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2016 MSHSL Boys Hockey Tournament Preview: Class AA

It's Minnesota Hockey's biggest week as the best high school hockey teams in the state make their way to St. Paul to take part in one of the most revered tournaments in amateur athletics. Today we finish up our two part preview, by looking at the Class AA bracket.
Image courtesy of Marilyn Indahl-USA Today Sports

2016 MSHSL Boys Hockey Tournament
March 2-5 (Full Schedule Below)
Championship round games: Xcel Energy Center
Consolation round games: Mariucci Arena

Class AA

Section 1 Champions: Farmington Tigers (18-8-1)

Head Coach: Greg May
Top Scorer: Erik Holmstrom (13 goals-30 assists-43 points) & Wyatt Jensen (16 goals-27 assists-43 points)
Top Goalie: Gavin Enright (18-8-1, 2.27 GAA, .910 SV%, 4 SO)
Notable Wins: 1/5 vs Wayzata (2-1), 1/21 vs Lakeville North (1-0)
Notable Losses: 12/3 vs Eden Prairie (5-1), 1/16 vs Burnsville (3-2, OT)
Section Playoffs: Rochester Century (7-0), Lakeville South (5-3), Lakeville North (8-2)

Outlook: This is Farmington's first trip to the state tournament in Class AA, but they did however have two previous appearances in Class A (1994, 2000). The Tigers made waves in section one this season, by beating rival Lakeville North all three times they faced-off, including the section final last Thursday. The Tigers have had a pretty balanced attack all season, and they will be put to the test right away on Thursday with a matchup with the high-powered Stillwater Ponies.

Section 2 Champions: Eden Prairie Eagles (19-7-2)

Head Coach: Lee Smith
Top Scorer: Casey Middelstadt (28 goals-40 assists-68 points)
Top Goalie: Shawn Durocher (10-3-2, 2.48 GAA, .889 SV%, 2 SO)
Notable Wins: 12/3 vs Farmington (5-1), 1/14 vs Wayzata (4-2)
Notable Losses: 12/11 vs Benilde-St. Margarets (6-5, OT), 1/30 vs Wayzata (4-2)
Section Playoffs: Chaska (6-0), Holy Family Catholic (4-2), Prior Lake (4-2)

Outlook: After hanging on for wins in the semifinal and final of the section two playoffs, Eden Prarie is back making their third consecutive appearance in the state tournament. They are lead by University of Minnesota recruit Casey Middelstadt, who was named to the All-Metro team as a junior today. The Eagles enter the tournament as the number one overall seed, and will get a matchup with Anoka in the first round on Thursday night.

Section 3 Champions: Burnsville Blaze (16-10-2)

Head Coach: Janne Kivihalme
Top Scorer: Cade Borchardt (28 goals-30 assists-58 points)
Top Goalie: Nick Lee (14-6-1, 1.85 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO)
Notable Wins: 12/30 vs Centennial (5-1), 1/16 vs Farmington (3-2, OT)
Notable Losses: 12/28 vs Eden Prairie (2-0), 12/29 vs Wayzata (5-2),
Section Playoffs: East Ridge (9-0), Rosemount (4-1), St. Thomas Academy (7-1)

Outlook: After a rout of top seed St. Thomas Academy in the section three ginal, Burnsville finds themselves in the tournament after a eight year absence. The Blaze come into the tournament on an eight game winning streak, and will be a tough out for who ever they play. Burnsville drew Wayzata in the first round, a team that defeated the Blaze 5-2 back on December 29. Look for this game to be a bit closer than that meeting back in December.

Section 4 Champions: Stillwater Ponies (26-1-1)

Head Coach: Matt Doman
Top Scorer: Noah Cates (23 goals-37 assists-60 points)
Top Goalie: Josh Benson (22-1-1, 1.70 GAA, .923 SV%, 4 SO)
Notable Wins: 12/1 vs Lakeville North (6-5), 1/23 vs Hill-Murray (5-2)
Notable Losses: 12/28 vs Holy Family Catholic (5-3)
Section Playoffs: Irondale-St. Anthony (7-4), White Bear Lake (4-0), Hill-Murray (1-0, OT)

Outlook: An incredible overtime goal in the section final got the Ponies back to St. Paul for the second time in three seasons. Their schedule was a bit lighter this year, which is probably why they ended up with the number two overall seed in the tournament behind Eden Prairie. However, Stillwater is not to be taken lightly, as they managed to beat most of the high quality teams they played throughout the season.

