There are two days left in the regular of the Minnesota girl’s high school hockey season, which means it’s time for the playoffs and the road to the XCel Center for the state championship to begin. This year’s Class AA tournament(bigger schools), should be incredibly competitive and entertaining.
Most of the sectional brackets have been announced. Here’s a look at each of the eight Class AA sections, along with a quick Class preview.
This is one of the weaker sections, with the top two seeds ranked 15th and 16th in Class AA respectively. The top seed is Farmington, is led by Bemidji State commit Ellie Moser, but the Tigers aren’t head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pack. They split their season series with two-seed Lakeville South, and went 2-1 against fourth seed Lakeville North, though the two wins came while Lakeville North was missing star defenseman Maggie Flaherty(UMD) while she was the World U18s. Third seed Rochester Mayo is a wildcard, having amassed an impressive 20-5-0 record against lesser competition.
Eden Prairie is the top seed, but just 3-2 in overtime to second seed Minnetonka on Saturday, after beating the Skippers 3-2 in overtime earlier in the year. So it’s incredibly close. There’s a sizeable gap between those two and third seed Shakopee, though Shakopee kept their one meeting with Minnetonka this year close.
An Eden Praire/Minnetonka championship should make for a great game. EP’s Sydney Langseth(Minnesota State) and Lacey Martin(BU) are two of the best sophomore forwards in the state, while there’s a lot of talent on the blue line between Ms. Hockey semifinalist Crystalyn Hengler for EP, and D-1 commits Kailey Langefels(OSU), Maggie Nicholson(Minnesota) and Rory Guilday(Cornell) for Minnetonka. It’s a toss-up that could go either way.
Don’t really know as much about these teams, but top seed Eagan is ranked 11th in the state, while second seed Apple Valley has a losing record on the year. Eagan is led by Minnesota Duluth commit Taylor Anderson and is the heavy favorite to win the section.
Hill-Murray is the favorite in this section and probably has the best chance of winning the state title of anybody outside of Section 6. The Pioneers don’t have an explosive offensive talent, but are a strong and really, really deep team.
The bottom half of the bracket is interesting. Mounds View doesn’t have a lot of high-end talent, but is solid throughout their line-up. Third seed White Bear Lake has a lot of Division I commitments on their team, but has had a very rocky second half of their season and hasn’t performed up to their talent level. White Bear beat Mounds View 8-2 early in the season, but Mounds View beat White Bear Lake 5-0 in January(though the Bears were missing starting goalie Calla Frank and top scorer Sydney Shearen to the World U18s). The third round should be an interesting one. Either should give Hill-Murray an interestin test, but it is still Hill-Murray’s section to lose.
This section has become really interesting. Centennial started the year ranked fourth in the state and sort of the best-of-the-rest after the Big 3 of Edina, Blake, and Hill-Murray. They’ve held that distinction, and if anything, closed the gap on the leaders a bit with an upset win over Edina at home just before Christmas.
But making it to the state tournament won’t be easy, because Maple Grove is possibly the hottest team in the state right now. They haven’t lost a game since December 12, and in that stretch, have ties against Centennial and Edina, and a win over Hill-Murray.
Centennial has a slight advantage being on the top half of the bracket and avoiding a tough semifinal against Blaine. But a Centennial/Maple Grove final would be a really good, intense game, with the winner in line for a second or third seed at the state tournament.
This is the big one. When Edina and Blake meet in the section championship, it might as well be the state championship game, because whichever team wins will be the very heavy favorite to win the state tournament the following week. They’ve been ranked 1-2 all season long, and both teams are loaded with high-end talent.
Edina won the regular season meeting quite convincingly, but Blake has been slightly more consistent overall. It should be a great game.
This should be a fun section final against two really good up-and-coming teams. Andover is led by senior Claire Butorac(Minnesota State), who played her way into a semifinalist spot in the Ms. Hockey award with a great season, but behind her is a team loaded with talented players 10th grade and younger. Forest Lake also has a great sophomore class that they lean heavily on.
Andover won the regular season meeting, and I’d give them the slight edge with a star upperclassmen, but both of these teams have a very bright future.
A section bracket isn’t out yet for Section 8. Brainerd/Little Falls is one spot ahead of Roseau in the state rankings(12/13), but Roseau won both regular season meetings. St. Cloud is ranked 20th in the state and has a great top line, which gives them a shot at upsetting anybody. St. Cloud split their season series with B/LF and lost a one goal game to Roseau in their only meeting. This section looks like a toss-up between those three.
There’s not as much intrigue at the sectional level in Class A, but things are setting nicely for a very interesting state tournament. #1 Warroad has had a terrific season while #2 Breck has powered through one of the toughest schedules in the state to be a little over .500. #4 Red Wing is a wild card too with the best individual player in the state in Taylor Heise.