Section 2AA and Section 6AA, two of the biggest sections, both in terms of school population, and competitiveness, will hold their section finals tonight in a double-header at Mariucci Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota. This double-header always draws a big crowd and has produced some classic games in the past.
Here's a preview of tonight's games:
Section 2AA #1 Edina vs. #2 Burnsville
All signs point to Edina being the heavy, heavy favorite in this game. The Hornets were 22-1-2 in the regular season, with their only loss coming on the road against undefeated Lakeville North. Included in that record is a 3-0 win over Burnsville just after Christmas. History is heavily on their side too. You have to go back to 2006 to find a year Edina didn't win their section. Burnsville has only beaten Edina once under head coach Janne Kivihalme. But these are still young kids, so who knows, anything could happen.
If Burnsville is going to keep this game close, let alone pull off the upset, they'll need Brimsek Award finalist Dylan Lubbesmeyer to play the game of his life in goal. Burnsville has little to no offensive firepower so any mistake is going to be tough to overcome. Defenseman Jack Ahcan is a Mr. Hockey finalist that at times, almost plays a defense-forward hybrid as he is his team's best offensive weapon too. He's going to log a ton of ice time tonight, which could be difficult on the Olympic sheet at Mariucci.
For Edina, the biggest key is to not panic. Talent is no question. Their third line might be stronger than Burnsville's first. The quickest way for this to turn into a disaster is if they get behind early or can't take the lead and resort to trying to make too many individual plays, rather than using their strength in numbers to their advantage.
I've seen bigger upsets than this happen at the high school level, but more than likely Edina puts this game away early and Burnsville doesn't have the offense to get back into the game.
Section 6AA #1 Eden Prairie vs. #2 Minnetonka
Any discussion of this game has to start with talking about The Fight. Eden Prairie is down an excellent defenseman in Marc Sullivan, and two other key players in Riley Argetsinger and Louie Roehl after their participation in a fight at the end of their semifinal win over Benilde-St. Margaret's. At full strength, I'd give Eden Prairie the slight edge on paper in terms of talent, but those losses are enough to equal the scales for this game.
These two teams have met three times this season with Minnetonka winning the first two games 7-4 and 4-2, and Eden Prairie taking the last game by a 4-1 score.
Eden Prairie is going to rely heavily on their top line at Michael Graham-Casey Mittlestadt-Nolan Sullivan to lead the offense. They're more of a physical, grinding line, which is a good match-up of Minnetonka's top line which features more speed and skill with players like Gavin Payne and Brendan Skarda.
There are some very skilled puck-moving defensemen in this game too like Eden Praire's Nicky Leivermann and Minnetonka's Zach Van Sant and Pieter von Steinbergs. Big defenseman John Schuldt will likely be tasked with slowing down Graham and Mittelstadt all night.
Finally, he's unlikely to make much impact on tonight's proceedings, but keep an eye on Minnetonka freshman K'Andre Miller, who is one of the best in the nation in his age group.
This game should be an excellent one, as it looks almost too close to call. Between the Eden Prairie suspensions and Minnetonka matching up pretty well against the Eagles, I'll take the Skippers to pull off the (slight) upset and advance to the tournament.