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2016 MSHSL Boys Hockey Section Finals Preview

After the girls state tournament wrapped up last weekend, all eyes now are turned to boys hockey and their upcoming state tournament next week. Over the next few days 16 teams will be punching their tickets to St. Paul next week. Lets preview who all is in the running.
Image courtesy of Brace Hemmelgarn-USA Today Sports
Class A

Section 1 Final (Wednesday February 24, 7 PM, Rochester Rec Center)

#1 Northfield (20-6-0) vs #2 Mankato West (14-11-2)

Outlook: These two teams are meeting for the third time this season. Northfield has won both games by a combined score of 13-5, and is the overwhelming favoring heading into tonight's final. Mankato West has allowed just two goalls in two games during the section playoffs, and they will need a similar performance tonight if they want to have a chance.

Section 2 Final (Thursday February 25, 7 PM, Parade Ice Arena)

#1 Breck (23-3-1) vs #2 Delano (20-7-0)

Outlook: Both teams are coming off 4-0 wins in the semifinals over Blake and Orono respectively. There was just one previous meeting this year between the teams, with Breck winning a high scoring affair 9-7 on November 24. This game is slated to be one of the better section finals in Class A, as Breck and Delano both are ranked in the top 10 of Class A (Breck is #2, Delano is #9).

Section 3 Final (Wednesday February 24, 7:30 PM, Lund Arena, GAC)

#1 Luverne (22-5-0) vs #2 Litchfield (19-8-0)

Outlook: The Cardinals are trying to make their second state tournament appearance in three years, while Litchfield is trying to make their first state tournament appearance since 2008. There was just one prior meeting between these teams this season, with Luverne winning 6-3 back on December 29.

Section 4 Final (Friday February 26, 7 PM, Roseville Arena)

#1 Mahtomedi/#5 Totino Grace vs #2 St. Paul Academy/#6 South St. Paul

Outlook: The semifinals in section four will take place tonight at Roseville, with the winners advancing to Friday's final. Mahtomedi, the fourth ranked team in Class A, is the favorite to come out of the section, but with all the upsets that took place over the weekend, no one is safe. Check back tomorrow for the results.

Section 5 Final (Thursday February 25, 7 PM, Isanti Arena)

#1 Princeton (20-7-0) vs #3 Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake (12-14-1)

Outlook: Monticello is making a surprise appearance in the final after their 4-1 upset over #2 Chisago Lakes on Saturday. Princeton comes in as the favorite, after their 9-4 rout of Pine City on Saturday. Both teams met twice during the regular season, with Princeton taking both games.

Section 6 Final (Thursday February 25, 7 PM, MAC St. Cloud)

#2 St. Cloud Cathedral (19-7-1) vs #4 Little Falls (18-7-1)

Outlook: After a sluggish finish to their regular season, Little Falls finds themselves in the section finals after upsetting top seeded St. Cloud Apollo on Saturday night (4-1). Cathedral comes into the game off a 7-2 win over Sartell. Both teams met just once during the season, with Cathedral winning 4-3 on January 19.

Section 7 Final (Wednesday February 24, 7 PM, AMSOIL Arena)

#1 Hermantown (23-2-1) vs #2 Hibbing-Chisholm (24-3-0)

Outlook: In a highly billed game to end the regular season, Hermantown throttled Hibbing 7-0. Hibbing now gets their rematch with the Hawks, with a trip to the state tournament on the line. Both teams are in the top five in Class A rankings, with Hermantown coming in as the top team in the state. With a win, Hermantown would be making their seventh consecutive trip to the state tournament.

Section 8 Final (Thursday February 25, 7 PM, East Grand Forks)

#1 Thief River Falls (21-6-0) vs #2 East Grand Forks (15-10-2)

Outlook: Thief River Falls is looking to make their first trip back to the tournament since 2012. Standing in their way is East Grand Forks, the defending back to back Class A champions. The pair have met twice already this season, with Thief River Falls winning twice. But don't under estimate the experience of East Grand Forks this time of year...

Class AA

Section 1 Final (Thursday February 25, 7 PM, Rochester Rec Center)

#1 Lakeville South (21-5-1) vs #2 Farmington (17-8-1)

Outlook: Despite losing a good senior core from last year (the team went 31-0 en route to the Class AA championship), Lakeville South has been a solid team again this year. If one team has given them fits this season, its been Farmington, who has beaten Lakeville South both times.

Section 2 Final (Wednesday February 24, 8 PM, Mariucci Arena)

#2 Eden Prairie (18-7-2) vs #4 Prior Lake (20-7-0)

Outlook: In one of many upsets on Saturday night around the state, Prior Lake defeated top seeded Minnetonka (the number three team in the state) 3-2. They are now taking on Eden Prairie, who just barely got by Holy Family Catholic, 4-2. The teams met to open the season in late November, with the Eagles beating Prior Lake 6-3.