Section 5 Champions: Anoka Tornadoes (18-9-0)

Head Coach: Todd Manthey
Top Scorer: Isaac Johnson (24 goals-24 assists-48 points)
Top Goalie: Spencer Olson (14-7-0, 2.98 GAA, .884 SV%, 1 SO)
Notable Wins: 12/19 vs Blaine (6-3), 12/28 vs Blake (5-1)
Notable Losses: 12/12 vs Wayzata (3-1), 1/23 vs Blaine (4-1)
Section Playoffs: Champlin Park (4-0), Centennial (6-2), Maple Grove (6-3)

Outlook: The Tornadoes picked a great time to catch fire, as they have won ten straight en route to their first state tournament appearance since winning the championship back in 2003. During the current 10 game winning streak, Anoka is averaging over four goals per game, while allowing less than two goals per game. A meeting with top seed Eden Prairie awaits Anoka on Thursday, but don't take the Tornadoes lightly. If they can continue to ride this streak, they could make a strong upset bid on Thursday night.

Section 6 Champions: Wayzata Trojans (19-8-1)

Head Coach: Pat O'Leary
Top Scorer: Mark Senden (9 goals-28 assists-37 points)
Top Goalie: Alex Schilling (16-7-0, 2.34 GAA, .895 SV%, 3 SO)
Notable Wins: 12/12 vs Anoka (3-1), 12/29 vs Burnsville (5-2)
Notable Losses: 11/27 vs Hermantown (5-3), 1/14 vs Eden Prairie (4-2)
Section Playoffs: Armstrong/Cooper (9-3), Edina (5-3), Cretin-Derham Hall (4-1)

Outlook: This is just the fourth trip for the Trojans to the state tournament, with the last one coming in 2013. Their trip to the tournament was made possible thanks to Cretin's upset of top ranked Benilde (who had not lost all season) in the semifinals. The Trojans get a rematch with Burnsville in the first round of the tournament, a team they defeated 5-2 back on December 29.

Section 7 Champions: Grand Rapids Thunderhawks (21-6-1)

Head Coach: Trent Klatt
Top Scorer: Mitchell Mattson (20 goals-37 assists-57 points)
Top Goalie: Gabe Holum (16-1-0, 2.17 GAA, .894 SV%, 3 SO)
Notable Wins: 12/17 vs Edina (6-4), 1/7 vs Duluth East (4-3, OT)
Notable Losses: 12/18 vs Eden Prairie (6-3), 1/22 vs Wayzata (3-2)
Section Playoffs: Cambridge-Isanti (10-2), Cloquet (5-1), Duluth East (6-5)

Outlook: One of the most storied teams in tournament history makes their 15th appearance in the big dance. The Thunderhawks were one of the few number one seeds to make it out of their section, ending with a thrilling 6-5 victory over Duluth East last Thursday. Despite being from the north, Grand Rapids has played a quality schedule against many good teams this year, so beating them will not be easy for any team. They will play Bemidji in the final game on Thursday.

Section 8 Champions: Bemidji Lumberjacks (22-2-2)

Head Coach: Wade Chiodo
Top Scorer: Alex Pollock (16 goals-28 assists-44 points)
Top Goalie: Matt Fitzgerald (19-2-2, 2.00 GAA, .900 SV%, 3 SO)
Notable Wins: 12/8 vs Thief River Falls (7-3), 1/26 vs Hill-Murray (6-2)
Notable Losses: 12/29 vs CEC Lumberjacks (4-3), 1/12 vs Moorhead (4-3, OT)
Section Playoffs: St. Michael Albertville (4-0), Moorhead (4-3, OT)

Outlook: For the second straight season, Bemidji has made it to the state tournament (seventh overall appearance). Once again they defeated Moorhead in the section final, to get them to St. Paul. The Lumberjacks are looking to get a win this time around, as they lost both games last year to Edina and St. Thomas respectively. They will have a fair chance to do so this year, as they face off against Grand Rapids in the first round, a team they tied with back on November 24th this season.

Tournament Schedule

Posted Image

For a preview of Class A, click here

Records and stats in this post courtesy of the Minnesota State High School League and the Star Tribune's Boys Hockey Hub.

Stay tuned to Wild Xtra all week for coverage of the boys state hockey tournament!

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell
Follow Wild Xtra on Twitter @wildxtra

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