MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s a sports fan’s favorite time of the year. The state boys hockey tournament is in full swing, the boys basketball section playoffs are underway and the NCAA tournament is just around the corner.

It’s already been an eventual state hockey tournament at the Xcel Energy Center. All four top seeds advanced to the semifinals in Class A, making for some great match-ups Friday afternoon. Breck faces St. Thomas Academy and Hermantown will take on Thief River Falls.

On Thursday, it was not a good day to be a seeded team as all of the top four Class AA seeded teans lost, including No. 1  Duluth East. In the final game of the night, Benilde-St. Margaret’s beat No. 4-seeded Edina 3-2.

It’s also section championship Friday as many teams will play for the right to advance to next week’s girls state basketball tournament. I’ll get to that shortly, but first, a preview of the first Class AA boys hockey semifinal Friday night. It’s our featured game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.

State Hockey: Hill-Murray (23-6) vs. Moorhead (22-6)

Hill-Murray and Moorhead are two battle tested teams when it comes to the boys state hockey tournament, but neither was favored to win their Class AA quarterfinal. The two square off at 6 p.m. Friday at the Xcel Energy Center, with the winner playing Saturday for a state championship.

The Pioneers beat Maple Grove 5-2 Thursday behind two goals and two assists from Zach Lavalle. Jake Guentzel, the son of Gopher hockey assistant coach Mike Guentzel, also had a goal and an assist.

The Spuds shut out Eagan 4-0 on Thursday. Logan Ness scored twice and added an assist. Michael Bitzer also kept the Wildcats off the board with 34 saves.

I don’t have a particular reason why, but my gut tells me that coach Bill Lechner and the Pioneers find a way to win this one. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see it go to overtime. It’ll be a great game between two hockey powers. The winner faces Friday night’s Lakeville South/Benilde-St. Margaret’s winner.

Section 2AAAA Girls Basketball: Edina (24-4) vs. Eden Prairie (22-5)

Edina and Eden Prairie will face off for the third time Friday night, and this time around the rubber match will determine a state tournament participant. The Hornets and Eagles, two of the top-five teams in Class AAAA, will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Hopkins High School. Eden Prairie won the first meeting between the two schools 53-46. Edina got revenge the second time around with a 36-34 win. I’ll take Edina to top the Eagles on a neutral court, but it will be another close game.

Section 8AAAA: St. Michael-Albertville (21-7) vs. Buffalo (24-4)

It will be a clash of conference rivals as St. Michael-Albertville faces No. 6-ranked Buffalo for the Section 8AAAA title Friday night at St. John’s University. The Knights lost only two Mississippi Eight Conference games all season, and they were both to Buffalo. One of the hardest things to do in sports is to beat a team three times in a season. There are no secrets the third time around, so it’s all about execution and making adjustments. I’ll pick Buffalo, which has won 15 of its last 16 games.

Section 2AA: New Richland-H-E-G (29-0) vs. St. Peter (24-4)

It should be a great battle Friday night at Gustavus Adolphus College as No. 2-ranked New Richland-H-E-G faces No. 8-ranked St. Peter for the Section 2AA championship. The two teams have met once this season, with the Panthers beating the Saints 70-44 in the St. Peter Tournament after Christmas. A lot has changed since then and anything is possible in a section final. New Richland is unbeaten at 29-0 and St. Peter has lost just four games all season.

Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.


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