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Brutal Start to the State Tournament

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I went to a game at Breck's Anderson Ice Arena this year. The rink doesn't face the road, and I ended up missing the turn for the arena. Before I was able to turn around, I had driven into the city limits of the 47th most populous city in the United States.

This always rung true with me. Feel free to substitute Breck, with an enrollment of nearly 1200 students in place of St. Thomas:

Speaking of classifications, when I was looking at the Hill-Murray / St. Thomas Academy matchup, I felt kind of bad for the Cadets. After all, they're a 1A school, and they have to try to beat 2A Hill-Murray to win the Classic Suburban title. Then they showed this stat on the broadcast: Hill-Murray's enrollment, grades 9-12, is 861 students. St. Thomas Academy's, freshmen through seniors, is 1082. I don't think I feel bad for STA any more; might be time to play up a level, don't you think, fellas?

-Jon Marthaler

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The Class A quarterfinals kicked off this year's Minnesota state high school tournament, and none of the games were all that compelling. The four seeded teams all advanced by a combined score of 29-3. The only close game was the second game of the day when Hermantown beat Virginia 2-1, in a game that was pretty thin on excitement despite the close score. It wasn't unexpected. Ever since the tournament started seeding the top four teams a few years back, it's taken some of the drama out of the first day of the tournament, but made for more exciting semifinals on Friday.

The lowpoint of the day was the game between Breck and New Ulm, which managed to combine my two least favorite things about the Class A tournament. First, when the state redrew the section lines thee years ago, the southwestern part of the state did not need its own section with Section 3A. I'm all for non-traditional areas getting their shot at the state tournament, but I'd much rather see parts of that section absorbed into Section 1A and 6A and that extra bid going somewhere else that at least has a chance of sending a competitive team to the state tournament. Sections 1 and 6 are weak enough as it is--their main draw record in the tournament is pretty bad--but Section 3 took the worst teams out of each of those sections and gave them their own bid to the tournament.

That's nothing against New Ulm personally. I thought they played hard and played very well in the first period of their game. But the second problem was that they were up against a team that had no business playing in the Single A tournament for small schools. The idea behind starting the Class A tournament was to give smaller towns and schools the opportunity to play in the state tournament. New Ulm didn't get to play in the state tournament. They got to say hi to their mothers and grandmothers on television, and then got slaughtered by an all-star team made up of kids from the Wayzata youth hockey program, and Champlin youth hockey program, and any number of other AA-sized youth hockey programs in the western suburbs of the Twin Cities. The number of students these private schools have to chose from is way more than important than the amount they actually let in.

I'm not just picking on Breck either. Yes, Rochester Lourdes got blown out today, but I'm still not keen on them being there either. This is the second year in a row that the representative of the small schools from southern Minnesota has been a school from the only city resembling a large city in southern Minnesota. I would have much rather seen a Red Wing or Faribault get beaten up by Warroad this evening.

You'd like to see some of these private Class A powerhouse teams be like Hill-Murray and Benilde-St. Margaret's and play up in Class AA, but for whatever reason, they seem unwilling to take the challenge. Forcing private schools from the state's biggest cities to play up in AA instantly makes the Class A tournament more entertaining, and closer to what the tournament was actually intended for.

In any case, the real tournament starts tomorrow with the big schools, where everyone is on a little more level footing, and now that the ugliness of the first day is over, hopefully the semifinals of the Class A tournament should produce some entertaining hockey as well.