MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s hard to believe, but it’s already winter state tournament season in Minnesota high school sports.
Just last week, state champions were crowned at the State Dance Competition at Target Center as well as the State Alpine and Nordic Ski Championships at Giant’s Ridge in Biwabik, Minn. Dancers took center stage in downtown Minneapolis in front of intense judges and raucous crowds. When it was decided, perennial power Eastview had yet another dominating weekend. It won the Class AAA competition in both precision/high-kick and jazz.
In Class AA, Totino-Grace won the state championship in high-kick and Benilde-St. Margaret’s won the title in jazz.
This week, Xcel Energy Center will be a busy spot as the Girls State Hockey Tournament takes place in St. Paul. The top five seeds in Class AA are Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Hill-Murray, Eden Prairie, Lakeville North and Mounds View. In Class A, the top five seeds are East Grand Forks, Blake School, Red Wing, Proctor/Hermantown and St. Paul United.
Class A action gets started on Wednesday, while Class AA teams play their quarterfinals on Thursday. Here’s a look at each of the teams heading into the tournament.
Class AA State Tournament
Benilde-St. Margaret’s (25-2-1)
The No. 1-seeded Red Knights are hungry for a state championship are losing to Minnetonka in the section title game for the last three years. They’ve won six straight and 11 of 12 since we turned the calendar to 2014. Benilde-St. Margaret’s is led by first-team All-Metro player Kelly Pannek, who will play hockey for the Gophers next year. She has 34 goals and 54 assists on the season. The Red Knights open quarterfinal action against Roseau Thursday.
The Pioneers are the No. 2 seed for the state tournament and face Burnsville in the quarterfinals Thursday morning. Hill-Murray is unbeaten in its last 12 games and beat Stillwater 4-1 in its section title game. The Pioneers have a balanced scoring attack, led by Sarah Bobrowski’s 19 goals and 37 points. If they can beat Burnsville Thursday, they likely get Eden Prairie in the semifinals.
Eden Prairie (20-7)
The No. 3-seeded Eagles beat rival Edina 4-0 last week to earn a trip to the state tournament. They’ve won three straight since a tough loss to Benilde-St. Margaret’s and are led by Charly Dahlquist and Angie Heppelman, who have a combined 75 points on the season. Eden Prairie will face Andover Thursday afternoon.
Lakeville North (22-4-2)
The Panthers are the No. 4 seed for the Class AA State Tournament and dominated the South Suburban Conference this year with a 13-1-2 record. Lakeville North cruised past Dodge County 6-1 last week to earn a trip to state, and feature a balanced attack with four players who have at least 30 points. Alexis Joyce leads the squad with 36 points, including 21 goals, in the regular season. The Panthers have won eight straight and face Mounds View Thursday.
Mounds View (17-8-3)
Mounds View enters the Class AA State Tournament on a five-game win streak and as the No. 5 seed after beating Blaine 2-1 in its section title game. The Mustangs are led by the duo of Bella Sutton and Sydney Brodt, who combined for 37 goals during the regular season. Sutton led the team with 44 points in the regular season. The winner of the Mounds View/Lakeville North match-up likely gets top-seeded Benilde in the semifinals.
The Blaze are one of three teams not seeded in the state tournament and will be looking to spring an upset of Hill-Murray in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Burnsville enters the tournament on a five-game win streak and beat Eastview 7-4 last week in the section finals. Lindsey Coleman led the Blaze in the regular season with 27 goals among her 54 points. Briita Nelson also scored 21 goals in the regular season.
Don’t let Roseau’s record fool you, the Rams will be a tough out in the state tournament. Roseau got to the state tournament with a 3-0 shutout of Buffalo, and the reward is a Thursday game with No. 1-seeded Benilde. The Rams are led by Tianna Gunderson’s 30 points, including 19 goals, during the regular season.
The Huskies will be upset-minded Thursday as they face No. 3-seeded Eden Prairie in the opening round of the state tournament. Andover got to St. Paul by virtue of beating Elk River 3-1 in its section title game last week. The Huskies enter the state tournament having won three straight and are unbeaten in their last five. Andover is led by Mikayla Goodin’s 34 regular season points, which includes 18 goals.
Class A State Tournament
East Grand Forks (24-2-1)
The Green Wave enter the Class A State Tournament as the No. 1 seed an something of a favorite to win the title if all goes well this week in St. Paul. East Grand Fork has just two losses on the season and comes into St. Paul having lost just once in its last 20 contests. The Green Wave beat Thief River Falls 2-1 in a double overtime thriller to get to the state tournament. They face Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Blake School (20-7-1)
Blake has won three straight and nine of its last 12 games heading into the state tournament. That includes a 6-4 win over rival Breck in the section title game. The Bears are led by Karly Lund and Carly Bullock, who each recorded 55 points during the regular season. Bullock scored 41 goals during the regular season. Blake faces Alexandria in the quarterfinals.
Red Wing (22-6)
The Wingers, who are the No. 3 seed for the state tournament, enter the week on a 10-game win streak. That includes a combined 19-3 margin throughout the section playoffs, highlighted by a 6-3 win over New Prague in the section title game. Red Wing is led by one of the top players in the state, Nicole Schammel, who had 86 points during the regular season. That mark includes 48 goals. Reagan Haley also had 70 points in the regular season. The Wingers face New Ulm on Wednesday.
The No. 4-seeded Mirage have won four straight to get to the state tournament, including a hard fought 5-3 win over Hibbing in the section title game last week. Proctor/Hermantown is led by Reilly Fawcett’s 61 points in the regular season, a mark that includes 29 goals. The Mirage face St. Paul United in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
St. Paul United (18-7-2)
St. Paul United enters the state hockey tournament likely with a chip on its shoulder as the team did not have to play a section championship game to get to Xcel Energy Center. They were supposed to face Achiever Academy, who forfeited the game after the eligibility of players for the online school came under question. St. Paul United enters the state tournament as the No. 5 seed, having won seven of its last nine and faced several tough schools during the season.
The Cardinals have had an up-and-down season but got hot at the right time to earn a trip to state. Alexandria beat Fergus Falls 4-1 to advance and earn the right to play at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday against Blake School. Alexandria is led by Melissa Drown’s 32 points, which includes 20 goals.
New Ulm (18-7)
The Eagles are not one of the five seeded teams in the state tournament, but they’re a confident bunch heading to St. Paul having won three straight. New Ulm Beat Luverne 2-1 to earn a trip to the state tournament, where it will face Red Wing. The Eagles are led by Brook Schugel’s 52 points, including 26 goals.
The Dragons are proof that Cinderella’s slipper sometimes fits at just the right time, and in this case it means a trip to Xcel Energy Center for the state tournament. The squad lost three of four to end the regular season and is the only team below .500 in the state tournament. The Dragons beat Mankato East 3-2 to get there. Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato faces No. 1-seeded East Grand Forks on Wednesday, and the squad is led by Sarah Kivisto’s 23 points in the regular season.
Check back with the WCCO Prep Blog for more updates throughout the state tournament season.