lost to Class A champion Blake. It could be the start of a big state tournament run for Hill-Murray hockey. The boys have a solid shot at returning to the X. The girls? They're one of the favorites to keep your eye on.

Concluding the afternoon session is the Andover Huskies and the third seeded Eden Prairie Eagles. It's the Huskies first trip to St. Paul, coming out of a wide open Section 7 and they could have their hands full against a talented Eden Prairie team that has scoring balance and outstanding goaltending in Alexa Dobchuk and Whitney Padgett. The goalie duo recorded seven shutouts this season. Could Andover be number eight?

There will be plenty of green in the arena's identically colored seats to start the evening session as the Roseau Rams make their fourth trip to state.But the northwest Minnesota hockey hot bed could be on ice as they go up against the top seeded Benilde-St. Margeret's Red Knights. The Red Knights ended Minnetonka's three year championship reign in the Section 6AA semifinals and are led by Ms. Hockey finalist Kelly Pannek and goalie Abby Miller. Pannek has a shot at winning her second gold medal her senior year. She led the BSM girls soccer team to the Class A title last fall and could win the school's second state title this school year. The Red Knights could be shining bright on Saturday night.

The last quarterfinal game of the day pits the fifth seeded Mounds View Mustangs and the fourth seeded Lakeville North Panthers. The Mustangs return to St. Paul after a one year absence, upsetting the Blaine Bengals in the Section 5 finals. As for the Panthers, they come back a year after losing the classic six overtime game to Minnetonka. Should Lakeville North and BSM win on Thursday, you won't need to adjust the color on your TV Friday night. There could be only two colors on the ice, red and white as they go for the gold.

Plenty of exciting action coming your way in the state girls hockey tournament. Who will be the new Class A & AA champions?

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