Section 3 Final (Thursday February 25, 7 PM, Ridder Arena)

#1 St. Thomas Academy (16-6-5) vs #2 Burnsville (15-10-2)

Outlook: For the second season in a row, the Cadets earned the top seed in section three after moving up to AA. Whether they can make it to the tournament again, remains to be seen, but they have pretty good odds. The Cadets and Blaze have not met this season, but with be on the lookout for another upset.

Section 4 Final (Friday February 26, 7 PM, Aldrich Arena)

#1 Stillwater (25-1-1) vs #2 Hill-Murray/#6 Woodbury

Outlook: The top seeded Ponies (and number two ranked team in Class AA behind Benilde-St. Margarets) will get the winner of Hill-Murray and Woodbury, as the two teams play tonight at Aldrich (7 PM). With the upset of Benilde on Saturday, Stillwater is the best team remaining in Class AA, and would undoubtedly be the top seed in the state tournament if they can get there.

Section 5 Final (Thursday February 25, 7 PM, Aldrich Arena)

#3 Anoka (17-9-0) vs #4 Maple Grove (14-13-0)

Outlook: A pair of upsets in the semifinals on Saturday night, has made the unlikely matchup of Anoka (who beat Centennial, 6-2) and Maple Grove (who beat top seeded Blaine, 6-3) battling for a trip to St. Paul. There were two previous meetings between the teams earlier in the season, and both won a game each. Expect the unexpected in Thursday's final.

Section 6 Final (Wednesday February 24, 6 PM, Mariucci Arena)

#2 Wayzata (18-8-1) vs #4 Cretin-Derham Hall (16-11-0)

Outlook: As mentioned above, the best team in Class AA, Benilde-St. Margaret's, was upset Saturday night by Cretin-Derham Hall 4-3. The Raiders now find themselves with a matchup against Wayzata, who is no slouch of a team themselves. Cretin won five of six to end the regular season, before their two wins in the sectional tournament. This is the first meeting of the season between the teams.

Section 7 Final (Thursday February 25, 7 PM, Amsoil Arena)

#1 Grand Rapids (20-6-1) vs #2 Duluth East (18-9-0)

Outlook: Despite being the underdog in this game, the Greyhounds look to make their eighth straight appearance in the state tournament. Standing in their way is Grand Rapids, who has had a good regular season, and enters the game as winners of seven in a row. In their only meeting during the season, Grand Rapids defeated Duluth East 4-3 on January 7.

Section 8 Final (Wednesday February 24, 7 PM, REA Thief River Falls)

#1 Bemidji (21-2-2) vs #2 Moorhead (16-9-0)

Outlook: Looking to make their second straight trip to St. Paul, is Bemidji, one of the few the teams left in the top ten of Class AA. They are taking on a Moorhead team who is looking to make their first trip to the tourney since 2013, which is a rather long streak for them considering their rich tournament history. The teams split a pair of games this season, with the rubber match coming tonight in the section final.


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

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell
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5 Comments

Is it just me... why are they playing section championship games on Wednesday nights in Lent? Wednesday night used to be a church night that high schools respected and there just weren't games scheduled. When did that change happen?

    • hlrule likes this

It's not just you, Seth.  There has been a definite shift in the timing of the section tournament games.They always used to be on Thursday and then Saturday, and in most cases the games were double-headers.   

 

One of the best days of the entire year used to be the Saturday of the section finals.Edina / Tonka / Richfield / whoever else in one game, and the Battle of Bloomington- Kennedy vs Jefferson in the other game.  Some wonderful Saturdays of hockey were spent at the great Met Center.

    • El_Gato likes this

 

It's not just you, Seth.  There has been a definite shift in the timing of the section tournament games.They always used to be on Thursday and then Saturday, and in most cases the games were double-headers.   

 

One of the best days of the entire year used to be the Saturday of the section finals.Edina / Tonka / Richfield / whoever else in one game, and the Battle of Bloomington- Kennedy vs Jefferson in the other game.  Some wonderful Saturdays of hockey were spent at the great Met Center.

Those were some fun times.Remembered watching this Richfield goalie just make amazing save after save, never heard of the kid.Looked up on the roster sheet, Damien Rhodes.The sectional semi-finals were a blast to watch too, unless it was my Cooper Hawks losing repeatedly to Edina/Edina East/Edina West.

    • Doubles likes this

Great stuff, Catman!  I remember watching my Tonka Skippers take on a Cooper team one year in sectionals.  They had a defenseman that really stood out to me.   Guy could skate like the wind, was a very physical, hard-hitter.  That would be Lance Pitlick, who went on to play for the Gophers and later Ottawa & Florida in the NHL.

    • El_Gato likes this

 

Is it just me... why are they playing section championship games on Wednesday nights in Lent? Wednesday night used to be a church night that high schools respected and there just weren't games scheduled. When did that change happen?

 

Thanks for pointing this out, Seth! I completely agree. I don't know when this shift happened, but it makes things really tough from a church perspective. It's why numbers are dropping in youth programs and church youth choirs. It's frustrating. It shouldn't be a choice between church and sports.


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