Boys’ section hockey: Upsets, drama and goals, oh my!
Image courtesy of Heather RuleThat’s right, it’s tourney time. In hockey terms in Minnesota, it’s basically Christmas morning for a few days, with the boys’ state high school hockey tournament next week at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
This year, it really could be interesting. That’s because there were so many upsets in section play.
Cinderella stories started in the semifinals, with a bunch of top-contending teams bowing out Saturday, Feb. 20. It was the type of day where you heard about one upset in the works via Twitter. Then there was another one. And another. What was going on?
Let’s take a look at some of these stories:
Anoka, winners of Class 2A, Section 5. The Tornadoes were in a battle of Cinderellas in the section final versus Maple Grove. No. 3 seed Anoka beat No. 2 seed Centennial in the semifinal game, while the Crimson of Maple Grove took down top-seeded Blaine. Anoka beat Maple Grove 6-3.
It’s Anoka’s first trip to state since 2003, when it won its only state title. The Tornadoes are riding a 10-game win streak.
Lakeville North, upset victim in Class 2A, Section 1 final. The defending state champs really had nowhere to go but down after a perfect 31-0 record last season. Can’t get much better than perfection. No. 2 seed Farmington ousted the top-seeded Panthers in the section final by a score of 6-2. So as they say, there will be no repeat for the Class 2A state champion.
Duluth East, lost to Grand Rapids in Class 2A, Section final. Now technically, this one wasn’t an upset based on the section seeding. It was No. 1 and No. 2. Still, East was last year’s story of the state tournament, taking down perennial power Edina in the state semis before its runner-up finish to Lakeville North.
The section final this year sounded like a thriller. East was up 5-3 in the third before Grand Rapids tied it. Then with six seconds separating the teams from overtime, Grand Rapids’ Alex Adams scored the winning goal. This ends East’s seven-year run of state tournament appearances.
Fun fact: Grand Rapids won the single-class tournament 40 years ago in 1976, with a guy named Don Lucia on the team. Grand Rapids will now make its 15th state appearance looking for its fourth title.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s lost to Cretin-Derham Hall in Class 2A, Section 6 semifinal. This was a biggie. Benilde was unbeaten and a heavy favorite to coast into the tourney. The only blemish, if you want to call it that, was a 4-4 tie to Lakeville North Dec. 28. Benilde lost to Cretin 4-3 in overtime. It left the door open for No. 2 seed Wayzata to take the section title.
Minnetonka, upset in the Class 2A, Section 2 semifinal. The No. 4 seed Prior Lake took care of ‘Tonka 3-2 in the semis. It marked the first time Prior Lake reached a section final, though they lost to Eden Prairie.
No. 1 seed Luverne, lost to No. 2 seed Litchfiled/Dassel-Cokato in Class 1A, Section 3 final. L/D-C pulled off the 7-6 upset in overtime. Luverne’s goals came off two hat tricks, but L/D-C scored late in the game with the goaltender pulled before prevailing in overtime. Luverne was hoping for a second consecutive state tournament appearance.
Other section upsets based on seeds:
Mankato West, No. 2 seed in Section 1. Took down top-seeded Northfield 1-0 in the final, after escaping 2-1 in double overtime versus No. 7 seed Albert Lea in the quarters.
Little Falls, No. 4 seed in Section 6. Beat top-seeded St. Cloud Apollo, which had only lost twice, 4-1 in the semifinals.
Burnsville, No. 2 seed in Section 3. They pounded top-seed St. Thomas Academy 7-1 in the final.
Things that went as planned:
Breck, No. 1 seed in Section 2. Eliminated Delano in the section playoffs for the fourth year in a row. This time 5-3 in the final.
Princeton, No. 1 seed in Section 5. Earned a trip to state behind a 3-1 victory over Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake.
Hermantown, No. 1 seed in Section 7. The usual suspects in the Class 1A state tournament will be back to try and finally become the champions – instead of runners up.
Thief River Falls, No. 1 seed in Section 8. Earned their spot with a 3-1 final win over last year’s state champion: East Grand Forks.
Stillwater, No. 1 seed in Section 4. This was one of the last section finals to take place, with opponent No. 2 seed Hill-Murray, and it delivered the drama that was already so present in the rest of section play. The game was knotted in a scoreless tie. Then in overtime, Noah Cates made an unbelievable move - spin-o-rama style - for the game-winner to send his team to state.
Bemidji, No. 1 seed in Section 8. Beat the Moorhead Spuds 4-3 in overtime.
So, there you have it. Seedings for the state tournament will be determined Saturday. It’s anyone’s guess now as to which schools will play each other in the quarterfinals. It all seems pretty crazy that the section tournament was filled with such excitement and intensity, upsets and disappointments.
I just don’t know what’s left for an encore at the boys’ state hockey tournament. But if I know this tourney, arguably the best one in the country, then there will be more excitement. Plenty more.
Because after all, it’s #TheTourney16.
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