The Minnesota girl’s state high school tournament begins in two weeks. But first, we need to determine which teams will be skating at the XCel Energy Center for a state title. And in Class AA, this week’s sectional championships have the potential to provide more excitement and intrigue than the actual state tournament itself.
Here is a breakdown of the eight sections that will decide their winner this week. It should be an incredible week of hockey.
Farmington vs. #15 Lakeville North, 2/13
Such is Section 1 that two schools that five miles from each other in the Twin Cities suburbs will both have to travel nearly 50 miles south to play their section championship.
Lakeville North may be ranked, but Farmington is the top seed by virtue of beating Lakeville North twice during the regular season. Those games were early though, and comparing common opponents slightly favors Lakeville North.
Farmington is led by a pair of freshmen in Claire Enright(Minnesota) and Samatha Moehle, who have scored combined to scored 42 of Farmington’s 75 goals this season, which is 56% of their total offense. Lakeville North is a little more balanced in their scoring, and led by a strong junior class, which includes RIT commit Sydney Antonakis.
Neither team is likely much of a contender should they advance to St. Paul. But this section final could be a great game, and the winner likely gains some valuable experience for a team that returns most of their key players next season.
#7 Eden Prairie vs. #19 Shakopee/Bloomington Jefferson vs. #17 Minnetonka, 2/12
Eden Prairie is the heavy favorite in this section, but did split their season series with Minnetonka, losing an early January game 4-0.
A potential Eden Prairie vs. Minnetonka sectional final would be a clash between Eden Prairie’s top-heavy offense, led by one of the state’s top scorers in Sydney Langseth(Minnesota State), along with Princeton commit Grace Kuipers, going up against a very strong Minnetonka defense led by Maggie Nicholson(Minnesota), Kailey Langefels(Holy Cross), and Rory Guilday(Cornell).
#12 Eagan vs. East Ridge, 2/13
Eagan continues to dominate in what is arguably the weakest section in the state. They’ll be heavy favorites against unranked East Ridge.
After scoring 15 points as a freshman last year, sophomore Emily Cronkhite had a breakout year, leading the Wildcats in scoring with 44 points.
#10 Hill-Murray vs. Roseville/White Bear Lake vs. Stillwater
The rankings don’t quite accurately portray just how much raw talent is in this section. Hill-Murray lost some tough road games early which pushed them down in the rankings, but they cruised through the second, easier half of their schedule with only one loss(to Maple Grove) since December 11th. There aren’t too many impressive wins in that bunch, but they did upset Blake, which not too many teams have the capability of doing. The Pioneers are loaded with D-1 talent, and if they play to their potential, could be a real threat in the state tournament.
The toughest test in their way may be White Bear Lake. The Bears have four D-1 committed players, including the favorite to win goalie of the year, but have struggled to put up offense this season, and generally performed way below expectations.
#9 Maple Grove vs. Blaine/Centennial vs. Rogers 2/13
Maple Grove is the heavy favorite in this section, but they’ll potentially have to go through two tricky teams in Blaine and Centennial to make it to the state tournament. Maple Grove swept the season series against both, but three of the four games were decided by a single goal.
Maple Grove is led by senior forward Mannon McMahon(Minnesota Duluth) and is the deepest team in the section thanks to their depth. Blaine has the best individual player in the section though in senior Ramsey Parent(Ohio State), who could be capable of stealing a game if a few bounces go her way. Centennial goalie Mackenna Stoterau is capable of stealing a game for a big upset as well.
#1 Blake vs. Cretin-Derham Hall/#2 Edina vs. #6 Wayzata, 2/13
This is the big one. Whichever team survives this section will head into the state tournament as the heavy favorite to win the state title. There’s a good chance we look back at this sectional title game as being the real state championship game in a couple weeks.
Wayzata lingers as a pesky defensive that is going to hang around and maybe pull off a surprise, but I don’t think they have the weapons to hang with Edina with so much on the line.
Expect a Blake vs. Edina final game that should be a classic. Two teams that are so loaded with Division I talent that there is too much to mention. The two teams split against each other this season. Edina won by a goal in the first week of the season, and Blake won by a goal in the second half of the season. Blake has arguably more talent, led by the state’s best player in Madeline Wethington(Minnesota), and the best forward line in the state with Lily Delianedis(Cornell), Addie Burton(Minnesota), and Izzy Daniel(Cornell). But Edina has the edge in big game experience. The game should be a toss-up that could go either way.
#3 Forest Lake vs. #4 Andover, 2/14
This is an interesting match-up. Forest Lake earned the top seed in the section by beating Andover 1-0 before Christmas. The Rangers have only lost twice all season, but those two losses were blowout losses to Edina and Blake. Their best win, besides Andover was.....? They have one-goal wins over #13 Elk River and #14 Grand Rapids/Greenway. They’re obviously a good team, but third in the state seems a little high.
Meanwhile, I think Andover is the team best-constructed to take a run at the Blake/Edina winner at the state tournament. They’re one of the few teams that should be able to comfortably run three lines due to their excellent team depth. Of course, the Huskies almost didn’t even make it to this game, as they were taken to quadruple overtime in their semifinal against Elk River, where they finally scored the game-winning goal on their 89th shot on net to take a 4-3 win.
#5 Brainerd/Little Falls vs. Sartell/Sauk Rapids/#8 Roseau vs. #11 North Wright County 2/12
The northwest region of the state provides what is arguably the deepest bracket in the state, which three really good teams, all capable of winning it.
Brainerd returned almost all of their key players from last year’s section-winning team, and should be a more viable contender in St. Paul, should they win their section again. To do so, they’ll have to defeat the winner of Roseau and North Wright County. Roseau has a strong first line and good goaltending. They recently tied Warroad to smudge the Warriors immaculate regular season record. North Wright County is led by one of the most dangerous, underrated players in the state in Mackenzie Bourgerie(St. Cloud State). Roseau won the only meeting between the two 5-4 in Roseau, and the Rams will host the semifinal again.
It really wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see any of those top three teams come out of that section.