Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The term “March Madness” is established for a reason, even though in Minnesota that mayhem tends to start in the middle of February.
While the best girls hockey teams are battling at Xcel Energy this week for a state championship, pairings are set for the State Wrestling Tournament, and the State Gymnastics Tournament is this weekend at the University of Minnesota.
Playoff brackets are also ongoing in boys hockey and have been set in girls basketball. Conference titles are coming down to the wire across the state in boys basketball.
This week we focus on hockey and basketball as there are great match-ups all across the metro this weekend. Here are our featured games.
Section 2A Boys Hockey
Breck (21-3-1) vs. Waconia (9-15-2)
We’re featuring a doubleheader in Section 2A Friday night at Parade Ice Garden in Minneapolis that should feature two competitive games. They’re also our featured match-ups for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.
Breck, the No. 2-ranked team in Class A, is looking to get back to the state tournament after falling to St. Thomas Academy in last year’s state semifinals. The Mustangs face Waconia at 8 p.m. Friday needing a win to get to the section title game.
Matt Colford leads a high-octane Breck attack with 30 goals and 37 assists on the season. Thomas Lindstrom also has 26 goals and 21 assists. Breck has won nine straight games entering the contest.
Tanner Reibel leads Waconia’s attack with 23 goals and 14 assists on the season. The Wildcats snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-0 playoff win over St. Louis Park on Wednesday. Friday’s winner advances to play for a trip to state next Thursday.
Mound-Westonka (16-9) vs. Blake (9-17)
In the early game at Parade Ice Garden, Mound-Westonka faces Blake at 6 p.m. Mound-Westonka is led by Jack Brandstetter’s 20 goals and 19 assists. Charlie Curti also has 12 goals and 23 assists on the season. Hunter Smith paces the balanced attack with 16 goals and 19 assists.
Blake is in a down year, but anything can happen in the playoffs. The Bears are led by Christopher Chute’s 16 goals and 24 assists. Mark Lyman also as 18 goals and 15 assists and Cade Gleekel adds 18 goals and 13 assists to the offensive attack.
It should be a pair of competitive hockey games Friday night as four teams battle for two spots in a section title game next week.
Class AA State Girls Hockey
Eden Prairie (21-5-3) vs. Hill-Murray (20-5-4)
A pair of girls hockey powers meet Friday night at Xcel Energy Center for the right to play in a state championship game as Eden Prairie faces Hill-Murray in the Class AA State Semifinals. The Eagles got there by beating Forest Lake 6-0 in the quarterfinals, getting two goals each from Angie Heppelmann and Josie Olson. Heppelmann had a four-point night with two assists, and McKenzie Johnson got the shutout in net. The Pioneers got there with a 6-2 win over Eagan and used balance as nine different players got at least one point in the game, including different scorers in every goal. It should be a close contest between the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the tournament.
Minnetonka (25-4) vs. Lakeville North (21-6-2)
Two-time defending state champion Minnetonka is one more win away from playing for a third state title, but the Skippers will have to beat Lakeville North to get there. Minnetonka beat Irondale 4-0 with three first-period goals from Hannah Behounek, Diana Draayer and Maggie Bazany. The Skippers added another in the second period and Sydney Rossman made 14 saves in shutout. Lakeville North needed overtime to get by North Wright County. Five different players scored for the Panthers on the night, including the game-winner in the extra session by Christi Vetter. The No. 1 and No. 4 seeds square off at about 8 p.m. Friday at Xcel Energy Center.
Friday Boys Basketball: Eden Prairie (16-7) at Edina (16-7)
There’s a big boys basketball match-up in the south metro Friday night as Edina hosts No. 7-ranked Eden Prairie travels to Edina. The Hornets can stay on top of the Lake Conference with two games left if they win, and they’re led by one of the top shooters in the state. Graham Woodward, a Division I recruit, leads Edina with more than 26 points per game. Reggie Lynch adds about 13.5 points per game. The Eagles are looking to bounce back from a loss to Hopkins and are led by Andre Wallace’s 16.1 points per game. Grant Schaeffer adds more than 12 points per game. Look for a close, competitive match-up between rivals who don’t like to lose to each other.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max and John Lauritsen will have all the action covered.